Mastodon The Writing Desk: 2020

24 December 2020

Stories of the Tudors podcast: Queen Elizabeth I Part Three


This podcast is the third of a series of three looking at the life of Queen Elizabeth the first, and I’m exploring the myths and rumours surrounding the life of Queen Elizabeth, England’s ‘Gloriana’ – the virgin queen who reigned England and Ireland for 44 years.

In this podcast I’m exploring what Elizabeth really looked like – and how much of what we know of her is a reflection of her own carefully controlled image, or the prejudices of later historians. The main primary sources are the any portraits and descriptions of the queen by her contemporaries - but artists were rarely working from life, and even first-hand accounts are often by ambassadors, all with their own perspective. 

My book, Drake - Tudor Corsair is available from Amazon in paperback and eBook:

More information about all my books can be found on my website at

The Introductory music is La Volta,  composed by David Hirschfelder

Listen on PodBean  or find Stories of the Tudors 
on Amazon, Spotify or iTunes

23 December 2020

Special Guest Interview with Rebecca Kightlinger, Author of The Lady of the Cliffs, Book Two of The Bury Down Chronicles

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Cornwall, 1285 CE: Now nearly seventeen, Megge and Brighida must endure another brutal loss. And as they perform the rites of transition that precede a burial, Megge accepts a daunting new charge that carries consequences not even her cousin the seer can predict. It brings visions. Dreams. And voices that come to her 
as she goes about her work.

I'm pleased to welcome author Rebecca Kightlinger to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Lady of the Cliffs, Book Two of the Bury Down Chronicles series, picks up where Megge of Bury Down left off. Taking the reader from the warmth of Megge’s cottage into a dimly lit copse and the aftermath of a brutal murder, The Lady of the Cliffs is faster paced than Megge, which was intentionally crafted as a slow-build tale that would immerse readers in the storyworld and lay down the basis of the life-sustaining power which the women of Bury Down wield throughout what will be a long series.

In Book One, Megge was charged with accepting this ancient—and frightening—power as her birthright. In Book Two, when a murder, an orphan, and an old woman’s tales draw Megge to Cornwall’s cliffs, she discovers that her birthright is far different—and even more daunting—than she had feared.

What is your preferred writing routine? 

When I’m writing the first draft, I clear the decks, sit down at an old kitchen table set up in my living room, and just close my eyes until a scene starts. I watch and listen, writing what I see and hear as clearly as possible. I write until the scene is complete, then I make a note of where the story has to pick up next time and call it a day. Sometimes the scenes are quite long, other times only a few pages. I do this almost every day until I think the story is done. (It is never done at this point.)

The editing routine is much different because when you write this way, letting the story take you where it will, you go down a lot of side streets that are interesting and that tell you a lot about the characters, but that lead nowhere and have to go. So editing days entail long hours squinting at scenes spread out all over the dining room table, hung on chairs, and organized in big notebooks. There’s a lot of sifting and tossing until the real story comes to light.

Then comes the revising routine: months of rewriting, shaping, researching, and ditching until a “final” draft is ready for my skilled and patient editor, Vinnie Kinsella.

During the editing months, Vinnie analyzes the draft, sends me his questions and comments, and I start on the long, concentrated days of rewriting, because no “final draft” sent to an editor is ever the final one! (And that’s a very good thing!)

What advice do you have for new writers?

Find and hire a skilled, professional editor. By professional I mean someone with training, certification, and experience in developmental and line editing, who does this work exclusively for a living. Find someone who understands what you are trying to write, communicates clearly and professionally (kindly is a bonus), and is geared toward improving your manuscript without rewriting it him/herself.

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

Word of mouth is everything, whether from a reviewer, a librarian, or someone who has picked up the book online, at the bookstore, or at the neighborhood Little Free Library. Nothing is more powerful than an enthusiastic “You gotta read this!”

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Setting is crucial in this series, so I learn everything I can about the location and its history, then I travel to Cornwall to make sure the places that I have “seen” in my imagination could possibly have existed there. The most unexpected thing I have discovered is that the two sites where the mystical events occur—Bury Down in Book One and The Sorrows Cove and the unnamed seaside hill in Book Two—actually exist.
Bury Down, I discovered, is the site of a Neolithic hill fort and still retains the stone ruins beneath wild grass and windblown thorn trees. [History of Bury Down, written by its caretakers]

Daymer Bay (“The Sorrows Cove” in the book) also exists. It is located on the North Coast, and alongside it is Brea Hill, a cliffside hill topped by the stones of several ancient burial cairns. At the foot of the cliff is a sea cave much like the goddess cave. At the mouth of the cove is a treacherous sandbar called “Doom Bar,” said to have been cursed by a lovesick mermaid.

Both sites, which I had never seen before my visits to Cornwall, were exactly as I had imagined while writing the stories. And the ancient stone structures on each provided the unexpected touch of mysticism I had felt as I wrote the stories.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

From a craft standpoint, it was the torture of Megge’s mother and aunt in Book One. The story is written in the first person from Megge’s point of view, and Megge was not present after the women were arrested by the Blackfriar abbot, so I had to find a way to bring those scenes to life for the reader.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m working on Book Three of the series, in which Megge embarks on the work she was born to do, armed now with the wisdom and power she acquired on the cliffs of Cornwall. Her family and all her companions, old and new, will play a big part in Book Three, so we will get to know them better. *Warning: I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Tinker Penneck.

Rebecca Kightlinger
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About the Author

In her twenty years of medical practice as an obstetrician gynecologist, Rebecca was privileged to care for the women of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Guyana, South America. She now holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program and studies ancient medicine, medieval midwifery and surgery, and the manuscripts and arts of the mystical healer.A full time writer and literary critic, the award-winning author of the Bury Down Chronicles studies the history of Cornwall and travels to Cornwall to carry out on-site research for each book of the series. She and her husband and their pets live in Pennsylvania. Find out more at Rebecca's website and follow her on Twitter @RS_Kightlinger

18 December 2020

Special Guest Interview with Oliver Webb-Carter, Editor & Co-Founder of Aspects of History

I'm pleased to welcome Oliver Webb-Carter, editor of Aspects History, to The Writing Desk:

Please tell us about Aspects of History and where the idea for the venture originated from
Aspects of History is a new website and magazine dedicated to history and historical fiction. The magazine will be published bi-monthly and feature articles, interviews, short stories, and book reviews by established and new authors alike. The website will contain additional content and be updated on a regular basis. Readers can download an illustrated version of the magazine from our website: 

The magazine will also be available as a Kindle and print edition through Amazon. People can follow us on twitter @aspectshistory and sign-up to our mailing list to receive info on news, special offers and submissions. Readers can also download our first issue for a special price of £1.99 / $2.99 and arrange an annual subscription for just £9.99 / $9.99. Issues and subscriptions can also be gifted for Christmas presents. We are of course grateful for any and all support and welcome feedback. 
One of the features of Aspects of History, as opposed to other magazines and websites, is that writers can arrange an Author Platform with us and promote themselves in an ongoing, long-term way. Authors will be able to write blog pieces each month, review books and interview other authors to help raise their sales and profile. A number of bestselling authors – including, among others, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Ben Kane and Anne O’Brien – have already arranged platforms in advance. We want to be an engine to sell books – to, like a good historical novel, educate and entertain. 
Aspects of History’s genesis was partly borne from my personal interest and passion in relation to history and historical fiction. “Books are the proper study of mankind,” to quote Aldous Huxley. After working in the City for several years I wanted to return to my first love. Our advisory board and staff have a similar passion for history and working with authors.
The site and magazine are a product of my speaking to writers. Authors need platforms to showcase their books. Aspects of History will hopefully marry up authors to readers, and pool audiences. Although the site promotes established, bestselling brands – we are also mindful of giving new historians and novelists a shop window.  
As well as providing a platform for published writers, I also want Aspects of History to be a hub for unpublished novelists. There are designated sections of the website devoted to students, historical societies, and creative writing groups. We want to assist authors, from pitch to publication and beyond. Should you have an unpublished historical novel in the drawer – or be interested in promoting yourself through Aspects of History – please do get in touch. Also, should you be a graduate or academic keen to distribute your dissertation or PhD, then Aspects of History could be a home to help publish and promote you too. 
Can you tell us a bit more about your first issue? 
Thankfully, through the generosity of authors and the contacts of our advisory board, we were able to arrange several coups for our first issue. Among other features, we have exclusive interviews with Ben Macintyre and Harry Sidebottom. Anthony Riches, Anne O’Brien and Saul David have also contributed articles. The latter has written a fun piece on his hero, George Macdonald Fraser. The magazine also contains short stories by EC Fremantle and Antonia Senior. There are plenty of book reviews too, for those interested in some Christmas reading recommendations.   
Can you let our readers know more about your submission process? 
Yes. We will be accepting submissions in January, for content for our 2021 issues. We recommend that you read the magazine and check out the website, so writers have a sense of what we are looking for. For anyone interested in submitting a short story, I would also recommend reading the HWA collections of Rubicon, Royal Blood, By the Sword and Victoriana as a guide. 

The magazine is a broad church in terms of covering fiction and non-fiction based around a variety of periods. Ideally, we like to help authors showcase new publications, but we can cover backlist titles too. There is understandably limited space when it comes to the magazine, but the website has additional scope to host articles, interviews, short stories and book reviews. As well as following us on Twitter, to keep abreast of news and submissions, I would recommend people sign-up to our mailing list for additional info. There is no immediate rush to get in touch. We intend to have a long shelf-life, like the books we promote.
What does the future hold for Aspects of History? 
Aside from sleepless nights and piles of books on my bedside table, the future is hopefully bright and expansive. Authors and publishers are getting in touch to arrange Author Platforms as word spreads. Ben Kane, Charles Spencer, Leanda de Lisle, Steven Veerapen and Theodore Brun have recently joined our stable of writers. We would like to host more authors from the US over the coming year. Our long-term aims are to arrange a YouTube channel, run writing competitions, and organise book awards. We have taken the first step in a long journey and would like others to join us. 

Oliver Webb-Carter

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About the Author

Oliver Webb-Carter is the Editor of Aspects History. He studied Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at the University of Warwick, and then worked as an archaeologist for the Museum of London. He co-founded Aspects of History after a career in the City of London. Find out more at and follow on Facebook and Twitter @aspectshistory

16 December 2020

Special Guest Interview with Simon Fairfax, Author of A Knight and a Spy

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

January 1410, and King Henry IV is brought down with an unknown illness. Despite his 10 year reign the kingdom is far from secure: he is at odds with his son Prince Hal who vies for a new Council; Owen Glyndower threatens his Welsh border, whilst the Scots are ever in revolt seeking secret alliances with France.

I'm pleased to welcome author Simon Fairfax to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is entitled A Knight and A Spy 1410 and is the first in a planned five book series set in the early £15th C. It is set in a time of turmoil in England with the old King Henry IV very ill and prince Henry his son trying to take over the crown. It is very exciting as it is set against the back drop of the 100 Years war, rebellion from the Welsh under Owain ap Glyndower, the Scots liaising with the French and wars in France to take back Calais-all in one year!

It is also very interesting as one of the main characters is Sir Richard Whittington, whom many think of as just a pantomime figure-Dick Whittington. Yet he was real, one of the first Lord Mayors of London, financier, merchant, political influencer, and spy master! He served three kings in all, a fascinating character. 

Into this story I insert my three heroes, the lead of which is Jamie de Grispere, squire in training, merchant’s son and soon to be a knight and a spy for Sir Richard and the crown. The other two comrades he falls in with are Cristoforo Corio, an Italian assassin who saves Jamie’s father’s life; and Mark of Cornwall, a Cornish wrestler who comes to court after he kills a man in a wrestling match.

These three become friends and serve to thwart the siege on Calais stop the Scots linking with the Welsh and cause Glyndower’s final raid into England to fail. The great thing about history is there are always gaps, where someone has written… ‘oh a fire started but we don’t know by whom’... Or the Welsh raid was ambushed somewhere near the border but we don’t know how. Or the Scots sent envoys to the Welsh, but we’re not sure how or when or what was said. All these points leave wonderful opportunities for great stories and my protagonists to shine, with battles, intrigue and conflict.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I am very lucky because I can just sit down and write any time, any place and anywhere. The words just come to me. This is of course after tons of meticulous research and I have a huge time line map up on my wall together with a list of all eth characters and how they fit in.

But as to my day typical day, I either run with the dogs or swim first thing then back to my study and lock myself away and write the in the afternoon usually advertising and checking things.
Then in the late afternoon/evening I’ll bring my lap top down and bash away on writing for a little longer in front of the fire.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I speak to quite a few people who ask me this question and a large proportion, admit they haven’t written the book yet, but have really good ideas. First Rule: write the book. It doesn’t matter how bad it is, just get it all out there on paper, because unless you are a genius, there will a lot of changes to your first draft anyway.

But before the above research is key: places, procedures, language, social mores, memes, and if period, please, please get the language correct. So often I start reading a period book and the language is so modern or wrong, (the same with manners) using words that did not exist at that time. It is like walking with a pebble in your shoe. To show you how easy it is to get this wrong, in my first draft a BETA reader picked up that I had used icing confection in my narrative, not even direct speech. She said, quite rightly, that icing did not exist until the 17thC. That is how meticulous you must be.

Also, if you intend to write a series, write the second book before you even consider writing the first. You will want to publish shortly after so as readers like your first they will want to binge read and not lose momentum. Very important is that you read as much as possible, not just your genre, but others as well, you must read, read, read. So important.

Finally, on production use a good cover designer, proof reader and Developmental editor these are essential parts of the publishing process. Remember it is a very competitive market and you need to be the best that can to stand out.
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Primarily it is through advertising on Amazon using their ad system. Some on Facebook but this is rather trickier to use. I also give talks to all sorts of groups like the WI, MENSA, Probus, etc., and these are a fabulous way to get known as an author. It also gives me an opportunity to sell signed copies where I give talks.

Occasionally I have attended book fairs but did not do well there. However, I do show at one or two prestigious Christmas fairs and do very well there. I also do special promos on BookFunnel and Book Bub which have proved very profitable.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

There were so many different things that came up which surprised me from the construction of a huge siege engine in the cathedral at Saint Omer in north France to the treatment of Prince Henry’s arrow wound at the battle of Shrewsbury, which was extraordinary. 

However, something that always sticks in my mind is how London was at that time. It was the only city in the world with a sewage system, (put in place by Sir Richard Whittington in a huge philanthropic gesture) in parts at least. But perhaps more impressively it had piped water running through the streets in much of the city. Then when the king was crowned they arranged for wine to fed into the pipes for that day in celebration of the coronation. Amazing really, we couldn’t even do that now!

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Without doubt dialogue is the hardest in a period novel. As an author you have to get it right so that it sounds authentic without being as unintelligible as Chaucer! You know what you want to say than have to ‘translate’ it as you write. Two scenes stick in my mind one is a long talk between Whittington and Jamie where he outlines the courtly situation and really sets out the premise for the whole book. It was a great scene to write but very involved.

The second was between Cristoforo the Italian assassin and the Contessa. It was full of flowery courtly love and very lovely to write. A bit like the courtly scene from the ballet Romeo and Juliet when they dance back and forth in rows.  

What are you planning to write next?

I have already started the next in the A Knight and a Spy, this time 1411. I thought 1410 was busy, but so much happened in 1411 I don’t how they fitted it all in let alone me. Rebellion by knights of the shires; piracy on the Channel, the Flemish Treaty, Civil war in France, proposals of marriage for Prince Henry, coups against the King, changing allegiance, King’s brothers for and against him; Lollardy and a new Rule when king Henry makes a comeback. So much to fit in and all has a bearing upon the future of the realm.
 What is even more exciting is that there is loads of room for my characters to play a part alongside the real figures of the time and inter-act with events that occurred and play their part.

Simon Fairfax

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About the Author

As a lover of crime thrillers and mystery, I turned what is seen by others as a dull 9 – 5 job into something that is exciting, as close to real life as possible, with Rupert Brett, my international man of mystery whose day job is that of a Chartered Surveyor. Rupert is an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances who uses his wit, guile and training to survive. Each book is written from my own experiences, as close to the truth as possible, set against world events that really happened. I go out and experience all the weapons, visit the places Rupert travels to, speak to the technical experts and ensure that it as realistic, as possible allowing you to delve deep in to the mystery, losing yourself in it for a few hours. Find out more at Simon's website and find him on Facebook

13 December 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Templar's Garden (Maid of Gascony Book 1) by Catherine Clover

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

A young woman forced to fight for her beliefs. A chaplain with a secret that could determine the fate of a kingdom.

England, 1452. Under the reign of King Henry VI the country is on the brink of civil war after the Hundred Years’ War.

Young mystic Lady Isabelle d’Albret Courteault’s family is forced to flee the Duchy of English Gascony for a new and unforeseeable life in England. While they become established in the courts, Lady Isabelle discovers dark secrets about their chaplain and tutor. As their growing relationship places her in harm’s way, can she remain steadfast in her promises to uphold the monarchy and her faith?

Set amidst a period of grave uncertainty, this is the story of a woman learning to stand up for her beliefs in a patriarchal world - a beautifully crafted narrative of faith, love and grace.

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About the Author

Dr Catherine Clover was first introduced to the world of medieval knights and castles at the age of eight, and her interest in studying the history of the Middle Ages eventually led to the creation of The Maid of Gascony Series. While a graduate student at Trinity College, Oxford, Catherine would attend evensong at New College and the choir's recordings have been a source of great inspiration for the series. The Templar's Garden was begun while Catherine was completing her PhD in the History of Art, with a focus on medieval fortifications in Gascony. During this time she lived for several months in Bordeaux and Bazas while conducting research for her thesis. From this experience, and the people she met, the seeds for the narrative were planted. Catherine's research interests include the Wilton Diptych, as well as the writings and lives of the notable medieval female mystics Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe.When she is not working on her next manuscript Catherine enjoys singing with her church choir and spending time with her daughter and two dogs. Fine out more at Catherine's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @catherinealette

11 December 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Old Foxes (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 9) Kindle Edition by G. Lawrence

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Autumn 1588: The Invincible Armada is defeated and England rejoices. Their Queen, Elizabeth Tudor, stands before them as a shining icon of immortality, strength and wealth... yet she is a lie.

Broken after the death of her love, Robin Dudley, struggling with war, debt and personal loss, Elizabeth holds the mask of the Queen to her face as inside she is fractured. Turning to the youthful, reckless Earl of Essex, Elizabeth seeks solace, yet from man may monster be made.

As Elizabeth struggles to maintain her power, her favourite rises, surpassing her own popularity with the people of England, and Elizabeth begins to fear Essex may no more wish to serve his Queen, but to supplant her.

Old Foxes is Book Nine in the Elizabeth of England Chronicles by G. Lawrence.

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About the Author

Gemma Lawrence is an independently published author living in Cornwall in the UK. She studied literature at university says, 'I write mainly Historical Fiction, with an emphasis on the Tudor and Medieval periods and have a particular passion for women of history who inspire me'. Her first book in the Elizabeth of England Chronicles series is The Bastard Princess (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 1).Gemma can be found on Twitter @TudorTweep.

10 December 2020

Book Launch Spotlight: Sleepless, by Louise Mumford

New on Amazon UK and for pre-order on Amazon US

Don’t close your eyes. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t let them in.

Thea is an insomniac; she hasn’t slept more than three hours a night for years.

So when an ad for a sleep trial that promises to change her life pops up on her phone, Thea knows this is her last chance at finding any kind of normal life.

Soon Thea’s sleeping for longer than she has in a decade, and awakes feeling transformed. So much so that at first she’s willing to overlook the oddities of the trial – the lack of any phone signal; the way she can’t leave her bedroom without permission; the fact that all her personal possessions are locked away, even her shoes.

But it soon becomes clear that the trial doesn’t just want to help Thea sleep. It wants to control her sleep…
'An unputdownable thriller… Absolutely brilliant read that had me on the edge of my seat!’ NetGalley reviewer, 5 stars

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About the Author

Louise Mumford was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed - much to her mother's frustration! Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since. She studied English Literature at university and graduated with first class honours. In the summer of 2019 Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. Everything has been a bit of a whirlwind since then. Louise lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head. Find out more at Louise's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @louise_mumford

9 December 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Beneath a Starless Sky, by Tessa Harris

New on Amazon UK and pre-order Amazon US

Munich 1930: Lilli Sternberg longs to be a ballet dancer. But outside the sanctuary of the theatre, her beloved city is in chaos and Munich is no longer a place for dreams.

The Nazi party are gaining power and the threats to those who deviate from the party line are increasing. Jewish families are being targeted and their businesses raided, even her father’s shop was torched because of their faith.

When Lilli meets Captain Marco Zeiller during a chance encounter, her heart soars. He is the perfect gentleman and her love for him feels like a bright hope under a bleak sky.

But battle lines are being drawn, and Marco has been spotted by the Reich as an officer with great potential. A relationship with Lilli would compromise them both.
I can’t recommend this book enough. I wouldn’t even want to put in into a category because this for me is a book of life. One woman, brave and determined. A Perfect ending too. ~ Goodreads Reviewer.

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About the Author

Tessa Harris, an English author born in Lincolnshire, holds a history degree from Oxford University. After four years of working with local newspapers, she set her sights on women's magazines. She is regularly heard on local BBC radio and over the years has interviewed such people as Margaret Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer, Anthony Hopkins, Susan Hampshire, Alan Titchmarsh, Jackie Stewart, Boris Johnson, and Uri Geller. Find out more at Tessa's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @harris_tessa

3 December 2020

Author Interview with Thomas J. Berry, Author of Gifts of the Gods: Fire and Ash

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Five men and women in Ancient Greece are set on a dangerous journey of self-discovery during the bitter conflict of the Peloponnesian War.

I'm pleased to welcome author Thomas J. Berry to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book.

Fire and Ash is the third and last volume in the Gifts of the Gods trilogy about Ancient Greece.  The series follows an assortment of men and women from all walks of life during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century BC.  Although it’s a trilogy, each book can easily be read as a stand-alone. When Fire and Ash opens, we are plunged into a world beset by conflict and strife but there is hope on the horizon…and disaster for the vanquished.  Lissy is a mother of two little girls whose husband was among the fallen in a failed campaign overseas.  

Now living outside Athens, she struggles with her past as a Spartan slave and must find a way to forge a future for her family.  Aleki is a military commander in the twilight of his years and must learn to adapt in a young man’s army.  Timanda, an exotic dancer in a Persian court, becomes infatuated with a handsome foreigner but is it love? She will soon discover how far she is willing to go to find the answer.  As the war rages to a bitter end, five men and women will emerge from the fire and ash to stand together in their new world.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I have found a good writing method is to devote an hour or two each and every day to the craft.  My books are heavily researched, so I spend a year or more reading and note-taking before I put pen to paper.  Then I create outlines, spreadsheets, and charts to help form the book’s structure.  The key is to do a little each day and don’t procrastinate!  I spent a total of seven years researching Gifts of the Gods and three years writing. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Find a project you are passionate about and stick to it.  Don’t let naysayers stop you from doing what you love. Tell your story the way you envision it.  Then formulate a writing style that challenges you and makes you better.  I chose to weave five stories into a single volume and allow them to build upon one another slowly.  

The other two volumes were written in the same style and there is some nice crossover between them all.  I had a lot of fun with it, but the process taught me a great deal as well.  Learn from each project you do.  Keep moving forward!  Finish it and move on.  The next story is waiting just around the corner!

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

Writing books and marketing them are very different challenges but each one needs to be handled with care.  This is my sixth publication in ten years, and I have learned different strategies each time.  Social media has become an essential tool for all writers and it’s important to use it wisely.  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few of the ways to connect with readers.  Goodreads is another.  They offer book giveaways and some promotional features.  Amazon has an author program as well.  I’ve run ad campaigns to reach a wider audience and some can be targeted for a specific demographic.  I’m excited about this blog tour! It’s the first one I’ve done and I’m happy to introduce myself and my book to your readers!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

I love to research historical fiction and have learned a lot in the process.  I spent years reading about the Ancient Greeks, largely manuscripts written by historians living during that time but also modern interpretations as well.  I was surprised by the close comparisons the Greeks had to our own world, specifically the events in the 20th century.  Each city-state forged alliances with their friends for protection, much like the countries in Europe did in the early 1900’s.  

When small conflicts escalated, their larger and more powerful allies were inevitably drawn in, creating a cascading effect that soon enveloped their world.  Even as peace was declared, new superpowers emerged from the ashes.  The warhawks were still bent on dominating the globe and soon took their ships to a far-off location…Sicily.  America and Russia battled for years in Vietnam, but they were simply mirroring the Ancient Greeks.  Fire and Ash ultimately shows the folly of both democracy and socialism in their extreme form.  I hope people will learn something from the series.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The battle scenes are always hard because there is so much going on, but I think, looking at the book and really the series as a whole, I found the ending the hardest to write.  I have known for years how the last chapter would play out and getting to that point was a long, difficult journey.  When it came time to write the concluding chapters, it was as if a part of me were right there on the pages with the characters.  

I loved the series and I was happy with the ending, but it was a bittersweet moment to finally put down on paper.  Alcibiades was a real historical person and has been a part of Gifts of the Gods from the very beginning.  We first see him at age 18 at the Olympic festival in Iron and Bronze and watch him grow into a strong leader in Silver and Gold.  It was only fitting to conclude the series with this important figure in Fire and Ash.  

What are you planning to write next?

My next project hits a little closer to home and centers on the American Civil War!  I’m still in the research phase but the book is expected to hit shelves in the fall of 2022.  Although the Civil War has been written about for years, I like to find small, focused plotlines that will take readers by surprise and teach them things about their own history in imaginative ways.  Whenever possible, I will visit the places I write about and there are numerous battlefields on the East Coast I plan to study first-hand.  I’m excited about this new project and I hope my readers are too!

Thomas J. Berry
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About the Author

Thomas Berry received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from St. Bonaventure University.  He takes pleasure in extensively researching both historical fiction and non-fiction stories.  In his spare time, he enjoys long distance running and has completed several marathons.  He currently lives with his wife and children in New Jersey.  You can learn more about Thomas and his historical novels at his website, and follow him on Twitter @TBerryAuthor

2 December 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Between Two Kings, by Olivia Longueville

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Anne Boleyn is imprisoned in the Tower of London on false charges of adultery, high treason, and incest on the orders of her husband, King Henry VIII of England. Providence intervenes – she escapes her destined tragedy and leaves England. Unexpectedly, she saves King François I of France, who offers her a foolhardy deal, and Anne secretly marries the French monarch.

With François’ aid, she seeks vengeance against the English king and all those who betrayed her and designed her downfall in England. Henry must face the deadly intrigues of his invisible enemies, while his marital happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour, is lost and a dreadful tragedy also strikes the king. The course of English and French history hangs in the balance.

From the gloomy Tower of London to the opulent courts of England, France, and Italy, brimming with intrigue and danger – Anne Boleyn survives, becoming stronger and wiser, and fights to prove her innocence. Her hatred of Henry is inextricably woven into her existence.

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About the Author

Olivia Longueville has degrees in finance and general management from London Business School. Currently, she is working in investment banking and is also helping her father run the family business. Longueville loves historical fiction, considering herself an amateur historian, and she is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and art. She has undertaken in-depth research into the history of the Valois dynasty, the French Renaissance, the Tudors, and the Plantagenets. Find out more at her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @O_Longueville

30 November 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Lady Sophia: a novella (Georgian Tales Book 1) by Pamela Stephen

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The story begins in Venice in 1720 when a young woman, Sophia Pocock, travelling with her chaperone, Aunt Matilda, decides to escape from the confines of their rented palazzo on the Grand Canal on the day of the Festival di Sensa. 

Free for once, from the careful guardianship of her aunt, she makes two fateful decisions that will set her on a dangerous course, experimenting with the boundaries of acceptable genteel behaviour.

Henry Jenkins, meanwhile, is on the loose, in pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle. He is in the city as part of his Grand Tour after his latest misdemeanour at home. He is also in the crowd at the festival that day, accompanied by his friend James Connaught, as the pair ready themselves for the dubious delights of an evening in the company of the infamous Count Albanolo.

When the worlds of the three young people collide, their encounter will have repercussions that will follow them home and reverberate for years to come.

The novella is the first in a series of three, chronicling the lives and romantic relationships of a group of fictional characters who live in 18th century West London. It introduces us to the young lives of a number of the characters who feature in ‘Artists and Spies’ thirty years later.

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About the Author

Pamela Stephen is the author of ‘Artists and Spies’, a novel about Charlotte Le Juge, stepdaughter of the celebrated 18th century artist Hyacinthe Rigaud. She was born in Berkshire, in the United Kingdom, but has spent most of her life in the East of England. Pamela Stephen lives in Lincolnshire with her husband.  She retired from teaching after more than thirty years in schools and colleges.  Her interests include Art History and Architecture. You can find out more at Pamela's blog and follow her on Twitter @PamStephen13

20 November 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ The Shadows of Versailles: A gripping tale of seduction, loss, and revenge, by Cathie Dunn

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Seduced at Versailles. Broken by tragedy. Consumed by revenge.

Fleur de La Fontaine attends the court of King Louis XIV at Versailles for the first time. Dazzled by the opulence, she is soon besotted with handsome courtier, Philippe de Mortain. When she believes his words of love, she gives in to his seduction – with devastating consequences.

Nine months later, when the boy she has given birth to is whisked from her grasp, she flees the convent and finds shelter at the brothel of Madame Claudette.

Jacques de Montagnac, a spy working for the Lieutenant General, investigates a spate of abducted children from the poorer quartiers of Paris when his path crosses Fleur’s. He searches for her son, but the trail leads to a dead end – and a dreadful realisation.

Her son’s suspected fate too much to bear, Fleur decides to avenge him. With the help of her new acquaintance, the Duchess de Bouillon, Fleur visits the famous midwife, La Voisin, but it’s not the woman’s skills in childbirth that Fleur seeks.

La Voisin dabbles in poisons.

Will Fleur see her plan through? Or can she save herself from a tragic fate?

Delve into The Shadows of Versailles and enter the sinister world of potions and black masses during the Affairs of the Poisons, a real series of events that stunned the court of the Sun King!

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About the Author

Cathie  Dunn has been writing for over twenty years. She studied Creative Writing, with a focus on novel writing, which she now teaches in the south of France. She loves researching for her novels, delving into history books, and visiting castles and historic sites. Cathie's stories have garnered readers' awards and praise from reviewers and readers for their authentic description of the past. is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors. After many years in Scotland, Cathie now lives in south-west France with her husband, two cats and a rescue dog. Discover more at Cathie's website 

19 November 2020

Stories of the Tudors podcast: Queen Elizabeth I Part Two

This podcast is the second of a series of three looking at the life of Queen Elizabeth the first, and I’m exploring the myths and rumours surrounding the life of Queen Elizabeth, England’s ‘Gloriana’ – the virgin queen who reigned England and Ireland for 44 years.

The third podcast in this series and the third will look behind the familiar façade, to see what Elizabeth was really like.
My book, Drake - Tudor Corsair is available from Amazon in paperback and eBook
More information about all my books can be found on my website at
The Introductory music is La Volta,  composed by David Hirschfelder

Listen on PodBean  or find Stories of the Tudors 
on Amazon, Spotify or iTunes

17 November 2020

New Historical Fiction Anthology: Betrayal

Together with eleven other award-winning novelists, collectively known as the Historical Fictioneers, I'm pleased to announce the launch of Betrayal.

About Betrayal

Read twelve tales by twelve accomplished writers who explore these historical yet timeless challenges from post Roman Britain to the present day.

“I read this anthology from start to finish in a matter of days.... Each story is gripping.”– Discovering Diamonds Reviews

Perfect for historical fiction readers, Betrayal spans eras from post-Roman Britain to the present day, bringing to life both legendary moments of deceit as well as imagined episodes of treachery. 

Besides an extract from my new book, Drake - Tudor Corsair, there are  stories by Judith Arnopp, Anna Belfrage, Cryssa Basos, Derek Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Mercedes Rochelle, Elizabeth St John, and Annie Whitehead. 

And the best part . . . 

We'll be offering this anthology for free as a thank you to our readers, and to bring people entertainment during these difficult times. This is a great opportunity to get a taste for new authors and new periods of history. 

If you would like to keep up with the Historical Fictioneers, follow us on Twitter @HistFictioneers

16 November 2020

Special Guest Post by Tim Darcy Ellis, Author of The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

1522, The Spanish Netherlands, Juan Luis Vives, a renowned academic, has fled Spain to avoid the fires of the Inquisition, yet even here he is not safe. When England's Sir Thomas More offers him the role of tutor to Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, he eagerly accepts. While publicly navigating life as a 'New Christian,' Vives is quickly drawn into the secretive and dangerous world of London's Jewish community. With a foot in each world, 
he is torn between the love of two women

When I first stumbled across the name Juan Luis Vives - quite by accident - I was just blown over. I started looking for the novel, or the film, but I couldn't find it. So I had a reason to write and a sudden sense of purpose; this man's incredible story just had to be brought into the light.

Juan Luis Vives (1492-1540) is one of those forgotten players of the Tudor narrative: a footnote to the story of Thomas More, a sometime friend of Catherine of Aragon, a tutor to Princess Mary (from 1523 to 1526). He was a foreigner, perhaps a Jew, who was considered 'subversive' by Cardinal Wolsey and during the second half of the sixteenth century, his writings were banned by the Jesuits, the theologians, the Pope and the Inquisitor General. 

If you scratch beneath the surface, though, you'll find a remarkable man. He led an extraordinary life, and he contributed significantly to European social history. His books were translated into most European languages - and Arabic, some were reprinted over a hundred times (in Protestant lands) before the end of the sixteenth century.

Vives was a humanist philosopher who was the first European to write about the education of women. He considered that the education of a woman was just as important as the education of a man. He firmly believed that women's roles were not limited to producing heirs or as acting as pawns in dynastic power struggles. 

He championed the rights of the poor and the uneducated, he also advocated for a national health service, funded by the state, not the church, and for a league of nations. Vives even wrote about the rights of animals. He was a pacifist, and he was unafraid to challenge Henry VIII, The Pope, The Holy Roman Emperor and the Spanish Archbishops and Inquisitors.

Vives was born to a family of Spanish Jews in Valencia in 1492. That was, of course, the year of the decree of Alhambra, that expelled the Jews from Spain. Although his parents made a public conversion to Catholicism in 1491, within the next thirty years, the Inquisition had destroyed them and most of his extended family. 

Juan Luis Vives left Spain at the age of sixteen (for the Sorbonne) and never returned. He became closely acquainted with Erasmus and Thomas More, and settled amongst a community of Spanish Jews in Bruges, who were then living as 'New Christians'. He made several visits to the English court in the 1520s, and was a lecturer at the newly finished Corpus Christ in Oxford. Once in England, he became closely entangled in the royal divorce between Catherine and Henry.

I set the scene of the book by giving an introduction to the characters that feature; only four of whom were fictional. I deliberately chose the first-person voice because I felt that Vives negotiated life with a forever bitten tongue. I wanted to give him his human voice back, and for the reader to experience his emotions. As a Spanish Jew living in self-imposed exile, Vives wrote cryptically; some have called it 'abstruse,' and I had to dig deep to find the real man. 

Vives avoided reference to the terrible events of the early 1500s, and few of his personal letters have survived, so I had to read between the lines of his life story. I studied everything I could find about Vives and the academic commentaries about him. Key to my understanding of the man was Foster Watson's seminal work from 1908, 'Tudor School Boy Life - the dialogues of Juan Luis Vives.' I also wanted to learn everything that I could about his personal life and the experiences of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the sixteenth century.

As a former Museum of London Archaeologist, I was intimately acquainted with the areas of London that are mentioned in my book, that experience helped me to bring those scenes to life in a sensory, three dimensional way. I wanted to write about the fringes of the old city: areas like Houndsditch, just outside the city walls, where my family, the Elishas (who sneakily creep into the novel) lived, and where immigrants tended to settle.

In terms of my writing processes, my feeling is that, with historical fiction, you simply have to go there. Writing in the first person, I needed to be brave enough to become the character, if only for an hour or two, each day. It was like being a character actor. I had to allow myself to freefall until I felt that Vives was writing through me. I don't honestly know if I am doing him justice or not, but, by consistently going there, as best I could, I was able to write authentically, and I could keep his voice consistent. 

That could be draining at times, when, for example, as a lecturer at Oxford, he discovers the gruesome fate of his father in Spain. Vives felt that connection with the soul was vital, and that clarity of speech was essential. So I had to channel all of that, it was rather like being a character actor, and was a marvellous escape from the real world.

I also felt that, despite the darkness of the Inquisition, that I still had to have fun in this novel, the Tudors were not all a glum lot. Tudor era novels can seem dark, speeding towards the inevitable the grisly fate of the main characters. I tried to get around that with banter, practical jokes, and, in the comfort of my own home, by whiteboarding relationships. Vives often says, 'what you can laugh at, you can rise above.' 

He has a daring exchange with the Henry VIII - admitting to the king that he wanted to psychoanalyse him. In real life, he warned Henry against his arrogance. Thomas More bows to Vives's intellect, but he is committed to staying one step ahead of him. Although More is becoming increasingly insecure during the period of the novel, the witty banter between the two of keeps things fresh and real.

There is a beautiful bond between Margaret Roper (the daughter of Thomas More) and Vives: one that can't ever be thoroughly enjoyed or explored. They were both married, and they understood commitment and fidelity. Still, they couldn't deny their feelings for one another. A writer has to take a stance on Anne Boleyn. Anne was so amazing, and as soon as she loses her head, as far as I am concerned, the Tudor narrative loses its pazazz, its greatest asset. I love Anne, and I was working against my admiration of, and sympathies towards her in my book. Vives, who in my novel first meets Anne in Paris (historically plausible), acknowledges her wit and intelligence, and they consider working together, but soon discover that they can't. He has tremendous loyalty to the beleaguered Catherine of Aragon.

In reality, Vives changed the stuffy pedagogy of the English universities; he encouraged the broader education of women; he also set the framework for secular care of the poor and the sick. Many of his ideas were put into action throughout protestant Europe in the later sixteenth century and beyond. Many European institutions are named after him, yet, he still fell between the cracks. 

That's probably because he didn't fit into any of the camps - not Spanish enough to be an honourable Spaniard. He also wasn't Jewish enough - living life with the outward appearance of a New Christian - but surrounding himself with other Spaniards of Jewish origin to be taken up as a Jewish hero. He certainly wasn't English enough to be considered English, and he ended up falling foul of the king in house arrest.

By giving Vives a voice in The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives, I hope that my novel brings the epoch-making adventures of this incredible man back to life. 

Tim Darcy Ellis

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About the Author

Tim Darcy Ellis (BA BSc, MHSc) is a writer, physiotherapy business owner and formerly a professional archaeologist. Tim studied Archaeology at the University of York (BA Hons 1988) and as a professional archaeologist, worked on sites throughout England and Wales. He held posts at the Museum of London and the British Museum's medieval galleries. Tim is currently Managing Director and Principal Physiotherapist of Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness. He qualified as a physiotherapist at the University of East London in 1998. He moved to Sydney in 2000 where he completed his master's degree in 2002. Tim is chief writer of Excel Life magazine: writing and teaching extensively on health and wellness and specializing in the treatment of complex hip and pelvic pain. Find out more at Tim's website and follow him on Twitter @darcy_author