15 July 2020

Making Good Use of Amazon Editorial Reviews #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

 I’ve been using Amazon KDP for twelve years (it was founded in November 2007) and am still discovering new ways to use it more effectively.

A good example was a post on Jane Friedman’s website about editorial reviews. The facility is a little hidden away, but it easy to use, and with a little thought can help potential book buyers. )You can see the full post here.)

Editorial reviews are written by an editor or expert in the book’s genre or field. You can find them on your book’s sales page, just above the About the Author section.’

Steps for adding Editorial Reviews to Amazon:

  • Log in to Author Central.
  • Click on the Books tab at the top of the page.
  • Go to your Books Page.
  • Click on the title of the book you want to edit.
  • Choose Under Editorial Reviews and click “add” review.
  • Add in some book reviews (a new box appears as you add each one)
  • Click Preview and see how your entry looks.

I’ve started collecting editorial reviews of my books and adding them – but wish I’d thought of this a long time ago!

Tony Riches

If you have any more ideas on how to improve Amazon Pages please 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.

11 July 2020

Guest Interview with Martin Lundqvist, Author of The Banker and the Dragon

Available on Amazon UKAmazon US

“When a new virus emerges, one man is set to change the future”.

The Australian agent Jared Pond is sent to investigate the rumours of a new Chinese bioweapon, the Hei Bai virus. During his assignment, Jared meets and falls in love with the Chinese civil rights activist Eileen Lu, the enemy of the CPOC. Together, Jared and Eileen try to uncover the dark secrets of the villainous dictator Chairman Jing Xi, and his assistant Tzi Cheng. But who is Pierre Beaumont, and what is the connection between the spread of the virus, and the World Bank's CEO?

I'm pleased to welcome multi-genre author Martin Lundqvist to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Banker and the Dragon is the first instalment of The Banker’s trilogy. The main plotline of this book is focusing on a character by the name of Pierre Beaumont, who also appears in my previous books, The Fall of Martin Orchard and Sabina Saves the Future.

I wrote The Banker and the Dragon during the time of lockdown in April-May. I chose to write this book as a novella as I find that readers prefer to read novellas than reading full-length novels. The time to make novellas is also shorter, I can produce a novella in about a month’s time, including story editing and narrating the audiobook. Producing a novel takes a lot longer time to create, and it may not get my messages through to readers, so by creating trilogies in novella style, I find that readers have something that they can finish reading in an hour or two, and my messages get across to my fellow readers.

The main premise of The Banker and the Dragon is that the Chinese dictator Jing Xi develops a controllable virus in order to assassinate his political adversaries. The CEO of World Bank, Pierre Beaumont then steals the top-secret bioweapon and causes an outbreak to make massive amounts of money from the crashing financial markets.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I tend to write my books in moments of inspirations and epiphanies, as I believe that it is during these moments that great ideas and fascinating narratives can be made.

My preferred writing routine is to first write a chapter in great lengths, then use an editor software called Hemingway to reduce repetitive sentences, passive writing and adverbs. Another software that I use a lot is Grammarly app, which checks for any grammar errors. Once I am done finalising a chapter, I publish it online on my blog and other websites. As I live in Australia, I use a local publishing site called IngramSpark for printed books as it gives me the opportunity to use my own ISBN, over other sites such as Amazon’s proprietary ISBN numbers.

Once I am done with writing the manuscript, I make the audiobook version of my storyline. Making the audiobook is a great way to get followers to listen and appreciate my narratives, amongst their busy lifestyles.

What advice do you have for new writers?

My advice is to ultimately write for your own enjoyment. Writing is a journey, and as it always is the case, your first book is sadly not going to be your best. With that being said, try to keep writing what you love, before searching for world-wide recognition. Since book promotions are most often than not, time and money-consuming, the more books you have written, the more you will gain sales potential. I would also advise you to reach out to your friends and family initially, then to social media. As a side note, you can mention your writing to people you know, but don’t push it too hard as it could drive them away from reading your books instead.

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

The easiest way to raise awareness is to make audiobook narrations of your writing and publish the book for free for a couple of months, which will get you a lot of downloads and reviews. Searching for a good speaker, if you could not do it yourself, is also a good way of promoting your books to the mainstream society. As I was able to get a good Spanish narrator to read my books in Spanish, this has surprisingly led to my Spanish audiobooks performing better than my English audiobooks, due to my chosen Spanish narrator having a pleasant voice. I use Findawayvoices for my audiobook distribution, and I would recommend the platform as it is easy to use and they pay royalties monthly.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The last chapter of The Fall of Martin Orchard was pretty hard to write, as the character is based on my evil alter ego, Martin Orchard, and it was quite difficult to picture his failures and death. It proves to be quite a challenge for me; however, I took this in stride and I am quite happy with the outcome.

What are you planning to write next?

I plan to write the second part of The Banker’s trilogy, The Banker and the Eagle. In that book, the plot converges with the assassination of the US president by Pierre, which is mentioned briefly in a chapter from The Fall of Martin Orchard.

Martin Lundqvist 

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About the Author

Martin Lundqvist is an experienced author, living in Sydney, Australia. Martin lives with his partner Elaine Hidayat who is also featuring as a female narrator in some of his books. Martin has written an array of different genres. Find out more at Martin's website www.martinlundqvist.com and find him on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/martinlundqvistauthor and Twitter @Martinlundqvis1 

10 July 2020

Chasing Butterflies, by Nicole Thorne

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Chasing Butterflies is a story of Hope
It’s the story of a girl who is damaged by life. A story about finding love against all odds. A story of hidden truths and painful lies.

Hope is on the cusp of her fortieth birthday. She has just about got her life together. She adores her husband Ben and has her dream job as an architect.

Everything changes following a devastating twist of fate. Hope’s life starts to spiral out of control, she is troubled by strange and vivid dreams that remind her of the past.

In a bid to find the peace she returns to the idyllic Cornish fishing village of her childhood.

Will she find the answers she is looking for or will she find the truth is more painful than the lie?

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About the Author

Indie author Nicole Thorne has always had a passion for creating stories and developing characters. In her primary school days she won a play writing competition. During high school she brought her English teacher to tears with her story about bullying. Her writing has always focused on the emotions of a situation. Her debut novel Chasing Butterflies is a real emotional rollercoaster and deals with some difficult issues. She is currently working on a prequel to Chasing Butterflies. The China Doll is expected in December 2020.  Nic lives in the UK with her husband and children. She is a former teacher who now owns and runs a tea room. Find out more at her website https://nicolethorneauthor
and follow her on Twitter @NicThorneAuthor

7 July 2020

Book Launch Spotlight: Map of the Impossible (Mapwalkers Book 3) by J.F. Penn

Pre-order now. Available in ebook and print on 21 July 2020

A journey through the realm of the dead.
A threat that will change the world.
A choice that might save everything—or end it all.

As natural disasters sweep Earthside, a mutant army rises in the Borderlands, driven by the dark force behind the Shadow Cartographers. Sienna and the Mapwalker team must use the Map of the Impossible to journey through the realm of the dead and face the nightmare at its heart.

But when one of their number is taken and the team begins to break apart, each Mapwalker must face their greatest challenge.

Can the Mapwalker team reach the Tower of the Winds before the Shadow claims Earthside?
Will Sienna choose Finn — or turn away from the Borderlands forever?

Map of the Impossible is book 3 of the Mapwalker fantasy adventure trilogy

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About the Author

British author J.F.(Jo Frances) Penn has traveled the world in her study of religion and psychology. She brings these obsessions as well as a love for thrillers and an interest in the supernatural to her writing. A New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, you can find more about J.F.Penn as well as articles and research notes, plus a free book, at www.JFPenn.com and find her on Twitter @thecreativepenn

6 July 2020

Book Launch Spotlight ~ 1520: The Field of The Cloth of Gold, By Amy Licence

Available for pre-order from Amazon UK

1520 explores the characters of two larger-than-life kings, whose rivalry and love-hate relations added a feisty edge to European relations in the early sixteenth century. What propelled them to meet, and how did each vie to outdo the other in feats of strength and yards of gold cloth?

Everyone who was anyone in 1520 was there. But why was the flower of England’s nobility transported across the Channel, and how were they catered for? What did this temporary, fairy-tale village erected in a French field look like, feel like and smell like? 

This book explores not only the political dimension of their meeting and the difficult triangle they established with Emperor Charles V, but also the material culture behind the scenes. While the courtiers attended masques, dances, feasts and jousts, an army of servants toiled in the temporary village created specially for that summer. 

Who were the men and women behind the scenes? What made Henry rush back into the arms of the Emperor immediately after the most expensive two weeks of his entire reign? And what was the long-term result of the meeting, of that sea of golden tents and fountains spouting wine? 

This quinquecentenary analysis explores the extraordinary event in unprecedented detail. Based on primary documents, plans, letters and records of provisions and with a new focus on material culture, food, textiles, planning and organisation.

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About the Author

Amy Licence is an historian of women's lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also a fan of Modernism and Post-Impressionism, particularly Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Cubism. Amy has written for The Guardian, the BBC Website, The English Review, The London Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement and is a regular contributor to the New Statesman and The Huffington Post. She is frequently interviewed for BBC radio and in a BBC documentary on The White Queen. You can follow Amy on twitter @PrufrocksPeach or like her facebook page In Bed With the Tudors. Her website is www.amylicence.weebly.com

5 July 2020

Book Launch Spotlight ~ Final Chance, by E.B. Roshan

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Three months have passed since Preen learned that her husband, Rama, was captured and killed by a rival militia. 

Now the pieces of her shattered life are falling back into place. It's getting easier to breathe again. Preen finds herself smiling over her daughter's antics. 

She's engaged to her wealthy, handsome cousin, who loved her long before Rama stole her heart. Then, late one night, Rama calls. 

He asks Preen to come back to the dangerous city of Dor, back to the life she thought she'd left behind forever...

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About the Author

E.B. Roshan has enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle for several years, living in the Middle East and Asia, but is now temporarily settled in Missouri with her husband and two sons. When she's not chasing the boys or cleaning the house, she's working on an exciting new Romantic Suspense series. To learn more, visit her website

4 July 2020

Special Guest Post By Cassandra Clark, Author of Hour of the Fox (A Brother Chandler Mystery Book 1)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Introducing reluctant spy and friar-sleuth Brother Rodric Chandler in the first of a brand-new medieval mystery series.

London. July, 1399. As rumours spread that his ambitious cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, has returned from exile in France, King Richard's grip on the English throne grows ever more precarious. Meanwhile, the body of a young woman is discovered at Dowgate sluice. When it's established that the dead woman was a novice from nearby Barking Abbey, the coroner calls in his friend, Brother Chandler, to investigate.

Why Richard II? 

The background to THE HOUR OF THE FOX, my new series, is the story of the regicide of King Richard II. I’d like to say something about this background because it’s what made me defy fashion (and the Tudors) in preference to the still neglected late fourteenth century.

As a fiction writer I find it intriguing that a story about one person is thrown into relief by a story about someone else. In this case it’s the two Plantagenet cousins, Richard and Henry, who stand like icons of good and bad kingship. They cast their light and shadow over everything that happened at this time.

It goes without saying it was a violent, dangerous and treacherous period of history. The murder of King Richard in Pontefract Castle heralded a massive political crackdown on the country at every level while the usurper, Bolingbroke, the man the French called ‘so-called King Henry,’ established what was no less than a police state.

Henry Bolingbroke. Why has his name not gone down in history as one of the major villains among the motley assortment of monarchs since William the Bastard’s Conquest in 1066?

I have the view that our history is written by the privileged who unthinkingly identify with the winners in this real life Game of Thrones. They prefer war to peace - all that exciting blood (of other people), all that derring-do, and if you’re an unreconstructed ‘girl,’ all that adultery and frocks.

If you go to Westminster Abbey when the lockdown is over, you’ll see a wonderful portrait of King Richard hanging near the west door. It’s the first painting of a living monarch made in this country and has been hanging in the same place ever since 1395.

It commemorates the affection in which he was held and the glorious building works he commissioned for the abbey and elsewhere. He is a mild, blonde, blue-eyed, somewhat wary looking young man, clearly afraid of the enemies who have surrounded him since he inherited the crown from his grandfather at the age of ten. Somehow, despite the threats, he held onto the throne for twenty two years. Yet the black propaganda about him continues.

To set the record straight his peace-making with England’s oldest enemies, the French and the Scots, was remarkable at a time when men would as soon strike you dead as draw breathe. He made serious attempts to end the Hundred Years War and managed to establish a twenty-two year truce.

A civilised young man, therefore, in a barbaric, militaristic realm, he also did his best to bring style and beauty to the English court. He introduced the (outrageous) idea of eating with a fork instead of your fingers, of using a handkerchief instead of your sleeve (ugh!) and he commissioned the first ever cookery book in English, the Forme of Cury. More importantly, he encouraged writers - Chaucer for one - and painters and musicians.

His love match with his young queen, Anne of Bohemia, set a standard of fidelity that gave rise to our celebration of St Valentine’s Day when the court would assemble on a royal pleasure island in the Thames to exchange love tokens.

How very different to many other monarchs who are praised to the skies despite their adulteries, war-mongering and greed. In the Italian or French courts Richard would have been respected as one of the first Renaissance princes. Only a country such as England was at that time could blacken the name of a monarch who preferred a more equal society to one based on bonded labour - slaves in all but name - and peace instead of endless war.

It’s the sheer injustice of how these two royal icons are now viewed that urges me to go back to them in search of truth so far as it can be found.

To be crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey with barons and prelates kneeling before you when you’re ten and not expecting to be king at all, and then to become a hero at fourteen behaving within the great code of chivalry as your grandfather and father had taught you and afterwards to be thwarted and mocked at every turn by your greedy, jealous and ambitious uncles until you finally lose your crown and your life to your vainglorious cousin, is unjust by any standards.

It amazes me that a usurper who had no right to the throne and lied and killed his way to it, seems never to be called to account. As German-Jewish poet Heine said in 1822: ‘Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.’ This is exactly what Bolingbroke/Henry IV and his advisor (usurping archbishop) Arundel, did. When writing about so-called King Henry this elephant in the room goes unnoticed.

Let me remind you that the first human being to be burned at the stake in England was a fellow called William Sawtrey, a priest who held fast to his belief in his right to read the bible in his own language and not have it presented in a bowdlerised form by the rulers of the pre-reformation church.

Sawtrey was burned alive at Smithfield in 1401, a year after Bolingbroke put the crown of England on his own head, but how many people know the name Sawtry or regard him as a champion of free speech? There’s a memorial to a Scotsman at Smithfield, one who was said to flay his enemies alive (no doubt that’s merely black propaganda) but there is no memorial to Sawtrey, the first Lollard martyr who, as far as I know, never killed anybody, and certainly didn’t indulge in such barbaric customs as the one that killed him. And yet - historians still pour out their slanted view of this usurping king, this barbaric Bolingbroke, as a good bloke.

I might give you the impression that my novels are intensely political but it’s only as I delve deeper into the period, and discover more about ordinary people and the impact the decisions of their rulers had on their lives, that my sense of injustice and dismay grows at the misinformation put out. The authentic voice of ordinary people and how they were forced to live at the bottom of the great chain of being needs to be heard.

The Hour of the Fox is a story about ordinary people in these extraordinary times then, a friar, Rodric Chandler, dedicated to a courageous saint, Serapion, with his own strict code of conduct, a maid, Matilda, working for the ambiguously employed poet Chaucer, and the mercenaries, soothsayers, guildsmen, market traders, shipmen, knights, nuns, duchesses, monks and pardoners and all the riffraff of London they encounter as they navigate the dangerous waters surrounding the doomed young king.

Despite themselves, Brother Chandler and Matilda are both caught in the cross-fire between the factions during that turbulent epoch when a king was murdered for his crown.

Next time St Valentine’s Day comes round I hope you’ll remember who made it popular. Let’s take our eyes off the domestic squabbles of the Tudors for a while and hear it for the turbulent Plantagenets. Let’s hear it for King Richard - Good Queen Anne - and the true Commons.

Cassandra Clark
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About the Author

Cassandra Clark has an M.A. from the University of East Anglia and taught for the Open University on the Humanities Foundation course in subjects as diverse as history, philosophy, music and religion. Since then she has written many plays and contemporary romances as well as the libretti for several chamber operas. The Dragon of Handale is published on 17th March 2015. Find out about Cassandra's other books on her website at www.cassandraclark.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @nunsleuth

2 July 2020

Guest Interview with Sam Taw, Author of Pagan Rage (Tribes of Britain Book 4)

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Three Perilous Journeys.
Two Treacherous Captives
One Dead Leader

Wise woman, Meliora blames herself. She did all she could to treat her nephew's fractured skull. How could she have known that it would leave him open to an evil spirit?

His volatile mood swings and confusion leave her exhausted and upset. His raids into enemy territory risk their only chance to call a truce with their neighbours. Now her whole tribe's in danger.

Can they rid him of his affliction and finally achieve a lasting peace?

I'm pleased to welcome author Sam Taw to The Writing Desk

Tell us about your latest book

The thing about writing pre-Roman historical fiction is that you are wholly reliant on sources written long after the era has passed. This has its advantages and disadvantages. On the downside, the lack of historical documents leaves you floundering about looking for proof that certain people existed, especially in the British Isles where my Tribes of Britain series is set. It’s not such a problem across the seas in spectacularly exotic places such as Mesopotamia.

The upside is that I can create rich characters from my own imagination and give them situations and circumstances based on archaeological findings from the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. Many people think that tribal cultures from that far back must have been akin to cavemen. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They were experts in weaving, dying and making good use of all that nature had to offer.

New digs and findings from this time occur almost daily and each of them challenge previous assumptions. That’s brilliant for my future stories, but can prove problematic when a new research paper contradicts the book I’ve just published!

My latest novel, Pagan Rage, is the fourth in the series. It follows the life of tribal elder and healing woman, Meliora. She’s the great aunt of the young and headstrong Chieftain for her tribe. Her noble blood gives her a unique relationship within the ruling family, allowing her to witness the conflicts first hand and influence the outcome of inter-tribal relations and power struggles.

Each of the books follow on from each other, usually spanning one season, starting around 700BCE, but they’re not for the faint of heart. As a healer, I can give Meliora all sorts of gruesome surgical or primitive cures to administer, drawn from the osteological or anthropological studies of that time. It’s immense fun to write.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I’m utterly useless in the morning. It’s probably something to do with a caffeine threshold or something similar. I tend to get administrative tasks and plotting done in the morning and begin writing in the afternoon. If I’m on course to hit my word count that week, I’ll get half my daily quota done prior to my evening meal and then write all evening until I hit my target. If I’m behind, then I will do word sprints until I can catch up. That’s the aim, but it often gets disrupted by other commitments.

Plotting out every story thread and outcome for the whole book, plus outlines for the rest of the series, allows me to break the chapters down into manageable sections. If I know what comes next, it’s easier to stay inside the character’s head and keep the story flowing.

I’m best when I set a deadline and stick to it, but recent world events have knocked me off kilter somewhat. It’s hard to get that focus back and return to a strict routine, but I’m determined to be more productive in the second half of this year.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Practice your craft and read the work of authors in the same sub-genre. Writing is both a calling and a profession and like any profession you need to put the hours in to improve your skills. The role of author is a multi-facetted one. You might be an expert in a particular subject, but not great at story telling or vice versa. Similarly, you might write eighty-thousand words of a novel and find you have no way to end the story.

Some people are lucky enough to have these skills naturally, but most of us need to learn and hone those aspects of the process over time. The more you write, the better you will be, especially if you are constantly willing to learn from others. The point is, as many have said before me, never give up. Write because you want to, learn along the way and publish when you are ready.

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

I’d love to say word of mouth and social media, but the truth is it takes paid advertising to get noticed. You could have the greatest book in the world, but unless you can get it in front of fans of that type of novel, it will only ever be seen by friends and family. It also requires a cover that makes it obvious what kind of book it is and a strong hook in the blurb. Building your own fan base helps, but that takes time, effort and commitment. If you are willing to put in the work, having your own list of supporters is invaluable. They are the people who make the late nights and countless hours at the keyboard all worthwhile.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The discovery that anthropologists had found evidence of rudimentary brain surgery from the Stone Age using flint tools was my most surprising find. Best of all was that the bones had regrown, showing that the patient survived. That little gem gave me the confidence to add it to the storyline running through the series. If they could cut a perfect circle in the skull of a man in that era, I knew I was safe to include it in the transition period between the Bronze and Iron Ages.

There are so many other surprising discoveries I made while researching my Sci-fi thrillers, written under my real name, Sam Nash, but the skull find was my favourite.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

It has to be the scene when I sacrificed a beloved main character during a ritual at the Callanish Stone Circle. I’d grown so attached to this person that I cried the whole time before, during and after the death. Don’t tell my mum though, she still hasn’t forgiven me. The character was her favourite too. I remember putting off writing it for days in the hope that I could skew the story to avoid killing them off. In the end, it had to happen. No regrets.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m currently part way through the first draft of Pagan Siege, book five in the series. When that’s done, I need to write one of my Sci-fi thrillers for a new series. I’m also researching an idea set in ancient Babylon, but that idea is still in its infancy.

Sam Taw

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About the Author

Sam Taw is the pen name for fiction author Sam Nash. Sam is committed to delivering novels in two distinct genres, historical thrillers set in Late Bronze Age Britain and a unique blend of science fiction and international espionage stories. She lives in a small market town in the south of Leicestershire, close to where she grew up, but dreams of owning a woodland on the Cornish coast.  For information regarding the work of Sam Taw, please visit: https://www.carantocpublishing.com  For information regarding the work of Sam Nash, please visit: https://www.samnash.org. You can find Sam on Facebook and Twitter @samtawauthor

Sign up to Sam’s VIP readers’ group and receive Pagan Rites, a prequel novella to the Tribes of Britain series as a welcome gift: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/xtep8jo9wu 

1 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ A Thin Porridge, by Benjamin J. Gohs

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

When 19-year-old Abeona Browne's renowned abolitionist father Jon Browne dies in summer of 1860, devastating family secrets are revealed, and her life of privilege and naiveté in Southern Michigan becomes a frantic transatlantic search for answers—and someone she didn't even know existed.

Still in mourning, Abeona sneaks aboard the ship carrying her father’s attorney Terrence Swifte and his assistant Djimon—a young man with his own secrets—on a quest to Africa to fulfil a dying wish.

Along the journey, Abeona learns of her father’s tragic and terrible past through a collection of letters intended for someone he lost long ago.

Passage to the Dark Continent is fraught with wild beasts, raging storms, illness, and the bounty hunters who know Jon Browne’s diaries are filled with damning secrets which threaten the very anti-slavery movement he helped to build. 

Can Abeona overcome antebellum attitudes and triumph over her own fears to right the wrongs in her famous family’s sordid past? 

So named for an African proverb, A Thin Porridge is a Homeric tale of second chances, forgiveness, and adventure that whisks readers from the filth of tweendecks, to the treachery of Cameroons Town, across the beauty of Table Bay, and deep into the heart of the fynbos—where Boer miners continue the outlawed scourge of slavery.

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About the Author

Benjamin J. Gohs is a longtime award-winning news editor whose investigative journalism has included stories of murder, sex-crime, historical discovery, corruption, and clerical misconduct. Benjamin now divides his time between writing literary thrillers and managing the community newspaper he co-founded in 2009. Find out more at his website https://bengohs.com/ and find him on Twitter @BenGohs

30 June 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Melusine (The Heirs of Anarchy Book 2) by G. Lawrence

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Summer 1128:  Matilda, once Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, daughter and heir to the King of England, has been married for the sake of politics to Geoffrey, heir to the Count of Anjou; an untested, untitled boy.

Through hard years of marriage, Matilda seeks to maintain her position as heir to the thrones of England and Normandy, and to be seen as a worthy successor to her father. In this time she will encounter monsters, in herself and in others, and will face darkness, deceit and danger as each step on this path takes her closer to the crown.

Melusine is Book Two in the series The Heirs of Anarchy 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.

28 June 2020

Surprising Tudor Birth and Death Coincidences

King Henry VIII was born on the 28th June, 1491 at the Palace of Placentia – by chance the same day as Anna of Cleves was born in Düsseldorf.  Henry VIII died on January 28th, 1547, ninety years to the day after his father, Henry VII, was born on January 28th, 1457. This got me thinking about some of the other Tudor coincidences.

Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York was born on the 11th February, 1466 at the Palace of Westminster – and by coincidence, also died on her birthday in 1503 at the Tower of London, after giving birth the week before, perhaps prematurely, to her eighth child – a little girl, who did not survive long.
Henry’s grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was born on the 31st May, 1443 at Bletsoe Castle, and Lady Cicily Neville, mother of Richard III, died on the same day in 1495 at Berkhamsted Castle.  

Another coincidence is the death of Charles Brandon, in Guildford on the 22 August 1545 – the anniversary of the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty, and of his father’s death at the Battle of Bosworth. (William Brandon was Henry Tudor's standard-bearer, and was thought to have been killed by King Richard III.)
I’m sure there are more, but we don’t even know the birthdays of some of the most famous Tudors, such as Anne Boleyn – if you can think of other ‘coincidences’ let me know in the comments.

Tony Riches

23 June 2020

Book Launch Spotlight ~ The Field of Cloth of Gold, by Glenn Richardson

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Glenn Richardson provides the first history in more than four decades of a major Tudor event: an extraordinary international gathering of Renaissance rulers unparalleled in its opulence, pageantry, controversy, and mystery.

Throughout most of the late medieval period, from 1300 to 1500, England and France were bitter enemies, often at war or on the brink of it. In 1520, in an effort to bring conflict to an end, England's monarch, Henry VIII, and Francis I of France agreed to meet, surrounded by virtually their entire political nations, at "the Field of Cloth of Gold." 

In the midst of a spectacular festival of competition and entertainment, the rival leaders hoped to secure a permanent settlement between them, as part of a European-wide "Universal Peace." 

Glenn Richardson offers a bold new appraisal of this remarkable historical event, describing the preparations and execution of the magnificent gathering, exploring its ramifications, and arguing that it was far more than the extravagant elitist theater and cynical charade it historically has been considered to be.
'This is an impressive piece of work. Its great strength is the author's use of original French material, which has enabled Richarson to reconstruct the French preparations in the same detail as the English, and to explore the cultural significance of the Field for Renaissance diplomacy. Richardson is right to conclude that it was seriously intended, and not merely a jeu d'espirit or an excuse for conspicuous consumption.' - David Loades, author of The Tudors: History of a Dynasty 
'Glenn Richardson has meticulously scoured the archives, in both French and English, to provide a sparkling new account of the Field of Cloth of Gold as an extraordinary demonstration of ostentatious rivalry. Richardson notes that there has been no new history of the Field for forty years; after his definitive, detailed and careful study, there need be no new one for many years to come.' - Suzannah Lipscomb, author of A Visitor's Companion to Tudor England
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About the Author

Dr Glenn  Richardson is Professor of Early Modern History at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. His work concentrates on monarchy as form of government, ideals of princely rule, the royal court and international political and cultural relations between monarchs. His published works include The Field of Cloth of Gold, Renaissance Monarchy: the reigns of Henry VIII, Francis I and Charles V, ‘Contending Kingdoms’ France and England, 1420-1700 (ed.) and Tudor England and its Neighbours (ed. with Susan Doran). Glenn's latest book, a biography of Thomas Wolsey, will be published later this year. Follow Glann on Twitter @GJ1Richardson

22 June 2020

Guest Interview with Doug J. Cooper, Author of Bump Time Meridian (Bump Time Series)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

David “Diesel” Lagerford rides his T-box across timelines, where each stop is a parallel world with its own Diesel, wife Lilah, and daughter Rose. Its origin uncertain, the T-box is safe for any of the Diesels to use, and they do so to gather and bond in a tight brotherhood. But instant death awaits all other would-be travelers

I'm pleased to welcome science fiction author Doug J. Cooper to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book?

I write science fiction action/adventure stories where one of the central characters is an artificial intelligence. I’ve completed the four-book Crystal Series (book 1 Crystal Deception), with escapades that take us to the moon, Mars, and the asteroid belt, all led by Criss, a “good” AI who is friendly, cooperative, and moral.

I am now writing the Bump Time trilogy, a time-travel suspense series where amoral AI Ciopova wreaks havoc on the Lagerford family. I released book 1 (Bump Time Origin) in 2019 and just released book 2 (Bump Time Meridian) in May 2020. I am now deep into writing the third book (Bump Time Terminus), due out in 2021.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I am a creature of habit, so my routine is very regular. I get up early every morning and write for a few hours before I start my regular day. Sometime before noon, I find an hour to spend on social media, pleading with the world to read my books. In the late afternoon, I have a second, shorter writing session, often with a glass of wine before dinner.

I don’t outline or plan my stories beyond big picture ideas. I write the books in chapter order, developing the adventure as I go. In fact, a large part of my joy in the writing process is discovering what comes next for my characters. I honestly don’t know in advance, and just as I do when reading a book, I often laugh and sometimes cry when I learn their fate.

On top of that, I edit as I go, refining the passages I’ve written as I contemplate what comes next. The result of these habits is that my productivity is only a few hundred words a day, leaving me in awe of those who write thousands of words in a sitting. But with that said, my persistence leads to finished books. Three hundred words a day leads to a 100K word book in less than a year. I’ve done it six times and am enjoying working on book seven. 

What advice do you have for new writers?

If your goal is to attract readers to your work, pace yourself. As in the realm of music, there are some authors who are “one hit wonders.” But the reality is that most people who develop a readership have been plugging away at it for many years. So keep writing. And when you finish a piece, enjoy an afternoon basking in your success, and then sit down and start the next one. They say you need to work at something for ten thousand hours to perfect it as a skill. If you write for twenty hours per week, every week, that will take you ten years.

Also, the longer you live, the more experiences you have to draw upon to make your stories more engaging. On a forum I recently read, someone wrote, “I just turned thirty-two and want to become an author. Is it too late for me?” I released my first book at age fifty-eight and will be sixty-five when my seventh book is released. I feel my collection of experiences make my stories richer. So don’t let age be a factor in your pursuits.

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

I wish I had a good answer to this because it is a persistent problem. Readers have so many choices, and finding ways to push my books above it all is difficult. The only reliable long-term method I have found is paid advertising. But advertising is so expensive, often costing me fifty cents every time a customer clicks just to look at my Amazon page, that I have not had a positive balance on my book-writing ledger for quite some time. 

Recently I’ve had success giving away Crystal Deception, book 1 of the Crystal Series, with the thought that some will enjoy it enough to continue through the series. While it seems to be a winning strategy today, the publishing landscape is constantly shifting, so I remain vigilant for the next new marketing idea.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

As an engineering professor at the University of Connecticut, I have studied such a breadth of technology issues that I can handle the science part of science fiction without further research. Interestingly, most of my discovery comes from learning the nuances of grammar, book construction, and the like from my beta readers and editor. As a kid in school, I focused on math and science, ignoring language arts because it didn’t seem useful. Now I know better, and I’m enjoying learning.

I also have spent many hours reflecting on human-machine interaction as I decide how an AI should behave as a person, how it should interact with humans, and how it should behave in society. As the influence of AI grows in our society, the topic is both interesting and relevant. 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Death of a beloved character is very hard.

What are you planning to write next?

I am now enjoying writing Bump Time Terminus, the third book in the Bump Time trilogy, due out in 2021. After that, I’m thinking of going back into space, but deep space this time. I won’t know until I start writing, though, and I’m looking forward to finding out. 

Doug J. Cooper
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About the Author

When he is not writing science fiction novels, Doug fills his day working as a professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, and as founder and director of Control Station, Inc., a manufacturing plant optimization company. His passions include telling inventive tales, mentoring driven individuals, and everything sci-tech. He lives in Connecticut with his darling wife and with pictures of his son, who is off somewhere in the world creating adventures of his own. Find out more at Doug’s website  crystalseries.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @crystalseries 

21 June 2020

Guest Interview with Anna Chant, Author of the Quest for New England Trilogy

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

After the defeat at Hastings,
The failure of rebellions,
And the devastation of the North,
England desperately needs a new hero.

1066 is probably the most famous date in English history and we all know what happened. Duke William of Normandy invaded, defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and brought an end to the Anglo-Saxon era. But was it really the end? Not all Anglo-Saxons were quietly amalgamated into the new Norman regime.

There were rebellions and when those proved futile, some opted for a voluntary exile. Based on what is probably a true story the Quest for New England trilogy follows a large group of exiles in their search for a new home. I say it is probably a true story as the records are scarce and riddled with inconsistencies. As an example, the leader of this group is named as the Earl of Gloucester, although as far as we know there were no earls of Gloucester pre-Conquest! But for me, this is my favourite kind of history to fictionalise, with plenty of gaps for my imagination to take over.

The story is told over three books and at the beginning in 1073 there are no plans to leave England with the characters still hoping to overthrow the Conqueror and place Edgar, the last of the Wessex line on the throne. Although the action takes place some years after 1066, that year overshadows the trilogy as the characters struggle to come to terms with the grief and bitterness of defeat. 

Siward, the leader, remains traumatised by what he witnessed on the battlefield of Hastings aged just 17, while his wife, Oswyth was orphaned that day and still grieves for the father she idolised. Other characters include a bishop driven from office, a nobleman injured at Stamford Bridge struggling with the guilt at not fighting at Hastings and a man whose entire family were wiped out in the Harrying of the North. Can they overcome the ghosts of the past to succeed in their search for a New England?

Many thanks to Tony Riches for inviting me onto his blog today. Now for a few questions!

What is your preferred writing routine?

I don’t have a particular routine, but in 2016 I made it my new year’s resolution to write or edit at least one sentence a day, which with very few exceptions I have maintained ever since. It may not sound like much, but it’s easy to get out of the habit of writing. However no matter how busy life gets it’s always possible to manage one sentence. Of course, usually once I start writing I don’t want to stop.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Just write. Don’t worry too much about whether what you’re writing is any good. Once you’ve written something you can always improve it. Also try not to worry about whether other people will like it. Write the book you want to read. I would also strongly recommend connecting with other writers, both in real life and social media. The writing community is such a supportive one, always ready to offer advice and encouragement.

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

I find promoting my books very difficult, mostly using social media, particularly Twitter to get the word out. Awareness of my books has increased with each new release with more sales of my first novel, Kenneth’s Queen in an average week now than I did in the first three months after its release in 2016.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The best discoveries are always on those links I nearly don’t click, thinking it won’t be interesting/something I knew already, but something makes me check it out anyway. The Quest for New England series is an example of this. It started with an article about medieval New England. Assuming it was going to be about Vikings in America, I nearly ignored it. By the time I finished reading it, I knew there was going to be a book. There ended up being three.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I struggled writing the death of Liudolph, Duke of Swabia in God’s Maidservant. Usually I quite enjoy wallowing in a good death scene, but writing it for Liudolph was hard. I think it’s because Liudolph was a character who had been born in my previous book, The Saxon Marriage. After ‘watching’ him grow up, I hated to ‘see’ him die and, as a parent myself, portraying the grief of his father was particularly daunting. Writing about the medieval period, he is not the first character I’ve written to die young but to me he is the most tragic.

What are you planning to write next?

We are currently in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision I made last autumn, before the current crisis struck, was that my next book was going to be set in a pandemic – the 6th century Plague of Justinian. Writing about a pandemic while being in one has been challenging, with the fears and experiences of the characters feeling a bit too real. As a result progress has been sporadic and it’s still at the first draft stage, so that’s all I can reveal about the story for now!

Anna Chant

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About the Author

Anna Chant is a historical fiction author of nine books set in the early medieval period. Her debut novel, Kenneth’s Queen was published in 2016 and was the first of six books in the Women of the Dark Ages series, telling of the lives of the often forgotten and uncelebrated women who lived in that era. Taking inspiration from both history and legend, Anna particularly enjoys bringing to life the lesser known events and characters. When not writing, Anna enjoys walks on the moors and coastline of Devon where she lives with her husband, three sons and a rather cheeky bearded dragon. Find out more at Anna's website darkagevoices.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @anna_chant

20 June 2020

Special Guest Post by Linda Porter on writing Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the court of Charles Il

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US 

Mistresses is the story of the women who shared Charles’s bed, each of whom wielded influence on both the politics and cultural life of the country. From the young king-in-exile’s first mistress and mother to his first child, Lucy Walter, to the promiscuous and ill-tempered courtier, Barbara Villiers. From Frances Teresa Stuart, ‘the prettiest girl in the world’ to history’s most famous orange-seller, ‘pretty, witty’ Nell Gwynn and to her fellow-actress, Moll Davis, who bore the last of the king’s fifteen illegitimate children. From Louise de Kéroualle, the French aristocrat – and spy for Louis XIV – to the sexually ambiguous Hortense Mancini. Here, too, is the forlorn and humiliated Queen Catherine, the Portuguese princess who was Charles’s childless queen.

Blooming Beauties

Barbara Villiers, later Mrs Roger Palmer and eventually countess of Castlemaine and duchess of Cleveland, was described in her teens as ‘that blooming beauty’. There were other, far less complimentary, judgements of her during the 1660s, when her highly public affair with Charles II was the talk of the Restoration court. Barbara is one of seven ladies featured in my book on Charles II’s mistresses and his long-suffering queen, published in April, 2020. Writing it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, as well as a revelatory one. For, like most historians and biographers who have written about the ‘Merrie Monarch’, I found that he did not improve on acquaintance.

Quite why this indulgent view of Charles II has held on for so long is hard to say. The Stuarts have never captured the public imagination in the same way as the Tudors, despite the 17th century being every bit as colourful as the 16th. Charles II and his licentious court may be the most familiar aspects of British 17th century history, with the Civil Wars which shaped politics for centuries afterwards largely forgotten, featured only as an option on some ‘A’ Level history courses. We prefer the certainties of endlessly re-visiting Henry VIII’s six wives to exploring the richness of 17th century political thought and literature, not to mention religious turmoil. Roundheads and Cavaliers have gone out of fashion.

Yet Charles II, the epitome of the tall, dark and handsome prince, is still remembered fondly. The heaving bosoms of his mistresses and the elaborate dress of his courtiers speak to our natural inclination to find such carefree hedonism attractive. The success of the series ‘Versailles’, a fictional account of the court of Charles II’s cousin, Louis XIV, illustrates that there is a tangible level of interest in the 17th century, though it doesn’t yet threaten the stranglehold of the Tudors. The goings-on at the Restoration court can certainly match Versailles for salaciousness but, despite the fact that Charles II had more mistresses than Henry VIII had wives, and they were much better-looking than Henry’s rather odd assortment of ladies, the only one most people will have heard of is history’s most famous orange-seller, the actress Nell Gwyn.

Nell and her rivals are featured in my book. I came to write it, as is so often the case, somewhat by chance. In 2016 I left the 16th century behind and published ‘Royal Renegades: the children of Charles I and the English Civil Wars.’ Unlike my previous three titles, on Mary I, Katherine Parr and Mary Queen of Scots, to my dismay it attracted very little attention, despite some readers being kind enough to say that only after reading it had they finally understood the Civil Wars. Reviewers, however, largely ignored it, perhaps because it came out in October, a month when publishers unleash their pre-Christmas offerings in great numbers. And, of course, I was generally known as a Tudor specialist, something which I had become of necessity because it was an easier route to being published. I had planned to follow ‘Royal Renegades’ with a book on the family and friends of Oliver Cromwell, which would have involved a daunting amount of research.

I worked hard on the proposal but it was deemed to be insufficiently commercial and so, having occasionally entertained thoughts of writing about Charles II’s mistresses, I decided to put that forward as an alternative topic. This was accepted and I set about the research. If I am honest, I wasn’t overly engaged with it at the outset. I believed I could do a professional job and then began to find the research enjoyable. The fruits of all of this finally saw the light of day on 16 April, 2020 and I’ve been surprised and gratified by the response. As a writer, you never really know how your work is going to be received. I was also very lucky that my book was, indeed, published on the expected date, as so many others have been postponed, sometimes into next year. It also seems to have been the kind of entertaining, slightly escapist, reading that has struck a chord during lockdown and the exceptional times in which we now live.

Charles II’s mistresses were a varied and often very clever group of ladies. Aside from their looks, they can be distinguished from Henry VIII’s wives by their ability (with one exception) to ensure their survival and protect their own interests. The Civil Wars increased the confidence of many women, even if not much had changed in terms of their legal submission to their husbands. But Charles’s mistresses were not a submissive lot. Even the hapless Lucy Walter, Charles’s mistress in his early years of exile at The Hague, tried to assert herself through her determination to use the future duke of Monmouth, Charles’s eldest illegitimate son, as a bargaining chip. She failed because of her tempestuous nature and poor judgement. Her successors in Charles’s bed before the Restoration were quieter ladies who managed their relationships with him better.

Barbara Palmer was even more passionate than Lucy and much more successful. Detested by almost everyone who knew her, Barbara was viewed by contemporaries as sexually voracious and incurably greedy. Some of the things that were said about her might shock even today’s Twitter trolls. It was all water off a duck’s back. Shame had no place in Barbara’s arsenal. Instead, she made sure that she enhanced her own status and finances, while being careful to further the interests of her five illegitimate children with Charles II, though whether her maternal tenderness went much beyond such practical considerations is open to question. In an age in which many women died in childbirth, Barbara recovered effortlessly from its perils, her striking beauty scarcely changed. Even when the king had finally tired of her tantrums, she continued to attract lovers, including John Churchill, later duke of Marlborough, the father of her youngest daughter.

I found it particularly interesting to write about one of the ladies who is less well-known, Frances Teresa Stuart. I labelled her ‘the one who got away’ because she managed to avoid actually sleeping with Charles II. For five years, during which she was viewed as an airhead by everyone at court, this pretty teenage daughter of an obscure royalist exile in France evaded the king’s clutches while having to endure almost daily sexual harassment from him. Realising that this could not go on for much longer, she took the desperate step of eloping with the king’s cousin, the duke of Richmond and Lennox and marrying him secretly at his home in Kent. Charles II was furious and Frances only returned to some degree of favour when she caught smallpox and the king took pity on her predicament.

For this perhaps reveals one of Charles II’s better points. He could be tender-hearted on occasion, though not towards the men who had signed his father’s death warrant and other convinced republicans. He had no great loyalty to his ministers but did not actually execute any of them, as Henry VIII had done. He was outraged by attacks on his wife by the charlatan Titus Oates during the furore over the imagined Popish Plot in 1678 and never considered divorcing her, despite the fact that by the end of the 1660s it was evident she could not bring a pregnancy to term. Still, I have to take issue with the person on Facebook who described him as being ‘nice to his wife.’ He generally treated her with absolutely no care for her feelings and was adamant that she had to accept Barbara Palmer as one of the ladies of her household. But at least Catherine of Braganza wasn’t sent to the block, as Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard had been.

And the apparent glamour of his court was really a sordid charade. Charles was so chronically short of money that he sold his kingdoms to Louis XIV for a handy pension, which he spent on himself. The Secret Treaty of Dover is one of the most shameful pieces of underhand diplomacy ever undertaken by a British monarch. True, he took the money but did not honour the agreement, but honour was not something Charles valued much, which gives him a lot in common with most politicians today. Charles ruled a deeply divided kingdom, or, more accurately, three deeply divided kingdoms, though during his reign he never set foot outside England. His foreign policy was a humiliation best forgotten and at home he could not treat either Catholics or Protestant dissenters fairly.

Still, for all my reservations about this best-known king of the Stuart dynasty, it’s pleasing that the 17th century as a whole is beginning to come to the attention again of a wider public. For this, we should be very grateful to three excellent writers of historical fiction. I urge everyone to read the wonderful novels of SG MacLean, whose Damian Seeker series is set in Cromwellian England, and also of Andrew Taylor, whose crime novels featuring James Marwood and Cat Lovett, give a lot of background on the political shenanigans of the Restoration period. Finally, there is newcomer Miranda Malins, whose novel ‘The Puritan Princess’ about Frances Cromwell, the Protector’s youngest daughter, is set in the little-known Cromwellian court. Each of these authors will broaden your horizons and, hopefully, inspire you also to read more non-fiction, like my own.

Linda Porter
In telling the story of Charles's mistresses, Porter skillfully interweaves the politics with the passion . . . an enlightening read. -- Tracy Borman, The Sunday Time  
The lives of these seven women make a terrific story and Porter tells it well. -- Andrew Taylor, The Times
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About the Author

Linda Porter has a B.A. and a D.Phil from the University of York. She spent nearly ten years lecturing in New York, at Fordham and City Universities among others, before returning with her American husband and daughter to England, where she embarked on a complete change of career. For more than twenty years she worked as a senior public relations practitioner in BT, introducing a ground-breaking international public relations programme during the years of BT’s international expansion. The attractions of early retirement were too good to miss and she has gone back to historical writing as well as reviewing for the BBC History Magazine, The Literary Review and History Today.. Find out more at Linda’s website http://lindaporter.net/ and follow Linda on Twitter @DrLindaPorter1