Mastodon The Writing Desk: March 2020

31 March 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Transfer, by Apple Gidley

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Transfer traces the lives of those on Anna’s Fancy, the Clausen estate on Saint Croix in the Danish West Indies, handed down through three generations. An historical novel and the sequel to Fireburn (OC Publishing 2017), Transfer sees Niels Clausen, the illegitimate child of a Danish landowner and his black mistress who both died as a result of the 1878 worker revolt, leave his adoptive mother’s sugar plantation and sail to England to continue his education.
With the help of Toby, a British aristocrat, Ivy, a lady’s maid turned lady and her botanist husband, Timothy, Niels challenges the perceptions on the streets of London of a black man at the turn of the 20th century. His development as a writer and political protagonist continues as he travels to Denmark and France where he meets up with childhood friends, Javier and Fabiana Gomez, before returning to Saint Croix.
The Danish West Indies face an uncertain future as the declining sugar industry lessens Denmark’s interest in their colonial outpost. Niels becomes increasingly involved in the future of the islands as war looms and concerns grow that Germany might covet a presence in the Caribbean. Will the islands’ security be guaranteed by the transfer of power to America?
The highs and lows of Niels’ life are punctuated by the crossing of oceans and cultures as well as the political manoeuvrings of a turbulent time in Europe, the United States and the Caribbean.

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About the Author

Apple Gidley, an Anglo-Australian author, whose life has been spent absorbing countries and cultures, considers herself a global nomad. When not on St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, she can be found in Houston, Texas. She has moved 26 times, and has called twelve countries home (Nigeria, England, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Papua New Guinea, The Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Scotland, USA, Equatorial Guinea), and her experiences are described in her first book, Expat Life Slice by Slice (Summertime 2012). Her roles have been varied - from magazine editor to intercultural trainer, from interior designer to Her Britannic Majesty's Honorary Consul. Now writing full time, Apple evocatively portrays peoples and places with empathy and humour, whether writing travel articles, blogs, short stories or full-length fiction. She now shares her writing space with Bonnie, a stray cat who spreads across her keyboard, and Clyde who warms her feet in the Caribbean!   Find out more at Apple’s Blog and find her on Facebook and Twitter @expatapple.

28 March 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Silken Rose: Beware the She-Wolf from Provence (The Rose Trilogy) by Carol McGrath

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

They called her the She-Wolf From Provence. 
She'd shape the destiny of England ...
1236. Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is only thirteen when she meets her new husband, Henry III of England. A foreign and friendless princess in a strange land she is determined to please him. And she knows that when the times comes she must provide an heir, to secure the throne against those who would snatch it away.
Rosalind, a commoner skilled in the arts of needlework and embroidery, catches the young queen's attention and a friendship blossoms. But she is unprepared for the dangerous ramifications of winning the queen's favour ...
As closeness, and soon love, develops between Ailenor and Henry, so too does her influence on her husband and her power at court. As France and Wales provide constant threat, and England's barons increasingly resent her influence, Ailenor must learn to be ruthless. Who should she encourage her husband to favour? Who can she trust?
Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, her choices will define the fate of England. To protect her close friends, and her beloved children, Ailenor, the She-Wolf from Provence, would do, and endure, anything ...

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About the Author
Based in England, Carol McGrath writes Historical Fiction. She studied History at Queens University Belfast, has an MA in Creative Writing from the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast and an English MPhil from Royal Holloway, University of London. The Handfasted Wife is her debut novel, first in a trilogy titled The Daughters of Hastings. The second and third novels The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister have followed and are now available on amazon and in bookshops. Carol is an historian specialised in The Medieval Era. Her first love, however, is writing. She is an avid reader and reviewer. Find out more at her website and follow Carol on Twitter @carolmcgrath

26 March 2020

Special Guest Interview with Mary Ann Bernal, Author of Crusader’s Path

Available from 

I'm pleased to welcome author Mary Ann Bernal to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Crusader’s Path is set during the First Crusade (1096-1099). Etienne d’Argences and his overlord, Duke Robert of Normandy, embark on a quest for redemption, joining Pope Urban’s Soldiers for Christ, and freeing the Holy Land from Muslim rule. Urban proclaimed that anyone dying during the arduous journey or on the battlefield were absolved of their sins.

Avielle of Cologne, a healer, ministering to the city’s ostracized lepers, needs to reconcile herself with God after committing a grave sin known only to herself and the Lord. Not daring to reveal her shameful secret in the confessional, absolution is unattainable until she hears Peter of Amiens preaching in the market square. Now, salvation is within reach. Avielle joins Peter’s Army and travels with the holy monk through the Rhine Valley, en route to the Byzantine Empire.

Etienne and Avielle meet in Constantinople, and together, they withstand the hardships of the grueling campaign, enduring privation for the Lord’s sake, to save their souls. But promises made to God are cast aside when they succumb to the temptation of the flesh, forsaking their vows of living a religious life for worldly pursuits.

With each successful siege as the Princes’ Army approaches Jerusalem, Etienne and Avielle struggle to realize spiritual purity over earthly desire.

What is your preferred writing routine?

My routines have varied over the years because of daily commitments. I have burned the midnight oil, arisen at the crack of dawn, and started writing the moment I came home from work. Now, whatever the hour, my goal is to write a few hours while not paying attention to a daily word count. It is less stressful if you set a reasonable goal. I always achieve my minimum word count of two hundred fifty words, but of course, I do not stop until what I want to say has been written.

What advice do you have for new writers?

My advice is to learn as much as you can about the craft. Enroll in creative writing courses and workshops and write a little every day. Two hundred fifty words a day is a novel in a year. Also, forget the naysayers and never give up.

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

Social media is perfect for author visibility. In addition to my webpage, I showcase my work on my blog and Pinterest. I also have a Twitter account where I share not only my work and the work of other authors but also topics that interest me.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Crusader’s Path follows Duke Robert of Normandy’s participation in the Crusade. He joined the campaign late and spent the winter in Italy before heading out for Constantinople. He also left the siege of Antioch during the winter months, returning in the spring only after being threatened by excommunication.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Death scenes are always tricky because I do love my characters; we share a bond; after all, I created them! The Crusades was a violent time, and people die. I won’t go into greater detail other than to say, “No Spoilers.”

What are you planning to write next?

I am planning on a novel set in Ancient Rome. As my readers know, I have a fascination with the Roman Empire. I’m always referencing the old Roman ruins in my novels. But which Emperor to follow? The jury’s still out.

Mary Ann Bernal

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About the Author

Mary Ann Bernal attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, where she received a degree in Business Administration. Her literary aspirations were ultimately realized when the first book of The Briton and the Dane novels was published in 2009. In addition to writing historical fiction, Mary Ann has also authored a collection of contemporary short stories in the Scribbler Tales series and a science fiction/fantasy novel entitled Planetary Wars Rise of an Empire. Mary Ann is a passionate supporter of the United States military, having been involved with letter-writing campaigns and other support programs since Operation Desert Storm. She has appeared on The Morning Blend television show hosted by KMTV, the CBS television affiliate in Omaha, and was interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald for her volunteer work. She has been a featured author on various reader blogs and promotional sites. Mary Ann currently resides in Elkhorn, Nebraska. Find out more at her website and find her on Twitter @BritonandDane

25 March 2020

Special Guest Interview with Drema Drudge, Author of Victorine

Available From Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author Drema Drudge to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My debut novel features Victorine Meurent, a forgotten, accomplished painter who posed nude for Edouard Manet’s most famous, controversial paintings such as Olympia and The Picnic in Paris, paintings heralded as the beginning of modern art. History has forgotten (until now) her paintings, despite the fact that she showed her work at the prestigious Paris Salon multiple times, even one year when her mentor, Manet’s, work was refused. 

Her persistent desire in the novel is not to be a model anymore but to be a painter herself, despite being taken advantage of by those in the art world, something which causes her to turn, for a time, to every vice in the Paris underworld, leading her even into the catacombs. 

In order to live authentically, she eventually finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy, and further tested when she inches towards art school while financial setbacks push her away from it. The same can be said when it comes to her and love, which becomes substituted, eventually, by art. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

I like to get up early, work out, eat breakfast, and start writing by nine. Then I write until one or two before taking care of the rest of life’s tedious but necessary tasks. Because I get up early, I don’t tend to write in the evening, because I’m too tired and can’t do my best work. When I can, I write at least four days a week. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Revise, revise, revise. Repeat. It’s just that simple; it’s just that difficult. 

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

Since my novel is about art, when I post paintings of Victorine and explain she was not just a model but a painter as well, people are often intrigued, because there’s this great visual hook followed by this piece of history previously forgotten. (Or, forgive me, herstory.) It’s what interested me in her in the first place, the paintings, so I understand the attraction for others they have. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

As if I wasn’t excited enough to be researching Victorine Meurent, after believing for a few years into the process that only one painting of Victorine’s survived, I (and a quiet part of the art world) found out that isn’t true. (More coming soon on that!) 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

It was difficult writing the death of an important character I won’t mention to avoid spoilers. I didn’t want him to go, and yet I knew it was necessary for the story, for my main character’s growth. So I gritted my teeth and wrote a death I thought made sense for him. 

What are you planning to write next?

I’m nearly finished with my second novel, Briscoe Chambers’ Southern Fried Woolf. It’s about a woman, Briscoe, who is married to a country music star who cheats on her with his idol, an older country singer from a legendary musical family. Even after Briscoe discovers the affair, due to a contractual obligation, he must record an album with the woman or be sued. 

Briscoe is also writing a thesis on Virginia Woolf, someone whose scholarship her mother has devoted her life to, in the middle of managing her husband’s career, something she’s put more than a little of herself into. Briscoe finds her thesis echoing her life, or is it vice versa? 

I am writing this novel because I adore Virginia Woolf’s writing, and I wanted to find a fresh way to write about her opposite something that seemed the antithesis of what people associate with her. It seemed to me this might be a way to make her work more accessible, clothing it in this fast-paced story. It’s been a challenge, but I’ve enjoyed the process and I look forward to finishing the revision process. 

Drema Drudge

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About the Author

Drēma Drudge attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction. Drēma has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class. She and her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, live in Indiana where they record their biweekly podcast, Writing All the Things, when not traveling. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in five countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children. In addition to writing fiction, Drema has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator.  Find out more at Drema's Website and find her on Twitter @dremadrudge

23 March 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The King's Justice, by Susan Elia MacNeal

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Can a stolen violin lead secret agent and spy Maggie Hope to the latest serial killer terrorizing London during World War II? Maggie Hope started out as Mr. Churchill's secretary, but now she's a secret agent--and the only one who can figure out how the missing instrument ties into the murders.

London. December, 1942. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope takes a much-needed break from spying to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is an explosion waiting to happen. Traumatized by her past, she finds herself living dangerously--taking huge risks, smoking, drinking, and speeding through the city streets on a motorcycle. The last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime.

But when she's called upon to look into a stolen Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can't resist. Meanwhile, there's a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting Conscientious Objectors. Little does she know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil--and old enemies. Only Maggie can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her past.

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About the Author

Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of The New York Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly and USA Today-bestselling Maggie Hope mystery series Susan graduated from Nardin Academy in Buffalo New York, and also cum laude and with honors in English from Wellesley College. She cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Susan is married and lives with her husband, Noel MacNeal, a television performer, writer and director, and their son in Park Slope, Brooklyn. You can find our more at Susan's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @susanmacneal

21 March 2020

Special Guest Interview with Karen Heenan, Author of Songbird: a novel of the Tudor Court

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author Karen Heenan to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is also my first published novel. Songbird is set during the early years of the reign of Henry VIII, but Henry and his queens only feature as peripheral characters. I've adored the Tudor period since I was a child, but I wanted to see it from a different angle. 

Bess, the protagonist, is my creation, but she’s based on fact. We know Henry was a music lover, but I read in a biography that he once heard a child sing in a street pageant and bought him to sing in his chapel choir. 

The choir was male, so that child would have been a boy, but it can be assumed if Henry bought one child, he could well have done it again. I wanted to explore what it would be like for a child to go from dire poverty into unimaginable luxury, from being punished for singing to being praised, the only cost being the loss of her family.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I try to write every day, but writing doesn’t necessarily mean fingers to keyboard. It also can be research, working out snarls in my plot, and talking to myself as I walk around my neighborhood.

I've started doing a lot of dictation, because I can combine writing with a fitness routine. I don't have a fancy setup—I simply dictate into a notepad app on my phone and paste it into my Scrivener document when I get home. Dictating makes for a leaner first draft. I generally have to add, rather than subtract.

After that, I try not to edit until the whole book is finished, because it's hard to get back into the flow if I've stopped to tinker with it too much.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Take writing seriously, but not too seriously. Take it seriously in the sense of devoting time to it—if you don’t see it as worth doing, neither will the people who have claims on your time—but go a bit easier on yourself in terms of the writing itself. It’s never going to be that shiny idea you had in your head, but you’ll get closer if you write it down, no matter how clumsily the words come, and then look at it from all sides, shining and rearranging. You can’t fix the words you’re afraid to write.

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

I’m still working on this one! I think all authors are. Twitter has been very helpful, both in finding readers and in supporting and being supported by other writers. I found my publisher through Twitter, and most of my marketing opportunities. I enjoy the solitary aspect of writing, having spent 30 years in an office cubicle, but even I like to discuss a good plot hole, and the people in my “real life” will read later drafts or finished books, but they don’t get down in the mud of the craft.

Also: talk to people. I also never go anywhere without a copy of my book and a handful of bookmarks, which have all my website/Facebook/Twitter information. I’ve hand sold books at my bank, at restaurants—wherever you can get into a conversation with someone who is genuinely interested.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

For my current project, I did a lot of research about the dissolution of the monasteries. I the dissolution, but I’d never looked into the details, and it surprised me just how embedded the monastic system was in the lives of everyday people. Most lived within an hour's walk of some sort of religious house—a convent, a priory, a monastery.

While it’s obvious how the changes affected the nuns, monks, and priests who were displaced, regular people were affected just as much. They worked on monastery lands, and their homes may have been on monastic property. They were servants. Their sons were educated by monks, and their sick were healed by them. They ate food grown on monastery farms, and fisherman made a living supplying monasteries for the many meatless days in their calendars

All this vanished in four years. It’s astonishing that something which took hundreds of years to build could be dismantled so quickly.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

There was a scene toward the end of Songbird which was very difficult, because until I wrote it, I wasn’t certain if one of the characters lived or died. I’m not quite as much of a pantser now. Most of the time I know whether or not my people make it to the end of the story.

What are you planning to write next?

I've just completed the first draft of my next book. It’s a follow-up—not a sequel—to Songbird, involving Robin Lewis, a secondary character. I thought I was done with the Tudor era, but it wasn’t done with me. 

Robin starts out as a chorister, but when his voice changes, he’s sent to Oxford as a reward for his service. A lover of books and learning, Robin wants a wider world and he’ll get his wish.  He grew up in the monastery system, but he goes on to get a job with Cromwell, and so is involved in destroying the very thing that raised him.  

I’ve also got a completed draft of a Great Depression story which was derailed by the second Tudor book. It seemed more logical to stay with a period, and also, I couldn’t get Robin to shut up. In the end, we’re all just servants of our characters. 

Karen Heenan

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About the Author

Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia. She fell in love with books and stories before she could read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams -- which which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing. She lives in Lansdowne, PA, with two cats and a very patient husband, and is currently hard at work on her next book. Find out more at Karen's website and find her on Twitter @karen_heenan

20 March 2020

Guest Interview with Helen T. Doan, Author of Passage of Time

Available on Amazon UKAmazon US

Set in the American west at the start of the Indian wars, Passage of Time is about finding one’s true self while facing impossible choices.

I'm pleased to welcome author Helen T. Doan to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is Passage of Time, featuring time traveler Kate Hunter and Cheyenne adoptee Nathan Walker. The book is set in 1857 in the American plains at the time of the start of the Indian wars, and focuses on the Cheyenne tribe. The plot revolves around tribal customs, the Battle of the Solomon, and math numbers known as the Fibonacci sequence.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I guess my preferred writing routine would be to research/write almost nonstop for several hours without interruptions, taking only micro rests to grab healthy snacks and meals. I swear snacks fuel my brain cells. I’ve been known to often start my writing day at 9 a.m. and finish it at midnight or later. But that was when there was only myself to think about. 

Now I have a red-rumped parakeet that shrilly whistles for my attention, a British bulldog that wants to go for walks, and a boyfriend who works the sunrise shift. All that, as well as trying to fit in eight hours of sleep, regular exercise, time to build a social media following…and writing. Although I can multi-task — it comes from my having been a newspaper editor/reporter — I dream of a solo three-month author residency in Pierre Burton’s Dawson City childhood home in the Yukon, where I could burn the midnight oil and write until I run out of snacks or ideas.

What advice do you have for new writers?

My first attempt at writing a book was in Grade 8, and I’m still writing all these years later because I can’t not write. After my husband died, I enrolled in a newspaper journalism program to hone my writing skills because I wanted to be a published author. I also took creative writing courses, attended romance writing conferences, and learned how to write realistic dialogue by reading dozens of Nora Roberts’ books. 

So here’s my advice to new writers: If you’re passionate about writing, do everything to learn your craft, and read, read, read. Let those inevitable rejection slips spur your determination. If you’re lucky, some editor might let you know how you can improve your writing so you don’t continue repeating your mistakes.

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

So far, I’ve had success with free book promotions and also when I’ve been asked to speak about my book to various audiences. I’m hoping this guest blog will be yet another way to raise awareness for Passage of Time. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Until I read Colorado Legends & Lore by Stephanie Waters, I was unaware of a natural phenomenon Denverites call stripper syndrome, whereby human perspiration acts like a conductor during lightning strikes, causing clothing to be blown off a victim’s body.

Seems it happens a lot at Denver’s Coors Field during baseball games. When someone is struck naked this way, the crowd quickly strips to do a naked wave on the JumboTron. I will certainly find a way to use the stripper syndrome in one of the sequels.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I think love scenes are hard to write. It’s always a challenge to not repeat the same phrases you’ve used elsewhere in the book, or in another book. The first love scene between Kate and Nathan was challenging because they came from different time periods. Initially I used Kate’s POV, but soon rewrote the scene using Nathan’s, because it created humor and allowed the reader to better understand Nathan’s shock at seeing Kate’s flimsy undergarments, which were far removed from 19th century attire.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m currently writing the as-yet-untitled sequel to Passage of Time. The setting is the unruly early years of Denver at the time of the Pike’s Peak gold rush. Mountain men and bands of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians seasonally came to the area. Among the daily influx of professional and amateur gold seekers who also arrived at the Cherry Creek settlements were gamblers and thieves and eventually worse criminal types. 

Imbibing too much vile liquor led to violence between men – murder or a duel was the common method for settling disputes. Eventually vigilante committees were formed to decide the fate of wrongdoers. A quick hanging at a gallows set up on the banks of the Platte river was the usual punishment for serious crimes. In this atmosphere, finding the one person who might know how to get Kate back to her time will not be easy for Kate and Nathan.

Helen T. Doan
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About the Author

Helen T. Doan lives in Southern Ontario, where she was lifestyles editor/reporter for a daily newspaper. After later completing her sociology degree, she taught ESL at a private school on Geoje Island in South Korea. Writing has been her passion since Grade 8, and in 2018 she published Passage of Time, the initial book of a multi-book historical romance saga about time traveler Kate Hunter and Cheyenne war chief Nathan Walker. Find out more at Helen’s website: You can contact Helen on Facebook and Twitter @HelenTDoan

17 March 2020

First You Write a Sentence: The Elements of Reading, Writing ... and Life, by Joe Moran #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

“Do you want to write clearer, livelier prose? This witty primer will help.” —The New York Times Book Review

An exploration of how the most ordinary words can be turned into verbal constellations of extraordinary grace through the art of building sentences

The sentence is the common ground where every writer walks. A good sentence can be written (and read) by anyone if we simply give it the gift of our time, and it is as close as most of us will get to making something truly beautiful. 

Using minimal technical terms and sources ranging from the Bible and Shakespeare to George Orwell and Maggie Nelson, as well as scientific studies of what can best fire the reader's mind, author Joe Moran shows how we can all write in a way that is clear, compelling and alive.

Whether dealing with finding the ideal word, building a sentence, or constructing a paragraph, First You Write a Sentence informs by light example: much richer than a style guide, it can be read not only for instruction but for pleasure and delight. 

Along the way, it shows how good writing can help us notice the world, make ourselves known to others, and live more meaningful lives. It's an elegant gem in praise of the English sentence.

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About the Author

Joe Moran is a writer, lecturer and professor of English and cultural history at Liverpool John Moores University. As well as publishing articles in obscure academic journals, he writes for the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Financial Times and other publications. Find out more at Joe's website and find him on Twitter @joemoransblog

Do you have suggestions for useful books for writers you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below

The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in.

9 March 2020

Guest Post by Diana Jackson, Author of Missing, Past and Present

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Following the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Dorothy Gibbons, affectionately known as Lady Pink Hat, trudged the lanes around Drumford, homeless and directionless. Alone she rolled a dice, reflecting on her life, times both painful and pleasant. She stumbled upon The Grange, which changed the course of her life. In her isolation Dot began to write ...Millie, an 18th Century aspirant nun, ran away from The Grange ...Jamal Hussain, a Syrian refugee and asylum seeker, was fostered under the careful wing of Dorothy until leaving school and finding work. He and his brother settled in a nearby flat until the misguided Ahmed Hussain also disappeared. With three missing people, who will discover the truth? Is Millie still haunting 
The Grange until her story is told?

Three Strands of Research and Planning ~ Past, Present and the roll of a Dice

My inspiration for MISSING Past and Present began from two angles; three if you count the dice!

1. The Past

When an old abandoned, but not dilapidated house was pointed out to me while walking with friends one day, I was moved to look it up on an old map and found that it was called ‘The Grange’. I noticed, though, that there were several other places labelled ‘the Grange’ and so I looked this up online: wrote:
Chiefly British. a country house or large farmhouse with its various farm buildings (usually in house names):Bulkeley Grange;the grange of a gentleman-farmer.
(in historical use) an isolated farm, with its farmhouse and nearby buildings, belonging to monks or nuns or to a feudal lord:the nunnery's grange at Tisbury.
the Grange, See under Granger Movement. 
Archaic. a barn or granary.
That led me to do some research in my local archives. Was there a monastery or nunnery in the area? I found several, surprisingly. Were there any notable mysterious happenings? Yes ...

I stumbled upon a story of a trainee nun’s ghost who is allegedly still swinging from the rafters in a place not far from the abandoned home. She caught my attention and I was hooked. The ghost is at Chicksands Priory, a place with a fascinating history of its own, but I decided against relocating my novel there.

I next wrote down a series of questions about monastic life, many of which I could discover online:

What are the stages to become a nun? 

Here’s a lovely succinct website:

I chose an 'aspirant nun' for my story and called her Evie.

What kind of dress would she be wearing in the 18th century?

I Googled this and found some great pictures, but an aspirant nun’s costume would have been simpler. More of a tunic, especially when doing farm work.

What would the pattern of her day be like?

There are seven hours of prayer:
“any of certain periods of the day set apart for prayer and devotion: these are matins and lauds, prime, tierce, sext, nones, vespers, and compline. Prime - the second canonical hour; about 6 a.m. terce, tierce - the third canonical hour; about 9 a.m. nones - the fifth of the seven canonical hours; about 3 p.m.”
My imagination was working at its most virulent in thinking of ideas for a possible plot.

Why did she become an aspirant nun? You’ll have to read the story ...
Did she have any family?

Yes she did and I decided that her sister would be training to be a nun alongside her. It is Evie's sister Millie who disappears.

Why is she swinging from the rafters?
You’ll have to read the story to find out.

My research continued for Millie. Without giving the story away too much, this included questions and visits:

How long did it take people to travel on 18th Century tracks and roads?

What canal systems were in place? A visit to the canal museum in Stoke Bruerne.

What type of work did itinerant workers find in different areas of the country heading north?

There was a workhouse to research.

A visit to make to New Lanark Mills. (and guidebooks to buy)

Research is never quite finished but is ongoing until the first draft is complete.

2. The Present

In the present I was drawn to the uncomfortable truth about homelessness and the need for food-banks, but also the human aspect of refugees. (It is all too easy to think of numbers) As a friend once remarked ‘there but by the grace of God go I,’ which sums up my feelings that if it were not for chance, it could happen to any one of us in the ‘blink of an eye’, if you’ll excuse the cliché.

It is a worrying thought that we even have many ‘refugees’ escaping the flood waters in the UK at the moment. (I'm talking here of folks being temporarily re-housed in the crisis.)

I made notes on my experiences too~ of volunteering at a soup kitchen in Luton years ago and more recently at a food-bank locally in Fife. I also noted many of my memories teaching refugees and asylum seekers while teaching at a college in Luton.

I drew on personal experiences or on second hand accounts for much of Dot's life, my homeless character ,and I based her living in a make believe town called Drumford with the Grange at a village called Canbury. I chose made up locations this time to preserve the anonymity of the actual house on which the story was based.

3. The Dice

This was an unusual device I stumbled upon. I found a dice and was rolling it one day and found myself wondering about times in my own life which could be seen as a 'one' or a 'six'.

This was perfect for Dot as she remembered the back story of her life, which had brought her to the point of homelessness.

I must admit I loved this idea and enjoyed writing about it.

~ And so MISSING Past and Present was conceived, researched, planned and now it is born!

Diana Jackson
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About the Author

Diana Jackson is a retired teacher and her first, historical romantic fiction, Riduna, set in the Victorian era, was re-launched by Eventispress in 2012 - a writer’s indie collaborative publisher, through which all her other works have been published. After moving to Fife from Bedfordshire in 2014 Diana has had a break from her life as an author to settle into her new life within the Kinghorn Community. To find out about Diana Jackson’s other writing projects, you can visit her blog and find her on Twitter @Riduna

7 March 2020

Footprints in the Sand (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 2) by Pam Lecky

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Cairo 1887: A melting pot of jealousy, lust and revenge. 
Who will pay the ultimate price?

Lucy Lawrence throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery to the land of the pharaohs.

Travelling to Cairo as the patron of the charming French Egyptologist, Armand Moreau, Lucy discovers an archaeological community plagued by professional rivalries and intrigue. It is soon apparent that the thriving black market in antiquities threatens Egypt’s precious heritage.

When the Egyptian Museum is burgled, Lucy is determined to solve the case, much to the annoyance of the local inspector of police, and the alarm of Mary, her maid. 

But when an archaeologist is found murdered in the Great Pyramid, Lucy is catapulted into the resulting maelstrom. Can she keep her wits about her to avoid meeting a similar fate?

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About the Author

Pam Lecky
 is an Irish historical fiction author with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, The Crime Writers' Association, and the Society of Authors. She is represented by Thérèse Coen, at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London. Pam has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. In November 2020, Pam signed with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins in a two-book deal. The first book in the historical thriller series, Her Secret War, was published in October 2021; the sequel, Her Last Betrayal, will be published in April 2022. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018.  June 2019 saw the release of the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series, No Stone Unturned, a fast-paced Victorian mystery/crime, set in London and Yorkshire which was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. The sequel, Footprints in the Sand, set in Egypt, was released in March 2020. The third book in the series, The Art of Deception, was published in December 2021.  Find out more at Pam's website and find her on Twitter @pamlecky

6 March 2020

The Mirror and the Light (The Wolf Hall Trilogy) by Hilary Mantel

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The long-awaited sequel to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the stunning conclusion to Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall trilogy.

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. 

But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.
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About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize for her best-selling novels, Wolf Hall, and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. Wolf Hall has been translated into 36 languages, Bring Up the Bodies into 31 languages, and sales for both books have reached over 5 million copies worldwide. Find out more at Hilary's website 

5 March 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Swan's Road: The Atheling Chronicles: #1 by Garth Pettersen

Available on Amazon UKAmazon US
and Amazon CA

In the eleventh century, Cnute, the Viking king of Engla-lond and Scandinavia, sails with his son, Harald, and his shield brothers to Rome. Thrown off course by a storm, they follow the route up the Rhine.

When Harald hangs back to assist Selia, a beautiful Frisian woman, his path turns perilous. Newfound enemies, retainers of Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, pursue them. Harald, Selia, and their companions fail to rendezvous with King Cnute, and are forced to travel cross-country on horseback. If Duke Robert's plan to assassinate Cnute succeeds, an invasion of Engla-lond will follow.

Can Harald and Selia reach Rome in time to warn the King?

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About the Author

Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC. When he's not writing, he is riding horses or working with young disabled riders. Garth's short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary 'Zine. His story River's Rising was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Short Story America 2017 Prize, and his fantasy novella River Born, was one of two runners-up for the Windsor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. Garth Pettersen's historical fiction series, The Atheling Chronicles is published by Tirgearr Publishing. Find out more at Gareth's website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @garpet011

4 March 2020

Book Launch - Missing, Past and Present, by Diana Jackson

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Following the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Dorothy Gibbons, affectionately known as Lady Pink Hat, trudged the lanes around Drumford, homeless and directionless. Alone, she rolled a dice, reflecting on her life, times both painful and pleasant. She stumbled upon The Grange, which changed the course of her life. In her isolation and surrounded by old books Dorothy began to write

An 18th Century aspirant nun, Millie, ran away from The Grange ...

Jamal Hussain, a Syrian refugee and asylum seeker, was fostered under the careful wing of Dorothy until leaving school and finding work. He and his brother settled in a nearby flat until the misguided Ahmed Hussain also disappeared.

With three missing people, who will discover the truth? Is it Millie who is still haunting The Grange until her story is told?

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About the Author

Diana Jackson is a retired teacher and her first, historical romantic fiction, Riduna, set in the Victorian era, was re-launched by Eventispress in 2012 - a writer’s indie collaborative publisher, through which all her other works have been published. After moving to Fife from Bedfordshire in 2014 Diana has had a break from her life as an author to settle into her new life within the Kinghorn Community. To find out about Diana Jackson’s other writing projects, you can visit her blog and find her on Twitter @Riduna