Mastodon The Writing Desk: April 2020

30 April 2020

Guest Post by Amelia Thorn, Author of The Dawn Thief

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Between him and salvation, a war torn country and a rebellion desperate to wreak havoc. Will Silas earn his freedom once and for all, or will he only turn out to be the monster his kingdom have always feared him to be.

Good Morning! [/relevant equivalent depending on the time zone that you guys find yourselves in.] and thanks so much for the opportunity to write this, and to whoever is reading this for taking the chance to even give me the time of day.

My name is Amelia, and I’ve been given the opportunity to tell you about how my dream recently came true. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – one of my genuine first memories is deciding an episode of the Little Mermaid I had watched wasn’t satisfactory enough, and electing to rewrite it, I’ve since gone on to write 6 books in total [most of which aren’t going to ever see the light of day.] But boredom stemming from the current pandemic and a frustrating bought of writers block left me picking up a new project. What I originally doubted would never get beyond 10,000 words and would be dropped after a couple of days, turned out to become a complete dream come true.

The Dawn Thief was published on the 9th April 2020, and that is a fact which makes me squeal to this very day. I’m pretty sure you could check back in a decade, and I will still be in a similar state. The story centres around a character named Silas, who following an attack during his youth was cursed with lycanthropy, left alive by virtue of his mother’s determination, he has spent the better part of two decades in chains. When a tragedy offers him the chance at salvation, the opportunity to prove that he is not the monster everyone thinks he is. However, between Silas and redemption is a kingdom at war.

My writing routine is nothing to be proud of admittedly, I gave myself a timeline to be finished within and that was nearly the death of me. Towards the end of that target, I ended up writing 20,000 words over two days. I recommend editing along the way as well as at the end, for once I finished I found out the important detail that I would rather remove a limb with an unripe avocado than I would edit. Admittedly had I been more efficient to that degree, The Dawn Thief would likely have been published at least a week earlier than it was.

As cliché as it sounds, but the best advice I can offer for new writers is to just stop hesitating, and that’s coming from the self-proclaimed queen of uncertainty. Just write, if necessary you can be the only one who ever reads what you’ve written, so in truth there is no downside to the process. It will build your skills and confidence, and is oh so much fun.

The Dawn Thief isn’t even a month old, so raising awareness is still quite new to me. At present it’s a mix between begging/bribing family and friends to check it out, and shouting to the skies about what I’ve done. [I’d like to say that’s figurative, my neighbours would disagree.] I don’t expect to be the next JK Rowling, and the fact that I’m published is more than enough for me, though I am delighted by every sale I’m able to make.

There is two scenes I had difficulty writing, both of which I’d been planning all along but I hated and loved writing them all the same. The first was early on, the death of a character which catalyses the plot, but I ended up having so much fun with that particular person that it really hurt when push came to shove. I think that affection helped me write an all the more compelling scene [some may disagree] but gosh it hurt. The second is in the latter part of the books, and one of the parts that I ended up rewriting several times with hopes to make it better. I loved the way it turned out, but I’d built up my own expectations so much that I couldn’t make myself content with what was written. I loved the way that particular scene turned out, and is a great example of just how much fun it is to hurt your own characters.

Presently I’m still at uni, and finishing coursework and stuff. So I’ll be finishing that before I begin writing again, however, I do have intentions for a sequel or two. Silas’ adventures are far from over.

Amelia Thorn

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About the Author

Amelia Thorn is an English writer from West Yorkshire who found writing as a hobby during one of the most boring times of her life, when she was stuck on bed rest following an accident which left her with a broken back, which she since fully recovered from. She was able to fulfil her dream of becoming a published author following the second most boring time of her life, quarantine during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, in which she wrote her debut novel of The Dawn Thief. Amelia currently studies at the University of Salford, where she takes Law with Criminology and spent much of 2019 working abroad in Africa. Outside of the legal and writing industry, she also works as a stand up comedian on the Manchester Circuit, loves to horse ride despite the fact that the hobby seems to hate her, and generally thinks she's far funnier than she actually is. You can find Amelia on Twitter @TheNasalCavity

24 April 2020

Blog Tour Excerpt: The King’s Retribution: Book 2 of The Plantagenet Legacy, By Mercedes Rochelle

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

If you read A KING UNDER SIEGE, you might remember that we left off just as Richard declared his majority at age 22. He was able to rise above the humiliation inflicted on him during the Merciless Parliament, but the fear that it could happen again haunted him the rest of his life. Ten years was a long time to wait before taking revenge on your enemies, but King Richard II was a patient man. Hiding his antagonism toward the Lords Appellant, once he felt strong enough to wreak his revenge he was swift and merciless. Alas for Richard, he went too far, and in his eagerness to protect his crown Richard underestimated the very man who would take it from him: Henry Bolingbroke.


It was early June. The roses were in full bloom and the air was heavy with the scent of honeysuckle. Richard and Anne were walking in the garden of their private royal pavilion called La Neyt, on an island across from Sheen Palace. Anne bent over to sniff one of the blossoms when suddenly she tripped to the side, falling against her husband. He was quick to catch her, but as he tried to straighten she had already lost consciousness. 
   Scooping the queen into his arms, Richard strode into the building. "Help me," he cried, placing Anne carefully on the bed. "Help, the queen has fainted." Her lady's maids ran into the room as he stepped aside. They did their best to loosen her garments, though her head lolled and her arms were heavy. "Careful," Richard murmured, bending over the bed and trying to support her. As another servant came up the king looked at him frantically. "Send for Master Pol. Hurry." 
   The man turned and rushed from the room as Richard took hold of Anne's shoulders, pulling her toward him so the laces could be loosened. He buried his face in her hair. "What ails you, my love? What has happened?" More women came forward and he left them to their work, getting up and standing helplessly against the wall. They finally succeeded in pulling off her outer dress and tucking the queen into the bed. The physician came into the room and passed by the king without seeing him. Satisfied for the moment, Anne's ladies moved aside while he put a hand to her forehead, then an ear to her chest, listening. 
   "She's feverish," he muttered.
   "It happened so suddenly," Richard said and the doctor swung around, startled. 
   "Oh, sire. I'm sorry. I didn't see you."
   Richard moved toward the bed. "What could it be?"
   The physician moved her head and she let out a little groan. "My dear," Richard said, sitting next to her. "Can you hear me?"
   Anne blinked. "Richard. I feel so faint. I am so tired."
   "Shh. Don't push yourself. I'm here." He looked at the physician.
   The man shrugged. "I would have to say there's an imbalance of humors in her body. We must check her urine. Then we should let some blood."
   Richard knew nothing about medical procedures; he nodded in agreement. “Come,” he gestured to the maids. “The physician needs her water.”
   As Master Pol went off to prepare his tools, together they coaxed the queen out of bed. The physician came back shortly with a specially shaped glass to collect a sample, then left the room to give Anne privacy. Taking the queen behind a screen, the maids did what was necessary, but they soon called the king for help. They were having difficulty holding Anne up and she moaned as he put her arm around his neck. Picking her up again, he laid her gently on the feather mattress. He removed his outer garments and crawled into bed, taking Anne into his arms. She laid her head on his shoulder but couldn't stay in that position for long; her breathing was too labored. 
   When the physician returned, he shook his head. "Sire, she might be contagious. You could get ill."
   "It is no matter. She needs me."
   The other sighed, knowing that if the king died, he would probably follow in short order—not by natural causes. Resignedly, he laid out a cloth on the bed and lined up his blades before taking the flask, holding it before a candle and studying its color. Tilting the glass, he sniffed before dipping his finger into the urine and tasting it. 
   "You see it is reddish," he said to Richard. He glanced at the maids. "Is she having her monthly course?" The women shook their heads. "Then we must conclude there is too much heat in the liver. I recommend bloodletting to help balance the humors."
    "Do what you must." The king paid little attention to the procedure, concentrating instead on Anne's comfort. The doctor performed his ministrations quickly and efficiently. He tied her arm above the elbow, then straightened it over a bowl and made a slight cut into her vein. A small red stream ran into the dish. When he felt enough blood had been shed, he loosened the tie and bound the small wound. 
    "I will examine the urine after it has cured overnight," Master Pol said. "I will return in the morning."
    Richard nodded, kissing Anne on the forehead. "You must get well," he whispered. 
Her eyes fluttered open. "Richard," she said faintly. "Something is very wrong with me. I think I'm dying."
   "Shh. Don't speak so." 
   She took an uneven breath. "Call a priest, my dear. Don't let me die unshriven."
   "That won't be necessary. But don't fret. As you wish." He turned, beckoning to one of the ladies.       "Summon the queen's confessor." 
   The maid ran from the room and he put an arm around her shoulders. "Now tell me, are you in pain?"
   She nodded. "Down here." She put a hand on her lower belly. "I don't know what it is. Oh." A quick intake of breath alarmed Richard more than anything else. He stroked her hair. "Your priest is coming. He will pray for you."
   "Listen to me," she gasped. "If I am gone, you mustn't lose your faith. I will be watching over you. Remember, you must be strong. Don't let your enemies find any reason to rebel against you. Be kind..."
   "Shh. You are not going anywhere."
   The priest hastened into the room and knelt beside the bed. "Your Grace, I'm here."
   Anne turned toward Richard. "I won't need much time. Stay with me."
   The king watched in disbelief while the last rites were given to his wife. As the minutes dragged on, her eyes got heavier and heavier, her breath even more labored; her voice shrunk to a whisper. The priest crossed himself, then kissed a crucifix, handing it to her. She placed it against her chest and closed her eyes. 
   "I thank you," Richard said. "I don't know why she thought she needed you. I will watch over her this night."
   "God will watch over her, too, sire. I will pray for her."
   Anne's breathing was even, so Richard leaned against the wall, prepared for a long night. She slept for a while then woke with a moan. Startled awake, Richard leaned over her.
  "Hold me," she whispered. 
 Taking her into his arms, he murmured endearments. She put her hand on his cheek and sighed. But she didn't breathe in again.
   Richard waited, terrified. He gave her a little shake and her hand fell to the pillow. 
   "Anne. Anne. Wake up." He shook her again and her head dropped to the side. "Anne. Don't leave me. Don't go." His voice was more insistent, but there was no response. "You can't leave me. You can't. I can't live without you." He held her tight, to no avail. Sobbing, he laid her back against the pillows.
   Concerned by the king's voice, Anne's maids slipped into the room. He didn't notice them. Patting her on the face, Richard kept trying to revive her. "Wake up. Come back to me."
   One of the ladies ran for the physician while the others gathered around the bed. Richard finally raised his head, tears streaming down his face. "It can't be. She can't be dead."
   Master Pol stood in the doorway, unwilling to enter. "Come in, man," Richard growled. "You couldn't save her but at least you can determine whether she has fainted or has truly passed on." 
   The doctor knelt at the bedside and pulled a feather from his pouch, holding it in front of her nose. No movement. He lifted her eyelids, felt for her pulse, and turned to Richard with professional restraint. "God has taken her from us," he said sadly.
   "It can't be true. You must bring her back. She can't be dead. We were just walking together in the garden."
   By now, others had gathered inside the room. "Did she have the plague?" someone whispered.
   "Who said that!" the king cried, whirling around. "Who dares speak so?"
   The witnesses took a step back. Why else would she have died so suddenly?
   "There is no one here with the plague!" Richard insisted. "No one!" Turning back to his wife, he took her hand in his. He could no longer deny what was obvious to everyone else. Throwing his head back, Richard let out a wail so chilling, that for a moment the others doubted his sanity.

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About the Author

Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they built themselves. For more information please visit Mercedes Rochelle’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter @authorrochelle

23 April 2020

Special Guest Post By Mary Anne Yarde, Author of The Du Lac Curse

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

God against Gods. King against King. Brother against Brother.
Mordred Pendragon had once said that the sons of Lancelot 
would eventually destroy each other, 
it seemed he was right all along.

From the breathtaking beauty of the Cornish coast to the city of Jerusalem, The Du Lac Chronicles has taken me on a journey of historical discovery and writing achievements. For those not yet acquainted with The Du Lac Chronicles, it begins with a conquered king waiting for his execution, and it ends — as if I was going to tell you how it ends! 

As an author, I now have an appreciation for patience, especially for days when those words won't come. Not to mention an overflowing sense of gratitude for authors who write non-fiction history books, Google, documentaries, and seminars. I am also lucky that my family allow me to drag them around the country while I research remote locations I may want to include in my books. I do apologise to my children who can't understand why we have to drive three and a half hours to go and look at some standing stones when Stonehenge is only one hour away (it is not the right stones)!

I have also discovered a world that I only ever dreamt about. I now know what it is to write a book, to publish it and to receive recognition for my writing, to win awards and to become an Amazon bestseller. It is, I guess, a dream come true.

The Du Lac Chronicles was meant to be an Arthurian romance, and it was meant to be a trilogy. It still has an Arthurian theme, but it is no longer a trilogy. I have in one of my many folders on my computer the first-drafts of the first three manuscripts of The Du Lac Chronicles that I had written over ten years ago — I never realised that two of them would never see the light of day.

The joy of being an indie author is that you are allowed to change your mind, and I can remember reading over what was meant to be Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles and screwing up my nose with the realisation that this wasn't the story I wanted to tell. So, I rewrote it, and I concluded that there was no way I was going to be able to tell this story in three books, and with that realisation, I felt free to indulge in my imagination and write the story that was begging to be written.

I have just pressed publish on The Du Lac Curse: Book 5 of The Du Lac Chronicles. I know my readers have been waiting a while for this book and I do apologise for the slight delay. I hope that it is everything they wanted it to be, and I do apologise in advance if I have killed off your favourite character but in all honestly, the characters made me do it.

So, what next? I am currently writing a second edition of The Pitchfork Rebellion which is the novella that slots in between Book 1 and Books 2 and tells the story of, funnily enough, The Pitchfork Rebellion which is often alluded to in the later books. I am also just beginning the research for book six, which has a working title of The Du Lac Enemy, but that title is not set in stone, I may well change my mind before it is published!

Mary Anne Yarde

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About the Author

Mary Anne Yarde is the multi award-winning author of the International Bestselling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles. Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury — the fabled Isle of Avalon — was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood. Find out more at her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @maryanneyarde

21 April 2020

Book Launch Guest Post by Annie Whitehead, Author of Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England

 New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Many Anglo-Saxon kings are familiar. Æthelred the Unready is one, yet less is written of his wife, who was consort of two kings and championed one of her sons over the others, or his mother who was an anointed queen and powerful regent, but was also accused of 
witchcraft and regicide.

My new book, Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England, features over 130 named women. When I began the project, I wondered if I’d be able to find out enough about these ladies who played such significant roles and yet were not so often mentioned in the chronicles. 

The short answer, is yes, I was. It took a lot of detective work, and many turns down blind alleys, but I managed to identify them, and pull together what is known about their lives. Not a few of them had their identities confused with others of similar names, so there was also a fair bit of unravelling to do.

So, the question now is: which of these women do I talk about for this blog post? Well, since I have almost a whole alphabet of names, I thought I’d choose fairly randomly by using the book title and making a sort of acrostic.

W Wynflæd was a tenth-century noblewoman, and a very rich one at that. Her will survives, and her bequests were numerous and detailed. She owned many estates and, as well as land and livestock, she left a number of expensive items, including a ‘gold-adorned’ cup, and household items such as two chests, one including the bed linen housed within it. She bequeathed tapestries and, showing that she was literate, ‘books and such small things.’ We don’t know who Wynflæd was; she has sometimes been confused with a lady of the same name who was King Edgar’s maternal grandmother, but there is nothing in the will to back up this theory. Nevertheless, it provides a wonderful insight into the life of an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman.

Will of Wynflæd, circa AD 950 (11th-century copy,British Library Cotton Charters viii. 38)[1]
O Osburh was the mother of Alfred the Great and his four elder brothers. Alfred’s father remarried, his new bride being Judith of Flanders, who was not much older than a child at the time and who scandalised commentators by going on to marry her stepson. Osburh, however, remains in the shadows. Presumably she died before the second marriage, but she might have retired to a nunnery. Asser, Alfred’s biographer, says she showed her sons a book of poetry, telling them she would give the book to the first to memorise the contents. Alfred won. The point of the story is to emphasise what a quick learner Alfred was, but we shouldn’t ignore one other significance: Osburh must have been able to read in order to test Alfred’s ability. Sadly, we know little else about her, but that salient point adds to the body of evidence that women, certainly in the upper echelons of society, were literate.

P Pega was the sister of St Guthlac the hermit who loved her brother so much that when she heard of his death she fell headlong into a faint. Guthlac trusted her, and no other, to tend to his body, so she tenderly wrapped his body in a cloth and placed it not in a coffin, but in a monument, according to his instructions. One version of their story has her banished from the place where her brother was living because the devil used her form to tempt Guthlac, but I prefer the version where brother and sister maintained a close bond, even unto death.

I Iurminburg was a queen, and has sometimes been confused with a woman of similar name, Eormenburg. She was the second wife of King Ecgfrith of Northumbria and was described as a ‘she-wolf [who] corrupted the king’s heart.’ This harsh description may in part have come about because it’s contained in the Life of St Wilfrid, and it’s clear she and Wilfrid didn’t get on (Wilfrid had a habit of falling out with people). She disapproved of Wilfrid’s wealth and of his retinue of armed followers which rivalled the king’s when she felt it shouldn’t. I think it is telling that her sister also detested Wilfrid. Having read a great deal about Wilfrid and his spats with various people, I have to confess to a certain amount of sympathy for Iurminburg!

A Ælfwynn was the daughter of Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians. We don’t know when she was born or why she remained unmarried, but we know from charter evidence that she accompanied her mother on campaign, when Æthelflæd was busy building defensive burhs (fortified towns) to repel the Viking menace. It’s possible that Ælfwynn was being prepared for leadership. Certainly the portion of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle known as the Mercian Register says that Ælfwynn was ‘deprived of all authority’ when her uncle Edward took over Mercia after her mother’s death. If the Mercians really had declared her to be her mother’s successor then this is hugely significant. It means that, however briefly, a woman leader succeeded a woman leader. England would have to wait until Tudor times for that to happen again.

S Æthelflæd wasn’t the first woman ruler of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, however. Seaxburh was queen of Wessex for a short time. Many women are called queen, but they were really queen consorts. Not so Seaxburh, the only woman to appear on a regnal list. A later chronicler said that the West Saxons would not go to war under the command of a woman, so clearly she wasn’t ruling in a time of peace. Reading between the lines, and taking the dates of her husband’s death and of his successor’s accession, it’s clear that there was a scramble for the throne and every likelihood that Seaxburh was fighting on behalf of a son, who perhaps hadn’t reached his majority.

E Emma was Norman, not English, but she married two kings of England: Æthelred the Unready, and Cnut. She had sons by both but, when it came to a succession dispute, she favoured her son by Cnut, championing his rights to the throne over those of his half-brother, Cnut’s son by another woman. The fight wasn’t necessarily a physical one, but a political one and, in an early example of ‘spin’, Emma commissioned a work called the Encomium Emmæ Reginæ which backed up her son’s claims, completely airbrushed her first marriage out of the story, and thus ignored her children by that marriage. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the Encomium tells her story and that of her rival, Cnut’s ‘other woman’. These two ladies were well matched for tenacity and had few equals when it came to political manoeuvring. Even if I couldn’t necessarily find it easy to like them, I admire what they managed to achieve in what was still very much a man’s world.

Encomium Emmæ Reginæ

Anglo-Saxon women had more rights and privileges than their later medieval counterparts but it’s still fair to say that women had to operate in a different way if they wanted to influence events and wield power.
But by and large, they did it. A whisper in a king’s ear here, fighting for their son’s rights there, or running huge estates; they certainly made their presence felt. 

Annie Whitehead

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About the Author

Annie Whitehead is an author and historian, and a member of the Royal Historical Society. Her first two novels are set in tenth-century Mercia, chronicling the lives of Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, who ruled a country in all but name, and Earl Alvar, who served King Edgar and his son Æthelred the Unready who were both embroiled in murderous scandals. She was a contributor to the anthology 1066 Turned Upside Down, a collection of alternative short stories.  Find out more at Annie's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @AnnieWHistory

17 April 2020

Guest Post: Mary Lawrence, Author of The Lost Boys of London (Bianca Goddard Mysteries Book 5)

Available from

Set during the final years of King Henry VIII’s reign, the Bianca Goddard Mysteries explore the world of commoners and how they managed 
to survive under their brutal monarch--

She isn’t a maid of the Queen’s court, or the wife of a merchant, or magistrate. Bianca Goddard is the daughter of an alchemist and white witch during the final years of King Henry VIII’s reign. The Bianca Goddard Mysteries offer an alternative perspective of Tudor England. Instead of focusing on the courtiers and wealthy merchants, the series concentrates on imagining the world of commoners in 1543-1545.

Henry was, arguably, at his most petulant in 1543. He wed his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr and would die in another four years. In 1544, he laid siege to Boulogne, angered by France’s ‘Auld Alliance’ with Scotland and embarked on a long campaign to subjugate the Scots. The year before, Scotland had broken their Treaty of Greenwich which would have united the two countries under one crown.

However, Henry’s war efforts came at a high price. He heavily taxed his citizens and built fortifications along England’s southern coast. Able-bodied men between 16 and 60 were conscripted into his Army and Navy. He hired large numbers of mercenaries. Even with victory in Boulogne, the cost to maintain the outpost was nearly twice his annual revenue. Currency minted between 1544-1546 contained half and then a third of its weight in fine silver resulting in rampant inflation.

So, where does Bianca Goddard fit in? Bianca is a young woman, estranged from her father and resistant to marrying or serving in a wealthy household. Having spent her childhood observing him in his alchemy room, she has learned some basic chemistry. She understands the methods and possibilities of distillation, isolation, and purification processes. While she sees the folly of her father’s pursuit for gold, she does realize this knowledge could prove useful in her desire to create effective medicines. She is, in a sense, the amalgam of her parents’ passions.

However, a woman practicing alchemical processes could have been accused of sorcery and conjuration--a treasonous offense under Henry VIII. This possibility forces Bianca to maintain a low profile. She locates her room of “Medicinals and Physickes” in Southwark near a chicken coop to mask the stench from her experiments. She also relies on a street seller named Meddybemps to vend her medicines and they split the profit.

Of course, a mystery series comes with its share of murder and mayhem. Often the inciting murder foretells a more sinister threat to the citizens of London than simply a killer’s motivation to “off” someone. The series has explored the menace of plague, unknown disease, contaminated food supplies, war, and the king’s wavering religious beliefs. It is my hope that readers will enjoy visiting the seedier side of Tudor England with Bianca Goddard as their guide.

Mary Lawrence
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About the Author
Mary Lawrence lives in Maine and writes the Bianca Goddard Mysteries set in Tudor London featuring a cast of commoners. Bianca uses her wits and a smattering of alchemy to solve murders in the slums of Southwark. Suspense Magazine named The Alchemist’s Daughter and The Alchemist of Lost Souls "Best Books of 2015 and 2019” in the historical mystery category. Her articles have appeared in several publications most notably the national news blog, The Daily Beast. Other Bianca Goddard Mysteries include Death of an Alchemist, Death at St. Vedast, and The Lost Boys of London. Find out more at and find her on Facebook and Twitter @mel59lawrence

15 April 2020

Book Launch Spotlight: The Cold Hearth: The Atheling Chronicles: #3 by Garth Pettersen

New from  Amazon UK, Amazon US

"The sons of Cnute are dead men." The dying words of his brother's assailant travel across the North Sea to the English Midlands.

Harald, the king's second son, receives the warning while rebuilding a hall where he hopes to farm and lead a peaceful life with Selia, his Frisian wife. But as the hall nears completion, they learn the family who lived there before them all perished in a single night of bloodshed. Could the grounds be cursed?

Now the threat of unknown enemies casts a long shadow. Should they distrust the brooding Saxon neighbor or the two weapon-bearers they hired for protection?

Should they suspect either of the two women they have taken on with the other hirelings? Only their Jewish warrior friend, Ravya ben Naaman, seems to be the only one above suspicion.

# # #

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

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

“ No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ~ Robert Frost

The best historical fiction provides readers with compelling emotional connections to the story, and enables them to experience life in a different time and place. Every author brings their own approach to achieving this, but after a lifetime of reading and writing historical fiction, there are certain common principles which can help.

The characters

Readers want to understand who matters in the story, the conflict the protagonist has to overcome, and why they should care about the consequences. The key to this is to make characters relatable, with human flaws readers can identify with. For example, my book HENRY, about the first Tudor King of England, opens with:
Henry had a secret, a chilling truth only he would ever know. He’d never wanted to be king. He once tried to tell his Uncle Jasper. Dismissing him with a laugh, Jasper risked their lives to make it happen, so Henry learnt to live with his secret, which troubled his waking thoughts and haunted his dreams.

I can imagine how such responsibility could be overwhelming, and found it useful to think back to how I felt when I was about to begin a new job in a senior role. Readers will also have experienced self-doubt at some point in their lives, and the challenge is to draw on such feelings and memories to help readers feel sympathy for characters.

The Conflict

The classic story structure has our protagonist struggling against seemingly impossible odds, thwarted at every turn, and finding ways to deal with injustice and treachery. Screenwriter Robert McKee, in his book STORY, says, ‘Use the past as a clear glass through which you show us the present.’ This is where historical fiction can add to the bare facts of the historical record to engage readers in new experiences through exploring the human aspects of past conflicts.

The simplest source of conflict is when there is an obvious ‘villain’, but some of the most powerful emotional triggers can come from more nuanced relationships. Readers appreciate fine-point distinctions, and notice the small details that reveal potential conflict. In my book KATHERINE, about the life of protestant reformer Katherine Willoughby, she finds herself in opposition to the Catholic faith. 

I found it useful to make the conflict personal, largely manifested through the real character of Bishop Stephen Gardiner. This conflict provides a narrative thread through which Katherine’s feelings and emotions about her faith are explored. Her feelings, such as contempt for Bishop Gardiner, develop into less controllable emotions, such as anger at his actions, which breathe life into the historical facts.

The set up

We need to set the scene with as little exposition as possible. I like to visit the actual locations, to have a sense of the buildings and how they are placed in the landscape. Even five hundred years later, it’s possible to understand the sights and sounds our characters would have experienced. The season of the story setting can help evoke sensations of warmth or cold, and research into food and clothing adds a sense of place and time.

It’s important to have clarity about what the character needs to do and why it matters. The task of the author is to find the barriers and obstacles to achievement. Invariably there will be people with vested interests in different outcomes, which emerge throughout the story, although ambiguous motives will help keep readers guessing.

Once the context and desired aims are established the reader begins to guess the likely outcome.  This is where the storytelling reveals character flaws, and characters think and talk about how they are feeling. Often such introspection includes trying to justify their behaviour and reactions to actual events. The ideal is for your character to amaze the reader with an unexpectedly brilliant response, and the true events of history offer a rich vein of possibilities.

The surprise

The stories you remember are those with a twist, the unexpected surprise. Throughout history people have died in battle, through illness and disease, inept medical treatment, and more relatable life events such as childbirth and old age. People have fallen in and out of love, lied and cheated, yet this is not always apparent from the historical records.

One of the many ways to elicit emotion is through rising action, and surprise can be triggered by having your character show an emotion not immediately obvious in the scene. The skill for the writer is to add clues to dialogue, foreshadowing a response which leads readers to believe they know the likely outcome. Something which comes as a surprise to your character will be more likely to surprise your readers.

In my  initial research for a new book I’m always vigilant for opportunities to surprise readers.  Often these are little more than footnotes to history, which most readers are unaware of. In some cases the historical record is silent about what actually happened, creating the opportunity to propose an original and surprising solution to the mystery.  

Tony Riches

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.

14 April 2020

Special Guest Interview with Amy Maroney, Author of the Miramonde Series

Available from Amazon US and Amazon UK

A Renaissance-era woman artist and an American scholar. Linked by a 500-year-old mystery… The secrets of the past are irresistible—and dangerous.

I'm pleased to welcome author Amy Maroney to The Writing Desk

Tell us about your latest series.

My Miramonde Series tells the story of a Renaissance-era woman artist and an American scholar linked by a 500-year-old mystery. In Book 1, The Girl from Oto, the heroine of the series is born into a ruthless and violent noble family; her mother names her Miramonde, ‘one who sees the world.’ Raised in a convent, Mira becomes an extraordinary artist—never dreaming she will one day fulfill the promise of her name.

Mira’s modern-day counterpart, Zari Durrell, is a young American scholar doing research in Europe who discovers traces of a mysterious woman artist in several sixteenth-century paintings. Soon she’s tracing a path through history to Mira herself. But the art world ignores her findings, dazzled by a rival academic’s claim that the portraits were in fact made by a famous male artist.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

During travels with my family about seven years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Oxford University. In a lonely hallway at Magdalen College, I stumbled across a sixteenth-century portrait of a woman that was attributed to a female artist. I was floored. After visiting many museums full of Renaissance-era portraits and learning about art history as a college student, I had somehow never heard of women Old Masters. But now, before my own eyes, was evidence that there were women painters in those days! I soon learned that because women’s work wasn’t valued, their paintings were often attributed to men or kept anonymous. I became obsessed with the lost stories of these women—and I resolved to write a novel on the topic.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

When I dug into the research, I developed a fascination with the field of art conservation. Using X-rays and other tools, researchers can now see under the layers of paint in a portrait, determine the age of a wooden panel, and more. We used to rely solely on the ‘eye’ of an art expert to determine who actually painted a portrait.

But today, science can debunk the opinion of an expert and reveal secrets within paintings. Zari, my modern-day heroine, uncovers clues about artist Mira using these high-tech sleuthing techniques. Each time I sat down to write about her efforts, I felt like was studying for a college exam. I would pore over the technical material and then, over painstaking hours, translate it into a compelling scene.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I typically write for a few hours in the morning and then shoehorn in more writing if I can between all the marketing and publishing tasks on my plate. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, I find it’s a bit harder to focus. Listening to inspirational music on my headphones while my husband, kids, and dog go about their lives in our house has helped.

What advice do you have for new writers?

If you want to write and publish books, don’t wait for an agent or editor’s approval. Today’s indie publishing scene means you can do it. Read a lot in your preferred genre. Study covers, titles, blurbs. Hire editors, get beta readers, seek out feedback from people whose opinions matter to you. Make deadlines so you get that book out the door instead of tinkering with it forever. Then keep going—and write another one.

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

Approaching book bloggers for blog tours and guest posts, teaming up with other historical fiction authors for group promotions, paying for advertising and marketing, spending some time on social media each day to engage with authors and readers, and meeting with book clubs.

What are you planning to write next?

The Miramonde Series is a trilogy. After Book 1, The Girl from Oto, came out in 2016, I published Mira’s Way in 2018 and A Place in the World in 2019. I am currently working on a new series set in medieval Rhodes, when the Knights Hospitaller ruled that Greek island. At least one female artist will figure large in this new series, too.

Amy Maroney
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About the Author

Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. with her family, and spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. She's currently obsessed with pursuing forgotten women artists through the shadows of history. When she's not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, drawing, dancing, and reading. Get The Promise, a free prequel novella to the Miramonde Series, and check out Amy’s blog here: Connect with Amy on Facebook and Twitter @wilaroney

Amy Maroney reading from Chapter One of The Girl from Oto:

9 April 2020

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Raven Banner (The Whale Road Chronicles Book 2) by Tim Hodkinson

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

You can't fight fate...

AD 935 – Late Winter, City of Jorvik.

Einar Unnsson is destined to be a great Icelandic warrior. He has already defeated the men sent to kill him by his notorious father, Jarl Thorfinn, the 'Skull Cleaver' of Orkney. He has a gift that makes him lethal in battle. Yet he has cast it all off to be a bard.

When three men attack him, Einar's poetry provides little protection. Luckily, the skilled archer and Norse-Irish princess Affreca saves him. She'd assumed Einar had left to raise an army, challenge Thorfinn and seize the Jarldom of Orkney. Now she's determined to set him back onto his rightful path.

Einar soon finds himself entangled on Affreca's own mission. She's seeking the Raven Banner for King Eirik. Legend has it that the banner is imbued with powerful magic. That it was a gift from the Norse God Odin and any army that marches behind it will be victorious. The quest sets events in motion that are beyond Einar's control.

Einar has no choice but to face his fate and swing his sword once more...

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About the Author

Tim Hodkinson grew up in Northern Ireland where the rugged coast and call of the Atlantic ocean led to a lifelong fascination with Vikings and a degree in Medieval English and Old Norse Literature. Apart from Old Norse sagas, Tim's more recent writing heroes include Ben Kane, Giles Kristian, Bernard Cornwell, George R.R. Martin and Lee Child. After several years living in New Hampshire, USA, Tim has returned to Northern Ireland, where he lives with his wife and children. Find out more at Tim's website and find him on Twitter @TimHodkinson 

6 April 2020

Special Guest Interview with Author Catherine Kullmann

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

When Arabella Malvin sees the figure of an officer silhouetted against the sun, for one interminable moment she thinks he is her brother, against all odds home from Waterloo. But it is Major Thomas Ferraunt, the rector’s son, newly returned from occupied Paris 
who stands in front of her.

I'm pleased to welcome author Catherine Kullmann to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Potential for Love is a continuation of my ‘Waterloo arc’—books that are set against the background of the Napoleonic wars. It is set in 1816. The heroine, Arabella Malvin is mourning the loss of her brother at Waterloo and the hero, Major Thomas Ferraunt, has returned to England from occupied Paris after an absence of almost six years.

When Arabella sees the figure of an officer silhouetted against the sun, for one interminable moment she thinks he is her brother, home against all odds. But it is Thomas, son of the local rector and friend of her brother, who stands in front of her.

For over six years, Thomas’s thoughts have been of war. Now he must ask himself what his place is in this new world and what he wants from it. More and more, his thoughts turn to Miss Malvin, but would Lord Malvin agree to such a mismatch for his daughter, especially when she is being courted by Lord Henry Danlow?

As Arabella embarks on her fourth Season, she finds herself more in demand than ever before. But she is tired of the life of a debutante, waiting in the wings for her real life to begin. She is ready to marry. But which of her suitors has the potential for love and who will agree to the type of marriage she wants?  As she struggles to make her choice, she is faced with danger from an unexpected quarter while Thomas is stunned by a new challenge. Will these events bring them together or drive them apart? 

What is your preferred writing routine?

I need to clear the decks domestically first, but am usually at my desk by mid-day. I work until around one, take a break until three and work again until six. That’s the practical side of things. From a creative perspective, I am more a pantser than a plotter. I usually start with what if? Or what then? 

I do quite a lot of preliminary work on my characters’ back-stories so that I have a good sense of them when I type Chapter One and then I let the story unfold. Although my characters are fictional, they live in a very real historical world and I use the facts and trivia of this world to anchor them and drive the story on.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Just do it. Take the plunge. Find people who will nurture you and help you hone your craft without stifling your voice. This can be through a writers’ group or class or a mentoring scheme such as the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. If there are specific groups for your genre e.g. The RNA, the Historical Novel Society or the Crime Writers’ Association, see if you can join them. Go to conferences and local chapter meetings. Join writers’ groups on Facebook and participate in the discussions.

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

It is hard to say. I have a website, a blog and a newsletter and am active on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, I use Amazon Ads. I think you really need a combination of all of these—there is no golden ticket.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

What really surprised me was the wealth of contemporary illustrations from the Regency period that are still to be found, many of them hand-coloured. Caricatures and cartoons, fashion plates, book illustrations, depictions of landscapes and street scenes as well as important buildings and stately homes—all help convey the spirit of the age. I now have quite a collection and use them both for inspiration and promotion.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Although my books are set against the background of the Napoleonic wars, I always swore I would never write about the Battle of Waterloo. I was more interested in the effect these long, offstage wars had on the families, and women in particular, who were left behind with very little information trickling through about what was happening abroad. Over three hundred thousand men did not return, dying of wounds, accidents and illness. What did this mean for wives, daughters and sisters left to fend for themselves in a society where they were very much second-class citizens?

But Luke Fitzmaurice, the hero of The Murmur of Masks was determined to do his bit and so I must accompany him to Belgium. I was quite nervous about following in the footsteps of Georgette Heyer whose superb descriptions of the Waterloo campaign in An Infamous Army and The Spanish Bride were taught at Sandhurst.

Fortunately, there are so many memoirs and descriptions of the campaign, written by all ranks, that I was able to take a different approach. I decided to describe it solely from Luke’s point of view, basing his experiences largely on those of William Leeke who joined the 1st/52nd as an ensign in May 1815 although, unlike Leeke, Luke did not carry the regimental colours during the battle.

It took several drafts and re-drafts—at one stage I scrapped the whole chapter and started again—until I was satisfied that I had captured the immediacy of the battle and its aftermath. This also worked very well as a plot device, enabling me to develop the relationship between Luke and Olivia. 

What are you planning to write next?

My current WIP is set in 1821/22. The heroine lost the man she loved at Waterloo and has lived life in the shallows since then but an unexpected offer tempts her into deeper waters. This will bring the Waterloo arc to a close. I am not sure what will come after that. I have a notebook full of possible plots and ideas and I am sure more will come to me as I write the new book. Or I might take a different tack altogether. The year before last I wrote a historical fantasy novella and I am quite keen to explore that world as well.

Catherine Kullmann 
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About the Author

Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society. She also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era. Find out more at Catherine's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @CKullmannAuthor