Mastodon The Writing Desk: July 2020

30 July 2020

Special Guest Post by Martha Begley Schade, Author of Galway Fairytales: The Merlin Woods Series

Available  from Amazon UK 

This children’s fairytale book aims to motivate young readers to strengthen their social skills. It is best suited for children age 9 to 12 years old. With charming and educational celtic stories about relatable animal characters living in the Merlin Woods in Galway on the West Coast of Ireland, the characters all find their way through difficult topics that children have to face.

Can't life be simply wonderful!  

After several hard, soul-destroying years, I stumbled across a whole new aspect in life that I would never have dreamed about. It turned my life around and I would love to share this story with you: How I became a published author at 57 years of age! Who knows where this will lead to for you?

I guess now, looking back, it was a natural development. The seventh child in a family of ten in rural Ireland, we occupied each other. We were a gang. Conversations at the dinner table could be loud and intimidating for any visitors. If you ever got “airtime”, your story had to be quick, concise and very entertaining or mob-attention quickly moved onto another.

As the saying goes: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. My father was always noted for entertaining others with his stories. His visitors would spend hours with him in our garden and they loved it. Or after Sunday mass… while we patiently waited to go home, all squashed together into our old Ford Anglia Estate. 

My mother was a very quiet, extremely patient woman and she loved my father. But stories, we quickly learned, was a way to get to communicate, entertain, exchange ideas, make friends, form bonds or check out common understandings. And so it was, that storytelling was obviously going to an important parenting skill when I became a mother myself.
How did it all start? 

Well, … with a bet. My younger son, then 16, wants to be a writer. He felt that he needed a new laptop to write. When I asked him whatever happened to a pen and paper, he simply said I had no idea what it entailed to be a writer. Like a red rag to a bull, I took on the challenge and we made a bet that I wouldn’t have a book written in two weeks.

Once again, I leaned back on my formative years, took out any storytelling skills I had, polished them up, sat down and wrote “Flappy. The Pigeon Who Overcame Bullying”. 
Where does an author get their material?

Years ago, this story had been the result of a bad day I was having with the children. It had been raining for quite some time, and being Ireland, that timeline referred to weeks. The boys couldn’t go out and had cabin fever. It was difficult keeping them occupied. So I promised to tell a story but needed their help. I started with one line and then asked them what happened next. The results were amazing. 

Children by their very nature are limitless in their creativity. I suddenly had a pigeon who had really long wings that flapped too loudly. My son, who was being bullied in school at the time, took over. He described how the pigeon felt and how awful it was. In this way, my son was verbalising his own experiences. We listened. We empathised. He felt understood. Imagine my surprise when he then came up with the idea how the pigeon got out of the situation.

I guess that is why the story never left me. Always at the back of my mind, this was the book I was going to write. If it could help my son to develop coping skills or a new perspective, then it may well help others. There is something very fulfilling in thinking your work has a purpose. A mission. 

What did I enjoy most about becoming an author?

It was enlightening. When I started to advertise the book, I began to have the most amazing experiences. Young, old, it didn’t matter. All could recall bullying. All had their story to tell. 

But something bothered me. With all these stories people told me about being bullied when younger, I had to ask myself, who were the bullies? The only conclusion I could come to was that often WE are the bullies and don’t realise the impact we are having on others.

As humans we do categorize and try fit others into our perceptions of life. If they don’t fit, we reject them. The pecking order I think it is called. Many of us want to be top-dog, the kingpin, the dominant one. If the other doesn’t fit our picture of acceptable, it is so easy for us to fall into bullying ways. 

Understanding the mission of my stories

I suddenly realised the importance of the book! Educational. Educational about the impact that bullying has and how it can be any of us. Giving children the story of Flappy has been an eye-opener. Now, I’ve been an engineer, I’ve been a senior manager in the headquarters of a huge multinational company, I’ve trained people all over the world, I’ve developed policies to be adhered to in all corners of the world - but nothing, simply nothing I have ever done before has meant so much to me as this book.

I have travelled to schools, nervous as anything, and enjoyed storytelling sessions with the book, Flappy. There too, the results amazed me. The children got it! They related with the poor bird and understood how they too could be exhibiting bullying behaviour. It isn’t always the other people who carry out bullying, the others who are racist… the children understood that they have the propensity to be these people too.
The world is a small place and we are all human.

However grateful I have been to see how my book has gone to distant places such as Kuwait, Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and more, it was the opportunity to donate books for fundraising towards a group of medical professionals who travel to countries and provide life-changing operations to people who cannot afford them. 

The very idea that because my book exists, someone somewhere will probably be able to walk again just fills me with a sense of doing something so right. The sense of being partially instrumental, albeit only slightly, in humanity helping humanity, was good for the soul.

Exciting times

None of these developments took place overnight or were foreseeable. They just happened at random and always caught me by surprise. One of my favourites was at the book launch of Flappy. In the story I include a Princess and her father, the King of the Claddagh.
The Claddagh is an area of Galway City that is unique and is probably best known because of the Claddagh ring. Galway is known since medieval times as the City of the Tribes and in the Claddagh they still have a tradition of voting one local person to the lifelong position of being their King.

When I held the book launch, my first ever, people came from all corners. But can you imagine the absolute thrill of seeing the real King of the Claddagh come through the entrance, accompanied by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Galway? Believe me, I was speechless for a change. Really chuffed I can now claim to have a Lord Mayor and a King attending my book launch. I’m not sure how many authors can claim that honour.

How did it continue? 

After Flappy, there followed the stories of Billa and Buster, The Golden Key of Wisdom, The Listening Tree and then finally, Emily and Tristan. They deal with issues such as depression, teamwork, kindness, guidance, friendships and more. Each book has a list of discussion points and fun facts about the relatable animal characters in the story.
At a minimum, these books are good readers for children aged 6 – 12 years, but my wish is that the books are used by adults with children as a platform where these topics can be discussed, golden memories created and coping skills developed. 

How would I describe my writing journey? 

I would describe it like a disco ball. You know the one with the thousand little mirrors all reflecting light? Each mirror was an experience that filled me with joy along the journey. Whether it was the fact that I could be a role model to my son who wants to be a writer, breaking down barriers in his mind to the possibilities or whether it was the people I met. All these combined joys helped catapult me out the hard years I had recently put behind me – and that I did through the books, put bad times firmly behind me.

So, when Tony offered me to guest blog on his website, I had to write my story. While the mission of my books is to educate children on social issues they have nowadays, the mission of this article is to encourage absolutely everyone to write. 

Besides being a wonderful experience, there is a story to tell in each and every one of us and there is always someone who needs to read your story, whatever it may be. I want to encourage you to get writing and create your own disco ball. The journey alone is worth it. Believe me.

 Martha Begley Schade

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About the Author

Born in Ireland, Martha Begley Schade, B.Sc., MBA has over 25 years of experience in Quality and Production Management, working globally with a focus on German, Austrian, Swiss and Italian Automobile supplier industries. Further qualifications include: ISO9000 Certification Auditor, EFQM Assessor, Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma, Training and Business coach and more. Martha is a born storyteller, having grown up with the tradition in the family. While running her own online training business called Business Online Learning, she also turned her hand to authoring children’s books. Rising to a challenge she has now completed five individual books and one compilation book “Galway Fairytales”. These are all educational in nature, addressing social topics that affect children nowadays. Find out more on Facebook and Twitter @GalwayFairytale 

28 July 2020

Special Guest Post by Jackie Cosh, Author of The King with the Iron Belt: The life of King James IV of Scotland

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Known as the Renaissance king, King James IV of Scotland played a huge part in the joining of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England. Through his marriage to the English Margaret Tudor his lineage became heirs to the English crown and his great grandson eventually took the throne as King James VI of Scotland, I of England. 

Amateur dentist, sociologist, educational reformer….. If King James IV of Scotland was alive today his CV would be pretty impressive. Which is why, for nearly twenty years I have had a fascination with him that led me, slowly and surely, to write a book about him. The King with the Iron Belt was published in 2018, a biography of the man from birth to his death at the Battle of Flodden.

My love of history developed only after I left school. Initially Irish history interested me the most. I flirted with European history, before finally settling down with British history, primarily Scottish. I read about many different eras in Scottish history, meeting James IV along the way. I found that there were very few books dedicated to this great man, and those that were tended to be very academic, and just a little bit, well, dry to say the least

James IV was anything but dry. He was the most fascinating of men and loved to explore and learn, such as when he placed two orphaned infants on the island of Inchkeith with a mute woman, in an attempt to determine what he perceived as ‘the original language’. This was the man who introduced full quarantine for plague victims, hundreds of years before Covvid 19 and lockdown.

He reformed the justice system and introduced the first education act, more than 300 years before England. Then there is his marriage to the English Margaret Tudor, which led, eventually, to the union of the crowns. I struggled to understand why, unlike his granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots, the bookshops were not full of books on this man.

I make a living as a writer and tutor and have over the years written many history articles for local and national publications, so it was a natural step to stop moaning about the lack of books on the topic and write my own. My aim was very specific – not to replicate or replace what had originally been written but to bring James to the general public, the history lover who wanted to read and learn about history in easy to understand language that was not overly academic.

As any author who is not writing books full time will know, fitting writing round a full time job and family is hard. I would have a few days where I relished being full engrossed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, before work commitments would pull me back to the present and my research and writing would be put on hold again.

Researching Renaissance Scotland brought its problems. Firstly, there is the gaps in official records, particularly regarding the early years of his life, so, for example, the assumption is made that he was born at Stirling Castle as that was his mother’s main residence. But isn’t that part of the attraction of history – the not knowing, the surmising, the piecing together of the jigsaw puzzles?

Then there is the doubt surrounding some of the accounts we read. Some, like Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, pay him many compliments but Lindsay was not born until nearly twenty years after King James died. I like to think he was simply reiterating what those who did know James reported. Perhaps little children were told of the late King James who died in battle and what a great monarch he was. Others, such as the Spanish ambassador Pedro de Ayala, were perhaps prone to exaggeration and felt the need to say great things about him.

I spent a number of years researching and reading all I could get my hands on in order to do the subject justice. Sometimes I had to make my own judgements on which version of events was correct. Some writers claim that Margaret Tudor was on her brother Henry’s side when he went to war with her husband. But my research found that there was more evidence to support the opposite. This was also in line with my intuition, which, as a historical writer you have to use at times.

But perhaps the greatest challenge is knowing where to start with all the ideas for other books that appear to me as the book develops. Through my research I encountered many fascinating characters and stories that need told. My next book is at the very early stages of planning, a book related to an extent to King James IV. The others I will put in a box for now, perhaps to return to at a later date.

Jackie Cosh

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About the Author

Jackie Cosh writes Scottish nonfiction. Her book, The King with the Iron Belt, a biography on King James IV of Scotland, was published in 2018. A related book, still very much in the planning stage, will be published some time in the future. Jackie tweets at @Scothistauthor.

26 July 2020

WOLSEY (Routledge Historical Biographies) by Glenn Richardson

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Through a thematic and broadly chronological approach, Wolsey offers a fascinating insight into the life and legacy of a man who was responsible for building Henry VIII’s reputation as England’s most impressive king.

The book reviews Thomas Wolsey’s record as the realm’s leading Churchman, Lord Chancellor and political patron and thereby demonstrates how and why Wolsey became central to Henry’s government for 20 years. 

By analysing Wolsey’s role in key events such as the Field of Cloth of Gold, the study highlights how significant Wolsey was in directing and conducting England’s foreign relations as the king’s most trusted advisor. 

Based on up-to-date research, Richardson not only newly appraises the circumstances of Wolsey’s fall but also challenges accusations of treason made against him. This study provides a new appreciation of Wolsey’s importance as a cultural and artistic patron, as well as a royal administrator and politician; roles which helped to bring both Henry VIII and England to the forefront of foreign relations in the early-sixteenth century.

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About the Author

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

21 July 2020

Blog Tour: The Last King: England: The First Viking Age (The Ninth Century Book 1) by M J Porter

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

They sent three hundred warriors to kill one man. It wasn’t enough. Mercia lies broken but not beaten, her alliance with Wessex in tatters.

I'm pleased to welcome author M J Porter to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book.

The Last King is set in AD874, in Mercia, and tells the story of Coelwulf and his war band as they battle against the Raiders (Vikings) following the abdication of King Burgred (King Alfred’s brother in law). It’s a relentless, blood and gore fest action story, as Coelwulf sets out to drive the Raiders from Mercia, even as they try to hunt him down to put an end to his attempts to keep Mercia independent. It’s sweary and brutal and not for the faint hearted, but Coelwulf and his warriors are a delight to travel with (honest).

What is your preferred writing routine?

I prefer to write in short, sharp spells, but during my ‘writing’ phase of a book, I aim to write 5000 words a day. This seems like a great deal, but I’ve discovered that to craft a book, I need to get the words down, fast, and then spend my time editing and further developing the story. I can’t edit a blank page, and it’s during the edit that all the details are added into the characters and the storyline. I’m what’s known as a ‘pantser’ not a planner. I ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ and then draw the strands together. I don’t go back and read what I’ve written until the end, and sometimes it can be a bit of a surprise.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write, write, write and write some more (and maybe do some reading as well). For ‘newbies’ I would recommend taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November each year, because it will allow you to develop the habit of writing each and every day. It’s surprising what an eye-opener that one little thing can be. Even a thousand words a day, will soon make it feel as though you’ve made a good start on a new story.

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

This is the part of the ‘job’ that I struggle most with. I have a fan base who read my books whenever I release them (thank you), and I really wish I knew how I came by them, but to find new readers, I have come to rely on BookBub campaigns and on Netgalley to gain reviews for new books. This is my first blog tour, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

I love the research element of writing. While writing The Last Warrior (Book 2 of the Ninth Century), I learned all about the crossing points on the River Trent in the UK, and that one of them, at Littleborough, dates back to the Roman period, when flagstones were laid across the river.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

I don’t remember a specific scene that I found really hard, but what I do find really hard, and it happens more than you might realise, is writing the death scene of a character that you’ve really become quite attached to, but have to ‘kill off’ because their death is recorded as occurring then. My beloved Leofwine, Ealdorman of the Hwicce, from the Earls of Mercia series, was not a character I wanted to give up on.

What are you planning to write next?

I plan to work on a story I want to write about Lady Estrid, the sister of King Cnut, who had a very eventful life, even from the few ‘facts’ I can find out about her.  I also have a book that I want to finish – a Tudor-esque fantasy.

M J Porter

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About the Author

M J Porter is an author of historical novels set in Seventh, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh-Century England, and now also a little further afield, in Viking Age Denmark, and Tenth-Century East and West Frankia. Find out more at and on Twitter @coloursofunison 

20 July 2020

Guest Post by Cassandra Clark, Author of Murder at Whitby Abbey (An Abbess of Meaux Mystery)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Despatched to Whitby Abbey to barter for a Holy Relic, Hildegard of Meaux is plunged into a baffling murder investigation in this 
gripping medieval mystery.


One of the questions people always ask at writer events is:  how do you get your ideas?  A better question would be, how do you choose one idea to run with when there are so many tripping you up?

I’m often stuck for an answer.  Ideas bombard the mind at all hours, aggravatingly, often in the middle of the night.  May as well ask: why do we fall in love? Love settles where it wills.  And so do ideas.

I was musing on this topic as I scrubbed the porridge pan this morning and my thoughts went to a scene in MURDER AT WHITBY ABBEY where the young, naive, very pure-of-heart monk, Brother Luke, falls instantly in love with a lady of the town, Mistress Sabine.  Love at first sight indeed.

As a sceptic I was somewhat doubtful about this scene and I wondered how I’d come to describe such a phenomenon.  Pure invention, I supposed as, thoughts meandering, I scrubbed away.

Just before this I’d been looking at a carton of Oatley over breakfast and admiring its design and wondering who thought of it and what they were like. I was charmed by its down-home quirkiness and thought it might have been the invention of a bunch of people chatting round a kitchen table one morning, people I’d rather like to know.  Then I remembered a scene from the past.

I was lying on a beach in Thailand where I’d spent the afternoon with a handsome young man about twenty years younger than me.  No, it’s not that sort of story, Mrs Robinson.

The reason we were together was because he had fallen instantly in love with a particular girl the moment we all stepped, bleer-eyed, from the coach at our holiday-island destination.

He was russet-haired.  So was she.  He was tall.  She was small.  They were both of an age. They had the good looks of the young and they looked like twins. Like soulmates, no other word for it…and their eyes met.  Love.  As instantaneous as that.

I know this because I was chatting to the girl as we stepped down and was nearly knocked over by the electricity that passed between them.  From that moment they were almost inseparable.

Why I was lying on the beach in the lover’s exclusive company was because his sweetheart had gone off on a pre-booked boat trip round the bay and, unable to bear losing sight of her for a moment, he sat on the beach all afternoon waiting for her to set her beloved feet back on the sands.  Some older lady (me) gave him the excuse to be there without looking as if he was howling at the moon like a demented calf.

No, he didn’t babble on at length about her.  He had no need.  His eyes never left the horizon.  And after asking me if I didn’t think she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen we talked pleasantly at random for the rest of the day.

He was a designer of packaging.  Sounds unromantic, doesn’t it? But given the gloss of his present emotional state it sounded like the most romantic career imaginable.  I could easily see these two sweethearts with a brood of little bronze-haired angels living in the immaculately designed house a man such as he would naturally summon forth.

What was the upshot of all this, this holiday romance?  I’ve no idea.  I hope they found the happiness of that first moment in the life ahead.

But where did such a long-forgotten memory come from?  How was it summoned forth over the breakfast pots?  I hadn’t thought about this time in Thailand for years until this morning, but there he was, the lover:  alive and well, and embodied in the fictional, besotted Brother Luke.

To answer the question I started with, there’s no one explanation for where our ideas come from.  Sometimes we can track them back to a particular source, sometimes all we can do is go with the flow, give thanks, and catch the random gifts where next they fall.

Cassandra Clark

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About the Author

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

19 July 2020

Achten Tan: Land of Dust and Bone (Tales from the Year Between Book 1) Edited by C. Vandyke

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US
as well as Smashwords

At the crossroads between Mieville’s New Crobuzon and M.T. Anderson’s Viriconium, on the border of Dhalgren and D&D, just to the left of Terry Pratchet’s Diskworld and Mad Max’s Fury Road … lies Acthen Tan

Tales from the Year Between is the flagship publication of Skullgate Media, an independent publishing collective.  The Year Between is a biannual anthology that brings together some of the most talented writers from around the globe to invent an original world and explore that world through their writing. After a week of intensive world-building, each author sets out to expand their new, fabulous universe through short-stories, flash fiction, poems,  songs, and whatever other genres their boundless imaginations unleash ... 

In this inaugural volume, the world in question is Achten Tan, an at times brutal and at times humorous city located at the foot of the Godtree on the southern edge of the Bonewastes.

Home to giant ants, mysterious mirror fragments, and the world’s greatest barbecue rib joint, Acthen Tan is bursting with stories of fantasy and wonder. One part Italo Calvino, one part 

Frank Herbert, with just a dash of George R.R. Martin and L. Frank Baum

Warning. Achten Tan: Land of Dust & Bone is weird.

Inside its pages are drama and humor; action and longing; violence, death, and love. It’s strange and beautiful, a living instance of the old aphorism regarding the whole being greater than the parts. Oh, and there are also giant ants and a city obsessed with barbecued ribs.

Achten Tan is a shared fantasy world, a desert city built into the skeleton of an ancient leviathan and populated with elves and gnomes, wizards, and prophets, ant-riders and restaurateurs. It is a world we created together that belongs to none of us and all of us.

On May 27th, “Achten Tan” was a nonsense phrase, a series of syllables chosen at random so we would at least have a name to call the town we were about to create. By June 11th, it was a real city, filled with characters and locations. A past, a present, and a future. One month later those characters were real people, imagined and fleshed out by 30 different writers scattered from Dubai to Alaska.

Because there are so many contributors, there is no one Achten Tan. There are as many iterations of the city and its inhabitants as there were creators involved in this project. Some of the stories overlap. Some contradict each other. All of them work together to create a fantastic world none of us could have created on our own.

Inside these pages are poems and short stories, one-act plays and flash fiction, epistles and excerpts from academic texts, erotic tales and even recipes.  It’s a wonderful, fabulous, bizarre, and exciting mix of fiction that I am honored and humbled to have helped assemble. It is also but the first installment of a planned biannual series of such voyages to as of yet unknown worlds. The Writing Gods willing, Volume Two will be out in January of 2020.

But that is the future. In the meantime, join us in the first installment in Tales from the Year Between! May the Ribs shade you from the sun, may your ant be ever swift, and may your feet stay free of tar. Welcome to Achten Tan!

Learn more about Achten Tan and Tales From the Year Between at, and learn about SKullgate Media at You can sign up for our Mailchimp newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Chris Vandyke

Founder & President, Skullgate Media

Editor-in-Chief & Grand Hierophant, Tales From the Year Between

Learn more about Achten Tan and Tales From the Year Between at You can sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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About the Author

Chris Vandyke started The Year Between because he was bored and it seemed like a good idea at the time. When he isn't teaching and parenting, he's writing things. Too many things. You can see the things at and follow him on Twitter at @aboutrunning.

15 July 2020

A Different Cromwell ~ Special Guest Reviewer Linda Porter on The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

London, 1657: Following her father Oliver Cromwell's unprecedented ascent to become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, Frances Cromwell has moved from her humble childhood home to the sumptuous surroundings of the palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall. Dreaming of romance, fulfilment and a love match that must surely be found at court, 18-year-old Frances is the youngest of Cromwell's daughters.

Linda Porter on The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins

Hilary Mantel has succeeded in making Thomas Cromwell, chief minister and fixer to Henry VIII, a household name, at least among readers of historical fiction. But what of the earlier Cromwell’s distant relative, Oliver, the Lord Protector of Great Britain between 1653 and 1658, a man even more powerful than the predecessor brought to life in Mantel’s trilogy of novels and certainly more controversial?

Few historical figures in our past continue to attract such extremes of admiration and criticism. It is an entrenched dispute which shows no sign of weakening. To his devotees, Oliver is a flawed but deeply committed man and outstanding soldier, who made an astonishing leap from respectable rural obscurity to national leadership and international respect in the space of just over a decade. To his detractors – and they continue to be many, and often strident – he is a murderous, hypocritical country thug and tyrant who abolished Christmas, cancelled culture, brought a martyr king to trial and execution, slaughtered the Irish and instituted a repressive regime which could not survive his own death in 1658. Could such a man even have any humanity at all?

The truth, as with almost anything that attracts strong views among historians, is, predictably, more complex than the most extreme schools of thought would readily acknowledge. One way of approaching a more balanced consideration is through historical fiction, which, when done well, can at least give pause for reflection. On the face of it, Oliver and his family (about whom most people, I suspect will know very little) are unlikely subjects for a page-turning historical novel. Yet this is precisely what debut historical novelist, Miranda Malins, has achieved in her new book.

The Puritan Princess tells the story of what it was like to be the Protector’s daughter through the experience of Frances Cromwell, his youngest child. From a modest but happy upbringing as a small child, surrounded by many siblings, the teenage Frances is whirled into the life of the Cromwellian court at Whitehall. The father she loves and reveres has become the most powerful man in the land and one of the most influential in Europe, feted by ambassadors from France and Venice while falling out with Spain, which opposes his aims in the Caribbean and supports the exiled Charles Stuart.

In this febrile atmosphere, Frances’s marriageability acquires an important political dimension. And the lively and headstrong girl soon discovers, as many young women in her position have done before, that her own wishes may not be paramount. This is all the more troubling because she has fallen in love with Robert Rich, descendant of another family prominent in Tudor times. Although he is not in the best of health, Frances is besotted – and determined to have her way. Her passion even lets her indulge in pre-marital sex. How very unpuritanical!

Malins’ easy and graceful style makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read as the story of Frances, her husband, and their brief life together unfolds. Readers who have always assumed that the Cromwellian court was a dour, colourless place will have their prejudices thoroughly challenged as we learn more about the celebrations for Frances’s wedding. Yet neither are we spared the gruesome details of Charles II’s revenge on Cromwell’s corpse and the anguish of the Cromwell family, consigned so suddenly again to obscurity.

A great service has been done to the neglected and often misunderstood years of the English republic by Miranda Malins in this book. She can now take her place alongside the wonderful historical crime novels of SG MacLean in her Seeker series, and, on the non-fiction side, Paul Lay in Providence Lost. It is high time we reclaimed this hidden piece of our history.

Linda Porter 

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About the Author

Miranda Malins is an historian specialising in the history of Oliver Cromwell and the Interregnum. She studied at Cambridge University, leaving with a PhD in 2010, and her first novel THE PURITAN PRINCESS - about Cromwell's youngest daughter - was published by Orion Fiction on 2 April 2020. Find out more at Miranda's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @MirandaMalins

Guest Reviewer Linda Porter

Linda Porter is an historian and author.  She was born in Exeter, brought up in Kent and has a D.Phil in History from the University of York.  Linda has lived in Paris and New York, where she was a History lecturer at various universities, including Fordham and the City University of New York.  On returning to the UK she changed careers and spent over twenty years working for British Telecom, many of them involved with developing the company’s corporate image in expanding international markets.  Disillusionment with the corporate world and a yearning to get back to historical research prompted her to leave BT in the early 2000s.  Since then she has written three critically acclaimed books, Mary Tudor: The First Queen, (2007), Katherine the Queen: the remarkable life of Katherine Parr, (2010) and Crown of Thistles: the fatal inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots (2013).  Her latest book, Royal Renegades: the children of Charles I and the English Civil Wars, will be published in October, 2016.  She is a regular speaker at stately homes and literary festivals throughout the country and has appeared on television and radio.  Linda is currently acting as historical consultant for a major new BBC series on the Six Wives of Henry VIII and is doing research for her next book, on the marriage of John and Sarah Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, which will finally take her back to her favourite period, the 18th century.  She is married with one daughter and lives in Kent. Find out more at Linda's website

Linda Porter’s latest book is Mistresses: sex and scandal at the court of Charles II (Picador, 2020)

Making Good Use of Amazon Editorial Reviews

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

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

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

Steps for adding Editorial Reviews to Amazon:

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

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

Tony Riches

11 July 2020

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

Available on Amazon UKAmazon US

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

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

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

Tell us about your latest book

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

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

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

What is your preferred writing routine?

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

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

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

What advice do you have for new writers?

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

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

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

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

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

What are you planning to write next?

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

Martin Lundqvist 

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About the Author

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