Mastodon The Writing Desk: June 2022

30 June 2022

Blood, Fire and Gold: The story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici, by Dr Estelle Paranque

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In sixteenth-century Europe, two women came to hold all the power, against all the odds. They were Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici.
One a Virgin Queen who ruled her kingdom alone, and the other a clandestine leader who used her children to shape the dynasties of Europe, much has been written about these iconic women. 

But nothing has been said of their complicated relationship: thirty years of friendship, competition and conflict that changed the face of Europe.

This is a story of two remarkable visionaries: a story of blood, fire and gold. It is also a tale of ceaseless calculation, of love and rivalry, of war and wisdom - and of female power in a male world. 

Shining new light on their legendary kingdoms Blood, Fire and Gold provides a new way of looking at two of history's most powerful women, and how they shaped each other as profoundly as they shaped the course of history. 

Drawing on their letters and brand new research, Estelle Paranque writes an entirely new chapter in the well-worn story of the sixteenth century.

'A story told with verve and passion' The Times, Book of the Week

'An alternative and engaging biography...accessible and unpretentious' The Telegraph

'A stunning portrayal of two of the most powerful women in European history' Tracy Borman

'Exciting and compelling, packed full of tantalising details of diplomacy and court life, Paranque succeeds both in bringing history to life, but also in putting flesh on the bones of these two extraordinary women and rival queens' Kate Mosse

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About the Author

Dr Estelle Paranque completed her PhD in Early Modern History at University College London, and is currently a Lecturer in Early Modern History at New College of the Humanities at Northeastern where she teaches courses on Early Modern Britain, Early Modern Europe, and the Early Modern World. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and she is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is also a co-convenor of the Tudor and Stuart Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in London. She has been teaching at university level for the last nine years and is dedicated to share her passion for history with the next generation. Her research interests are royal and diplomatic studies. She works on Anglo-French relations during Elizabeth's reign and on monarchical representations during the early modern period. Estelle is also very interested in public engagement and has participated in the popular historical documentary Secrets d'Histoire on France 2, BBC Radio 4, and numerous podcasts (BBC History, Viral History, Hidden Stories with Helen Carr for HistoryHit). Find out more at her website and find her on Twitter @DrEstellePrnq

25 June 2022

Death of Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk and Queen of France

I was inspired to learn about the life of henry VIII's little sister, Mary Tudor,  after I researched her birth and early life for my book, Henry – Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy. In the trilogy I’d moved forward one generation with each book, so it appealed to me to write a ‘sequel’ which did the same. I’d become intrigued with Mary’s story of how she risked everything to defy her brother when he became King Henry VIII.

I discoverd a fascinating book,  The French Queen's Letters: Mary Tudor Brandon and the Politics of Marriage in Sixteenth-Century Europe (Queenship and Power) by Erin Sadlack, which includes all Mary’s surviving letters, many with replies, as well as an insightful analysis of her state of mind at the time. 

I wanted to explore Mary’s vulnerability as well as her strengths, and to understand he she felt when her brother, King Henry VIII, broke off her engagement to young Prince Charles, future Emperor of Rome, to marry her off to the fifty-two-year-old King Louis XII of France. Although Mary was barely eighteen at the time, Henry saw his younger sister as a small price to pay for a treaty with France.

I enjoyed untangling the many myths about what happened next, from causing the death of King Louis with her ‘passionate exertions’ to her dying of ‘grief at her brother’s divorce from her friend Catherine of Aragon.’ I also had the benefit of knowing a great deal about the people and places of Mary’s world.

The difficulties came when I had to show Mary’s struggles with the dangers of medieval childbirth. I was present at my daughter’s and my son’s births, and there are plenty of historical accounts to draw from, but I believe only a woman can fully understand how it feels to bring a new life into the world.

Mary suffered from a recurring illness throughout her life, and died aged only thirty seven years old, at Westhorpe Hall in Suffolk, on the 25th of June 1533, having never fully recovered from catching the sweating sickness she caught five years before. 

The companion book to Mary - Tudor Princess, tells the story of Mary Tudor's husband, Charles Brandon, who was King Henry VIII's lifelong friend. Brandon - Tudor Knight, as well as the story of Brandon's last wife, Katherine Willoughby, Katherine - Tudor Duchess, are available on Amazon as the Brandon trilogy.

Tony Riches

See Also:

Exploring Westhorpe Hall, Home of Mary Tudor (Queen of France) and Charles Brandon

Visiting the Tomb of Mary Tudor, Queen of France

Visiting St Margaret's Westhorpe - Parish Church of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Sir Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

Researching and Writing Mary – Tudor Princess

DNA Testing Mary Tudor, Queen of France

24 June 2022

Special Guest Interview with Craig R. Hipkins, Author of Clement: The Templar’s Treasure

Available at Amazon US and Amazon UK

Clement & Dagena return for another action packed adventure. From the cold and dreary shores of Greenland to the fabled land of Vinland. The legendary treasure of the Knights Templar awaits.

I'm pleased to welcome author Craig R. Hipkins to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your book

My book Clement: The Templar’s Treasure is a sequel to Clement: The Green Ship. It takes place in the mid-12th century and tells the story of Clement, a 14-year-old noble boy and his friends who travel from the shores of Greenland to the fabled land of Vinland in search of the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Clement has a good idea where the Templar’s hid the treasure a dozen years earlier, after he finds a journal found on a ghost ship off the coast of Portugal gives him tantalizing clues. Of course, he must first get to Vinland. When he finally arrives, he finds more than one problem that gets between him and his objective.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I prefer to write at night in my library with a steaming cup of coffee. However, since I have a regular day job, I write whenever I get the chance. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

The best advice that I can give to an aspiring writer is to keep plugging away and honing your writing skill. The more you write the sharper your skills become and it gets easier for your thoughts to flow. 

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

Raising awareness of my books is always the tricky part. I have tried book promotions in the past. Some of them work and some of them do not. I find the best way to do it is to advertise on social media and other venues. Also, Comic conventions are a good outlet for YA books like the Clement series. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

My research for this book led me to study the indigenous inhabitants of early New England. Unlike the better-known Aztec and Mayan empires that were flourishing at this time, not much is known of the Wampanoag or Nipmuck peoples until the English colonized the region in the early 17th century. I also found out that there are quite a few words from the Algonquin language that have managed to find their way into the English lexicon.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest scene that I remember writing had to be at the end of the book when Clement faced Sven the Terrible in single combat. I wanted the scene to be realistic but at the same time, not too bloody or shocking since the book is YA. I do believe that I managed to accomplish this.

What are you planning to write next?

I am currently writing another YA novel. The name of the book is Bandy. It takes place shortly before the attack on Fort Sumter in 1860. It tells the story of a young boy whose only friend is a passenger pigeon named Bandy. He helps a young slave girl escape from a wicked slave master in rural Virginia. It is a little different from what I normally write but I am thoroughly enjoying the work.

Craig R. Hipkins

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About the Author

Craig R. Hipkins grew up in Hubbardston Massachusetts. He is the author of medieval and gothic fiction. His novel, Adalbert is the sequel to Astrolabe written by his late twin brother Jay S. Hipkins (1968-2018) He is an avid long-distance runner and enjoys astronomy in his spare time. Find out more at Craig's website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @CraigHipkins

17 June 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Diary of a Plague Doctor's Wife: A Novella set in 1720s Marseille, by Heather R Darsie

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Our heroine, a young woman living outside 18th-century Marseille, France is delighted to marry a young medical doctor from Montpellier. 

The doctor shows an interest in studying illnesses, especially how to prevent the spread of disease. Unfortunately, his abilities and our heroine's marriage are put to the test in June 1720 when the Great Plague of Marseille hits, killing almost fifty percent of the local population. 

This epistolary novella tracks the woes and dangers of living through an epidemic in early 18th century France using humor and emotion.

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About the Author

Heather R. Darsie lives in the United States. She has a Bachelor of Arts in German Languages and Literature, and a Juris Doctorate. During her time at university, she studied in Costa Rica and France, with visits to Germany and other countries. She is currently studying for an MA in Early Modern History. Find out more at  and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @HRDarsieHistory

15 June 2022

Blog Tour Excerpt from The Wistful and the Good, by G. M. Baker

New From Amazon UK and Amazon US

The mighty are undone by pride, the bold by folly, and the
good by wistfulness. 
Elswyth's mother was a slave, but her father is a thegn, and Drefan, the man she is to marry, is an ealdorman's son. But though Elswyth is content with the match, and waits only for Drefan to notice that she has come to womanhood, still she finds herself gazing seaward, full of wistful longing. From the sea come Norse traders, bringing wealth, friendship, and tales of distant lands. But in this year of grace 793 the sea has brought a great Viking raid that has devastated the rich mon-astery of Lindisfarne. Norse are suddenly not welcome in Northumbria, and when Elswyth spots a Norse ship approaching the beach in her village of Twyford, her father fears a Viking raid.

The Wistful and the Good – Excerpt:

“Watch my basket,” Elswyth said to Hilda as she leapt up from her seat. She ignored Hilda’s indignant reply and ran to Leif, pulling his fingers away to inspect the wound. There was a gash on his temple that was bleeding freely.
   “Put pressure on it,” she said.
   “I was,” he replied, putting his hand back in place over the wound.
   “Come to the kitchen. We must put some honey on it to stop it from festering.”
   She led him to the kitchen as if he were a child. The monk looked up when she came in. He was startled to see her, and his hand darted up to pull his cowl over his eyes. Unfortunately, the hand that darted up was holding a candle. He yelped when the candle burned him, dropped it, and then patted out the flames that had started to catch in his cowl, singeing his bare hands.
   Elswyth stepped quickly to pick up the candle before it set fire to the rushes on the floor. “Perhaps I should wear a bell around my neck so you can hear me coming,” she said. 
   The monk did not reply, but looked sheepish and hunted around for a water bucket in which to cool his singed hands.
   Elswyth took the honey pot down from the shelf and made Leif sit on a bench while she slathered the wound with enough honey to stop the blood from flowing. Then she ripped a rag into strips and used it to tie a bandage in place around his head to keep the honey on the wound. 
   “Who did this?” she demanded, when she was satisfied that the bandage would stay on. 
   “Boys throwing stones,” he said with a shrug, as if the wound had come as no surprise to him.
   “How many?”
   “Two I think. Hiding in the dunes.”
   “This high?”
   “About that.”
   “I know who they are, the little vermin. I’ll fix them.” 
   She stormed out of the kitchen and returned a few minutes later dragging two boys by the ears, which she was twisting fiercely. They screeched horribly, but though they were almost as big as she was, neither made any attempt to escape her, knowing what lashes they would suffer if they offered any resistance to their thegn’s daughter. 
   “Apologize,” she said, forcing them to their knees in front of Leif.
   “Do not make them kneel to me,” Leif said, getting to his feet. “If they are men, let them stand. If they are children, let them go.”
   She looked at him with surprise. It was the sort of thing she expected Thor to say, not Leif. She let go of their ears. They looked at each other, each wanting to know if the other wanted to run. But they did not run. They stood and faced Leif.
   “You are freemen’s sons?” Leif asked.
   “Yes, sir,” they muttered, eyes downcast.
   “Your fathers broke bread and shared a cup of hospitality with me in your lord’s hall.” Leif said. “You have broken the laws of hospitality. Your thegn will want vengeance for my blood that you have spilled. With you, this is done with money. What is the wergild for drawing the blood of a lord who is your lord’s guest?” 
   “More than their fathers can afford,” Elswyth said. “The only way they could pay would be to sell themselves into slavery. Or sell these two.”
   The two boys looked very pale.
   “There is always the old way,” Leif said. “Simple vengeance. Man to man. Blow for blow. No need to tell your fathers, or the thegn. Would you prefer that?”
   The two boys looked at each other, then turned back to him and nodded shyly. Leif struck the first, an open-handed blow to the ear that knocked him down but did not draw blood. The boy bit his lip to hold back tears and struggled to his feet. The other had tears already starting in the corners of his eyes, which he clamped firmly shut. Leif gave him the same blow, sending him sprawling. He struggled to his feet like his friend, cuffing tears from his eyes as he did so.
   “Quits?” Leif asked.
   “Quits,” they said, looking at the floor.
   “If we are at quits, look me in the eye.”
   They slowly raised their eyes to his, and held them there.
   “You bore my vengeance bravely,” Leif said. “Shall we be friends?”
   They looked up at him and nodded wordlessly. 
   He held out his hand to each in turn and they shook it, then stood gawping at him, with no idea of what to do next.
   “Get out,” Elswyth snapped at them. 
   They turned to go. 
   “Waes hael”, Leif said to them. 
   They turned. “Waes hael,” they whispered, and then turned and fled. 
   “That will be all over the village in the time it takes to sing Sext,” the monk said. 
   “No,” Leif said. “They broke hospitality. That is a serious matter, even among the Anglish. They will not boast of it. Besides, we are friends now. To shake a man’s hand and call him a friend is as good as an oath, and no boy wants to be known as an oath breaker.”
   “Why do young men make friends with their fists?” Elswyth asked. She was curious, for she had seen it many times before.
   “No man wants a coward for a friend,” Leif answered, as if there were no mystery to it at all.

G. M. Baker

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About the Author

G. M. Baker has been a newspaper reporter, managing editor, freelance writer, magazine contributor, PhD candidate, seminarian, teacher, desktop publisher, programmer, technical writer, department manager, communications director, non-fiction author, speaker, consultant, and grandfather. He has published stories in The Atlantic Advocate, Fantasy Book, New England’s Coastal Journal, Our Family, Storyteller, Solander, and Dappled Things. There was nothing much left to do but become a novelist. Find out more at his website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @mbakeranalecta

13 June 2022

Book Review: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir, by Chris Packham

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

I read TV naturalist Chris Packham's childhood memoir after seeing his documentary 'The Walk That Made Me', where he spoke of his childhood and living with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome. I knew Fingers in the Sparkle Jar had been a Sunday Times best-seller, but was surprised by the book in a number of ways.

His writing style challenges the conventions of memoir writing, with sudden switching of point of view, a non-linear timeline, and the occasional 'stream of consciousness' narrative.The prose veers from lyrical, almost literary, to confusing passages, yet the result is convincing and entertaining on several levels. Here is an example extract:

A door barked, a dog slammed, a tired butterfly sagged over some wilted daisies, the yellow beak of a shiny bird dribbled notes from the eaves and a sun hat with a pram sparkling wheels and clicking heels crossed the road. Everything was burned and bleached, the sunshine was exhausting....

The biggest surprise was the honesty with which a champion of nature preservation admits to collecting rare birds eggs, snaring foxes, and taking a young falcon from the nest as a pet. There are also harrowing accounts of the bullying Chris suffered at school - without understanding the reason. At one point he asks his therapist,  'How could anyone be happy as a child?' These italicised passages reveal the troubled, even suicidal legacy of a childhood living with undiagnosed illness.

There are glimpses of his relationship with his parents throughout, but only at the end do we learn of his father's patience, understanding and support.  This has been voted the nation's favourite nature book, and I was inspired by Chris Packham's success against the odds.

Tony Riches

11 June 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Shadow of the Tower (The Queen's Intelligencer Book 2) by Peter Tonkin

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Richmond Palace, March 1603. Queen Elizabeth lies dying, surrounded by her Privy Council led by Robert Cecil. Even on her death-bed, she refuses to name a successor.

But Cecil has already commissioned Queen’s Intelligencer Robert Poley and his spies to ensure a smooth succession for James VI of Scotland and the removal of anyone who might stand between Cecil and the new king.

Soon a ring is being carried north to King James. The ring is a message in itself: the queen is dead. But the succession is not formally settled to everyone’s satisfaction. The ring-carrier only survives an assassination attempt because he is being shadowed by one of Poley’s operatives.

Alerted by the incident, the agent redoubles his efforts. And he uncovers plot after plot, pushing a dangerous array of alternative candidates, supported and financed by Protestant England’s most implacable enemies.

James places his trust in Cecil and begins to progress southward towards London surrounded by allies and possible enemies.

As Poley unmasks one traitor after another and sends them to the Tower of London for interrogation, the intelligencer realises that the fate of James - and the kingdom - rests in his hands.

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About the Author

Peter Tonkin attended the Queen’s University, Belfast, 1969 – 75, where he studied with Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Bernard MacLaverty and Ciaran Carson; and directed Ciaran Hinds in Hamlet.  He published his first novel, Killer, to international acclaim in 1978.  Since then he has divided his time between writing and teaching.  He has published 52 other novels including the Master of Defence series of Elizabethan murder mysteries and the 30-book Mariner series of action-adventure-thrillers.  Since retiring from teaching, he has been preparing a series of thrillers set in Ancient Rome.  He is pictured here preparing to attend a Literary Evening at Trinity College, Oxford, of which he is a Benefactor. Find out more at Peter's website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @petertonkin50

9 June 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Accursed King (The Plantagenet Legacy Book 4) by Mercedes Rochelle

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

What happens when a king loses his prowess? The day Henry IV could finally declare he had vanquished his enemies, he threw it all away with an infamous deed. No English king had exe-cuted an archbishop before. 

And divine judgment was quick to follow. Many thought he was struck with leprosy—God's greatest punishment for sinners. From that point on, Henry's health was cursed and he fought doggedly on as his body continued to betray him—reducing this once great warrior to an invalid. Fortunately for England, his heir was ready and eager to take over. 

But Henry wasn't willing to relinquish what he had worked so hard to preserve. No one was going to take away his royal prerogative—not even Prince Hal. But Henry didn't count on Hal's dauntless nature, which threatened to tear the royal family apart. 

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About the Author

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog: to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves. Find out more from and find Mercedes on Facebook and Twitter @authorrochelle

7 June 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Daughters of the Famine Road, by Bridget Walsh

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

When they meet, Jane and Annie have much in common. As young Irish women in the 1840s, they both know the value of family, home and friendship. 

Even more importantly, they understand the need to survive against a backdrop of famine, disease and cruel colonial rule.

With Ireland crumbling around them and peril at every turn, can these tenacious women overcome the arc of history and create a better life?

"A moving story of resilience and survival: What shines brightest in this impressive historical novel set amongst the poverty, disease and cruelty of colonial Ireland in the 1840s is the women, movingly and sympathetically portrayed by Bridget Walsh." (Amazon reviewer)

"The settings are vivid and realistic. I could almost feel the chill of a freezing January morning and see the bare fields covered with snow. A real page turner that remained in the mind long after the final word. Can’t wait for the next in the series." (Amazon reviewer)

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About the Author

Bridget Walsh is descended from  Irish immigrants and lives in Leicester, UK. She says, "I read lots of non-fiction about the Famine but nothing about how women and their families managed in this terrible time. So I started to write a novel. I soon realised I needed to learn the art of writing as opposed to the craft of it and completed my Masters degree in creative writing December 2021 One day, my six beautiful grandchildren may want to read about their Irish heritage and history.  These novels are for them."  Find out more at Bridget's website and follow her on Twitter @bridgetw1807 

6 June 2022

Book Launch Guest Post by Samantha Wilcoxson, Author of But One Life

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

But One Life: The Story of Nathan Hale is an intimate retelling of the life of a great American patriot. As a young man, he debated philosophy at Yale and developed his personal politics of the revolution. Shortly after graduation, he joined the Continental Army and volunteered a spy in 1776. How did Nathan become a man willing to sacrifice himself with just one regret – that he had but one life to give for his country?

Inspiration for But One Life

It may seem odd, but I became inspired to write about Nathan Hale during research for my nonfiction book, Women of the American Revolution. Some ideas for novels about women of the era are percolating in my brain as well, but Nathan’s was the one that grabbed hold of me and demanded to be written first.

What most people remember about Nathan Hale is that he was an American spy who was captured by the British on Long Island. He was hanged, possibly after paraphrasing Cato with the words, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.’ His life was snuffed out tragically early in the war on 22 September 1776 when Hale was only twenty-one years old.

One of the reasons Nathan Hale intrigued me was because, though he was a young man, he shared many characteristics with the women I typically write about. He was erudite, faithful, and loyal to his friends and family. So many young men like him lost their lives in the American Revolution but few in such a publicly tragic way. His unreached potential and sacrificed future tugged at my heartstrings, as I’m sure it will my those of my readers. 

The story of Nathan’s life made me wonder about my own sons, currently aged eighteen and twenty-three. What would they do if faced with the decisions that Hale was forced to make? Would they be willing to lay down their lives? Would I be able to face watching them do so? It made me want to write a story that is as full of emotion as my stories about women but from a point of view that young men – and people of all ages – can relate.

I enjoyed researching and writing about Nathan’s time at Yale with his best friend and brother, Enoch Hale. Developing their relationship was satisfying but heartbreaking, knowing where it would lead. Benjamin Tallmadge, who many readers will know from the television series TURN, was another fun historical figure to include. Tallmadge was close friends with Nathan and committed himself to successful espionage strategies for the Americans after Nathan’s death. Instead of seeing these young men as names in a history book, I hope readers connect with them as friends, brothers, sons … fellow patriots.

It felt remarkably easy to transport myself to the revolutionary era, and I hope I have helped readers do the same. What these young men faced were decisions with no easy answers and sacrificial lives that could have easily led to defeat. Nathan Hale is remembered as the quintessential American patriot. After reading But One Life, I hope that readers remember him as a living, breathing person who was willing to sacrifice everything he had – even his life – for his country and for those of us who enjoy unprecedented freedom today.

Revolution. Friendship. Sacrifice.

But One Life: The Story of Nathan Hale is an intimate retelling of the life of a great American patriot. As a young man, he debated philosophy at Yale and developed his personal politics of the revolution. Shortly after graduation, he joined the Continental Army and volunteered a spy in 1776. How did Nathan become a man willing to sacrifice himself with just one regret – that he had but one life to give for his country?

Experience the American Revolution alongside Nathan, his brother, Enoch, and good friends like Benjamin Tallmadge. They dream of liberty and independence. But at what cost?

Friendship, faith, love, and loyalty motivate young Nathan to become a name recognized throughout America as the quintessential patriot.

If I had ten thousand lives, I would lay them all down.

Samantha Wilcoxson

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About the Author

Writer of historical fiction and sufferer of wanderlust, Samantha enjoys exploring the past. She strives to reveal the deep emotions and motivations of historical figures, enabling readers to connect with them in a unique way. Samantha is an American writer with British roots and proud mother of three amazing young adults. She can frequently be found lakeside with a book in one hand and glass of wine in the other. Find out more at Samantha's blog and find her on Facebook and Twitter @carpe_librum

5 June 2022

Special Guest Interview with C. P. Giuliani, Author of The Road to Murder (Tom Walsingham Mysteries Book 1)

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England, 1581: Nineteen-year-old Thomas Walsingham is thrilled to be working as a confidential courier, carrying messages between London and Paris for his illustrious cousin, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham … until everything goes wrong.

I'm pleased to welcome author C. P. Giuliani to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book 

The Road to Murder is the first in a series, the Tom Walsingham Mysteries. It’s part good old murder mystery, part espionage thriller, set in the early 1580s between England and France. 

In this first instalment, nineteen-year-old Tom is working as a diplomatic courier for his powerful kinsman, secretary of state and spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. Tasked with escorting to Paris the Queen of Navarre’s new English glove-maker, Tom thinks he’s in for a mundane, rather boring journey. Last famous words! Soon he and his party are ambushed in the woods of Picardy, people start turning up dead, and things in general begin to look like a conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth… Only, not all is as it seems, and Tom, left without orders or official papers, will have the devil of a time, racing back to England before the culprits can wreak more havoc. 

Thomas Walsingham is a real-life character, like a good few others in the book, and The Road to Murder is loosely based on episodes in his life.

What is your preferred writing routine? 

I must confess that I don’t have much in the way of routines. I work in a theatre, and also as a freelance editor and translator – a combination that makes for rather erratic schedules… My one constant is that I write and/or do research every single day. I take notes (oodles of them!), plot, and sketch scenes in longhand in a notebook, and then do the actual writing at my computer, while drinking cup after cup of tea.  Not terribly methodical, perhaps – but it works for me.  

What advice do you have for new writers? 

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Learn the craft, and always be willing to step out of your comfort zone. I used to have a mentor, a wonderful person who never allowed me to take the easier route. It was uncomfortable at times, but it taught me a valuable lesson that I try to live and work by – and to pass on whenever I can: it pays to always challenge oneself a little harder. 

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

I’m still rather new to the game. I published three historical novels in Italy, back in the day, but that was before things like Goodreads and Twitter became so vital to publishing. The Road to Murder is the first novel I’ve published in some time, and my very first in English. I incline to believe that word-of-mouth 2.0 may just be the ticket: reviews, blogging, social reading, book blogs such as The Writing Desk… I’ll find out with time, I guess. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research 

One of the joys of writing historical fiction is the endless treasure hunt that is research. You never know what you’ll find when you delve through books, documents, and the Internet. One favourite nugget I recently unearthed, while combing through the Calendar of State Papers for Scotland, was the record of a street brawl between a Scottish ambassador’s men and a few hot-blooded citizens of Durham, in the summer of 1583. One of the Scots made a deposition before the local City magistrates, complete with a blow-by-blow description of the action, wonderful dialogue, and Scottish brogue: it was very much like a curtain opening on a vivid slice of real-life swashbuckling! 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing? 

In The Road to Murder I thought I’d never manage the couple of scenes I set in Montreuil-sur-Mer, a small French town where Tom gets in trouble. I wanted to know what the place looked like in 1581, where the gaol would be, and the gates, and so on – and could find no reliable documentation. Earlier, yes; later, enough to drown in it – but nothing about ‘my’ time, when I knew that Montreuil had been extensively rebuilt. At one point I tried to settle for a combination of vagueness and guesswork, and still wasn’t satisfied. It just didn’t feel right. In the end I wrote to the local museum, and found this incredibly generous curator, who shared with me his knowledge, his historical maps, whole chapters of local history books… I ended up spending ages on the Montreuil scenes – but they are all the better for it.

What are you planning to write next?

I’ve just handed in Book 2 of the Tom Walsingham Mysteries, A Treasonous Path, due out later this year, always with Sapere Books.  Now I’m up to my ears in research for Book 3, and more mayhem for Tom to unravel. Meanwhile, I plan to devote some time to my new-found love for flash fiction, and I also have a play in the works… Never a minute of boredom! 

C. P. Giuliani

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About the Author

C. P. Giuliani lives in Mantua, Italy, and 
began by studying the Classics and International Relations – and then swerved to the timber trade first, and later the pen and the stage. A passion for history and stories has led her to write historical fiction both in Italian and English. She also writes, directs, teaches playwriting, does backstage work, and very occasionally understudies with Mantua’s historic Compagnia Campogalliani. Find out more from her website and find her on Twitter @laClarina

4 June 2022

Book Launch Guest Post ~ Researching the The Importance of Sons: Chronicles of the House of Valois, by Keira Morgan

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1491, France conquers Brittany. As part of the peace treaty, fifteen-year-old Duchess Anne must marry the young French king. She arrives in France, defeated, homesick and surrounded by enemies. Once the ruler of her duchy, her only value and duty as queen is to provide an heir. With only her pride to sustain her, can Anne make a place for herself in her enemy’s court?

Thank you for inviting me to your blog. I am a fan of yours, for we write of the same period, in neighbouring and normally enemy countries.

In my previous interview, I mentioned that my second book would focus on the enmity between Queen Anne and Countess Louise d’Angoulême and answer to questions. Why and how had their animosity come about? What events had occurred for it to become so deep and rancorous?

I didn’t have a title when I began. My research led me to the short answer, which the title summarizes: The Importance of Sons.

How I conduct my research

I think many historical novelists enjoy the research as much as writing the novel. For me, this is very much the case. Conducting the research for this second novel went much more quickly than for the first because I had already completed all the basic work. By this I mean I had already read the background books, developed a detailed timeline of Anne’s life and Louise’s life, since they were two of the major characters in The Importance of Pawns. I had also visited the major places in Brittany, the Loire Valley and Paris in which Anne and Louise had lived to have a visceral experience of the places and landscapes of their lives.

The years between 1483 and 1594—the years of the Italian Wars and the Wars of Religion in France—have fascinated me for most of my adult life. I regularly read the academic articles, the novels and the published primary research in English and French that is available on sites like Cour de France, the wonderful digital collection of Sixteenth Century French Books in Print,, and nineteenth century and earlier novels on Project Gutenberg [I have collected them as a free list on my website since they are hard to find], to name but a few examples.

Because I now live in Mexico, I do all my research on the computer. Therefore, when I come across something that relates to my topics or era, I either download it immediately or send myself an email link. This may make me sound more organized than I am. Really, all it means is that I have a huge download archive and a mail folder called research that I clean up every couple of months. But when I need specific information, I know where to find it.

How I researched The Importance of Sons

Once I know my question for The Importance of Sons, and since I already had the main events and timelines of the lives of both Anne and Louise, I wrote an outline for the novel. I am a plotter, not a pantser. The person whose system has spoken to me is Libby Hawker, in Take Off Your Pants.

The detailed plan for my novel provides me with a starting point for the next part of my research. With it, I know what locations will be important, which characters I will use and which events I will emphasize. Then I burrow deeply to find out everything I can about those things.

For example, in this novel, there is a conspiracy in Brittany in 1492 shortly after Anne married King Charles VIII. This event could weave into the animosity between Anne and Louise. So, I researched the event to find out who was involved and how it unfolded, to create a series of fictional scenes based on historical facts.

One of the research domains that I have had to delve into that I was not expecting is genealogical research. I don’t know why I was surprised when I consider how much time my real people spent talking about who was related to whom. But now, when a new person appears on the scene, very early I poke into his or her family. It rarely takes very long to find they are related, and closely related, to the people around them. It explains many of the alliances and the issues.

Another set of tools I use frequently is everything on the internet that relates to the climate, weather, geography, topography, and history of the locations where my people live. Often there is great tourist information, Google 3-D and historical maps, virtual museum tours, tours of the towns and Châteaux, municipal and familial archives available. 

I search for anything that can provide me with accurate information about the places I am writing about. My goal is to imagine myself in the setting where my people live, to picture them living, walking or riding around, smelling the odours, shivering in their castles in the winter, sweating in their heavy dresses and they dance the galliard in the great hall, reading their Books of Hours at their prie-dieux.

It helps to have travelled extensively in France, but the online materials refresh my memories and the factual information about weather, flora and fauna, history and appearance make me feel secure in my imaginings.

My Writing Technique

I start by reading the outline of the scene I plan to write and I try to do it the night before. As I do other activities, I let my imagination play around with it, with the characters and what they say, what they are wearing , things like that, since I have already determined the setting and the purpose of the scene. When I sit down, if I have a good sense of the scene, I will just write it. If I don’t. I will often do some detailed research about the setting to draw myself into the location. Most of the time, that is enough to pull me into the scene so I can write it.

What About Research Errors?

Sometimes I will find new research that alters my knowledge of the facts. Nothing so far had been earth shattering, or I should probably say, story shattering. Even if I did, I would not be crushed.

First, I am writing fiction, not history, so I look upon it as unfortunate not a professional failure. It will be something that to mention as a deviation from known facts in the afterward in another edition and on my website when I update it.

Second, historians continue to research the period, using new methods allow them to probe fresh materials to uncover different facts. One can only hope that such dedicated work will result in revised understandings of the past. The importance of women in the past has been underestimated because the historical record to date provides little about them. I can only trust that new research will turn up evidence of the greater role I am certain they played.

Keira Morgan

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About the Author

Keira Morgan retired from training and management in the Canadian Public Service to follow a career as an author. She now writes from Mexico where she lives happily with a husband, two cats and two dogs. Her doctoral level studies in Renaissance history underlie her historical fiction. She writes about the turbulent sixteenth-century French Renaissance. Her stories tell of powerful women who challenged tradition to play crucial roles in French affairs.  Keira also maintains a non-fiction website, All About French Renaissance Women, [] where she writes about the lives of Frenchwomen during the era. She plans to collect their biographies into a book. Find out more at Keira's website  and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KJMMexico 

3 June 2022

Special Guest Interview with Adele Jordan, Author of The Gentlewoman Spy (Book 1 in the Kit Scarlett Series)

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Join Kit in a thrilling historical espionage novel!  What happens when the spymaster’s right-hand man turns out to be a woman…?

I'm pleased to welcome author Adele Jordan to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

What if Walsingham’s right-hand man was a woman? Kit Scarlett works for Elizabethan spymaster, Francis Walsingham, but she’s different to his other spies. As the one woman in his outfit, she’s able to go where no man can go, moving between the underworld and the aristocratic sphere, dressed as a man or a woman when she likes.

Kit knows her purpose – to keep Queen Elizabeth safe. When Walsingham reveals there’s news of a vigilante group preparing to kill the queen and place Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne, Kit is prepared to do anything to stop it. That also means she must work alongside a Scottish spy, Iomhar Blackwood.

The two are a difficult match. They like to work alone, and with their styles contrasting, the two come up against discovery more than once. Facing a rebel group hidden in the shadows, and a woman prepared to do anything to see her beloved Queen of Scots on the throne, Kit will find she must place her trust in Iomhar if she is to save the Queen of England. 

The Gentlewoman Spy is an historical twist on the spy thriller genre. With a heroine prepared to climb rocks to reach castles, fire crossbows, and break into prisons, Kit is a different kind of Tudor woman. She’d much rather wear a hose and jerkin than a corset and a farthingale. She’s certainly courageous, but her daring could lead her into danger.  

What is your preferred writing routine?

As a full-time writer, if I’m not working on my own tales, then I’m working on my ghost-writing. This means I get to write for others under pseudonyms, bringing stories to life that are sometimes other people’s ideas or themes. The output is big, and it can be demanding with quick deadline turnarounds and lots of work. That means a lot of time is spent in my study under the skylight windows and at the dark wood desk, with my head bent over the laptop. 

I’m not one of those people that say I must do a certain amount of word count each day. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that life doesn’t always make things so easy. Sometimes we need the freedom to change our timetable and having that demanding word count can be an unnecessary pressure. So, I’m not always strict with my output. 

Weekends are my days off, and in the weekdays, I have certain times I work between. That can be 7am to 4pm, or 8am to 5pm, and in that time I get as much done as I can, whether that is researching, writing or planning. There was a time when I used to work in the evening too, but these days I close the study door on the writing world and step back. 

I think of it being rather like closing the cover on a notebook with that door. The writing is done for the day, and the evening is now free to think of something else. Sometimes, I’ll spend all evening with my mind still imagining another world, so that I go to bed creating new tales in my head, but sometimes, the door is shut for a good reason. We all need a break! That breather to think of other things means I can come back fresh to start again the next morning.

For me, the study is the best place to write. It’s full of books on every shelf, and some plants too, along with a few antiques that just help to inspire that sense of history. I have two framed pictures from the 1860s that are hand-painted prints of engravings made for a woman’s fashion magazine published in London. They are beautiful pictures, evocative of the fashion of the time, and it is this sort of surviving drop from history that helps to inspire when I’m sat there at my desk.

I’ll go out for inspiration when I can, but I’ll never mind being trapped at home to do some work behind my desk when it’s raining outside. After all, I’m not really there – my head is somewhere else. Maybe it’s in Tudor England, Highland Scotland, or Regency London. I can sometimes get so lost in that world that it’s something of a surprise when there’s a knock at the door and I’m reminded I’m still at home in the Mendips.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Practice. I cannot stress that enough. They say, ‘practice makes perfect,’ but I’m going to say that practice makes better. No one knows what is perfect when it comes to writing, or everyone would do it and be a bestseller, but practice certainly brings into context what readers like and how to craft your art.

I started writing when I was young. I remember typing short stories on my parents’ computer on a Saturday afternoon. Even though these were stories that never went anywhere, it was part of the journey. I had the classic training of English at university, and an internship at a short story journal, but the thing that informed my writing the most was writing stories. Some of them will never see the light of day (perhaps that is a very good thing!), but only by doing it did I learn how to get better. It's what I’d encourage any new writer to do. 

You need to do your research as well. Keep reading stories, keep watching films, tv and theatre too. Sometimes it’s not about where you find a story, as long as you’re understanding what makes a good tale. Then, put your pen to paper, or fingers to a computer keyboard, and get practicing! 

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

I’m still at the beginning of my journey, so I don’t know yet the best way to raise awareness of my books. Something I will say though is to never underestimate the power of speaking to those you meet. I’ve had many conversations with strangers, whether that’s in shoe shops or wandering the beautiful grounds of Montacute House in Somerset, where people ask what you do. Everyone is very kind, they light up when you say you’re a writer and at once, they want to know where to find your book and how to read it. 

It's a lovely thing and produces such excitement. After all, as writers all we want is people to enjoy our tales, so when describing them to someone you meet, it’s a real thrill to see how they respond and grow intrigued by the hints of the tale that you drop. Word of mouth! It can be a powerful thing. 

Tell us something unexpected during your research?

Before writing The Gentlewoman Spy, I had my nose stuck in records and research books for months on end, even late into evenings when my eyes were falling closed with the need for sleep. That research though was never dull. 

One of the best things I read in my time doing the research was Ruth Goodman’s How to Behave Badly in the Renaissance. Anyone who is looking for a good laugh as they do some research for this era, I would recommend that you pick up this book. I discovered many unexpected and entertaining things.

It seems that when women were found to fight in this era, their outbursts were directed mostly at the other ladies’ heads. Coifs were dragged off, hats discarded, and locks were pulled loose. The idea was that to show your hair too much was a very sexual thing, so by doing so, you were suggesting the woman you were attacking was a harlot. Baffling in this day and age, but scandalous if you lived in Renaissance Britain.

This was just one of the surprising things I found. I learned how to bow to make fun of your superior, how to walk behind a soldier to mock him, how to pull hand signals that were disgusting or belittling, though today such signals would look more like trying to recreate a bunny’s ears. There’s how to walk up a set of stairs without tripping on your hem (moving your legs in an inwardly circular motion before taking a step up), and how a woman could upset a man simply by wearing her hat at a jaunty angle. I have a feeling I would have found the latter just too tempting to refuse… A simple rebellion, but who could resist?

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

No one likes to make their hero weak, but Kit has a weakness, like any other good character. When we first meet Kit, she is afraid of water. Never having learnt to swim, it’s a challenge that she comes up against repeatedly, and that fear can petrify her. The suspension in water, not just in terms of the action of a scene, but writing the mental anguish as well, is not an easy thing to create. It is these moments where Kit is hovering in water that everything has to fall still… Can she escape the water? Or is she lost to her fears? 

I think it’s something we can all relate to, this feeling of being incapable of combating our fear. It’s a very hard scene to write, but I hope, in the end, it is something that readers can relate to, whilst praying she can get back out of the water again.

What are you planning to write next?

Kit Scarlett’s next two adventures are already in the pipeline, so now I’m onto her fourth. A thrilling adventure where she’s off to Scotland, in search of Iomhar Blackwood’s past. Hopefully, a research trip to Scotland will be needed!

Adele Jordan

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About the Author

Adele Jordan is a writer with a fascination for history. Her focus is fiction in the Tudor era, telling the stories of women and adventure. Whether it’s inspired by true events or created purely from imagination, she desires to write stories from this captivating era that haven’t been written before of those on the edges of society, the paupers, the spies, the workers and those who have not had a voice. Adele studied English at the University of Exeter before moving into an eclectic career of publishing and marketing. Having worked with the National Trust’s photography department for two years, Adele travelled the country to visit the landscapes and historical places that have carved England and Wales’ heritage. When Covid struck, the job disappeared overnight, and Adele committed her time to ghost writing and authoring her own stories. Since then, she has had over twenty successful books published as a ghostwriter and hopes to turn that success into stories now written in her own name. Find out more at Adele's website and follow her on Twitter @ALJordan_writer

2 June 2022

Special Guest Interview with Linnea Tanner, Author of Apollo’s Raven (Curse of Clansmen and Kings, Book 1)

Available at Amazon US and Amazon UK

Apollo’s Raven is the first book in the Historical Fantasy series, Curse of Clansmen and Kings, that weaves Celtic mythology into the historical backdrop of 24 AD Britannia and Rome. The epic tale begins when British tribal kings hand-picked by Rome are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. The king’s daughter, Catrin, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf. Trained as a warrior, Catrin must find a way to break the curse, but she is torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy, Marcellus, and loyalty to her people. She must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that threatens the fates of everyone in her kingdom.

I'm pleased to welcome author Linnea Tanner to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your first book in the series

Award-winning Apollo’s Raven (Book 1 Curse of Clansmen and Kings) begins the epic tale in AD 24 Britannia, where British kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. 

The king’s daughter, Catrin, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf. Catrin must find a way to break the curse, but she torn between her forbidden love for Marcellus, the Roman hostage under her charge, and loyalty to her people. She must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that threatens the fates of everyone in her kingdom. 

The epic Celtic tale sweeps you into forbidden love, mythological adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. 

What is your preferred writing routine?

Before I begin writing, I’ll write a brief summary of the plotline. I usually write my first draft in longhand because I have more access to my creative processes. My characters are free to tell their story in my head, and I’m not tempted to stop and edit. I transcribe the first draft to the computer which I then extensively edit and polish after receiving feedback from trusted partners and editors. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

  • Write with passion in what interests you, not what is popular. 
  • Read other authors and learn what engages you in their stories to help you with your craftsmanship
  • Learn the craftsmanship of writing through workshops and through constructive feedback from trusted writers or editors.
  • Be open to constructive criticism, but do not let negative comments bring you down. 
  • Routinely write and finish your work even though it may be an “ugly rough draft.” Part of the writing process is to edit and smooth off the rough edges after the draft is completed.
  • Be resilient and never give up. 
What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

One of the best ways to raise awareness of my series are through blog tours, multi-author events, and through other authors. I’m a strong believer that you should support other authors and read and review their books. I sometimes use promotional sites such as below to boost my sales
  • Written Word Media:
  • Kbookpromotions:
  • My Book Cave:
Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

One of the most fascinating concepts I discovered about Celtic religion is the belief in the reincarnation of the soul. Their beliefs are consistent with the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who believed in metempsychosis, or the "transmigration of souls.” Every soul is immortal and, upon death, enters into a new body. I freely use this concept to explain shapeshifting and other magical powers in the series.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

This is a difficult question for me to answer. In general, it is hard for me to write a scene that will adversely impact a main character that I’ve grown to love and care about. I recently wrote a scene in which one of my main characters is being tortured with the threat that his wife or baby will be killed in front of his eyes unless he concedes to their father’s demands. I was in tears writing the scene because my character is ultimately forced to choose who will be spared: his wife or child. The scene is intended to be emotionally raw similar to a scene in the film, Sophie’s Choice. 

What are you planning to write next?

I’m in the process of finishing Book 4, Skull’s Vengeance, in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series which is anticipated to be released in Fall 2022. My next project is to write the pre-sequel to the series (King’s Curse) that will provide an earlier back story leading up to Apollo’s Raven.

Linnea Tanner

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About the Author

Award-winning Author Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, betrayal, and intrigue into historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids. Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include Apollo’s Raven (Book 1), Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2), and Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3). Skull’s Vengeance (Book 4 Curse of Clansmen and Kings) is anticipated to be released in late October 2022. A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren. To learn more about the author and her books, you can visit her website and find her on Twitter @linneatanner