Mastodon The Writing Desk: October 2022

28 October 2022

Special Guest Post by Richard Lamb, Author of Things That Wait in the Dark: Should Authors Create Their Own Book Covers?


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Things That Wait in the Dark brings you 20 vintage tales from that golden age. Tales of horrors both natural and supernatural. This brand new collection was compiled from the archives of the late Hugh Lamb, one of the world’s leading anthologists of vintage horror, and from discoveries made by his son, Richard. You’ll find a host of lesser known stories as well as some not seen in an anthology 
since their original publication.

The rise of self-publishing transformed the industry. As an author today, you have full control over your books, inside and out. With all the software and apps available, you can even create your own book cover. But should you?

It’s no wonder that, in your excitement to get your book out to the world, you may question the need for a professional cover artist. You think to yourself, how hard can it be? With a bit of technical experience, you can handle the job. But back away from your laptop for just a moment and let’s discuss.

As a serious writer, you’ve studied the craft and practiced newfound techniques, all in the quest to perfect your writing. You’ve written drafts, rewritten, edited, and proofread your manuscript. Maybe you even workshopped it in a writing group or hired a professional editor. Have you invested the same effort to master graphic design?

If not, you may be on your way to creating a cover that includes a couple of Googled images with a title pasted over them in a poorly chosen font with no appreciation of layout, design principles, or current industry trends. Your book deserves better than that. Its jacket should do justice to the effort and creativity contained within.

A book cover has a lot of work to do. It must catch the eye, engage the reader, but also depict the tone, genre, period, and setting of the story with the goal of selling the book to the appropriate reader. Moreover, it has to juggle all these demands while mainly existing as a tiny thumbnail in a sea of competitors. That’s a big ask for a single image and a couple of fonts. But it can be done. Just not necessarily by the writer of the book. 

Be honest with yourself: Do you have the knowledge and expertise to pull this off? After all, a cover is the face of your book. It’s the first thing people will see, before they’ve even read the synopsis. Indeed, if that cover is unattractive or misleading to your intended audience, they may not get to the synopsis at all. And let’s not forget that each time someone shares a post about your new book on social media, the cover will be put before dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of discerning eyes and potential readers. 

As a cover artist, designer and published anthologist, there’s something so pleasing about a well conceived, brilliantly executed book cover. Conversely, I find myself disheartened when I see the wasted opportunity for something special on a book that could be absolutely fantastic on the inside. 

My father, Hugh Lamb, was a rather well known writer and anthologist of Victorian ghost stories (the anthologies I now publish started as my way of memorializing him after he passed away in 2019). I came to understand the publishing business from an early age. I remember his excitement with the publication of each book and with each new cover design that came for his approval. 

I went on to attend art school and began designing and illustrating the covers for some of his books from the end of the 90s (with old-fashioned pen and ink rather than my now preferred Photoshop). I also illustrated books by other genre authors, including Ramsey Campbell. Unsurprisingly, I developed a love for the horror genre but I also learned the power of a good book cover. 

My father had a huge collection of books. One of my enduring childhood memories is creeping into my dad’s office with my brother to scare ourselves with some of the spookier covers in his collection. The ones I particularly remember are Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural by Algernon Blackwood, 

The Alabaster Hand by A. N. L. Munby, and also some of my father’s own covers (the paperback editions of Victorian Tales of Terror and The Taste of Fear spring to mind). These images, and the style in which they were done, burned themselves into my consciousness and no doubt inform the covers I produce today, both for my own books and for other authors. 

We should never forget that the cover is there solely in the service of the book. But great books stay with us forever, and I see no reason why a great book cover can’t do the same. Design is art, and your cover design should be a piece of art worthy of the work you put into that book. That is what we cover designers strive for—a cover that does its job well and would not look out of place hanging on a wall either. 

So my advice to you, dear author, as you embark on the wonderful experience of releasing your book into the wild, is make sure you hire someone to do the cover that it deserves if you are not experienced enough to do it yourself. But for those who decide that they will be doing their own cover after all, here are 5 basic pointers to help you out:

1. Design often works in trends. Look at the covers of other books in your genre. Don’t be afraid of putting your own spin on a layout you have seen and like (and that means a spin, not a direct copy). 

2. Keep it simple. Composite images are not necessarily a bad thing (I use them myself), but if you don’t understand how to compose them, you may end up with a disjointed and distracting soup. 

3. Check the ownership and licensing of the images you are using. Stock image sites can be ruthless when they discover you have used their property without purchasing the license. 

4. Typefaces/fonts matter. They speak and have utility beyond being read. Make sure you pick a typeface for your title that suits the book’s genre and tone. Look at what other books in your genre use and select something similar. A flowery script typeface on the cover of a thriller (I’ve seen it) just doesn’t work. 

5. Once you have put your elements together, look at the cover in thumbnail size. Does it catch your eye? Can you read it? Is it identifiable? If it does not work as a thumbnail, it is next to useless.

Good luck! 

Richard Lamb

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About the Author

Richard Lamb is the owner of Inspired Lamb Design, a creative agency specializing in web sites and cover art for authors. He is also a writer and anthologist. Richard’s newly released anthology THINGS THAT WAIT IN THE DARK was just featured in The Washington Post. Feel free to reach out to him at richard@inspiredlambdesign.com, visit his website at https://websites-for-authors.inspiredlambdesign.com and find him on Twitter @IldWebdesign

26 October 2022

New Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Winter Garden, by Nicola Cornick


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Remember, remember, the fifth of November…

1605: Anne Catesby fears for her family. Her son, the darkly charismatic Robert, is secretly plotting to kill the King, placing his wife and child in grave danger. Anne must make a terrible choice: betray her only child, or risk her family’s future.

Present day: When her dreams of becoming a musician are shattered, Lucy takes refuge in her family’s ancestral home in Oxfordshire. Everyone knows it was originally home to Robert Catesby, the gunpowder plotter. As Lucy spends more time in the beautiful winter garden that Robert had made, she starts to
have strange visions of a woman in Tudor dress, terrified and facing a heartbreaking dilemma.

As Lucy and Anne’s stories converge, a shared secret that has echoed through the centuries separating them, will change Lucy’s life forever…

Sweeping generations from the 1600s to the present day, with the enthralling Gunpowder Plot at its heart, Nicola Cornick’s utterly enchanting new timeslip novel will sweep you off your feet. Perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Barbara Erskine and Kate Morton.

‘A completely wonderful read. Set during the Wars of the Roses and the present day, it’s historically rich, emotional and magical. I was intrigued and immersed throughout’ TRACY REES

‘Well, Nicola has done it again! A cracking tale that wouldn’t let me put it down or turn out the light. I absolutely loved it’ KATIE FFORDE

‘Atmospheric and beautifully crafted, I guarantee this suspenseful time-slip story will have you up all night to finish’ RACHEL HORE

‘A treasure trove of historical insight, casting a new light on a compelling mystery that binds the present to the distant past’ FIONA VALPY

‘I was utterly immersed, forgetting everything but the story and the characters. Nicola’s writing is so vivid and beautiful and perfectly pitched, her plotting addictive’ JENNY ASHCROFT

‘Well researched and stylish, full of emotion from past and present, this is an engrossing mystery to keep the reader turning the pages’ ANNE O’BRIEN, author of The Queen’s Rival

‘An engaging, beautifully crafted romance that weaves together several intriguing mysteries, both ancient and modern, and questions the very essence of time itself’ ALISON WEIR, author of Six Tudor Queens

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About the Author

Nicola Cornick grew up in Yorkshire and studied History at the University of London and at Ruskin College Oxford where she was awarded a Distinction for her Maters dissertation on heroes and hero myths. She worked in academia for a number of years before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of acclaimed dual-time mysteries as well as of award-winning historical romance. When she isn’t writing, Nicola volunteers as a guide and researcher for the National Trust at the 17th century hunting lodge Ashdown House. She has given talks and chaired panels for a number of festivals and conferences including the London Book Fair, the Historical Novel Society and the Sharjah Festival of Literature.  Nicola also gives talks on public and local history topics to WIs, history societies and other interested groups. She is a former Chair of the Romantic Novelists Association and is the current RNA archivist, and a trustee of the Friends of Lydiard Park. In her spare time Nicola is a puppy walker for the Guide Dogs charity. Find out more at Nicola's website www.nicolacornick.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @NicolaCornick

25 October 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Godmother’s Secret, by Elizabeth St.John


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

What if you knew what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Would you tell? Or would you forever keep the secret?

November, 1470: Westminster Abbey. Lady Elysabeth Scrope faces a perilous royal duty when ordered into sanctuary with Elizabeth Woodville–witness the birth of Edward IV’s Yorkist son. Margaret Beaufort, Elysabeth’s sister, is desperately seeking a pardon for her exiled son Henry Tudor. 

Strategically, she coerces Lancastrian Elysabeth to be appointed godmother to Prince Edward, embedding her in the heart of the Plantagenets and uniting them in a destiny of impossible choices and heartbreaking conflict.

Bound by blood and torn by honour, when the king dies and Elysabeth delivers her young godson into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Margaret conspires with Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne. 

Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal and power of the last medieval court, defying her husband and her sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Was the rebel Duke of Buckingham to blame? Or did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.
 
Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John, best-selling author of The Lydiard Chronicles, blends her own family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing alternative story illuminating the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower.

The enduring mystery of the princes in the tower just got an exhilarating new twist. An exquisite novel—I couldn't put it down. Amy Maroney, Author of The Miramonde Series and The Sea and Stone Chronicles

 The Godmother's Secret is beautifully written with a careful balance of fiction and fact made possible thanks to Elizabeth St. John's meticulous research. The descriptions are breathtaking and well-placed. The blend of action, introspection, and drama is perfect. I loved that I did not always agree with Elysabeth. It made her character more human with independent decisions and thoughts and not simply the lovable storyteller. The other characters are also carefully fleshed out and masterfully imagined from the past. St. John has carefully added individual characteristics and behavior that breathes life into every person along the road and it made for a marvelous read. St. John's experience as a brilliant novelist shines through in this flawless story that took me on a magical journey into the past. The only complaint I have is that it ended too soon. I can't wait to get my hands on St. John's other work, The Lydiard Chronicles. Five Stars, Readers' Favorite

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About the Author

Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England, lives in California, and spends most of her time in the 17th Century. To inspire her writing, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story... Find out more at Elizabeth's website http://www.elizabethjstjohn.com/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ElizStJohn

21 October 2022

New Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Fettered King (Border Knight Book 13) by Griff Hosker


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

King Henry III rules England but it is an England controlled by barons who wish to usurp his crown. When a new Pope demands unpaid monies owed to him then Sir Henry Samuel is dispatched to Rome to buy time for the beleaguered king. 

Once in France then treachery abounds. The dangers of sailing in a sea controlled by Moorish pirates adds to the problems Sir Henry and his new squire face. Back in England the king faces threats from all quarters and soon the knights of Cleveland are once more placed in danger.

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About the Author

Griff Hosker was an English teacher before running a successful Educational Consultancy company, and return to his early passion of  writing. He began writing Roman historical fiction novels, and his catalogue has been expanded so that it ranges  from the building of Hadrian's Wall to the Korean War. He has also written an American Civil War series as well as the Napoleonic War, and his most recent series are set in World War I and World War II. Find out more at his website http://www.griffhosker.com/ and follow Griff on Facebook and Twitter @HoskerGriff

20 October 2022

Special Guest Post by Justine Strand de Oliveira, Author of The Moon Is Backwards


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Moon Is Backwards traces the arc of a woman’s life from her childhood in the drought-stricken Northeast of Brazil in the mid-1940s, to her marriage and migration to help build the new capital, Brasília, from an idealistic vision of the future to the brutal reality of the military dictatorship and the constant dangers of her husband’s involvement in the resistance. Through it all, Eva’s love of cooking sustains her as she fights to build a better future for her family and country.

My Brazilian mother-in-law was the initial inspiration for The Moon Is Backwards. Judite is a tough, sweet, resourceful woman, a brilliant cook and accomplished seamstress, and I adore her. She had a lot of stories to tell about growing up in the drought-stricken Northeast of Brazil and moving with her husband to help build Brasília in 1958. Her ten children had heard these stories so many times they were old hat, but to me they were enchanting. As a qualitative researcher in my day job, I saw everything through an anthropologic lens. I recorded her words in writing and asked her a lot of questions to get further details.

Judite was dyslexic but never realized it until I explained it to her. She had problems learning to read as a child, and she told me “The letters danced on the page” and “it was like the letters were moving under water.” She struggled mightily but learned to read and write. As a young woman she met João at church and they married. There wasn’t much work in the Northeast Brazilian state of Paraíba in the 1950s, so João accepted a contract to help build the new capital Brasília as an ironworker. At first Judite stayed in Paraíba with a toddler and a newborn, but she then did the unthinkable and flew to Brasília with the kids to be with João.

Intelligent, hardworking, and driven to succeed, Judite first found work washing clothes for the vice president’s wife. She and her family were living in a tent encampment, so she did the laundry in a nearby creek. As the city began to take shape, she began work ironing uniforms for the military, then became a salad chef in the generals’ dining room. She is apolitical and deeply religious, and never wavered from her devotion to Jesus and the Assembly of God. She is kind and generous, a true Christian. Judite has a quick wit and despite the challenges of aging and memory difficulties she can still land a funny zinger with impeccable comic timing.

I began to think about weaving Judite’s stories into a novel twenty years ago. I have an extensive academic publishing record, but I had never written fiction and I had no idea where to start, so it remained a vague thought in the back of my mind. Then my husband Jasiel and I visited Brazil from our home in London during the 2018 presidential campaign, amid the shocking ascendancy of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, a brutish former Army captain who idolizes the military and waxes nostalgic about the days of the dictatorship. 

I asked a family member what he thought of Bolsonaro and said I was concerned about possible moves toward military rule and a new dictatorship. He looked at me blankly and said, “there was never a dictatorship in Brazil.” The military-civilian dictatorship controlled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 and I couldn’t believe my ears when this highly educated person spouted this nonsense. I was stunned, then angry, and I said, that’s it. I’m going to write that novel and it’s going to be about the dictatorship. And I enrolled in a novel writing course at City, University of London.

Writing the novel required extensive research, and it is historically accurate, from the dates and persons involved in historical events, to the days of the week and phases of the moon. I drew on my years of experience with Brazil, especially the Northeast and the capital, Brasília. I engaged my teacher and mentor Martin Ouvry to edit the final draft, which he did with a light and sensitive hand. I then passed the novel along to my 12 beta readers, who provided invaluable input.

Then came the process of querying in fall 2021. I submitted fewer than 25 queries and received one full manuscript request. The agent asked for one month to review the work, and got back to me with very positive feedback, that she “loved the book” but it didn’t fit her list, which was more commercial. This helped me realize that The Moon Is Backwards is upmarket, since I wouldn’t call it literary. I also decided that the publishing world just won’t “get” my novel, because nothing like it has ever been published in English. So I set out to crawl up another series of learning curves, and independently publish.

The Moon Is Backwards was released in eBook and paperback in July 2022 to very good reviews. It’s an ideal book club selection, and it was featured by one book club in Portugal last week; two book clubs in the US have it as an upcoming selection.

Another reason I independently published was turn-around time. I wasn’t happy waiting two to four years to see it published, even if I could find an agent and that agent was able to sell it to a publisher. I wanted to capture the zeitgeist around the upcoming election in Brazil: President Bolsonaro is pitted against leftist former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (simply called Lula), and concerns of potential January 6th-like violence or an outright coup d’etat have been in the media for months. So many in Brazil now deny that a dictatorship ever existed, and voice nostalgia for the order and stability they believe a dictatorship represents. And what is better than fiction to help people recognize reality?

After The Moon Is Backwards was released in English, the next task was to publish it in Portuguese as soon as possible. I am fluent in Portuguese but translating a work of fiction is a literary act in itself which is often unappreciated. In a stroke of good fortune, I found Berttoni Licarião through a Google search. He is a writer, editor and translator, born in the Northeast state of Paraíba, lives in Brasília, and had just earned his doctorate in Brazilian literature. 

His dissertation investigated Brazilian literary works and cultural memory of the dictatorship. His translation is so good it makes me weep, and I can honestly say my novel is better in Portuguese, just as I had imagined. The Portuguese translation is a lua ao avesso, and I have high hopes for its success. My ultimate fantasy is to have it made into a telenovela or series in Brazil. It’s ideal for that—but I guess every author thinks their book would be a great movie or series.

I live in Portugal’s Algarve, but I’m off tomorrow for Brasília, and I have a book release event scheduled for December 1st at Sebinho, the largest and most influential independent bookstore in Brasília. Wish me luck!

Justine Strand de Oliveira

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About the Author

Justine Strand de Oliveira is a native Californian. She is a physician assistant and educator, having worked in the United States, Rio de Janeiro and London. She has a long-standing love affair with Brazil and is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. The Moon Is Backwards is her first novel. Justine enjoys cooking and gardening, and lives with her Brazilian husband and their two dogs in the Algarve, Portugal. Find out more at Justine's website https://www.justinestrand.com/ and find her on Twitter @justinestrand1

14 October 2022

A Special Guest Post by Heather Shanette: Introducing The Tudor Book Shop


For as long as I can remember I have loved books. Books, to me, are like magic. They are a portal to another world, another time, another reality, and in the pages of old and ancient books we hear the voices of long dead people speak.
 
As a child, one of the highlights of my week was going to the local library to choose a new book to read, and, as an adult, a quiet, well-stocked library, full of new and well-worn books, is my favourite place in the world to be. I have spent years of my life reading and studying in the gorgeously gothic Welsh Library of the University of Wales in Bangor and I have often written there too.
 
Books are more than just words on paper and letters on leaves. They educate us and entertain us, advise us and guide us, thrill us and even terrify us, and in times of trial and sorrow they comfort us. Books have the power to change the world, and the world will always long for books.

But the way books are produced and presented is always changing. In the middle ages, before the invention of the printing press, books were handwritten, usually by monks in monasteries, and as a result were few in number and expensive to buy. After the printing press revolution of the fifteenth century, books could be produced more quickly, and therefore could be sold more cheaply, but they were still very much a wealthy person’s privilege.
 
It was not until the late nineteenth century, with the onset of mass education and the opening of public libraries, that books became accessible to everyone. As books multiplied in number, so did the number of shops selling them, and by the early twentieth century books were big business.
 
When I was growing up in the 1980s my home town had at least six book shops, some selling new books, some selling old, and some selling both. I spent a lot of time in these book shops, in one shop in particular, and I could tell you a story or two of spooky goings on in the room that was said to be haunted. The ghost may still be there but the book shop has long gone. It closed over a decade ago and most of the town’s other book shops are now history too.
 
The reason for this, of course, is the internet revolution. With the coming of the internet, and the launching of online book retailers like amazon, people no longer have to physically visit a shop to purchase a book. From the comfort of their own home they can order almost any book, new or old, and either have it delivered to their door in a day or two or digitally transferred to their e-reader in seconds.

For those of us who love visiting book shops and browsing the endless shelves, the closure of the brick and mortar book shops is a great loss. But, as one way of life ends, and another begins, ‘the revolution of the times’ brings opportunity as well as change. While the thought of digital books once filled me with horror – how could reading on a screen possibly be as intimate and delightful as reading a book and turning a page? - I have come to love my kindle. 

For a book lover like me, having dozens of books at my fingertips is a dream come true, and there is no denying that it is much easier to snuggle up in bed with a kindle than it is a huge bulky book or an old smelly one. Digital books are also cheaper, in general, can be more profitable for publishers and authors, and in this age of climate change help save a tree.
 
Yet, while I have been converted to the merits of digital, and find myself increasingly buying kindle books, a book still does not feel quite ‘real’ to me unless I can hold it in my hands. As more and more book shops close, and more and more people buy digital, I hope there will always be a place in the world for paper books so that future generations can know the joy of holding a book in their hands and turning a page.


For almost 25 years I have been the webmistress of elizabethi.org, a website dedicated to the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603).

Since my early teens I have been fascinated by the Tudors and by Queen Elizabeth I in particular. I greatly admire her strength of character, her bravery, and her determination to succeed against the odds. Her successful reign made female sovereignty acceptable (her father’s drastic measures to sire a male heir perfectly illustrate just how undesirable it was) paving the way for Queen Victoria and our much loved late monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

For over 15 years I have also been the webmistress of tudorsandstuarts.com, a small website I created to answer all the questions I was getting about who came before Queen Elizabeth and who reigned after her. On both websites I had shops offering books, dvds, cds and general merchandise for sale through amazon associates. The shops were initially very successful but over time they became outdated. 

I found it impossible to keep up with all the latest releases across so many different product types, across two different websites, and across two hundred years of history. I therefore made the decision three years ago to remove the old shops and gradually replace them with something else.

That ‘something else’ has become The Tudor Book Shop. This is a website dedicated only to Tudor history books and novels and can be found online at www.thetudorbookshop.com. The idea for this website came to me during the pandemic. More than ever I was having to rely on the internet to research and buy books, but finding exactly what I wanted in various search portals was difficult and time consuming. 

So, rather than create new shops for my existing websites, the idea came to me to create a brand new website dedicated to Tudor history books and novels only. How much easier such a website would make my research life and I was sure that others would feel the same. I therefore registered the domain and over the next twelve months began to put the website together, designing the pages, the logo, and adding hundreds of books in my spare time.

For those unfamiliar with amazon associates, it is a program offered by amazon for website owners to monetize their websites by linking to amazon products. Every time someone clicks on the link and makes a purchase, the website owner receives a small commission (perhaps 1-3% of a sale) which is not paid by the customer but is taken out of amazon’s share of the profit. This commission raises much needed revenue for authors, artists, musicians, bloggers, and anyone else who needs to raise money in order to fund their work.

In this way, the internet giants like amazon, that have sadly contributed to the decline of the brick and mortar book shops that so many of us love, have given rise to a new way of helping the arts. By buying your Tudor history books and novels through thetudorbookshop.com, for example, you are helping me to keep on researching and writing full-time, and by buying books on other websites owned by individuals you are helping them to fund their artistic endeavours and their websites. Just keeping a website online takes money. 

Between them, my three websites cost £300 a year just to exist. So, the digital revolution of books and book sales is not all bad. There are still ways to help individuals raise funds and make a living rather than just the big companies.

The Tudor Book Shop makes it easy for you to find the Tudor history books and novels you love. Firstly, you can browse the ‘virtual bookshelves’ as all books are arranged by category and subject. For example, there is a ‘virtual bookshelf’ for King Henry VIII, for Anne Boleyn, and for Queen Elizabeth I. All you have to do is visit the homepage (thetudorbookshop.com), scroll to the category ‘Kings and Queens’ and click on the image of King Henry VIII. 

This will take you to the King Henry VIII ‘virual bookshelf’ where you can browse for titles of interest. Secondly, you can use the search tool (which is found on the right hand side of the page just under the main menu) to find books or subjects of interest. The search database is updated twice a week so new books added to the shop will typically show up within 2-3 days. Thirdly, you can browse by author in the ‘author a-z’ section.
 
The Tudor Book Shop also helps you keep up with all the latest book releases through The Latest Books Blog. This blog features a new book almost on a daily basis and provides the official amazon blurb as well
as a picture of the cover. New books are also regularly given a mention on Twitter and in The Tudor Book Shop’s Newsletter which anyone can subscribe to via the website.

The Tudor Book Shop also provides a platform for authors to engage with readers through The Quill Blog. Authors, whether traditionally or independently published, are invited to make guest posts on The Quill so they can introduce their newest book, discuss their most popular books, their inspiration for writing, or their work in general. I am delighted and honoured to have already featured an article from Tony Riches (thankyou, Tony!) and from Deb Hunter of All Things Tudor and will soon be posting up a contribution from historical fiction author Jonathan Posner.
 
My hope is that authors and readers alike will find a new home in thetudorbookshop.com and will help make it a success by suggesting books to include, by notifying me of upcoming releases, by spreading the word about the book shop on social media through liking, sharing and following, and by using the book shop to make online purchases.
 
The Tudor Book Shop may not be a brick and mortar store, but it is a book shop made with love, and it is book shop open to anyone, at any time, from anywhere in the world. I hope to see you there!

Heather Shanette 
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About the Author

Heather Shanette is an independent research historian, author and poet. She lives in North Wales, where she was born, and is descended from the humble Welsh quarrymen who helped found Bangor University, North Wales, from their little wages in the hope that their children, and their children’s children, would have access to learning. For many years she was a postgraduate researcher at Bangor University and has an M.Phil in Tudor history. She runs the websites elizabethi.org and tudorsandstuarts.com and is currently writing several history books including a book on Queen Elizabeth I’s Ladies-in-Waiting for Pen and Sword. The Tudor Book Shop can be found online at www.thetudorbookshop.com and on Twitter @tudorbookshop

8 October 2022

Special Guest Interview with Carolyn Hughes, Author of Squire's Hazard


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth…


I'm pleased to welcome author Carolyn Hughes to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

Squire’s Hazard is the fifth in my series of historical novels set in the fourteenth century, The Meonbridge Chronicles. The first in the series, Fortune’s Wheel, set in the immediate aftermath of the Black Death, explored the social and personal upheavals of that terrible time. The subsequent novels, which address different aspects of medieval society, community and personal relationships, follow on chronologically, three to four years apart, and in book five we have reached 1363.

The baby boy we met first in Fortune’s Wheel, Dickon de Bohun, is now fourteen. After a semi-lowly start in life, Dickon is destined to be lord of Meonbridge, and is undergoing training as a squire, in anticipation of being knighted in a few years’ time. In this novel, I wanted to show Dickon as aware of the social differences between him and his fellow squires, and being somewhat cowed by them yet determined to prove his worth. He believes he has to justify the trust his grandfather, Sir Richard, put in him when he made him his heir, despite Dickon being the result of an illegitimate liaison between Sir Philip, Sir Richard’s son, and a village peasant girl.

But I also wanted Dickon to grow rapidly from boy to man. He is beset by problems. The first is being bullied by another squire, who seems to have discovered the “secret” of Dickon’s birth and considers him unfit to be training alongside him and his more aristocratic friends. The second problem is falling for a girl he cannot marry, where his challenge is to ensure he treats her with honour. The third, though he doesn’t know it until late in the novel, is being the object of a village woman’s long-held rancour towards his family, which will prove Dickon’s most painful test.

This aspect of Squire’s Hazard is essentially a coming-of-age story. As we move towards the culmination of the Chronicles series (which is planned for book seven), Dickon has to grow, intellectually and emotionally, as well as physically, so that he is ready for the challenges his life as lord of Meonbridge will bring. Squire’s Hazard shows his first major step in that development.

However, the storyline of Squire’s Hazard has several threads, as all my Chronicles do. We hear the voices of other characters: Libby, the girl Dickon falls in love with; his grandmother, Lady Margaret; Edwin, the bullying squire; the rancorous village woman, Margery.

The several threads I have woven together in this novel have enabled me to revisit themes that I have always enjoyed writing about in the Chronicles: gardens and gardening; food; farming practices; medieval traditions; artisan skills, such as carpentry and weaving, and aspects of medicine. But I’ve also been able to explore one or two new themes: the training and lives of squires, and the use of plants not only for food and in healing but also as a tool of witchcraft. Incorporating all these themes helps me, I hope, to bring the fourteenth century to life, to help readers connect with the lives of my Meonbridge people, and appreciate, if only in a small way, their similarities to us as well as their differences.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I don’t really have a routine, though I do write most days (unless I’m on holiday or spending time with family and friends). “Writing” usually involves some creative work: drafting the current WIP; editing a completed one; planning the next one; occasionally writing a blog post. But I will also spend some time managing my Facebook ads, writing to my Team Meonbridge followers, engaging in social media (Facebook and Twitter).

In terms of writing process, I’m a plotter/pantster. I always outline a new book at chapter level, usually including a few scenes and even snippets of dialogue when I can. But, when I’m drafting, I use the outline as a guide, not an agenda, and I do “pants” most of the scenes and dialogue. I have no problem diverging from my outline or restructuring it as I go. I also edit as I go, and edit again if later chapters demand a rethink, then edit yet again (probably two or three times) when the first draft is complete. My process is neither speedy nor perhaps “efficient”, but it works for me. Once I’m done with editing, the manuscript goes first to beta readers (more editing…) and finally to my professional editor (and yet again…).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write! Lots! Practice makes perfect, they say, but more modestly, in my own experience, practice has certainly made “better”. Putting pen to paper – fingers to keyboard – frequently, even if not for very long, gradually hones your writing skills. Reading, too – with a somewhat critical eye – can help hugely in understanding what works and what doesn’t in structure, language, imagery and so on. I would also urge you to share your writing with trusted others… With friends, of course, especially if they’re writers too, or are voracious but critical readers. But also I recommend joining a writers’ group for regular writerly feedback on your work, and (hopefully) empathetic support. And, of course it follows – do take notice of what people say about your writing!

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

For me, paid advertising – I use Facebook mostly – works. I don’t spend very much money, so my sales aren’t high, but running the ads does clearly make a difference. I do occasionally engage in a couple of tweet-sharing groups with fellow historical novelists, which must “raise awareness’ of my books though I cannot judge whether or not it makes any difference to sales. Around publication time, I do things like this – have a book tour, where kind and sympathetic bloggers and other authors give support by promoting my new book to their followers, as well as boosting and focusing my advertising efforts.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

This discovery wasn’t exactly “unexpected” but, when I was researching poisonous plants – in anticipation of using poisoning as a plot device – I was intrigued to read about several modern cases of wolfsbane poisoning. Most were accidental, but one or two were deliberate – in other words, cases of murder. If anything was “unexpected” it was that the use of herbal toxins for bumping off, say, your spouse, was still a “thing” in the twenty-first century. In a particular case of husband-murder, the wife got away with her crime initially, as the symptoms of the poisoning were not immediately apparent.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Squire’s Hazard has taken me longer to write than the previous books, and I think that is because I was finding it all quite “hard” to write! And the hardest scenes for me, in this book and the earlier ones, are those involving emotional conflict and psychological distress, in particular where characters are keeping secrets, are being deliberately “economical with the truth”, or have lost touch with the truth. Because I’m writing in series, 

I’m inevitably referring back to earlier events, which one character might “remember” differently from another. It’s important to maintain consistency and continuity of characters from book to book, but also to have them develop and change. Getting that balance can be tricky, and is one aspect of writing about characters that I find most challenging.
 
What are you planning to write next?

I’m already writing book “4.5” of The Meonbridge Chronicles series, which is a companion novel to the main series. I decided to write a spin-off from book 4, Children’s Fate, when readers wanted to know what happened to the heroine at the end of book 4. The book is called The Merchant’s Dilemma. Next, I will write the sixth Chronicle proper, for which I have a plan but not yet a detailed outline.

Carolyn Hughes

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About the Author

Carolyn Hughes has lived most of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
Find out more at Carolyns website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and find her on Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor and Twitter: @writingcalliope

6 October 2022

Excerpt - The Conjuror’s Apprentice Series: The Tudor Rose (Book 1) by Author: G.J. Williams


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Born with the ability to hear thoughts and feelings when there is no sound, Margaretta Morgan’s strange gift sees her apprenticed to Doctor John Dee, mathematician, astronomer, and alchemist. Using her secret link with the hidden side and her master’s brilliance, Margaretta faces her first murder mystery. Margaretta and Dee must uncover the evil bound to unravel the court of Bloody Mary. The year is 1555. This is a time ruled by fear. What secrets await to be pulled from the water?

Excerpt:

The coach rattled out of St Dunstan’s onto Eastcheap and headed west. The night’s rain had made the road a mess of mud and small stones. Every few minutes, a large divot would make their vehicle lurch to the side. Margaretta clung to the window frame and stared out to stop herself getting sick in her stomach. Doctor John, dressed in his favourite coat of blue and his head well covered by his cap, was reading a document, apparently oblivious to the rolling and clattering. He had taken care to wash his beard this morning, so it shone like a dark waterfall from his chin to his chest. His face, prematurely lined but kind, was golden as the early sun shone through from the East.
   Margaretta studied him. She had calculated he was only twenty-seven years old yet his face seemed to hold the history of a hundred men – though this was not so surprising. In his life he had already been a scholar in both England and in foreign lands, a tutor, a maker of fantastical models, a mathematician, an astrologer, and advisor to King Edward, the poor child. Even the great warrior knight, Sir Herbert of Pembroke, had trusted him in his household. John Dee had been born the son of an immensely rich wool-tax collector, favoured by King Henry. But now he was poor and ignored by Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor, though he was ever seeking a route back to the riches of court, recognition and the resumption of the family fortunes.
   In John Dee’s lap was a parchment covered in circles within a divided square. Words were carefully entered into a panel at the side while numbers littered the circles. Periodically, he would sigh and shake his head. ‘What is the document?’ asked Margaretta, bored with the silence now. 
   ‘Another horoscope divined using my new method of measurement,’ came the vague answer.
   ‘Is it not foolish to carry such things out of the house, doctor? Anything but the words of the Pope is beckoning accusation these days and you…’
   John Dee batted away the end of her sentence with an irritated wagging of his hand. ‘I need to check my calculations. If this is true then the tarot underestimated the future. This portends many enemies surrounding the Lady Elizabeth. I saw it last month when I conjured her first horoscope. But it worsens.’
   Margaretta pushed her head out of the window to see if the coachman could hear them. Thank the Lord he was singing to himself and so taking no notice. She turned to warn Dee
anyway but he was deep in contemplation again.
   Margaretta stared out. The streets thronged with animals and people all busying their way through the detritus of the road. Hawkers screeched their wares, delivery boys shouted for a clear path to save dropping the huge packages on their back, well-dressed women held up nosegays and looked away from the beggars and children who held out hopeful hands. But not a single face held a smile. Yet only a few short weeks ago, the streets had been full of rejoicing, hailing of glad tidings; Te Deums were sung in every church. Priests thanked the Lord for the safe delivery of a son to Queen Mary and in the streets people danced as if this child was the second coming, here to save them from a terrible fate – being ruled by Mary’s husband, the very Spanish King Philip.
   Then the rumours started. There was no cry of a newborn. Some said the queen had lied, others spoke behind their hands of Lord North trying to buy the babes of women who had birthed the child of a Spaniard; pamphlets shouted that the queen was dead. Court went quiet and London waited while criers claimed the doctors had simply miscalculated the birthing day. Sullen silence. Then the screams from the pyres started again.
   As if he could read her thoughts, John Dee suddenly looked up. ‘You have not told me about your lesson yesterday.’
   Margaretta swallowed hard. Recalling the flames and the screams would only raise the bile already collecting in her throat. ‘Cruel,’ she snapped, not looking at him.
   ‘Come, Margaretta. If you are going to hone your gifts you have to understand the full spectrum of men’s feelings, fears and fallacious thoughts. The good, the evil, the kind, the cruel, the intelligent and the witless. It is all part of our soul and you need to see them all.’
   Margaretta turned bright, green eyes on her master. ‘I can feel evil without having to see its result, Doctor John. I’ll never forget those cries. Terrible it was.’ She sat back with a self- righteous huff.
   Abruptly, her travelling companion looked out of the window, his face setting into a grim glare. ‘They will be with their maker now, Margaretta. There will be peace for them.’
   ‘But not for the poor souls sitting in a cell condemned to such an end…nor their kin who have to watch.’
   ‘That is enough, Margaretta.’
   ‘Then I have had enough learning for this week, doctor.’ John Dee sighed and stared down at his parchment.
   Margaretta gazed at him. Strange. He is the only one I cannot read, cannot feel. I cannot sense the spirit below the skin. It’s as if he is able to block me. What thoughts fill that great head, other than dreams of getting to court and recreating his family’s position in the palace?

G.J. Williams

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About the Author

After a career as a business psychologist for city firms, G.J. Williams has returned to her first passion – writing tales of murder, mystery and intrigue. Her psychology background melded with a love of medieval history, draws her to the twists and turns of the human mind, subconscious powers and the dark-side of people who want too much. She lives between Somerset and London in the UK and is regularly found writing on a train next to a grumpy cat and a bucket of tea.  Follow her on Twitter @GJWilliams92 

5 October 2022

Special Guest post by Wendy J Dunn ~ María de Salinas: how facts inspire fiction


Wendy J Dunn on Amazon UKAmazon US 

María de Salinas: the woman I chose to give voice to in All Manner of Things. If you asked me when I first became interested in her story, I really couldn’t tell you, other than that it was too long ago for me to remember. But I well remember what inspired me to give her voice in Falling Pomegranate Seeds — the overarching title for what I once believed would end up a trilogy of novels based on the life of Katherine of Aragon. 

Many years ago, I read about Maria de Salinas — a woman then of about fifty (elderly by Tudor standards) who disobeys her king by riding from her London home, in an English winter, to be with Katherine of Aragon, her dying friend.

María continued her defiance against Henry VIII at the end of her journey. By this stage, no one could see Katherine of Aragon without first gaining the king’s permission. Injured by a fall from her mount, Maria stood outside Kimbolton Castle, Katherine’s last dwelling place and virtual prison, and demanded to be let in. 

Because of her injuries, they could not refuse her entry. But once inside the castle, she quickly located the apartments of Katherine, her lifelong friend, and stayed with her until Katherine drew her last breath. Here is how I imagine the end of Maria’s journey to Kimbolton Castle:

Gaining ground, María neared the castle. The sound of sizzling rain came down to her as the wind blew it under the ledges protecting the torches. Nearby but unseen, dogs barked out warning. Dizzy with pain, she caught her breath. “Come on, Muchacha. Only a little more.”
   She fixed her eyes on the flame of the guttering torches, slogging step by step through the mud. Black shadows loomed, grew and took substance. Thomas rode to her side.
   “My lady! They say they won’t bring down the drawbridge.” “By all the Saints, do they indeed? Hold my horse, Thomas!” Handing over her reins to Thomas, María cursed in Castilian and picked up her skirts and limped up to the castle. She stopped at the edge of the moat, her eyes raking back and forth over the battlements. Over the stone-wall, a wan, bearded face peered. Torchlight turned his eyes luminous and spectre-like.
   “You there,” María shouted, caring not one iota for her dignity. She had left that behind days ago when she had left London. “Open up. I am Baroness Willoughby.
The man leaned across, holding his hands on either side of his mouth to amplify his voice. “Baroness, I beg you, go elsewhere! We cannot lower the drawbridge without the king’s permission.”
María could not believe her ears. “What do you mean you cannot? Will you have me die at your gates? Have you forgotten all the laws of hospitality? I have fallen off my horse, and I am bruised and need my injuries seen to. Besides that, my horse is lame. You have no choice but to open to me, unless you wish for my son-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk, to deal with you later.”
“Baroness, the king’s orders –”
“The king’s orders.” María shook her head, thinking fast. “There’s no need to concern yourself over that issue. My Lord Cromwell promised me the king’s permission will be forthcoming, perchance by the morrow.” She straightened her stance, and made her voice into a weapon of steel. “The night is foul, good sir, and my son in marriage is a prince of this land. Lower the drawbridge before you live to regret it.”

The story of this determined and loyal woman inspired my imagination and began me on a long road to complete my story about the life of Katherine of Aragon.
 
When I started writing Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters, I wanted Maria to be the voice for this story. But, in that novel, she was then a child telling an adult tale. Eventually, I realised I had no other choice but to switch the point of view to that of an adult, and the amazing scholar Beatriz Galindo stepped forward to take over the narration of The Duty of Daughters.

So who was María de Salinas—and why was she an important figure in the life of Katherine of Aragon? Several histories of Katherine of Aragon tell us the same story. Believed to be kin to Katherine of Aragon, María de Salinas was the daughter of Martín de Salinas and his wife, Josefa Gonzales de Salas (Earenfight 2016). Similarly, to my other works of historical fiction, my attempts to put flesh upon the bones of María’s story proved frustrating. 

Like so many women in this period, her birth year is unknown. There are no known paintings or drawings of her. I assumed she was attractive because Henry VII told Isabel of Castile to send, with her daughter, girls of ‘gentle birth and beautiful or, at the least, by no means ugly’ (Tremlett 2010 p. 63), Good looks meant they were more likely to find husbands. 

This assumption felt far less than an assumption when I studied portraits of her lovely daughter and granddaughter. Several historians have her coming out with Katherine of Aragon in 1501; others have her arriving in England to replace María de Rojas, another woman who was very close to Katherine of Aragon, when she returned to Castile to marry in 1503. 

This is when I remind myself I am a fiction writer. It would be absolutely wonderful to be absolutely certain of my facts before I allow my imagination full rein, but when history is debated, I am even freer to decide the direction of my work.

There is also no biography of María de Salinas. I was reliant on what I discovered about her through the biographies of other, more well-known figures of Tudor history. Sometimes María’s personality flashed out and gave me more than just a side note in the stories of others. 

Like when Weir wrote of María’s desire to stay with Katherine of Aragon after her marriage to Henry VIII. ‘The girl desires of all things to remain with me’ (Weir, p. 98), Katherine told her new husband in 1509. María de Salinas, by then, was well and truly part of Katherine’s life. In these earlier and happier years of his first marriage, Henry liked María, too, and did not mind her influence on his wife, or that she was so close to her.

Weir, while frustratingly not providing her sources most of the time, provided me with the most important bones of María’s story. According to Weir, in 1505, María had hoped to marry a noble Fleming, but Katherine — forced again to write a begging letter to her father for a dowry for Maria. No money arrived, so the arrangement came to nothing.

María did not marry until 1516. If she was a similar age to Katherine of Aragon, which I believe, that means she was then at least thirty by the time of her marriage. For a writer of Tudor fiction, this is an intriguingly mature age for a first marriage for a woman of her time and rank. 

Her husband was William Willoughby, the 11th Baron of Willoughby de Eresby—a man of great wealth, long noble lineage, and the largest landowner in Lincolnshire. Henry VIII clearly approved the marriage because he gifted Willoughby additional wealth and properties to celebrate the match.

Ten years later, María was a widow. Like her Queen Katherine of Aragon, María also grieved the death of all her children, bar for one daughter, named for her lifelong friend.
 
Maria became widowed when her daughter was only about seven. It must have been a terrible time for María when she lost her husband. Her brother-in-law, Sir Christopher Willoughby, who inherited the Willoughby properties that could only come down to the male heir, caused a lot of trouble by trying to grab whatever he could of his brother’s wealth, and María had to fight for her daughter’s rights. 

But Katherine was the primary heiress, and a very wealthy heiress at that. Less than three years after her father’s death, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, brought Katherine’s wardship for a great deal of money (Read 1963).

María never married again. After her husband’s death, she continued in her service to Katherine of Aragon until 1532, when Henry VIII ordered her to leave Katherine’s household. By that stage, Henry had annulled, what he claimed, was ‘never a true marriage’ to Katherine of Aragon. María was far too loyal to Katherine for Henry to risk leaving her in her service.

One of my most favourite quotes about writing historical fiction comes from William Styron. He tells us, “While it may be satisfying and advantageous for historians to feast on rich archival material, the writer of historical fiction is better off when past events have left him with short rations”. 

It is those short rations which ignites a writer’s imagination. That does not mean what I know about this period adds up to ‘short rations’. Not at all. All the research I have done over the years is now, well and truly, part of my writerly compost.
 
My writing philosophy is the same as Margaret Atwood, who says, ‘when there was a solid fact, I could not alter it … but in the parts left unexplained—the gaps left unfilled—I was free to invent’ (Atwood 1998, p.1515). I create characters. Most of them are inspired by real people, constructed through my research. 

When I am provided with short rations—like what happened with María de Salinas—my imagination fires up and begins filling in the gaps. This is when I become immersed in the real magic of writing: I am dreaming my story onto the page. 

Sometimes, I wake from this dream agonised where my dream has taken me. But historical fiction is foremost a work of imagination—and story is what beats its heart. And like the great Hilary Mantel once said, ‘“I have written books and I cannot unwrite them. I cannot unbelieve what I believe. I cannot unlive my life”.

Wendy J Dunn 

WORKS CITED:

Earenfight, T.M., 2016. RAISING INFANTA CATALINA DE ARAGON TO BE CATHERINE, QUEEN OF ENGLAND. ANUARIO DE ESTUDIOS MEDIEVALES, 46(1), pp.417-443.

Le Guin, UK 1989, Dancing at the edge of the world: Thoughts on words, women, places, Grove Press, New York

Read, E. 1963. My Lady Suffolk, a Portrait of Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk. New York, Knopf.

Tremlett, G. 2010 Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen Bloomsbury House

Weir, A YEAR, The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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About the Author


Wendy J. Dunn is an award-winning Australian writer fascinated by Tudor history – so much so she was not surprised to discover a family connection to the Tudors, not long after the publication of her first Anne Boleyn novel, which narrated the Anne Boleyn story through the eyes of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder. Her family tree reveals the intriguing fact that one of her ancestral families – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally. Wendy is married, the mother of four adult children and the grandmother of two amazing small boys. She gained her PhD in 2014 and loves walking in the footsteps of the historical people she gives voice to in her novels. Wendy also tutors at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.. Find out more at her website http://www.wendyjdunn.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyjdunn

4 October 2022

Book Launch Spotlight: Sofia's Freedom (The Musician's Promise Book 3) by Rachel Le Mesurier


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

For seven months, Esperanza and Artie have lived in wedded bliss on their little farm, reveling in the success of Artie’s music career. Married life has been kind to them. Experience has taught them to keep an eye out for danger, but no such threats appear—not even from Don Raúl, Esperanza’s jilted fiancé.

However, their peace is not destined to last. When Artie receives an invitation to perform at a wealthy doña’s social event in a nearby city, he finds the extra money impossible to refuse. Promising to return soon, he leaves his pregnant wife behind—but Esperanza quickly realizes that Artie is walking straight into danger, and there’s nothing she can do to warn him.

As bloody revolution erupts all around her, Esperanza must face her worst nightmares if she is to survive. Alone and terrified, her salvation comes in an unlikely form... but will she be able to accept it, knowing that her beloved musician will never be able to fulfill his promise?

After marrying the love of his life, everything takes a turn for the better for Artie. He has a comfortable home, a baby on the way, and best of all, he has Esperanza. Life is wonderful.

However, Artie’s idyllic world does not last long. The whispers of revolution grow louder every day, turning to roars as the country he loves descends into chaos. Before long, his brothers Ed and Alejandro go missing in action, and Diego is racing headlong into a bloody massacre, oblivious to the horrors that await him.

Artie has one chance to save his brother from certain death, but it means becoming an unwilling soldier in a battle beyond the wildest horrors of his imagination. Armed only with a revolver and his prayers, he throws himself into the fray—with deadly consequences.

He promised Esperanza he would come back. He needs to get home, whatever it takes. If Artie stands any chance of survival, he will need to learn to fight—and fast. But when the moment comes, will he be able to pull the trigger, knowing it will end an innocent man’s life?

Praise and Reviews for The Musician's Promise Series:

"A rip-roaring, romantic adventure that is impossible to put down." - Starred Review

"A well-written and well-researched story against the background of early 20th century Mexico." - D. Wells, author

"Class intrigue, dynastic manoeuvring, and dangerous politics against growing civil unrest in pre-revolutionary Mexico. Can an unlikely friendship blossom into more? I couldn't put it down, and nor will you!" - Jennifer Nugée, editor

# # #

About the Author 

Rachel Le Mesurier is the author of the MUSICIAN’S PROMISE SERIES, including ARTIE’S COURAGE, A HERO’S HOPE, and SOFIA’S FREEDOM. Led by strong female characters, The Musician's Promise Series turns the common damsel in distress trope on its head. Based on real historical events, this thrilling page-turner story of love and courage in the face of adversity follows characters on an emotional journey through laughter, tears, passion, and heartbreak Rachel comes from a long and varied line of daring explorers, fearsome pirates and brave heroes from all over the world, with the occasional tyrannical ruler thrown in for good measure. But that's a story for another time. Rachel and her family live a far quieter life on her home island of Guernsey, where she enjoys teaching sign language, singing, reading and (of course) writing. She loves to read historical romance, historical, action / adventure and romance novels, and enjoys combining her favorite elements of all of these genres in her own writing. Rachel has a degree in English Literature, and specialised in literature from other cultures, Post-Colonial, 19th Century and Gothic literature. She loves most genres of writing, and favorite authors include Wilkie Collins, Philippa Gregory, Susan Hill, Chinua Achebe, Arthur Golden and Kazuo Ishiguro. Rachel is a disabled author with a rare genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which affects her heart, joints and mobility. She is a passionate advocate for equality and disablilty awareness, and wants to prove to the world that our differences should be seen as our superpowers, not just our obstacles. For more information about Rachel and her books, please visit: linktr.ee/RMLeMesurier and find her on Facebook and Twitter: @RMLeMesurier

Book Review: JULIA PRIMA: A Roma Nova Foundation Story, by Alison Morton


New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

AD 370, Roman frontier province of Noricum. Staying faithful to the Roman gods in a Christian empire can be lethal. Half-divorced Julia Bacausa is condemned to an emotional desert and a forced marriage, Lucius Apulius barely clings onto his posting in a military backwater. Strongly drawn to each other, they are soon separated, but Julia is determined not to lose the only man she will love.


In this fast-paced 'prequel' to  Alison Morton's alternative history Roma Nova series, readers finally discover the back story to Julia Bacausa and Lucius Apulius, the legendary ancestors of present day modern Roma Novans.

Julia Prima takes us right back AD369, for a grounding in well-researched historical fact. Sometimes harrowing, the clash between Christianity and the last gasps of the Roman Gods provides rich and fertile ground for engaging story telling. 

You don't have to have read the Roma Nova series first, as this book stands alone perfectly well, and has the subtitle, 'A Roma Nova Foundation Story.'  

Packed with the authentic details  Alison Morton's readers have come to expect, I'm happy to recommend Julia Prima.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her nine-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is governed by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache with with a sharp line in dialogue. She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history. Alison now lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mélisende, the heroine of her latest two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Now that JULIA PRIMA has been published, she’s writing the next part of the Roma Nova foundation story.  Find out more at Alison's website  https://alison-morton.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @alison_morton