Saturday, 25 June 2016

Plantagenets, Tudors and Self-sacrifice - Samantha Wilcoxson casts light ...

Today I am delighted to welcome as my guest, author Samantha Wilcoxson

I began by asking her: ~

In Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, you wrote about Elizabeth of York, who is probably known to most as the woman who finally united the two roses of York and Lancaster. What particularly drew you to tell her story?

I love the story of an unsung hero and that is what Elizabeth of York seemed to be. So many men had sacrificed their lives during the battles of the Wars of the Roses, but few seemed to consider the sacrifice that it took to bring about peace. Elizabeth could have kept fighting – for her own right to rule or that of one of her male cousins. But she did not. She relinquished her family’s place in order to begin anew with Henry Tudor. It took a quieter form of strength.

She lived in dangerous times - how much do you think she was in control of her destiny and how much was she a pawn in the power games of the men in her life?

That is a good question. I think that most people look at Elizabeth and assume that she had no choice. She was betrothed to Henry Tudor, and he was victorious at Bosworth. What else could she have done? She could have done what many others did in supporting those who challenged the king. She could have thrown her support behind the de la Poles or recognized Perkin Warbeck as her brother. She could have refused Henry and gathered people to her own cause. I believe she was completely self-sacrificing and rather intelligent to see that the way to peace was to devote herself to her husband regardless of other opportunities.

Your new release is the story of Margaret Pole, perhaps more often portrayed as an elderly woman unable to escape the vengeance of Henry VIII. Does Faithful Traitor begin with Margaret as a child, or an adult? Can the book be read as a sequel to the first?

Faithful Traitor is only loosely a sequel of Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen. In Elizabeth’s story, there were glimpses of Margaret as a child. At the point when she is married to Richard Pole and they serve Arthur at Ludlow, she moves to the background. Faithful Traitor begins with Margaret receiving the news that her queen and beloved cousin has died. Margaret is a wife and mother, not quite thirty, at this time. The novel continues from that point and covers the decades between Elizabeth’s death and Margaret’s downfall. I believe that there is much about Margaret, like Elizabeth, that many people do not know. She was a close friend of Catherine of Aragon, governess to Princess Mary, and successful woman in her own right. Of course, that only lasted until having Queen Catherine as a close friend was no longer counted as an advantage.

She was a woman with royal blood. Was this a blessing or a curse?

As in most stories, Margaret’s excess of royal blood serves as both blessing and curse. She rose rather high in Henry VIII’s favor. Unfortunately, that left her with only one direction to go. Down.

You've written stories which are not set in this period, including non-historical fiction. Which genre/period to you prefer, and why?

Plantagenet era historical fiction is my passion. Even though these two books technically take place during the Tudor era, it is the Plantagenet remnant that fascinates me. I love to dig deeper into lesser known historical figures and expose their story, or at least my version of it.

My first two books were children’s books, which I believe I wrote because I was afraid to attempt to write a book like those that I loved. It seemed safer to leave that to my favorite authors.
Thanks to the encouragement of family and friends, especially my husband, I took the plunge with Elizabeth’s story. I’m so glad that I did!

Is it easy for you, living in America, to do the necessary research required for your historical novels?

I order a copious amount of books from the UK! Obviously, I do not have access to original source material that some authors do, but it does not cause much difficulty. Thankfully, there are many wonderful biographies and books that enable this poor American to escape into historic England! A recent trip to England and Scotland did help me with envisioning the settings. I hope that it has made a difference in my new book.

Early days, given that Faithful Traitor has only just been released, but are you working on another novel? And if so, can you tell us anything about it?

Does buying books count? I have stockpiled some great resources on the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty. My plan is to travel back a few hundred years for my next book rather than moving forward into Tudor times. I’m looking for a historical figure like Elizabeth or Margaret who has been overshadowed by the men around her but has a great story of her own to tell. I do have a particular medieval lady in mind, but we will keep her a secret for now.

Intriguing...! Thanks Samantha for casting light on this period of history and these two (even if you've left us in the dark about the third!) fascinating ladies. Find out more about Samantha by visiting her Blog or find her on Twitter

Buy Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen
Buy Faithful Traitor

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Guest appearance on Elizabeth Caulfield Felt's Blog

Today I'm delighted to be the guest on someone else's blog!

Head over to Elizabeth's Elizabeth's blog to read about my writing process, my inspiration and a little more on the 1066 project... 

me reading by tree

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Short Stories and Scottish Sagas - Margaret Skea Casts Light ...

Today I am delighted to welcome as my interview guest author Margaret Skea

I began by asking her:
You live in Scotland now but grew up in Ulster during the time of the 'troubles.' Did this in any way influence your writing?

Everyone knows the maxim ‘write what you know’. Growing up in Ulster during the worst of the ‘Troubles’ meant that living within a conflict situation was what I ‘knew’. We went to school, shopped in Belfast, travelled by bus and so on, not expecting to be killed, but knowing it could happen at any time. So I understand what it feels like to live with an ever-present danger, very much as it must have been for the folk I write about in 16th century Ayrshire.  Looking back I also realize that although I had no desire to write about the ‘Troubles’  as such, in a way I’m telling a little of that story, but from a safe distance – through the perspective of a different place and time.

In Turn of the Tide, we are introduced to the Munro family. Can you tell us about your decision to use a fictional family - and did it give you more freedom as a writer?

When I began to write Turn of the Tide I was focusing on the Montgomery family and I wrote 70,000 words with Hugh Montgomery as the key character. Though it was helpful to have a framework, I found myself ‘constrained by truth’ and so one momentous afternoon I made the (scary) decision to ditch the 70,000 words and start again with a fictional main character, whom I could mould and move at whim.   Of course I consoled myself with the thought that, as my new main character would be involved in the same key historical events, I would be able to re-use a lot of the original story, but it didn’t quite work like that, in fact I didn’t re-use any, because my perspective changed.
It was a positive experience though – I found the introduction of a fictional family liberating, and it did wonders for my editing skills - having thrown away 70,000 words, it’s not hard to cut out a thousand or two if they aren’t fulfilling a useful function!

A House Divided continues the saga - at what point did you know that this would be a series, and how did it influence the way you put the story together?

I always conceived of a series, right from the beginning of that early draft, so one main concern was how to finish Book 1 in a way that was appropriate as an ending in its own right and yet pave the way for the sequel. (My husband thought I might as well have written ‘ To be continued…’ on the final page) which I feel is a bit harsh. If Munro’s story had ended there it would have been in many ways justice.  The second book A House Divided  builds on the first, but it's pleasing to have several reviewers say that you don’t have to read the first to enjoy the second as i did want it to be capable of standing alone if necessary.

You've had a great deal of success with your short stories too - obviously the short story is a very different beast from a novel, particularly when that novel is part of a series. Can you expand a little on those differences and how you approach working in the different genres? 

Short stories were my first love, though I haven’t had so much time for them recently, but I think they’re a tremendous training ground for writing a novel. Many of the ‘building blocks’ – character, setting, story arc and so on are the same, but there isn’t room in a 3000 word story for padding, so the writing needs to be especially tight and controlled. And that’s no bad thing in a novel either. Of course there is the issue of sustaining a story through c 100,000 words and a lengthy time span – I took two years to write Turn of the Tide, plus editing - and I have to admit that seemed very daunting to me when I first started. There is clearly a lot more of plot, character development and (in my case) research and so on required for a novel and preparing an outline I’m sure would help – I’m just not very good at that!  

For Turn of the Tide I knew the opening and exactly what the final scene would be before I started, but nothing about the in-between, and for A House Divided I didn’t even know how/where I was going to end until a couple of weeks before I actually finished.  Not the easiest or most comfortable of ways to work!
In contrast when I sit down to write a short story it’s usually in response to a specific spark of inspiration and I tend to write a first draft within a day, then leave it aside for a while (measured in days rather than months) and come back to spend another day editing it.
There are several that I’m particularly proud of and I hope to bring out a small collection of them this year including some of those that have previously won or been placed in various competitions.  

You've promised us a third novel in the Munro series - will this be the last (or would you rather not say?!)

I have promised a third novel in the series - in fact I wrote ¼ of the first draft of that while on a writing fellowship in February / March of this year. However another story is jostling to get to the head of the queue and as it’s one that is tied to an anniversary, I suspect it will succeed. (Sorry folks! Munro will be back shortly.) I’m deep in research mode just now, so watch this space…

Your website says you are an 'ethical author' - can you tell us what this means?

The ‘ethical author’ concept is one that I found through the Alliance of Independent Authors. Basically it is concerned with putting the reader first and behaving professionally both on and offline, and involves agreeing to a set of specific principles. These can be found at Here and are well worth following.

Thank you so much for talking to me today Margaret.
Find Margaret on her Website
and on Facebook
and on Amazon or in the UK

Turn of the Tide: Winner of the Beryl Bainbridge Best First Time Author Award  

Sequel - A House Divided - Long-listed for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2015

Monday, 13 June 2016

Giveaway - To Be a Queen

June 12th is the anniversary of the death of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, and June 19th marks 1100 years since her attack on the fort on Llangorse Lake. So all of this week, the EHFA blog is hosting  a giveaway of my novel of Aethelflaed's life, To Be A Queen:

For a chance to win a signed paperback copy, visit The EHFA Blog

Sunday, 12 June 2016

12th June AD918 - Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians died

It's the anniversary of Aethelflaed's death, and on Judith Arnopp's blog today, I'm talking about the Lady of the Mercians.

“From top to bottom, this country has no sense of itself.” This was a line of dialogue spoken by the character of Robert the Bruce in the film Braveheart. Many will, quite rightly, take issue with the film’s portrayal of history, but as a summation of the succession squabbles in Scotland at that time, it’s not far off the mark. The same could be said of medieval Wales, where brother fought brother and principalities were carved up. A similar situation existed in 9th century Mercia and, as with Wales and Scotland in the 12th and 13th centuries, it allowed others to march in and take over...

The Multiple Writing Personalities of Zeba Clarke

Today I am delighted to welcome as my guest, writer Zeba Clarke ~

I started off by asking her:

Firstly, can you tell me a little about your published works?

In 1987, I wrote a short crime story which was published in an anthology called Murder & Company, called Box. Much later, in fact, pretty much 20 years later, it was picked up by a radio production company and adapted for radio - the first I knew was quite literally, when my husband yelled at me to turn on Radio 4, someone was reading my story! And then another friend saw a small ad in Private Eye asking me to get in touch so they could pay me royalties. It has had a long life for 2000 words!

I got my first publishing contract in 2003. I was offered first a contract for a regency romance by Kensington Zebra, and then my editor there offered me a three-book contract. After that, Kensington Zebra moved into more steamy material and closed down their regency line. At that time, I was writing a romance which kept going out of control. It became less and less romantic and more and more a thriller. It was published by a US e-book publisher, but sank without trace. I’ve now recovered the rights and am thinking of editing it and reissuing it as a self-published novel.

By the time I’d written the five regency-set books, I was a bit jaded and my eldest son, then around ten or eleven, told me I should write a fantasy. I did, and tinkered with it, sent it out to three or four agents and publishers but it was clear it wasn’t what anyone was looking for in 2007. After a hiatus, though, I took it out and polished it again last year, sent it off to Finch Books, which is a new e-publishing imprint set up by the Totally Entwined Group, and they offered me a contract.

Eagle-eyed readers of your blog That Reading/Writing Thing will notice three names on the banner - can you tell us more about those 'three' people?

Madeleine Conway was my pen-name for my historical romances. I don’t think Zeba has a very romantic vibe, so I ‘borrowed’ my grandmother’s maiden name, which I think does have a classic romance feel to it! Zeba Kalim is my maiden name, and that was the name I used for Box, the short story. When I married, I became Zeba Clarke, and much of my writing is done as Zeba Clarke - confusing, but I’ve always had plenty of names. Half my family calls me Zeba, the other half calls me Ayesha, and my school-friends call me Alex...

Brogue Magazine - can you explain what it is and the opportunities it provides?

Brogue is an arts magazine on the internet which explores visual arts, music, fashion, books. It welcomes submissions from all types of creative individuals, musicians, artists, writers in a range of forms, from reviews to radio interviews. I write a weekly column which is usually about books, film, TV or art, an extension really of what I do on my own blog but writing for Brogue gives me a chance to revisit topics I may have developed new ideas about. For example, I wrote about Frankenstein on my blog some years ago, but after a recent re-read and on the bicentenary of its publication, it was good to revisit what I love about the book. I also loved writing about childhood favourites to celebrate World Book Day.

You have a new release. Please can you tell us about it?

Dream Guy is the book that I redrafted and revised last year. It’s about a young man, Joe Knightley, who learns that he has the power to make dreams come true. His name is deliberate as an echo of the idea of chivalry and the idea of something that happens to us every night developing into something bigger. At first, he uses his power to try to get stuff and to please people. But quite soon, this gets him into trouble, and of course, as he tries to put things right, he gets drawn more deeply into an increasingly dangerous world with a lethal enemy. He is also wrestling with his attraction to Nell, who used to be his best friend, but who won’t now give him the time of day. I loved writing it because unlike the regency romances, I didn’t really know how it was going to end, or even where it was going to go. As it happened, it took me to Turkey - sadly not in real life - and Elizabethan England. As I did more research, I became aware of some surprising coincidences and synchronicities, and that was really absorbing.

I was also quite mischievous and included cameo characters who were based on both students and teachers I’ve worked with. I don’t ‘borrow’ people wholesale, but I do borrow names and physical characteristics, like hair colour or physique or a habit and use them to round out my minor characters.

You obviously enjoying writing in a variety of ways - do you have a favourite?

I love the possibilities with that borderline between YA and what seems to be emerging as New Adult or NA, where the themes are quite controversial, reflecting the interests of the age range of students I teach. You can be quite risqué in terms of themes and relationships but without being explicit. I discovered quite early that I can’t write sex scenes very well. Romantic moments and kisses are fine, but the mechanics of a full-on explicit scene just make me giggle.

I also love writing radio scripts, mainly because the discipline of creating a world that you can’t see but you need to feel through characters and perhaps some narration is a real challenge. The draw of writing for me is actually entering a world in my own mind, opening up doors and just getting down what I see and hear in my mind’s eye. When I was working on a postgraduate degree in education, I first heard about Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi and the concept of ‘flow’, where you enter a state of what he calls ‘optimal experience’ and I think it’s that stage that is the most compelling. As an English teacher and former journalist and editor, I also get a weird pleasure from revising and rewriting. My favourite writing is when I feel I’ve really done a good clear job of telling a story in a consistently interesting way. Which can be quite tough. There are moments when I look at my writing and I’m overwhelmed by a sense of ‘what were you thinking, this is complete gibberish’.

What's next?

I’m finishing a second draft of the sequel to Dream Guy, which is an even darker tale, as it involves Joe developing his powers under very difficult circumstances. His father, who works in the Middle East, is taken hostage, and Joe is also being set up in a rivalry with another boy his own age. His love for Nell is entirely on the back-burner - but the plan is for that to take centre-stage in the final book in the series. I’ve also written two out of three books about a young woman training to be an artist in 17th century Europe and those need a lot of work before I submit them to agents/publishers. And then, there is a radio series I’d really like to get underway set on the Isle of Man where I live, based on some of the historical events that have taken place here. It’s a very evocative place with wonderful stories dating back from Viking times through the Civil War period and WW2.

Thanks for taking time to talk to me, Zeba. If you would like to know more about Zeba and her work  -
Find her on her Blog or on Facebook
Buy Dream Guy

Monday, 6 June 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down - Cover Reveal!

The very talented Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics has produced this wonderful cover for the new project:

To read more about this exciting new book, visit the 1066 Blog

Sunday, 5 June 2016

From Charlemagne to Shakespeare and Short Stories to Screenplays - Don Maker Casts Light

Today I am delighted to welcome writer Don Maker to the blog:~ 

Welcome, Don. Could you start by telling us a little about your background - have you always written?

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, mostly poetry and short stories. I tried to write a novel when I was 10, but I don’t think I got much past the first page. It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought!

You write across a wide range of genres, so I'm guessing you don't have a favourite - but are some easier/more difficult than others, and in what way(s)?

Perhaps because of my background in non-fiction, I tend to write about whatever really catches my fancy. Although single-genre writers become more successful (or use pseudonyms), I find this a lot more fun. The challenging part is the research. Three of my novels are “modern”, and it’s so much easier to access actual data about people, dates, inventions, etc. While I might spend six months gathering information on a modern novel, the research for most of my WIPS is measured in years. That’s probably why so many historical novelists tend to stick with a particular era or subject.

Is there a period of history you still have a yearning to write about, and if so, what appeals so much about it?

Right now I’m working on a series called “The Franks”. It’s the period in Europe when the Roman occupation of Gaul ended and the wild Gothic tribes transformed the territory into modern France and Germany. Although it actually started with Clovis, I’m beginning with Charles Martel because he is a very little known but powerful figure. He originally united most of Europe in the 700s, and was primarily responsible for stopping the Muslim invasion through Spain and Italy, preserving the territories north of the Mediterranean as a Christian kingdom. Although he never declared himself king, Charles left the empire to his son Pepin, and then his grandson, Charlemagne. I’ve never written a series, but this was a pivotal period in Western Civilization.

Can you tell us a little about your non-fiction?

A long time ago in a galaxy far away (Tokyo), I started as a copywriter for a technical agency and a ‘stringer’ for the United Nations University. I retired early from corporate marketing to become a teacher, and started writing articles for Yahoo Voices (now defunct) on travel and education. I’ve published a number of articles on various sites on those topics, as well as sports and politics.

Your novels The Jersey Jupiters and The Grindstone are set in the 1950s. Debate rages about when history becomes 'history' - what is your view on that?

To me, yesterday is history because you can’t change it. Technically, it’s 50 years, but what does that mean to a 30-year-old? I don’t call those books ‘historical fiction’, but, if you read them, very few people would recognize what went on in the NFL or the school system, respectively.

Are you working on anything particular at the moment - novel, screenplay?

Always! A movie producer asked me to write a screenplay on a concept I pitched him about Charles Martel; the working title is “The Savior of Europe”. I’m also working on “The Shakespeares and the Crown”, about the civil upheaval in England during the Elizabethan era. The Shakespeare family represents the devout Catholic faction, while William Cecil and Francis Walsingham represent the spy ring developed under the Protestants. I’ve spent three years researching that, and there’s a lot of fascinating stuff, both about the Shakespeare family and how Elizabeth’s spymaster manipulated world events. It is NOT another Tudor novel! I’ve also outlined a sequel for my young adult novel, “Miranda’s Magic”, and planned another YA I’m writing in conjunction with my daughter.

Thank you Don, for talking to me today about your writing. 

Readers can contact Don at

Find him at his Amazon Author Page
and at his Facebook Author Page
and his Goodreads Author Page

Tweet him @DonMakerAuthor

Friday, 3 June 2016

1066 Turned Upside Down

What if William I never became king? What if the three battles of that year a) didn't happen or b) had different outcomes?

Historical fiction authors are at liberty to use their imaginations - and 9 authors have done this, in order to re-write history.  Have you ever watched a film, read a book, discovered a period in history and wished it had a different ending? Well now, you can have that different ending - 11 of them, in fact.

This is just a little teaser - full details, along with the launch of the beautiful cover, on Saturday 4th June at midday (BST)

More about the authors involved in this project On my website

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Thea Hartley is on a blog tour and she's stopped by on mine today. Over to you, Thea ...


I have also written a few books which required a great deal of historical research. A biography about my grandfather, was researched in depth, covering the period 1900- 1945, and Volume 2  led me to research social history from 1945-1962. I have also written a book set during WW2 "Thicker Than Blood" which required searching archives and war records. 

I have always enjoyed research, and having an interest in history, I have looked at old documents and archives of various historical periods. 
I discovered, writing my previous books, that I really enjoyed immersing myself in the lives of people from different historical periods. All this fitted in to my ideas about a fictional novel, with reincarnation as the pivot to the story. 
Carefully, I researched four historical periods and cultures: 

African Slaves in Rome in 10BC
Elizabethan England at Windsor Castle during the Black Plague. 
Immigrant gypsy tribes settling in Frome, Somerset, during the Victorian period 
Small town or village life during World War Two. 

This looked like a formidable task. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved finding hitherto unknown ( to me) facts relating to these historical periods. 

I used many reference books and articles, soon discovering a particular 'Akan' tribe who had been taken by the Romans, I wrote about their lives, culture and the traditions of both the tribe and their Roman masters. 
Elizabethan England had always been a favourite of mine. I described Elizabeth 1st coronation as written in the history books, including first hand reports.  The plague, Elizabeth's fears and subsequent isolation of the court in Windsor Castle was ideal for my plot. Including the gallows erected to hang anyone who could be associated with the disease. 

The gypsy tribes were fascinating. I found descriptions of their finely painted 'Vardos' and traditions for betrothal and marriage, which fitted perfectly with my story.
The WW2 research I had already carried out for other books. However I was now able to use my knowledge of ammunition factories to describe my characters life as a woman working in one during the war, whilst the man she loved was a fighter pilot in the American forces and based near the factory. This was based on the true locations of Glascoed munitions and the GI base in nearby Abergavenny. 

My book differs from other 'time slip' tales because each 'life'  is an historical story within itself. Every time the characters arrive in a different historical period, the place and the situation is totally accurate and presented with a descriptive narrative.  I even ensured that I had the correct accents and slang words for the time. The strange and humourous  insults of the Elizabethans was somewhat difficult to 'fit' at times. 
In Wear Bright Colours For Me, the reader has a paranormal story of reincarnation, interwoven with historical fiction which is accurate in its portrayal. Events are exactly how they occurred and the sanctions and mores of that society, carefully written. 
Many scenes were checked and double checked for accuracy in order to produce a truly interesting, accurate, book. 

I think that lovers of both historical novels and 'time travelling' will find Wear Bright Colours a really great read. 


Wear Bright Colours