Tuesday, July 22

Letter to an Unknown Soldier- Bury's Workshops

Most writers of historical fiction become very attached to their time periods. For me, that would be medieval. But the exploration of any time period is fascinating.

So when I was approached by  Bury Libraries to run workshops as part of the Letter to an Unknown Soldier project, I felt very privileged. The LTAUS project is part of 1914-18 NOW. 1914-18 NOW is a major cultural programme taking place across the United Kingdom to mark the centenary of the First World War. (For more details, please click here). The LTAUS is a new kind of war memorial, a memorial made only of words from thousands of people. (Details can be found here).

The statue of the Unknown Soldier on the platform at Paddington Station in London, reading a letter, provides the inspiration. Any individual can write letters. But Bury Libraries took the approach of offering workshops in collaboration with the Council's Archives Service to provide people with a sense of their local history and to make it even more meaningful to them. And here is what we did...

The Call to Fight
© 2014 EM Powell /Bury Archives
Archivists specialise in rabbit-out-of the-hat moments, except they do them with no drum rolls or spangled suits. But when they showed us these original recruitment posters that were used in Bury, it was a proper hairs on the back of the neck moment.

These were enlistment posters issued on behalf of Lord Derby: the very posters that were part the unthinkable tragedy that was the Pals Battalions. Pals Battalions were made up of men from one small area, so relatives and friends would sign up and fight together- just as they would die together. In another part of Lancashire, the Accrington Pals saw 720 men fight. 584 of them died, were injured or were reported missing.

And here were the very posters before which people stood on the streets of Bury and surrounding towns in Lancashire. Stood and were tempted with the promise of  uniforms, money, training at the upmarket seaside at Lytham and St. Annes. There is even the appeal to men who are 'fond of Horses.'


© 2014 E.M. Powell/Bury Archives 


The posters are huge, approximately two thirds the height of an average domestic door and about as wide. They shout out the opportunity that was in reality, for many men, a call to death. Our soldier may have stood on the streets of Bury, a young man reading that call before hurrying off to enlist. And once enlisted, his only contact with home would be through his letters.

© 2014 E.M. Powell/Bury Archives 

Life in Bury

And what of those left behind? Left waiting every day for a letter that told them their loved one was safe and well, or the dreaded message that they were killed or missing?

Again the Archives provided us with a fascinating insight with the newspapers of the time. We have an account of replica trenches in Heaton Park, Manchester's biggest park that is still thronged today when the sun shines. People in 1916 could pay to go and have a look at the replicas, with donations going to the fund for blinded soldiers and sailors. We doubted that the replicas would have shown the true nature of what the trenches were like.
© 2014 E.M. Powell/Bury Archives 

We saw the disapproval of society for a discharged soldier who was drunk on a tram, a finger-wagging article about the wives of soldiers who were spending their government allowance on drink.

© 2014 E.M. Powell/Bury Archives 

© 2014 E.M. Powell/Bury Archives 


We found a letter in a newspaper from a teacher, Mr. Frank Morris. One of his pupils, Corporal Hutchinson, was awarded the Victoria Cross for extreme bravery. In the letters we saw he has been badly wounded. 

Corporal Hutchinson mentions all the letters and telegrams he has received: 'Well, I could do with a typewriter to answer them all'. And he talks of home: 'I am awfully proud of myself for having won so great an honour for the town of Radcliffe.' Corporal Hutchinson touchingly signs his letter: 'So here's hoping you are in the best of health, from one of your Sunday school scholars.' 

So We Wrote...

We found so many other glimpses of life in Bury during the First World War. We began to know our soldier, know his world.

One participant at the workshops had had a great-uncle who fought. Her great-uncle died, unmarried, a couple of decades later, having checked himself into a sanatorium, still carrying the deep scars of what people knew as shell shock. She wrote to him, with the love, care and grief of someone who really knew him.

A young woman wrote to the drunk discharged soldier on the tram, outraged at his treatment by the society for which he had gone to fight.

A man wrote to his Irish relative who had left the soft, green fields of County Clare, only to die in the heat and dust of Gallipoli.

...and a Soldier Wrote Back.

We finished our workshops with a letter that had been sent by a Lance-Corporal J.W. Gilbert, from Tottington. He sent his mother the following poem:, called "TO MY DEAR MOTHER" 

© 2014 E.M. Powell/Bury Archives 

Lance-Corporal Gilbert was a cricket-playing mill worker before he enlisted. He never did come home to his cosy feather bed or his fireside at Market Street. He never did come home to his mother. On June 16, 1917, Mrs. Gilbert received 'official information of his death.' She received this almost a year after being informed he was 'missing.' He was twenty-two years old.

The Importance of Letters

Our letters will never bring Lance-Corporal Gilbert home to Tottington. But our letters will be there to remember him and honour all the others who have been forgotten. We think Mrs. Gilbert would have liked that we spoke of her son and her heart-breaking loss, all these years later. A letter doesn't take long to write. We think you should write one, too.

The Letter to an Unknown Soldier is open to submissions until 11p.m. (BST) on the night of 04 August 2014. You can find out more here. 14-18 NOW supported the Bury project. Alison Bond, Nichola Walshaw and Adam Carter from Bury Libraries and Archives brought the soldier home to Bury with their wonderful resources. Contact details for their service can be found here.

E.M. Powell is the author of The Fifth Knight, a medieval thriller based on the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. You can find it here on Amazon.com or here on Amazon.co.uk. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight, will be released by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014. Visit her website at www.empowell.com or her Facebook page.

Sunday, July 13

English Historical Fiction Authors: Thomas Becket: The Blood of a Martyr

© 2014 E.M. Powell 
English Historical Fiction Authors: Thomas Becket: The Blood of a Martyr: by E.M. Powell © 2014 E.M. Powell  On July 12 1174, King Henry II of England did public penance in Canterbury for the murder of...

Friday, July 4

Being a Book Blogger- Interview with Stephanie M Hopkins from Layered Pages

I have had many writers stop by here to talk about their novels and writing projects. But this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to interview someone who blogs about books for a living. Welcome, Stephanie M Hopkins from Layered Pages!

Stephanie M Hopkins
Layered Pages Blogger
Thank you for having me chat with you today, E.M.! I am so delighted to be here and to have an opportunity to talk about my love for blogging, about my favourite pastime-reading books, and chatting with so many wonderful authors.

I once had a wise boss whose best advice was ‘never assume.’ So I’m assuming that not everyone who reads this will know what a book blogger is. Can you explain what’s involved?

Gosh, where to start…there is so much! (Smiling) First off I want to say that Amy Bruno inspired me to start book blogging. I first met her on Goodreads through Ladies & Literature-a book club I’m co-founder of. I soon discovered that she has a virtual tour website and a book blog. I thought, “What a fantastic way to share one's love of reading and to connect to readers and writers.” So it began….and boy, did it really take off and soon I discovered a world of brilliant authors and readers alike.

There is so much involved in book blogging. Many have their own method. A large part of it is setting up author interviews, reviewing books, guest post, posting book lists, formatting, contacting authors, scheduling post and so on….I have spent hours upon hours doing so. Often times neglecting my own writing or getting enough sleep. But I’m not complaining. I love what I do and I’m so honoured to do so. Here is my method at Layered Pages.

That sounds wonderful! I know people might be thinking, ‘Hey, that’s for me!’ But I’d like to get into some of the detail about what’s involved. How do you get the books that you review?

That is a good question. Strangely enough, when I began reviewing I didn’t have to search for books to review nor was I in the mind-set that authors would ask me to review their books. I was posting short reviews on Goodreads of books I had read on my own time and then I had authors start to approach me not long after. Then a few months later, author Helen Hollick with the Historical Novel Society, contacted me and wanted me to be on their indie review team. Things really took off from there.

Occasionally, I will post that I’m open for reviews on Facebook and then immediately I’m flooded with review requests. Needless to say…..I’m a bit back logged and have been for quite some time. Which I know most reviewers are. It can be over whelming at times but rewarding all the same. There is nothing like getting books in the mail or authors wanting you to review their books.


Obviously reading a novel takes time (which people don’t see) as well as writing the review (which they do). How many book reviews can you manage in a week?

I used to produce two to three book reviews per week. But I have had to really slow down. I’m a fast reader but not a speed reader like book my friend and fellow book blogger, Erin Davies. Now she is an incredible reader and blogger! She inspires me to no end….
I would like to do more…..but reality gets in the way and often times leaves me having to put reviewing aside for a while. But then I always pick reviewing back up.

For example, in the last four weeks I have had six reviews to write and I have three more coming up for July so far. I’m swamped at the moment! And to add to that, I conduct author interviews and promote the B.R.A.G. Medallion for indieBRAG.

That translates as a lot of hours! And timescales must be really important. How do you manage deadlines for your reviews?

To be honest, sometimes I barely make the deadline but seem to pull through every time. Some reviews I can write right after I read the book. Other times I need to really process what I have read and how I want to articulate my thoughts onto paper. My reviews are really simple though. I’m not one for big words or trying to impress. I just love books and hope it shows through what I share in my reviews and blog.

Your bio mentions your interest in Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction. Is that the only type of book you review? And how broadly does that category stretch?

Historical Fiction and Non-fiction are my first love and always will be where my passion for reading is. I love history and the writers who give a voice to the people of the past. To me there is nothing more thrilling than that in reading.
In the last three years or so I have really gotten into alternate history. Matter of fact I’m currently writing a story in that genre.
Occasionally I do read epic fantasy, women’s fiction, crime thrillers and general fiction.

We will definitely have to hear more about that writing project- I think you'll have to visit again! Now, about the reviews themselves. Do you have set criteria against which you evaluate each book? Or is your process more fluid?

I either down load a sample of the book first or read the first fifty pages of the story before agreeing to review the book. But there are a few authors I accept immediately because I have love their previous stories.

My process tend to be more mechanical at times…..really it depends on the author and if it’s a debut.

First I look at the overall layout of the book. That includes, the cover, title, formatting, editing, and then on the plot, writing style, flow of the story, character development and so on….
Secondly, the story has to really grab me from the start and I need to feel a connection to at least one of the characters. I’ve read enough book to know if I’m going to like it or not after the first few pages.
I’m pretty much your typical reviewer in that regard.

And of course we come to the inevitable question: what happens when you read a book that you really, really don’t like?

I won’t write a review for it, period. I know that is tough and many don’t agree with that concept. But my passion is to share-with the world- books I love. And I will tell the author that in the beginning…..
I respect authors too much to write an insulting review-which I see a lot of today in social media. I just won’t do it. It’s not engrained in me to be unpleasant and rude. But I have been known to give construction criticism. Which I think is important.

Reviews can provoke strong reactions in both authors and reviewers alike. I’ve seen examples of where reviews have been the source of much online strife. For anyone thinking about book blogging, this is something they have to be aware of. How do you deal with negativity about your reviews?

That is something people need to be really aware of going onto this industry. To this day, I’m still blown away by the bad behaviour of people on both sides of the camp.
You really have to develop a tough layer of skin and I admit, I don’t often times show that. I’m a passionate, sensitive and caring soul. I don’t like to see people hurting, nor do I like to feel that awful pain in the heart. 

So it can be hard for me at times. So when I see that going on, it really takes me a lot to carry on at times.
I have learned to ignore negativity towards my reviews. After all, you can’t please everyone. I’m the type of person that when I’m upset about something, I need to talk about it so I can move on. So MANY of my friends (laughing) hear from me often. And they are so supportive and patient with me and they know they have a shoulder to cry on with me as well. That is what friendship and good supporting fellow bloggers is all about.

The far nicer side of reviewing is that books will come along that you love. What does that feel like? Do authors respond to you when they get a glowing one from you?

Oh, it is a most wonderful feeling. To this day when I’m done reading a book I love, it stays on my nightstand for a very long time. It does tend to get a bit crowded! Lol. And I have a particular space on my book shelf for them.
Many authors do respond kindly and that too is a wonderful feeling. Often times I will be on cloud nine for weeks!

If you could deliver one golden nugget of advice to your pre-blogging self, what would it be?

Hmmm…….the process has been a learning experience for sure and I’m still evolving and learning new things about blogging.
I would have to say my one golden nugget of advice to pre-blogging is to pace yourself. If you don’t, often times you get overwhelmed and then you won’t produce your best work.

How can authors or publishers contact you about reviewing their book?

I have become great friends with many authors, so they normally contact me through via Facebook. However, I can be contacted through my email, layeredpages@yahoo.com.

Thanks, Stephanie for stopping by- it's been so great to talk to another book lover. And it's been such a fascinating insight into the world of book blogging. I'm sure we'll talk again!

Stephanie M. Hopkins conducts author interviews, writes reviews and helps promote the B.R.A.G. Medallion. She participates in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, has reviewed books for the Historical Novel Society, is Co-Admin of English Historical Fiction Authors Group on Facebook, and is an avid reader of Historical Fiction, Alternate History, Non-Fiction and History. She currently has several writing projects under way. When she is not pursuing her love of a good read, chatting with authors and fellow readers (which is pretty much 24/7). Stephanie also enjoys creating mix media art on canvas. She is into health & fitness and loves the outdoors. These days she has no idea what rest is!


 To find out what Stephanie thought of my #1 Amazon Bestselling Historical Thriller, The Fifth Knight, click here. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight, will be published by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014. Find it here on Amazon.com or here on Amazon.co.uk.







Thursday, June 19

Guest Post & Audio Giveaway: Steven A. McKay- Author of The Forest Lord Series

Today I’m welcoming a great guest to my blog. It’s another medieval writer, Steven A. McKay, author of Wolf’s Head and The Wolf and The Raven.
Steven A, McKay

The novels have a hero that everyone has heard of: Robin Hood. Both books are having a debut at the same time: Wolf’s Head has just been released on Audio and The Wolf and The Raven came out in April 2014. Steven is also including a Giveaway with his visit. Leave a comment at the end of this post to be in with a chance!

Welcome, Steven! Can you tell us a bit about your take on the Robin Hood legend in your novels?

Wolf's Head on Audio
Enter a comment- you might win!
When I first started thinking about writing a novel with Robin as the central character I knew I would have to do something different. The legend these days seems to centre around certain things, like the time period being the 1190's and the setting being Sherwood Forest. My research suggested that the original Robin, the “real” one if you like, actually lived around the early 14th century and was based in Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire. Also, most modern versions of the legend have Robin as a displaced nobleman, but he was far more likely to have been a regular guy. So, with all that in mind I was able to put a fresh slant on one of our most enduring folk heroes.

What made you originally decide to pick Robin Hood as a hero?

I wanted to do something similar to what Bernard Cornwell had done with King Arthur, but couldn't think what road to go down. I knew I wanted to keep it within Britain, but I had no idea how. I'd just started to think about it and was close to giving up on the idea when I drove past a house with the name “Sherwood”. Divine Providence! Of course, when I saw that sign the idea of using Robin Hood as my main character seemed ideal and, from an author's point of view, it really has been. He, and his mates, are so much fun to write!

(C) E.M. Powell
Writing's great when it's fun, isn't it? But I think every writer has an area they find most difficult. For me, plotting came easily but it took me a while to really get to grips with characterisation. What area challenges you the most?

Starting a book is hard for me. It's a slow process because I don't really plan things out very much. I have a basic idea of how things are going to pan out, but, until I really get a good few thousand words down and the characters have shown me where they want to go, I struggle. I'm just starting the next book in the series now and, because I work a full-time job and have a young family, I don't have much time to write so...I'm not getting much done. Once I get about 15,000 words things will start to move quicker, I hope.

Now, we both write medieval and that involves hours of research. I have traipsed my family around innumerable castles as well as hours ploughing through written material. How do you approach research?

I was always into history, but mostly classical, so when I decided to write about the 14th century I had to really look at the politics, culture and people of the time. As well as the usual textbooks, I used things like Medieval Lives by Terry Jones which is a really fun book and gave me a real insight into some of the stranger sides of the people of that period. Books on the Robin Hood legend were very useful in providing plot ideas as well as an idea of the sort of weaponry the outlaws would have had available to them.

Robin of Sherwood
IMDb

Books are all well and good, of course, but my favourite piece of research was watching all the DVDs of the old 80's TV show, Robin of Sherwood. It's not very historically accurate, or realistic, but the sense of camaraderie and brotherhood between the gang of outlaws really helped me get a feel for how things might have been for these men, forced to live like animals in the forests of England, with the law always trying to kill them. Such a life would have been incredibly stressful, and, as a result, powerful bonds of friendship and loyalty would have formed between them. I'm a huge fan of that show now.

I always love to visit castles of course, I even worked in the one in Dumbarton for a while which was a good experience.

And I believe you have taken delivery of your own bow. Who’s a better shot- you or Robin?

I'm rubbish, just a beginner! In my defence, though, I didn't start shooting a bow as a child, like Robin would have. I did manage to hit a bullseye the first time I tried archery, but modern recurve bows are much easier to use than the huge longbows Robin and his men would have been shooting. An archer friend made me some period-correct arrows and I was shocked at the size of them. Even a knight in plate armour wouldn't have been safe from these things, they're massive. Even just holding one you get a sense of the potential deadly energy emanating from it.
13th Century Conwy- a damn fine castle!
(C) E.M. Powell
 You’re a keen musician as well. Do you have a playlist for when you’re writing?

Yeah, black metal or death metal! I did a guest post for Roz Morris recently about this. I can't write to most of the music I like because it's too distracting. Iron Maiden or Jethro Tull or something like that has too many hooks so when I listen to them I want to play guitar or sing along and it makes focusing on writing impossible. So, before I settle down to begin a writing session I put on something by Behemoth, Enslaved or Bathory because they're a lot less melodic than most rock or metal and it acts almost like a Gregorian chant or someone meditating to the word “om”, allowing me to block out the outside world and really lose myself in my novel.

There’s been some great reviews for both books. Do you read your reviews? Is there anything you’d like to say to reviewers?

Yes, I read every review and, although I've probably had more than 300 in total so far, I still get butterflies when I notice there's a new one, wondering if it will be good or bad. I find them mostly helpful. If someone makes a valid point about my writing, and I think they're right, I'll try to do something about it. One guy wanted to see more variation in the combat, so that's something I'll actively strive for in book three.

The main thing I'd say to those who've left good reviews of my books is: “thank you so much for taking time to leave such positive feedback.” It really gives me a good feeling when I read a new 4 or 5 star review and the person has obviously enjoyed my work – it's amazing to know you've been able to entertain someone for a few hours and they've liked it enough to tell the world.

The one thing I get a bit annoyed about is when reviewers say, “people didn't use the F-word in medieval times!” or, “The dialogue is too modern, they didn't talk like that back then, it's not realistic!” Well, what do you want? If I wrote the book using the language people actually spoke back then no one nowadays would understand it, and that would make for a really crap novel.  
I'm writing for a modern audience, I want my books to be easy to understand and that means using language we all use today,  including the F-word. Did people not curse back then, even when a big hairy-arsed outlaw was trying to shove a sword through their face? Of course they did and, to get the same sense of danger or anger or whatever across to a modern audience, it is, to me, acceptable to use the swear words we use today, especially one like the F-word which probably was in use in medieval times.
Hmm...outlaw? Or re-enactor?
(c) E.M. Powell


You have two books in The Forest Lord series. Are there going to be any more?

Yes, I was planning on it being a trilogy but the second book went off in its own direction which left me with a lot of things I still wanted to write about. So there will be four books in total now. After that, I'm not sure where I'll go. A few of my characters seem like they could “star” in novels of their own, particularly Sir Richard-at-Lee, the Knight Hospitaller, so I have a few options. For now, though, I'm just aiming to have the next book in this series out around early 2015, with, hopefully, the audiobook version of The Wolf and the Raven ready to go before that.

June is Audiobook month. To celebrate that, you have Audiobook/download copies of Wolf’s Head to give away to readers of this post. What do people have to do to win a copy?

Easy, just share this post on Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment here to say they've done so! A winner will be chosen at random by 30 June 2014.

Many thanks, Steven. And best of luck with the next stage of the saga of The Forest Lord!

Thanks for having me Elaine, it's been fun!


Steven A. McKay was born in 1977, near Glasgow in Scotland. He lives in Old Kilpatrick with his wife and two young children.
His second book, The Wolf and the Raven was released on April 7th 2014, at the London Book Fair where he was part of the Amazon stand. His d├ębut novel, Wolf's Head, was also released the same day as an Audiobook. 
Wolf's Head is a Kindle top 20 best-seller and The Wolf and the Raven was the “War” chart number 1.

He plays lead guitar and sings in a heavy metal band when they can find the time to meet up.

Amazon Author Page:

Blog/official website:
 Social media:

 The Fifth Knight is a #1 Bestselling historical thriller. Find it here on Amazon.comand here on Amazon.co.uk. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014. Find it here! 




Monday, June 16

English Historical Fiction Authors: The Medieval Anchoress

© 2014 E.M. Powell 
English Historical Fiction Authors: The Medieval Anchoress: by E.M. Powell (c) E.M.Powell The Poor Clare Sisters are part of the Franciscan family and the Order has existed for over eight hundr...

Monday, June 2

Writing a Sequel

As every writer knows, it's the small things that make our day. Coffee. A few uninterrupted hours in which to write. A 5* review from a reader. Getting paid. (note: this list is in random order and not in order of importance. You get the picture). One of the biggies is the state of Having Written. You've done it again, produced a 100,000 words that hang together into something coherent and maybe, just maybe, quite good. But for me at this moment in time, it's not just the HW. It's Having Written a Sequel. Now, for those of you who've never written a sequel, you'll be thinking 'What's the big deal? It's just another novel and novel writing is hard. Full stop.' Just what I thought. Until I started to write one and found that there is a whole weight of expectations and problems attached to writing a second novel. I have other (unpublished) novels under my belt, so it's not like I can't produce novels. Let me explain.

1. Second Novel Syndrome
As an unpublished writer, I believed the hard climbs were to 1. Get an agent (done) 2. Get a publishing deal (done). 3. Have great sales (done). Once I had achieved those three, then the rest would be easy. Nobody told me about Second Novel Syndrome. The thing that happens when a second novel isn't as good as the first. When it fails to deliver the promise of the sparkling debut. When you basically, as a writer, fall on your behind and it's clear to all that yes, you had a novel in you. But it was just the one. So with your second book, the game is on. You absolutely have to get it right. And weirdly, the more successful your debut, the more pressure there is for the next one to be as good and ideally, better. Oh, and other thing, said the sage advice I found online: don't try and do it with a sequel. Because writing a decent sequel is really difficult.  Problem was, my historical thriller The Fifth Knight was a #1 Bestseller on charts on different Amazon sites. It had loads of 5* and 4* reviews. And I was trying to write a sequel to it, called The Blood of The Fifth Knight. Oh, indeed.
Same Again, Please
2. Of Course I Can Do It Again. (Or, Oh, No You Can't.)
What cheered me about being an agented, published author was that I no longer had to produce the whole novel before it could go out on submission. All I needed was 30,000 words and a detailed synopsis. Easy-peasy. I always do a basic scene by scene synopsis, but not this time. No. I was going to write a beautifully constructed three-act synopsis. I was going to show detailed character development, perfect plot arcs. I was going to develop my skills in my genre of historical thrillers and make this a weighty read. I wrote said synopsis. And a tiny voice in my head whispered: 'This is boring.' 'Hah! I replied to the voice in my head. 'It is not boring at all. See, how authentic and gritty and...historical and proper it is.' So I wrote my 30,000 words based faithfully on said synopsis. I sent both to my agent and the second I pressed send, I admitted to the voice. 'Yep. it's boring.' I hoped my agent wouldn't notice. I allowed my spouse the first read simultaneously. He said it was frequently boring. My agent was more tactful (Great writing, but...) But yes, it's boring. So he had noticed. Damn. But my agent was also spot on in reflecting back the bits that weren't boring at all. That worked for him as a reader. That were true to The Fifth Knight. I had to do more of that. Much more. And he wasn't sending it anywhere until I had. My delete button took care of 20,000 words. And I couldn't have been happier. I stopped trying to write what I thought I should write and wrote what I enjoyed. Out went a famine. In came a leopard. (Yes, really. Historical fact. I promise). And we were back on.

3. How To Make  A Rod For Your Own Back:
Most of the action in The Fifth Knight took place in December 1170/January 1171, with the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral and its aftermath. I added a nice epilogue from July 1174, with King Henry II doing penance on the streets of Canterbury for his murder. I had included that because a sequel hadn't been on my mind then. But the sequel takes up where that scene left off, with an enormous amount of political upheaval that had taken place in the preceding years. And I had characters that had to start off from this three-years-later point. And I had to incorporate a credible story line about what had happened in those intervening years as well as start a brand new premise for the new novel. It was the singularly most complex plotting exercise that I had ever done. I must have redone that plotting jigsaw dozens of times.
One jump from the dog and it would've been disaster.
If I had left that epilogue out, I would have had far more freedom to move to the next story. My turn for sage advice: leave the narrative door a bit further open for the next stage of a story. You may well be glad you did.

And I fretted and fretted over those complexities, the time shifts, the points of view. Was this now really working or was I boring everyone again? Admittedly the tiny voice in my head had gone quiet, but it might have just fallen asleep. Agent and spouse reported back, very happy, as did beta-readers. But all of that is for nought unless an editor likes it.

4. Thank You, Writing Gods.
So the e-mail from the editor comes, as it inevitably does. I don't know how you read something with your eyes screwed shut, but I did. And she said: 
'Congratulations – this is a brilliant historical thriller, I absolutely loved it and was drawn in from the first page. The action is exciting, the plot is twisty and you create a brilliant sense of the period... I really enjoyed reading it and don’t think that you need to do very much work here at all.'
 Yes, not only have I managed to write a sequel to my #1 selling historical thriller The Fifth Knight, I have managed to write one that the editor really likes. Let there be dancing, happiness and above all, a colossal sigh of relief. As for not needing to do very much work on it? I think I'm best described as a front loader.

The Fifth Knight is a #1 Bestselling historical thriller. Find it here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014. Find it here! 

Monday, May 19

Meet My Main Character Blog Hop

In this latest game of tag for historical fiction authors on the blogosphere, we introduce the main character of our work in progress or soon to be published novel. I’ve been tagged by Dianne Ascroft who talks about the characters in her fascinating World War II work-in-progress. You can read her post here. So time for me to rewind a further seven hundred-plus years to answer some questions about my current main character.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historical figure/person?

As my soon-to-be-published novel is the sequel to The Fifth Knight, my hero is once again mercenary knight, Sir Benedict Palmer. It was his first outing (and mine!) in the world of published fiction. And while he is fictional, many other characters and events are not. The sequel is called The Blood of The Fifth Knight and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014 (find it here!). Again, I've used real events to inspire the story.



2) When and where is the story set?

The story takes up exactly where The Fifth Knight ended. It's 1174 and King Henry II is doing his brutal penance on the streets of Canterbury for the murder of Thomas Becket. The King's throne is under threat from a rebellion, which puts Palmer and his family in danger too.

3) What should we know about him/her?


Aidan Turner- Palmer Nominee!
Readers of The Fifth Knight will know Palmer has got to where he is in life by talent as well as his quick wits. As for physical description, he's now in his late twenties, well-built with dark hair and eyes. That was as far as I went with his physical description. It was fun hearing from readers who suggested their own take on him. I think my favourite suggestion is Aidan Turner. Check out his IMDb page at  http://www.imdb.com/ (where this picture came from). You may be persuaded too!

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his  life?

Palmer fought for and won the love of his life, the anchoress Theodosia. He wants to stay by her side and with his children. But Henry calls him back for a new mission. Someone is trying to murder Henry's beautiful young mistress, Rosamund Clifford. (She was a real person- she's often referred to as the Fair Rosamund in popular culture.) The King only trusts Palmer to root out who is responsible.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

Palmer wants to solve the crime and get home to his family. But the attacks on Rosamund don't stop and things take a major turn for the worst for Palmer.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

As I've said, the book is called The Blood of The Fifth Knight. Some one asked me if it means 'blood' as in family or 'blood' as in the red stuff getting spilled. Same answer here: you'll have to read to find out, and you'll be able to do that late in 2014!

I'm now tagging three more great Historical Fiction authors who will post their answers to these questions on Monday 26 may 2014. They are:


Judith Arnopp
Judith Arnopp is the author of several historical novels. In 2007 Judith Arnopp graduated from the University of Wales, Lampeter with a BA in English Literature and a Masters in Medieval Studies; she now combines those skills to write historical novels. She is currently working on a third Tudor novel Intractable Heart, the tale of Henry’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr.
Judith also blogs about the Tudor period, both on her own blog-page and on the English Historical Fiction Author’s website. Her work reaches a world-wide audience and her following is steadily increasing.

Elizabeth Kales
Elizabeth Kales is the author of The Silk Weaver's daughter. She began her career by writing television and radio advertising for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Later she worked in the travel industry for many years and had numerous articles published in newspapers and trade journals. After spending time in France and England, she began to write her novels based loosely on the family history she had done for over twenty years. She currently lives in Western Canada with her husband and her cat.

Matthew Harffy
Matthew Harffy is writing a series of novels set in seventh century Northumbria. In his day job he is a manager of fifteen technical writers, so spends all day writing and editing, just not the words he’s most interested in! Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ. When not writing, or spending time with his family, Matthew sings in a rock band (http://www.rockdogband.co.uk).


The Fifth Knight is a #1 Bestselling Historical Thriller. Find it here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk. The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014. Find it here!