Monday, August 18, 2014

Historical Fiction Enticements 8/19

Along with introducing several newer historical novels, I would like to announce that Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors will be available in Audiobook format hopefully in November. Aaaaand! We are working on Volume II.


Bronze and Stones
Paul Burnette

2300 BCE, Hanavel struggles to escape a group of slavers abducting her from her home in Bretanye. Mate Aiman searches for her, finding clues, crossing the Sea Neck into Britain.

He eventually finds the Keepers of the Stone Circle. While Aiman describes his wife and what he knows or suspects of the kidnappers for the Keepers, Ulen studies the stranger again. His brown hair is braided and hangs down his back almost to his waist. . . . Even squatting, he looks ready to fend off any attack. In fact, Ulen sees that the warrior’s body is positioned so that he can see all of the Keepers as well as the leader.

The leader gestured again, this time toward the pack at the feet of the warrior.

“And here?”

Aiman placed his hand on the skin bag and left it there for a moment. Then he took the bag up in one hand, loosening the leather thong that held its mouth closed. Ulen also felt – with every one of the villagers – the impulse to look at the various gold-hued objects that fell from the bag to the ground. He had seen copper jewelry several times and gold a few. These – there were two knives, several pins, bracelets, an armband, more – they were another metal, gold in coloring, but not as deep a tone.

Several of the others had drawn their breath in sharply. But the warrior did not seem to notice, instead drawing his own knife and holding it out toward the leader in the palm of his hand. “Here, try mine.”

The Keepers will not let Aiman take his new metal-smithing skills away, so he sends new friend Ulen to search for Hanavel. At Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain festivals, Tellers stand on their clan’s Telling stone sharing the ancient stories of love, betrayal, trickery, and fate that resonate in their listeners’ lives.

While Hanavel suffers life as a slave to a rival clan’s chieftain, seeking opportunity to escape, the youth Ulen finds his own place adventuring among the ancient peoples who inhabited what we now call the United Kingdom, but which they know simply as the Land.

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7 five-star reviews, 1 four-star.


The Portuguese Affair
Ann Swinfen

The year after defeating the Spanish Armada, England retaliates. The expedition to Portugal sets out to destroy what remains of Spain’s Atlantic fleet, drive the Spanish out of Portugal, put the claimant Dom Antonio of Aviz on the throne, and seize the Azores.

But from the time the English fleet, led by Drake and Norreys, reaches Plymouth, things start to go wrong. Christoval Alvarez, sent to carry out two missions by Walsingham, has a more important private plan in mind. Are any members of the family still alive? And what will become of the disaster-ridden expedition?


His Majesty's Confidential Agent 
Tom Williams

The war against Napoleon brought horror, death and destruction to countries across the world. For a young man anxious to improve his position in the world, though, it brought opportunity.

James Burke comes from a poor Irish background. Joining the army offers him a way of escape. Glory in battle might allow him to achieve his ambition to rise in society. But when his linguistic skills are noticed and he is plucked from the infantry to become a spy, James' hopes of advancement are crushed. Spying is no business for a gentleman. And when a mission to Buenos Aires means disguising himself as a merchant in leather goods, he feels he has hit a new low.

His mission, though, means fighting alongside men who see the collapse of the old order giving them a chance to break free of Spanish colonial rule. He falls in love with the country – and with the beautiful Ana.

urke tries to forward British interests, while keeping faith with the rebels. He gains the trust of the rebels, who plot with him to put the British in charge of Buenos Aires. Once their army is established there, though, the British renege on the promises they made to the rebels who helped them. When the people rise against the invaders, Burke is caught in the middle. Captured by revolutionaries and disowned by the British, he becomes a pawn in the three way fight between Britain, Spain and South American patriots. For once, he has more at stake than his own ambition. How can he honour the pledges he has made to his friends and his country and still stay alive?

Based on true events and meticulously researched, His Majesty's Confidential Agent follows James Burke from the jungle of Haiti through the courts of Spain and Brazil until, back in Buenos Aires, he is forced to risk everything to fight for the girl he loves.

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UK Paperback
US Kindle
US Paperback


The Bitter Trade
Piers Alexander

In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title. When his father’s violent past resurfaces, Cal’s desperation leads him to become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father’s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself. Cal’s journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court. As the illicit trader Benjamin de Corvis and his controlling daughter Emilia pull him into their plots, and his lover Violet Fintry is threatened by impending war, Cal is forced to choose between his conscience and his dream of becoming Mister Calumny Spinks.

$0.99 through Tuesday 8/19

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Gang Warfare
Peter St. John

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn't do?

Have you ever been caught up in a minor incident that grew into a major conflict?

An orphan, evacuated from the World War II bombing of London, comes to live with his pious aunt in an English village. A bag of sweets is knocked out of his hand in the school playground. This trivial incident has devastating consequences.

The villagers become increasingly quarrelsome. The tension reaches a climax at a fund-raising fete to buy a Spitfire aircraft. This ends in a riotous fight which causes the funds collected for the Spitfire to be last seen floating gently down the river in the twilight and a barrel.

Although this book follows-on from the previous ‘Gang Territory’, it can stand as a complete story in its own right.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Discovering the Diamond: Interview with Helen Hollick

Discovering the Diamond by Helen Hollick is an excellent read much like a mentor for the new author or wannabe who needs to develop a feel for the work and the field. Helen is well qualified to help after twenty years as an author, one who has been published in the mainstream and who also has done indie-publishing.

In Discovering the Diamond, Helen discusses tips of the trade for new novelists, going self-published, the basics of writing a good novel, and the importance of editing. I have interviewed Helen below.

So… who is Helen Hollick then and now?

I’ve always thought of myself as ordinary, if a bit of a loner. I like chatting to people (one bonus of being a writer is you get to meet lots of lovely people!) but I am also happy in my own company and quite content when immersed in my own fictional worlds – whether these are the ones I am reading or writing about. I had few friends at school (many years ago!) and found the world of books to be a much kinder place. I wasn’t bullied or anything, but extreme shyness combined with short sight and those awful bottle-bottom glasses eroded my confidence. You do not need to be confident when you are off adventuring with fictional characters though do you?

Now? Well I live in Devon, England, having moved in January 2013 from the noise, pollution and pressure of a London suburb. The decrease in stress levels and the quieter, slower life is wonderful – as is being able to write without neighbours shouting, radios blasting or sirens blaring. The noisiest things outside my study window are birds, cattle and sheep!

At what point did you find yourself becoming a writer?

Writers, I thought, were clever people who went to university and had degrees. Ordinary people like myself with minor, low-grade qualifications were not writers.

I was about thirteen when I started scribbling stories. I am sixty-one now, so a lot of words have been transferred from imagination to paper in the years between. I desperately wanted a pony, we could not afford one so I invented one in the world of fiction. I wrote dozens of stories about Tara, as she was called. (Must have been an unrealised influence from Gone With the Wind.) I was quite shocked when I discovered that living your dreams through writing stories was unuasual. I had assumed that everyone did it

I moved on from pony stories to fantasy and science fiction, still inventing my own worlds, then I discovered that King Arthur may have been a real person who lived during the fifth or sixth century. I had never much liked the traditional Arthurian tales of knights in armour and courtly deeds – they always seemed so out of place somehow, but the excitement of discovering that he might have been a post-Roman warlord fired my imagination. I delved deeper with research and suddenly the novels I were reading irritated me – they were not how I envisioned Arthur. So I wrote my own novel, which turned out to be the first book in the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. The books were picked up by William Heinemann in 1993 (Random House UK) and that was it. I was a published writer.

You review self-published novels for the Historical Novel Society. How did that come about, and what are your goals there?

I was delighted to discover that the HNS reviewed indie historical fiction; few such societies do as there is still an unfortunate element of disdain about self-published books. But the reviewers were all US based – what about us UK writers? It costs a fortune to mail books to America. Rather than moan I offered to become a UK editor, which set the ball rolling, but as is oftn the way, one thing led to another and I am now overall Managing Editor of Indie Reviews, with a fantastic and enthusiastic review team behind me.

The doubts about Indie books can be justified because, sadly, there are a lot of badly written, poorly produced self-published novels out there. But there are also some darn good ones! I wanted to introduce a standard into our HNS Reviews, aiming for the point where if it has been reviewed by the HNS then you know it is a good read. We take into account the standard of writing, of course, but also the quality of production – comic sans font, double- spaced paragraph breaks with text left justified is unacceptable. As are covers with no title on them (yes! I have had two books submitted with no text on the cover: the authors said that as the books sold on-line not in a book store why did they need to print a title? Words fail…!)

Recently, in 2014 I have also introduced the HNS Indie Award, which is to be an annual award for the best Indie Historical Novel, This is not a competition as such, and there is no entry fee, the books are selected from those submitted to us for review. If one of our reviews becomes an Editor’s Choice then it is automatically long-listed for the award.

I know most of your work is historical fiction. But I just read your Discovering The Diamond. What motivated you to write a writing book, and who is this book mainly for?

I wrote this in conjunction with my UK editor, Jo Field. Both of us were receiving so many e-mails asking for various bits of writing advice that we decided to produce some common answers on a quick to send attachment. This soon became six pages, then twelve, and then booklet-sized. In the end we thought we might as well publish our useful tips as a modest ‘how to’ book.

It is written with the intention of assisting novice and new writers to discover their talent and achieve a dream – of writing a good, readable book. Writing well is not just about thinking up a decent plot and getting the punctuation, spelling and grammar right. There is a technical side as well: to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ your story, not have too many point of view changes (often called ‘head-hopping’,) or not to use author’s voice. Although useful for prospective mainstream authors Discovering the Diamond is especially helpful for Indie writers as it also includes advice about layout – the dos and don’ts of self-publishing, many of which I learnt first-hand.

When I initially went Indie with my Sea Witch Voyages a nautical adventures series, I made many errors that are very common for the new indie writer – going it alone is a sharp learning curve, so I wanted to share my experiences and help other writers avoid the pitfalls.

Where can Discovering The Diamond be purchased?
I expect it can be ordered from any good bookstore, but it is available from any of the leading on-line stores, such as Amazon, in paperback format or on Kindle, Nook etc.

What are your historical fiction topics and titles?

The Arthurian Trilogy
The Kingmaking
Pendragon’s Banner
Shadow of the King

The ‘what might have really happened’ story of King Arthur. No knights in armour, no Lancelot or Merlin; just a boy, who became a man, who became a king… who became a legend.


The Forever Queen (US title) / A Hollow Crown (UK title)
USA Today Bestseller
The story Of Emma of Normandy, Queen of Anglo Saxon England

I Am The Chosen King (US Title) / Harold The King (UK Title)
The people and events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 from the English point of view.


Sea Witch
Pirate Code
Bring It Close
Ripples In The Sand
On The Account (coming soon)
Pirate-based adventure series with a touch of fantasy.
I describe Captain Jesamiah Acorne as a blend of Jack Sparrow, Indiana Jones, Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, James Bond and Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe.
If you liked the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, you will enjoy these sailor’s yarn adventures.

8) Where can we learn more about your books?
My website:
My Main Blog:
My (sort of monthly) Newsletter:
Twitter: @HelenHollick

Thanks Debra – this has been a most enjoyable interview!