Archive | February 2023

6 Misconceptions that Keep Beginning Writers from Publishing Success – by Anne R. Allen…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

This week, editor and former agent Nathan Bransford published a blogpost that I wanted to send to all the beginning writers I know. The title is: If You Think Writing is Easy you’re Probably Not Very Good At It.

It’s a little harsher than what we usually hear from good-natured Nathan. (I’ve met him IRL and he’s a sweetheart.) But I understand why he wrote it. He’s been reading unpublished manuscripts for over 20 years and he keeps seeing the same mistakes. He says he can always tell a manuscript is going to be awful if he sees one of two things in the query —

  • The writer brags about his own abilities.
  • The writer claims all the books being published today are awful.

I have an editor friend who’s dealing with two beginning writers who vastly overestimate their own writing skills. Because they’re both volatile and self-absorbed, she…

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A Mistake of Murder

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Book Title: A Mistake of Murder

Series: Jan Christopher Murder Mystery – Episode #3

Author: Helen Hollick

Publication Date: 18th January 2023

Publisher: Taw River Press

Page Length: 169

Genre: Cosy Mystery (Historical)

Twitter Handles: @HelenHollick @cathiedunn

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A Mistake of Murder

By Helen Hollick


The third Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery

Was murder deliberate – or a tragic mistake?

January 1972. The Christmas and New Year holiday is over and it is time to go back to work. Newly engaged to Detective Sergeant Laurence Walker, library assistant Jan Christopher is eager to show everyone her diamond ring, and goes off on her scheduled round to deliver library books to the housebound – some of whom she likes; some, she doesn’t.

She encounters a cat in a cupboard, drinks several cups of tea… and loses her ring.
When two murders are committed, can Jan help her policeman uncle, DCI Toby Christopher and her fiancé, Laurie, discover whether murder was a deliberate deed – or a tragic mistake?

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Author Bio:

First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She has also branched out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon, England, and occasionally gets time to write…

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2023. 4 Comments

Maker’s Fire #supernatural

Book Link

From Amazon:

Hattie and Marie Drake have led a sheltered life for more than six hundred years. Hattie helps solve a ghost problem at one of the local Hollywood film studios, and decides she likes the adventure. She puts up an online website advertising her new paranormal detective agency. When a young woman calls Hattie and tells her that something is trying to kill her, the sisters decide they will help. Little do they know there is more to the story than either the woman or they could have ever imagined. Their world explodes in more ways than one as Marie hires a group of six former Marines to protect them. It is not enough. Tiffee uses present-day Hollywood to create a new twist to the legend of the first vampire.

My Review:

Jasso has written a paranormal thriller unlike any other book of this nature I’ve read in the past. All of the “abilities” some characters have complements in helping to keep one another safe. The drastic measures taken to prevent the killing death creature outside the home fails. If you want to find out what the creature wants and the remarkable lives of those within the home, then read this novel.


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Book Title: Hammer

Series: The Iron Between

Author: Micheál Cladáin

Publication Date: 31 January 2023

Publisher: PerchedCrowPress

Page Length: 375

Genre: Historical Fiction

Twitter Handle: @cladain_m @cathiedunn

Instagram Handle:  @mickcladain @thecoffeepotbookclub

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by Micheál Cladáin


Genonn’s tired and dreams of a remote roundhouse in the Cuala Mountains.

However, sudden rebellion in Roman Britain destroys that dream because the Elder Council task him with delivering Lorg Mór, the hammer of the Gods, to the tribes across the straits of Pwll Ceris. Despite being torn between a waning sense of duty and his desire to become a hermit, Genonn finally agrees to help.

When his daughter follows him into danger, it tests his resolve. He wants to do everything he can to see her back to Druid Island and her mother. This new test of will means he is once again conflicted between duty and desire. Ultimately, his sense of duty wins; is it the right decision? Has he done the right thing by relegating his daughter’s safety below his commitment to the clans?

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Excerpt :

Cornelius Tacitus versus Cassius Dio

The Boudiccan rebellion of 60/61 CE provides a backdrop to Hammer. Genonn, the druid, is sent by the Elder Council to provide Boudica with the Hammer of the Gods, Lorg Mór.

What do we know about the rebellion other than that given to us by romantic writers hundreds of years later?

There are two sources of information about the rebellion, Cornelius Tacitus and Cassius Dio. Tacitus wrote his history of Rome soon after the uprising. As the son-in-law of Agricola, he had a first-hand source of information. Agricola was present at the Battle of Watling Street (the modern name because we do not know what the road was called at the time) and was an authority on events. On the other hand, Cassius Dio wrote his history of Rome well over a hundred years later and would have relied on the writing of earlier historians like Tacitus for his information.

When researching the uprising, I was struck by the contradictory nature of the two accounts. Which one is more accurate?

Tacitus tells us that Boudica’s army sacked three cities, whereas Dio claims it was two. Tacitus tells us of the massacre of the Ninth legion, and Dio does not mention the Ninth in any capacity.

They didn’t even agree on the brutality of the warriors in how they treated the conquered.

Tacitus wrote:

“All else was plundered or fired in the onslaught; the temple where the soldiers had assembled, was stormed after two days’ siege.”

Whereas Dio wrote:

“This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I said, she wrought indescribable slaughter.”

Tacitus then went on to describe the massacre of the Ninth Legion. Dio described the brutality of the treatment of Camulodunum’s people, using explicit detail in his gory descriptions.

The historians agreed that Suetonius was in Anglesey, but they disagreed on what he did on hearing of the uprising. Tacitus wrote that Suetonius gathered his army and rode to Londinium to investigate the viability of defending it against the horde. In contrast, Dio tells us he wanted to delay any battle:

“…therefore he was for postponing the battle to a more convenient season.”

Other than disagreeing on the fate of Boudica (Tacitus claimed she killed herself, and Dio claimed she died of an illness), the most significant difference is how they reported the battle. Tacitus tells us about the narrow defile and Boudica’s army being trapped by wagons and chariots blocking the only escape route. On the other hand, Dio had the Roman army in the open and divided into three main battle groups.

Dio’s account also contradicts Tacitus in other aspects. He describes Decianus Catus as the governor of Britannia, whereas the governor was Suetonius. He says that Boudica retook Britannia, but we know the Second Legion was in Exeter and Suetonius’s Fourteenth were in the west. He says that Boudica “…was of the royal family…” but she was the queen of the Iceni. Not queen of Britannia.

On balance, I find Tacitus more credible. Dio spends a lot of words on pre-battle speeches by both Suetonius and Boudica. Pre-battle addresses probably did occur, but in Dio’s version, Suetonius gives three different speeches, one to each of his battle groups, which I find unlikely. He might have given the same speech three times but not three different. Dio also ignores the defeat of the Ninth. He uses the sack of Camulodunum as a medium to express the barbarity of the Britons rather than reporting facts.

As a writer of historical fiction, research is an essential element of my work. When confronted with two accounts that offer wildly varying versions, how am I to proceed? From an artistic perspective, the gore of Dio might be better received by readers, at least of a certain age. However, Dio’s battle description does not stand up to scrutiny. If Suetonius had divided his force into three battle groups, they would have been massacred, regardless of how uplifting the commander’s speech might have been. Defending a narrow gorge with a shield wall is much more plausible.

Author Bio:

Micheál has been an author for many years. He studied Classics and developed a love of Greek and Roman culture through those studies. In particular, he loved their mythologies. As well as a classical education, bedtime stories consisted of tales read from a great tome of Greek Mythology, and Micheál was destined to become a storyteller from those times.

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This entry was posted on February 24, 2023. 2 Comments

Listening To The Rain

Please welcome Miriam Thor to my blog. Good morning to all! Please introduce yourself to those reading this blog post.

My name is Miriam Thor. I am originally from Louisiana, although I spent over a decade living in North Carolina. My husband and I recently moved to Alabama.

In addition to being an author, I am a sign language interpreter at an elementary school, and I have six adorable cats that I love dearly.

  • Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book? (If you are here as an invite to promo your small business, then please write your own questions and provide relevant photos and links, thank you.)

I discovered my love of writing in second grade. My teacher encouraged me to write to my heart’s content, so I did and never stopped.

I didn’t really “know” it was time to write my first book. I started writing fantasy novels in middle school but only completed a few chapters. In high school, I had the idea for the story that became my first novel, Listening to the Rain, but I didn’t finish writing the full first draft of the novel until I was 23.

  • How difficult was it writing your first book?

Writing Listening to the Rain was quite challenging. As I mentioned, I first had the idea when I was a teenager, but I was extremely busy in high school and college. I managed to write the first few chapters during that time, but I didn’t commit to writing it until my first year out of college.

When I finished the first draft, I thought I was done, except for proofreading, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I completely rewrote the first three chapters multiple times. I did numerous revisions, including deleting entire chapters, before it was accepted for publication.

I actually had two novellas published before Listening to the Rain, but I still consider it my first book because I wrote it first.

  • Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?

I’ve never wanted to give up. Writing is my passion, and I will continue writing, even if I never get published again.

I have definitely felt discouraged when it comes to getting published, though. A couple of the rejections I received for Listening to the Rain made me wonder if it would ever be published. When I get discouraged, I often take a short break and focus on writing something just for fun.

  • Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?

My husband and my parents are supportive of me and my dream to be a writer. I also have a few special friends who are willing to be my beta-readers. It is very hard to say which of them is most supportive because they have all been wonderful in that regard.

  • Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

Thank you for reading my stories, and I hope you find them both enjoyable and edifying.

  • What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?

The best advice that comes to mind is something my husband told me: It’s okay not to be perfect because God loves me exactly as I am.

That’s something that others have told me in the past but that I have had a lot of trouble internalizing, in my writing and otherwise.

  • What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?

For Listening to the Rain, my target audience is teenage girls, especially Christian girls. I feel like the main character, Ally, is someone they can really relate to, because she is someone I would have related to at that age.

Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?

My publisher, Pelican Book Group, took care of making the cover, although I gave ideas. They did a wonderful job of incorporating the ideas I gave them, and I am very grateful.

What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?

Currently, I am working on a young adult fantasy series. I don’t want to share too much about it, but here is one of my favorite quotes from the protagonist:

“That boy is a he not an it, and if you think meeting a deadline is more important than a citizen’s life, then this land is better off without you.”

Any last words before we wrap things up?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

I’m happy to host you, Miriam.


Author website:


Twitter: @Miriam_Thor17,



TikTok: @miriamthor398


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The Black Madonna

Book Title: The Black Madonna

Series: Roundheads & Cavaliers (Book 1 of 4)

Author: Stella Riley

Publication Date: 31st May 2013

Publisher: Stella Riley

Page Length: 622

Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Twitter Handles: @RileyStella @cathiedunn

Instagram Handles:  @stellarileybooks @thecoffeepotbookclub

Hashtags: #TheBlackMadonna #EnglishCivilWar #Blog Tour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

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The Black Madonna

by Stella Riley

(Audiobook narrated by Alex Wyndham)


As England slides into Civil War, master-goldsmith and money-lender, Luciano Falcieri del Santi embarks on his own hidden agenda. A chance meeting one dark night results in an unlikely friendship with Member of Parliament, Richard Maxwell. Richard’s daughter, Kate – a spirited girl who vows to hold their home against both Cavalier and Roundhead – soon finds herself fighting an involuntary attraction to the clever, magnetic and diabolically beautiful Italian.

Hampered by the warring English, his quest growing daily more dangerous, Luciano begins to realise that his own life and that of everyone close to him rests on the knife-edge of success … for only success will permit him to reclaim the Black Madonna and offer his heart to the girl he loves.

From the machinations within Parliament to the last days of the King’s cause, The Black Madonna is an epic saga of passion and intrigue at a time when England was lost in a dark and bloody conflict.

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Excerpt 7 (1425 words)

The ruin of Thomas Ferrars – Luciano’s first act of vengeance

On Wednesday morning, Luciano prepared precisely as before for what he expected to be his final meeting with Thomas Ferrars. Having equipped himself with every advantage he could think of, it did not seem that anything could go wrong this time … nor, with the clock ticking steadily away in Genoa, must it be allowed to do so. 

Thomas arrived, shaking, on the stroke of eleven and sat on the same strategically placed chair he had occupied before.  Then, addressing the shadowy figure of the man who was either his torturer or his life-line, he said abruptly, ‘I – I’ve brought them.  Alice’s jewels.’

‘Put them on the table.  I’ll look at them presently.  I trust your wife saw the wisdom of surrendering them?’

‘No.’ Thomas tugged at his collar, recalling the horrible scene when Alice had caught him emptying her coffer and the unbelievably cruel things she had said.  ‘No.  I don’t want to talk about it.’

‘Then let us address the business in hand.’  Luciano surveyed his prey clinically and took his time about continuing. Then he said coolly, ‘As matters stand, you are completely insolvent.  The shop-keepers of the town will supply you with no further goods until your various accounts are paid – but you can’t do that without increasing the already substantial amount you owe me.  None of the other money-lenders will touch you with an eighteen-foot pike … and even wealthy acquaintances such as Cyrus Winter are loath to help you.’  He paused and, in response to the other man’s expression, said, ‘How do I know that?  Suffice it to say that the extent of my knowledge might surprise you.  However … to resume.  You’ve brought me security in the form of jewellery to support both your existing bond and the additional sum you have asked for – and presently we shall determine if it is equal to the task.  But first we have to consider the fact that, in a little over a week, I shall require you to pay me the last quarter’s interest.  And we both know you won’t be able to do it.’

Ferrars’ skin felt clammy and he could see the bottom of the pit rushing up to meet him. In a voice which seemed to come from a long way off, he said, ‘You’re refusing me?’

‘At the moment I am merely establishing the precariousness of your position,’ came the maddeningly calm reply.  ‘It seems to have escaped your notice that this is not simply a question of whether I will or will not help you out of your present predicament. It is whether or not I will bankrupt you.’

‘Oh God.’ Ferrars drove his face into his hands.  ‘Oh God. What can I do?’

‘You can cast your mind back to the year of your marriage,’ said Luciano with severely controlled impassivity. ‘And you can tell me everything you know about the trial of Alessandro Falcieri.’

The lank brown head came up revealing a face contorted with shock.


‘You heard me.  The case of Rex versus Falcieri – in which you and three others gave evidence for the prosecution.’  There was a long, terrible silence. ‘The case in which you perjured yourself for the purpose of sending an innocent man to the gallows.  I’m sure you remember it.  And please don’t try convincing me that you don’t know what I’m talking about or that you didn’t lie under oath.  I’ve spoken to Samuel Fisher.’  Luciano took a folded document from the table and held it lightly between his fingers. ‘I also have the trial record.’

Ferrars seemed to shrink in his chair.  He said, ‘Then you know it all. There’s n-nothing more I can tell you.’

‘On the contrary.  You can tell me how it was done … and why.’  An undercurrent of nameless danger flowed through the melodious voice.  ‘You ought to be grateful, Mr Ferrars. I am giving you the chance to unburden your soul and engage my sympathy.  Or would you rather I had simply sent someone to knife you in the back one dark night?  Surely not.  And you must have realised that – after so long and with what I already know – nothing you can say is likely to make matters any worse for you than they are at this minute.’

Slowly, very slowly, comprehension filtered into the numb disorder of Thomas Ferrars brain.

‘You – you bought my bond because of this? And the shops … it was you who – who made them stop my credit.  It was you.  All the time, it was you … because of this!’  He stopped, trying to suck some air back into his lungs.  And then, with a kind of compulsive horror, ‘Who are you?’

‘I think you know.’  For the first time, Luciano came out of the shadows into the light and gave Ferrars time to look at him. ‘I am Alessandro Falcieri’s son.’

Ferrars stared at him, incapable of speech, movement or even of coherent thought.  He looked at the well-cut black clothes, the long, fine-boned hands and the slight irregularity of the left shoulder; and then with petrified reluctance into the sculpted face with its hard mouth and fathomless eyes.  His heart gave a single, heavy thud and seemed to plummet into his stomach. 

‘And now,’ continued Luciano inexorably, ‘we will proceed. You robbed me of my father, my home, my childhood and caused the death of my mother. And I have brought you to this point so that you may attempt to justify yourself. What, for example, had Alessandro Falcieri done to you?’

‘N-nothing.’ The word arrived on a choking gasp.  ‘It … it wasn’t like that.’

‘No?  Then how was it?’

‘It wasn’t my idea – you’ve got to believe that!  I was in d-debt to your father and I couldn’t pay because I’d have lost Alice even before the betrothal contracts were signed.  But I never meant to harm anybody.  I – I just did as I was told.’

‘By whom?’

Ferrars’ eyes slid away and his knuckles glowed white on the arms of his chair.

‘Giles Langley.’

Luciano took his time about replying.  Then, silkily, ‘How very convenient.  He’s dead.’

‘I can’t help that.  He’d lost a fortune on the Cadiz expedition and if Falcieri had foreclosed on him, he’d have found himself in the Fleet.  So he – he – oh God.  It was his idea, I tell you!’

There was another eviscerating silence.

‘Mr Ferrars … I don’t believe you.  Look at me.’  Luciano waited till he’d collected the frightened gaze and then said crisply, ‘Rid yourself of the notion that there is any easy way out.  There isn’t.  I want the truth.  Now start again.’

‘All right – all right!’  His nerves at breaking point, the only thing Thomas Ferrars wanted was to be allowed to leave. ‘I – I had a letter.  It w-wasn’t signed so it may have come from Langley or – or one of the others.  Or perhaps they all had one too.  I don’t know.  And that’s the truth. I d-don’t know. We never – we never spoke of it.  And when it was over, we went our separate ways.  I don’t even know where they are any more – and I’ll swear that on anything you l-like!’

This, decided Luciano clinically, had both a certain logic and, at last, a ring of truth.  He said, ‘And the letter?’

‘It told me what to do.  I was to go to his Grace of Buckingham’s secretary and say I’d overhead Falcieri and some others plotting to assassinate the Duke.  I was also to say that I’d got the impression the Italian was passing information to Richelieu about the Duke’s plans to take La Rochelle.  I was to give them the dates and places supplied in the letter and say …’  He stopped, the sheer hopelessness of it overcoming him.  ‘But you’ve got the record.  You know what I said.’

‘Yes.’ Luciano turned unhurriedly to the requisite page and read aloud from it.  “I heard the accused say that a clear shot might be taken from the upper window of one of the buildings overlooking King Street and that he had found an expert marksman who was willing to undertake the commission in return for two thousand in gold.”  He stopped and looked up.  ‘Since this conversation is supposed to have taken place with a Florentine, it’s odd that it appears to have been held in English.  Forse si capisce l’Italiano?’  He paused again, head tilted in gentle enquiry.  ‘I asked if you perhaps understand Italian, Mr Ferrars.  Obviously, you don’t.’ 

Author Bio:

Stella Riley

Winner of three gold medals for historical romance (Readers’ Favourite in 2019, Book Excellence Awards in 2020, Global Book Awards in 2022) and fourteen B.R.A.G. Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent.

She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the seven-book Rockliffe series (recommended in The Times newspaper!) and the Brandon Brothers trilogy, are all available in audio, narrated by Alex Wyndham.

Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord. She also has a fondness for men with long hair – hence her 17th and 18th century heroes.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2023. 2 Comments

The Forever Cruise

Book Link

From Amazon:

Lose yourself in a voyage to exotic lands in this feel good story about second chances and new beginnings.

When Halcyon Seas, a luxury alternative to retirement living, sets sail on her maiden voyage, three women on board dream of a better future.

Will Captain Marianne Moore prove herself capable in her new role? Her career depends on it.
Will Cabin maid Olivia Rose be able to keep her secret and her job? Her impoverished family relies on her wages.
And will pensioner Alice Wagstaff finally find the courage to live the life she wants?
When the cruise ship veers off course, the future is uncertain and dangerous.
Can the three women embrace this new direction, or will the journey of a lifetime turn into a living nightmare?

My Review:

This novel is actually a number of stories connected by a chain of events during the first forever cruise sailed. I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise, and now I have. Most of this story takes place on Madagascar. Reading about the ports of call was a dream for me. The love, the angst, the drama, and the way the novel evolved ensured something new was happening every day and people’s lives changed for the better.

This entry was posted on February 17, 2023. 2 Comments

Best Seller #drama #BooksWorthReading

Book Link

From Amazon:

Three women, one dream: to become a successful author.

Eden Taylor has made it—big time. A twenty-three year old with model girl looks and a book deal with a major publisher, she’s outselling the established names in her field and is fast becoming the darling of the media.

Becky Hunter has money problems. Can she earn enough from her light-hearted romance novels to counteract boyfriend Alex’s extravagant spending habits, before their rocky world collapses?

Hard up factory worker Jan Chilver sees writing as an escape from her troubled, lonely life. She is offered a lifeline—but fails to read the small print…

In the competitive world of publishing, success can be merely a matter of who you know—and how ruthless you are prepared to be to get to the top.

BEST SELLER is a novella of 40k words (roughly half as long as an average length novel), a dark, edgy drama with a twist in the tale.

My Review:

I did NOT see this coming! Tyler had written an excellent book with all the drama dreamt up as only creatives can do. since the MC and some of her friends wrote books, it touched me as a writer. This book does not tell you how to write. It does have many pitfalls and feelings of rejection that writers often receive. This novel is great to read as a reader and as a writer both.

Elwyn’s Blanket #PictureBook

Book Link

From Amazon:

Elwyn escapes reality by entering another world through her magical blanket. In this blue realm, her plush pup comes to life and they have colorful adventures. There are mystical creatures to go visit and discover. Everyone is invited to the queen’s feast except for one unwelcomed monster. In the end, Elwyn finds out this unwanted monster is the key to heal her broken heart. Learn about family, love and loss in this picturebook through rhyme.

My Review:

Napolitano has written and illustrated an adorable picture book for kids. Includes lovely rhymes and the graphics are bright. The MC is a young girl who has adventures after bedtime. Under her blanket is a magical realm of creatures and lessons on being kind, even to a monster, creates a beautiful friendship. Five shiny gold stars.