B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

A Swarming of Bees

“A herbwife on a mule may go where warriors cannot – she may see what warriors cannot see and hear what warriors cannot hear!”

The Monastery at Whitby is ruled over by the powerful and independent Abbess Hild. But when she needs someone to confide in, she turns to the honest warmth of her friend Fridgyth, the half-pagan herb-wife.

A divisive and life-altering decision taken at the Great Synod is swiftly overshadowed as the monastery is ravaged by a deadly plague. As she tends the sick, Fridgyth starts to suspect that not all the deaths are natural. Despite Hild’s stern warnings “not to meddle” she sets out to investigate.

Can Fridgyth’s wisdom and intuition unmask the murderer and unravel the dark politics surrounding the deaths and clandestine arrival of two young scholars?

A SWARMING OF BEES is an absorbing and richly atmospheric murder mystery.

Author Website


My Guest, Author Lindsay Downs

Lindsay Downs

I would like to welcome my guest today, Lindsay Downs to talk about his writing.

Why do you write?

I’ve been an avid readers ever since I was old enough to hold a red leather bound first edition copy of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake in my lap.

So it only seemed natural at some point in my life I take up pen and paper to start writing. At first my attempts were feeble with very little plot and the dialogue was horrible. Much to my relief none of my early works still exist except for their memories.

Over time my skills slightly improved which I attribute to my English teachers. Unfortunately, that’s when I learned if I was to succeed in school I had to write in a style which didn’t suit me. Acquiescing to their wishes I still kept thinking there had to be a better way to tell a story.

This came about in the mid 1970’s when I read a historical romance written by Sergeanne Golon, Angelique. This French husband and wife team opened my eyes to the real world of fiction. Stories about romance, beautiful damsels, handsome heroes and plots which kept me hooked. Of course, being a man, I had to keep my reading hidden from others as that wasn’t appropriate reading for men.

With this new found appreciation of the written word I took up other books and devoured them as a starving person would a plate of food. I them attempted to write again. I still wasn’t satisfied so I put it aside for years as other events entered my life.

Finally, in the early years of the new millennium I tried again to write and once again met with limited success. At least now I was able to get past the first page or two. Then, in 2006 a life changing event brought me back to my love, I took a job as a security officer. This allowed me plenty of time to read different genres.

My favorite was regency. As I poured through everyone I could get my hands on I knew this could be something I would never attempt. To slake my hunger for writing I took the easy way out and developed contemporary storylines. Now that worked as I based my characters around the military while keeping them sweet. Part of this was because of the publisher who only accepted that style and partly because love scenes tended to take me out of the main storyline.

Then it happened on one fateful day in early 2012. One of my publisher asked for volunteers to write a Christmas regencies. Even though I said I’d never try this genre, I took up the challenge and wrote A Christmas Surprise. Needless to say, I was hooked. It was released on November 7, 2012

Since then seven more have been released either through a publisher or self-published with A Bluestocking’s Christmas having been released on November 11, 2014.

And today, November 28, 2014 available for preorder, a three book boxed set, To Catch a Killer, of the Markson Regency Mystery series. Two have been previously released and the third is a new book. Several reviewers have called this series cozy mysteries. The release date is December 8, 2014.

Now that you know how I got to this point in my life as an author. I do it because I love telling stories and taking my readers to a time and place they couldn’t go otherwise. Plus, my characters won’t stop talking to me.

How has writing impacted your life?

I’m an introvert. Surprise, surprise, surprise. Being an author has helped me come out of my shell to a certain extent but not completely. I don’t socialize except on a few social network sites. That’s not to say I don’t talk face-to-face with people but it’s usually on my terms, which they aren’t aware of.

For example-the baristas at my favorite Starbucks know I’m an author and sometimes, while at the drive-thru ask what I’m working on. Of course I’ll answer them then drive off.

Even at the boarding house, where I live, I can control who I interact with. If any of you are familiar with that particular type of living arrangement, I spend 90% of my time hiding away in my room. Occasionally I’ve venture out and talk with someone but always with the excuse, if I get to uncomfortable, I’ve got to get back to writing.

At least I get out to a writers conference once a year. There I will socialize with others. Of course they are all authors so I wonder if that qualifies.

In conclusion, between 10 years ago and now I have improved as far as coming out of my shell. Maybe not as far as some but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and if it wasn’t for writing I probably never would have.

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

Never give up and treat writing as a job not a hobby. Even if you can only write for 15 minutes a day, that’s a start. Do it at the same time every day and let the family know you’re going to be busy.

If you can take workshops either online or in person to learn the craft do it. Also join a writers group. These can usually be found through your local library or by talking with other authors. Join social networks sites.

Don’t chose the genre you want to write, let it chose you. That’s how, after all these years I’ve found a home with regency mysteries and regency romantic suspense.

One thing you need to remember, not everyone will love or even like your book so develop a tough skin as criticism will be coming your way.

Finally, never give up your dream to be published.



Lady Brittany Sexton loves her newest book on Africa but she quickly learns keeping it in her possession is difficult. For her, the problem lies with Lord Samuel Palmer, who believes ladies should not read inappropriate tomes. Part of Lord Palmer’s fascination is the cryptic messages found in the margins. What quickly develops between Lady Brittany and Lord Palmer is even more confusing.

As Christmas draws nearer and with the book still in her possession, Lord Palmer follows her to her parents country estate. It’s there they, along with some friends, slowly make sense of the notes.

During all of this, Lady Brittany learns a fact about Lord Palmer that disturbs her greatly—why he desired the book. To clear her mind and think about her answer to Lord Palmer’s sudden proposal, she goes for a horseback ride, only for disaster to strike.

Once well, she returns home. Lady Brittany now has to make a life changing decision. Can she… will she marry Lord Palmer ?


What does it take to be a bestselling author? Determination, skill, talent, luck or taking a risk with a venture into a totally new genre. For me it was a little of some and a lot of the others.

In 2008 when I got two books published I thought it was due to skill; little did I know it was more luck than anything. Over the next three years I wrote, submitted, got rejected. I then did what I tell everyone who asks; I wrote some more. I didn’t give up.

More on a dare than anything I tried my hand at a regency, one of the most difficult genres because of the rules, which I might add I broke almost every one. Within two days of its release the book was on a best seller list and stayed there for two months.

Turns out it is all of the aforementioned.

After two failed marriages, one from divorce while with the other died unexpectedly I decided upon retirement to move. That opportunity came in September 2012 when I migrated to Texas.

For me, as a multipublished author, it was one of the best things I’ve done to date. Now, every day I can write, creating stories to take my readers to places they can only dream about.

I’m also a member of the Published Authors Network (PAN) by the Romance Writers of America (RWA).

Where you can find me-


Facebook Page

Twitter- @ldowns2966



Lindsay Downs-Romance Author


The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn

The Thief Taker

The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask… When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past. Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide. In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.


Many people know about the Black Death during the 17th Century and is talked about often….but it’s not often I read Historical Fiction on this this subject with a blend of witch-craft, alchemy, murders and I found this an intriguing blend.

What caught my attention right away was the title of the book and the main character’s occupation is a Thief Taker. He finds stolen items for people. I find that extremely fascinating and wondered how this would be woven into the story…

Overall I enjoyed the historical aspects of it and the authors detail to horrors of the Black Death. However a few scenes lost my attention and I felt the plot could have been better built and I wanted to see Charlie’s character fleshed out a bit more than it was.

I definitely will be on the lookout for more stories from this author and have rated this book three stars.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins


Spotlight: Die I Will Not by S.K. Rizzolo

03_Die I Will Not

Publication Date: November 4, 2014 Poisoned Pen Press Formats: Hardcover, Paperback

Series: John Chase Mystery Series Genre: Historical Mystery/Regency

Unhappy wife and young mother Penelope Wolfe fears scandal for her family and worse. A Tory newspaper editor has been stabbed while writing a reply to the latest round of letters penned by a firebrand calling himself Collatinus. Twenty years before, her father, the radical Eustace Sandford, wrote as Collatinus before he fled London just ahead of accusations of treason and murder. A mysterious beauty closely connected to Sandford and known only as N.D. had been brutally slain, her killer never punished. The seditious new Collatinus letters that attack the Prince Regent in the press also seek to avenge N.D.’s death and unmask her murderer. What did the journalist know that provoked his death?

Her artist husband Jeremy is no reliable ally, so Penelope turns anew to lawyer Edward Buckler and Bow Street Runner John Chase. As she battles public notoriety, Buckler and Chase put their careers at risk to stand behind her while pursuing various lines of inquiry aimed at N.D.’s murderer, a missing memoir, Royal scandal, and the dead editor’s missing wife. As they navigate the dark underbelly of Regency London among a cast driven by dirty politics and dark passions, as well as by decency and a desire for justice, past secrets and present criminals are exposed, upending Penelope’s life and the lives of others.

John Chase Mystery Series

Book One: The Rose in the Wheel Book Two: Blood for Blood Book Three: Die I Will Not

Buy the Book

Amazon US Amazon UK Barnes & Noble Book Depository

About the Author

04_SK Rizzolo

S.K. Rizzolo is a longtime Anglophile and history enthusiast. Set in Regency England, The Rose in the Wheel and Blood for Blood are the first two novels in her series about a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. An English teacher, Rizzolo has earned an M.A. in literature and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

For more information please visit S.K. Rizzolo’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Die I Will Not Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 17 Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, November 18 Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 19 Interview at Back Porchervations Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, November 20 Interview with Curling Up With a Good Book

Friday, November 21 Review at Book Nerd

Monday, November 24 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, November 25 Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, November 26 Review at Buried Under Books Review at Book Babe (The Rose in the Wheel) Spotlight at Layered Pages

Friday, November 28 Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Monday, December 1 Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Tuesday, December 2 Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, December 3 Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

Thursday, December 4 Review at A Chick Who Reads Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, December 5 Review at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 8 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, December 9 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews Spotlight at Book Babe

Wednesday, December 10 Review at The Lit Bitch Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Thursday, December 11 Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, December 12 Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

I will Not Die Tour Banner


Season of Mists by Jennifer Corkill


Expected release date: December

Justine Holloway prepares for her debut into society, compliments of her godparents, while the underworld of London groans with unfettered abhorrence. The Varius are refugees from a parallel universe who shift their form while others channel the forces of magic, an element that once flowed freely between both worlds. They seek refuge in Victorian London, hidden in the slums, easily forgotten until a human ends up incinerated or sucked dry. It is the job of the Council, created for the protection of humanity, to step in and eliminate the threat.

What Justine does not realize is her godfather runs the Council right under the nose of polite society, much to the dismay of his genteel sister. Justine suspects something mysterious is brewing when the handsome Egyptian Ambassador heals before her eyes. It’s an image she can forget and a mystery she wants to solve.

When a deadly vampire makes his devious intentions known, her survival might depend on this strange Egyptian. Unfortunately, he can’t figure out why he’s so drawn to her, or whether he must kill her to save humanity.


A lanky man wearing the livery of a deckhand strode to the side of the captain’s cabin and peered into one of the portholes. He licked his lips and dug inside his pockets.  At first, Justine contemplated going to her cabin but his gaze did not alter as he stood, eyes fixated on the room she’d just left.

“Excuse me…can I help you?” Justine ventured. “Is there someone inside you wish to speak to? The captain perhaps?”

The man did not respond. He acted as if she was invisible. Whatever drew him to the cabin smothered any sense of life or breath. Without looking down to see what he brought out of his pocket, Justine noticed a metal necklace, a medallion of sorts, clutched in his grasp. He brought the trinket to his face near the porthole glass, hot breath fogging the glass. His long fingers rubbed the shiny metal, twisting it this way and that as if ready to smash it through the window.

“The Master said this’d find him…” His words came out in an elated whisper. The young man’s attention darted from the necklace to the window and back. He licked his lips again and finally blinked in rapid succession. Then, he smiled. The expression of delight brought a childlike innocence to his intense errand but it did not last. As before, he twitched, his hands trembling. “Why is it not working?”

Justine stepped back, fearing he’d throw the necklace to the floor in a rage. Snarling, saliva seething from his mouth, he beat the medallion. Was the man mad?

“Excuse me?” Justine repeated. “Are you alright?”

Whatever haze clouding the deckhands mind cleared. He jumped and stared at her, no doubt startled at her appearance. There was nothing between her and his pale eyes, so empty and devoid of color. It was as if she looked through a window into an empty room where nothing lived. Something vile animated his corpse, legs and arms moving towards her like a marionette. The railing was the only thing separating her from the frozen water below. Cold metal burned through her gloves. Justine shivered wishing she’d had run away when she had the chance. His breath brushed against her exposed skin, a putrid smell that made Justine feel compromised, unclean.

“Stop…you’re frightening me,” Justine whined. Nothing wanted to move. Her legs turned to stone beneath her. All she could do was stand there, desperately wanting to get away, to put as much distance between herself and the vile creature as she could. He was close enough to reach out and wrap his hands around her throat.

Oh God, please, let this not be Jack the Ripper. Justine had read the headlines of the murder stalking London.

The deckhand never touched her, yet she still felt his body. “Tell him to fear me for I know his secret.”

“Wh…what? What secret?”

Raised voices echoed from the cabin. Shoving whatever necklace he held back into his jacket, the deckhand ran down the length of the deck and disappeared.

Justine wasn’t quite sure what just happened. Had the man been speaking about someone in the cabin? Mr. Tinnen or the captain? Of course the easiest answer could easily have been the man was mad, but that did little to ease the panic. Her hands trembled and not from the cold. Justine grabbed the ends of her shawl and wrapped them tight around her. Every time she blinked, she saw his eyes burning into hers. She fled to her cabin and locked the door behind her.

About the Author:

Jen C

Jen Corkill is a stay at home geek in rural Nevada where she gardens, sews, paints, and weaves magic into the daily lives of her three beautiful children and amazing husband.  Every day is a blessing. Sometimes, she even finds enough calm moments to write…sometimes. Her interests include Star Wars, Victorian Literature, Bioware, power metal, and enough coffee to float her to Helstone.


Author Website

Author Facebook Page


To have a chance to win one of these two jewelries or interested in a promo copy in return for a review, please leave a comment in the comment area below with your email.

Giveaway offered to USA and Canadian citizens only.

Giveaway ends: December 10th.

CAM00255 CAM00256

My Guest Author Philippa Jane Keyworth

I would like to welcome Philippa Jane Keyworth to speak with me today about her writing.

Philippa, why do you write?

Ooo, what a question. This is like asking how my brain works. It’s a little crazy and I can’t quite work it out.

Writing is a very unique thing, kind of like art is to a particular artist. I remember having real trouble comparing myself to other writers when I first started to actively pursue writing, and sometimes I catch myself doing it now, though not on the same level as before.

The way I write is rather haphazard, but not because I am a haphazard person, if you talk to my husband he’d tell you I’m a little too into my checklists, but with writing I just get so excited. When I get excited I get carried away, and suddenly I’m blazing along writing without a thought to grammar, correct spelling, plot-holes or realistic characterization. All I care about when I’m writing something new is what is happening and how it’s all going to end.

You see, I start off with just a scene in my head and it’s usually on repeat. It sometimes happens when I’m listening to a song. Until I get that scene down it’s going to plague me and when I do I find myself carrying straight on to the next scene. Then plot lines begin to sprout, running ahead of my writing and swerving to the left and right. I know roughly what’s going to happen at the end, I’ve already started writing the beginning; the fun part is not knowing how I’m going to connect the two.

Then as it gets towards the end my writing becomes even sparser as I run downhill in a sprint to the finish line and yes! I’m done.

Then, I spend time typing up anything I’ve written by hand (usually in front of a favorite TV program) and save it all and…leave it.

I probably leave a manuscript to simmer for about six months or more. And I don’t think about it until I feel the time is right and it’s been long enough. I then read through the manuscript to fall back in love with the characters and storyline, someone suggested me doing that, I can’t remember if it was June Hur or M. M. Bennetts.

Then come the edits. I do lots of drafts until it’s up to the standard that I consider ready for a publisher to see.

But that’s a very rough idea of how I write. I mean, I fit that in between jobs and university, and in reality, every story I’ve written has been different, some taking longer, some taking a relatively short time, some very difficult dealing with harder subjects to handle. It all depends and there really isn’t a box I can put myself into. I just plain don’t want to and neither should any author feel they have to!

The Widow's Redeemer

How has writing impacted your life?

That’s a funny one. In some ways it really hasn’t, in other ways I guess it does. I mean, I don’t really consider the impact it has on my life as it is just part of it and has been ever since I was quite little.

The main thing, and one of the most amusing, is when I tell people I write stories. I don’t talk about it that much with people I don’t know very well, but if it does come up they usually either get very excited because they’re a reader or writer, or they have this hilarious confused expression before they move swiftly on to the next subject. Maybe this happens to other authors? I don’t know J

Writing is great fun, I expend loads of my feelings doing it, and I love talking to other writers. But one of the hardest things I find is balancing it with other things. Sometimes I think it’s such a good thing I have commitments besides writing and that I have a husband telling me I need to stop, otherwise I’d find myself a nice little cave somewhere and never come out. You’d find me years later hunched over a typewriter still tapping away.


What advice would you give to beginner writers?

I still feel like a bit of a beginner writer. I think there’s always things to learn. Then again, if I were to say anything I’d say firstly, just write, write, write. You can always improve your writing by writing more. Then I’d say read lots and get a book on grammar and punctuation if you want to think of showing that manuscript to others. Then find some friends you trust and whose opinions you value and have them read your work. And if you want to pursue publishing be persistent.

Finally, the biggy in my opinion, is learning to be humble. Your work is going to be really precious to you. It always will be as it’s a bit of an outpouring from your heart. But remember that although the main themes are that, the package of grammar, sentence structure and paragraphing aren’t always fundamental to what you’re trying to get across, and that if they are coaxed into submission, people will understand your work better. So be willing to better your work and listen to loving advice that comes from people you trust.

Philippa Jane Keyworth

About Author:

Philippa Jane Keyworth, known to her friends as Pip, has been writing since she was twelve in every notebook she could find. Originally trained as a horse-riding instructor, Philippa went on to become a copywriter before beginning a degree in History. A born again Christian, Philippa lives in the south of England with her handsome husband.

Philippa has always written stories and believes that, since it is one of her loves and passions, she always will. In her early writing career, she dabbled in a variety of genres, but it was the encouragement of a friend to watch a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that began her love affair with the British Regency. Since then, she has watched every Regency film and TV series she could get her hands on and become well acquainted with Georgette Heyer’s novels which gave her the inspiration to write her own.

Both as a reader and a writer, Philippa believes it is important to escape into a world you yourself would want to live in. This is why she writes stories that will draw you into the characters’ joys and heartaches in a world apart from our own. Her debut novel, The Widow’s Redeemer (Madison Street Publishing, 2012), is a traditional Regency romance bringing to life the romance between a young widow with an indomitable spirit and a wealthy viscount with an unsavory reputation. The novel has been received well by readers and reviewers who have praised the heartfelt story and admirable characters. Her second novel, The Unexpected Earl (Madison Street Publishing, 2014), explores another romance in the Regency era when an impetuous young woman has her life turned upside down by the reappearance of the earl who jilted her six years ago.

So, what are you waiting for? Get swept away into another time with characters you will learn to love, and experience the British Regency like never before.


Link to The Widow’s Redeemer: Amazon

Link to The Unexpected Earl: Amazon

Link to Blog

Link to Facebook


Sunday Book Highlight-Inceptio by Alison Morton

INCEPTIO_front cover_300dpi_520x802

New York, present day, alternate timeline. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, and a ready-made family in a strange culture she often struggles with. Just as she’s finding her feet, a shocking discovery about her new lover, Special Forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her.

And the enforcer, Renschman, is stalking her in her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why this Renschman is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

Praise for INCEPTIO

“I finished Alison Morton’s Inceptio on Thursday, having enjoyed it very much – alternative world thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Excellent alternative thriller with plenty of page turning pace. I did enjoy it, at 5 star level.  And different too and well produced. Looking forward to reading the next one now!”

Elizabeth Chadwick, author of the William Marshal series and recently The Summer Queen

“Grips like a vice – a writer to watch out for.” – Adrian Magson, author of the Harry Tate spy thrillers  “Terrific. Brilliantly plotted original story, grippingly told and cleverly combining the historical with the futuristic. It’s a real edge-of-the seat read, genuinely hard to put down.” – Sue Cook, writer and broadcaster “I loved it! Intriguing, unusual and thought-provoking. Karen develops from a girl anyone of us could know into one of the toughest heroines I’ve read for a while. Roma Nova was a world I really wanted to visit – and not just to meet Conrad – vivid and compelling. A pacey, suspenseful thriller with a truly dreadful villain, I can’t recommend Inceptio enough.” – Kate Johnson, author of The UnTied Kingdom   “Tense, fast-paced and deliciously inventive, Alison Morton’s INCEPTIO soon had me turning the pages. Very Dashiell Hammett.” – Victoria Lamb, author of The Queen’s Secret “Gripping.  “Alison Morton creates a fully realised world of what could have been. Breathtaking action, suspense, political intrigue… Inceptio is a tour de force!” – Russell Whitfield, author of Gladiatrix and Roma Victrix

About Author

Alison Profile Photo

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She gained a BA in French, German and Economics and thirty years later went back and bagged a masters’ in history (with distinction!).

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Six years in the UK reserve forces (where she rose from private soldier to captain) not only reinforced her sense of common purpose and self-discipline, but provided her with experiences and opportunities no civilian would ever touch. Oh, and travel and fabulous mess evenings.

Setting about her novelist education with the persistence of a Roman road builder, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, studied with the Arvon Foundation, joined the Historical Novel Society and attended numerous specialist workshops and conferences. Thanks to her independently published book sales figures, she has recently qualified as a full member of the UK’s Society of Authors. She has recently been accepted as an author member of International Thriller Writers.

Alison talks and writes about alternative history at conferences and workshops including for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Historical Novel Society and in Writing Magazine. She also writes a monthly column in the local English language magazine and has published a collection of these as The 500 Word Writing Buddy: 25 Inner Secrets for the New Writer.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants.  Alison’s third book, SUCCESSIO, which came out in June 2014, was selected as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 and has also been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.

October 2014


Connect with Alison on her blog

Facebook author page

Twitter @alison-morton


Buying links (multiple retailers/formats):




Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Mary Ellen Gavin

Mary Ellen Gavin-BRAG

Mary Ellen Gavin was raised between Chicago and Los Angeles. She now resides in Virginia. Her Love of the Arts and Storytelling is prevalent in her family as many members are writers, actors or in the music industry.

Mary Ellen works is a Literary Editor, Script Consultant, Contest Judge for IndieBookAwards.com and teaches both novel writing and screenwriting. Best of all, she is inspiring to young writers and fun to be around.

Stephanie: Hello, Mary Ellen! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. That is wonderful praise indeed! Before we begin to talk about your book, I noticed in your bio above that you work as a Literary Editor. Could you tell me what that involves and how that has played a part in your own writing?

Mary Ellen: A Literary Editor is an Author’s Best Friend and Silent Partner. We do more than clean up errors or untangle confusing sentences. We locate the genius in his or her writing and point them back to something they might have hinted at or began to say, but did not quite reveal to the readership. As confusing as that sounds, ideas get lost in writing very often due to no fault of the authors.

Assisting other authors to bring their stories to publication has made me a better writer in so many ways. Reading their manuscripts excites my writer’s mind. Authors often overlook the art of reading when they begin their writing career. They explain how they do not want their writing to sound like another author’s work. Here is another duty of literary editors. We work to make sure a manuscript does not mimic another book.

Stephanie: Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

Mary Ellen: Many of my fellow writers and clients love the website and had entered their books for nomination. I appreciate the current roster of titles that recommends a ‘good’ read.

Stephanie: I love your title-Secrets of the Apple Tree Tavern-great name! Also, I love that you have written about an Irish family. I enjoy reading those stories often…Please tell me a little about your story.

Mary Ellen: Writers have stories come to them in strange ways. Often we will witness a snapshot of humanity, or hear a few lines of dialogue from life that will stir our creative minds. Then there is the very mystical way that stories find us. Fleeting thoughts that come out of nowhere and keep coming back to reveal more will always be sacred to writers. We do not often talk about these words whispered to us in the dark or hazy apparitions that appear to us in our dreams. Still, these otherworldly events are usually the stuff that brings great storytelling to readers.

In the case of SECRETS OF THE APPLE TREE TAVERN, decades ago I kept hearing a little boy. He was whispering to himself that he was lost and alone. Afraid and in the dark, he tried to be brave and remember what his Ma had told him. As his whispering continued, most often when I was not paying attention, I realized he was hiding in a cupboard and afraid of his father’s ranting in the living room.

It took years for the full story to unravel. And I thank my writers group, who listened to the beginning as I wrote it and encouraged me to keep listening and keep writing.

Mary Ellen Gavin Book Cover

Stephanie: Is there a historical significance in choosing 1933 Brooklyn as your period and setting? Also, I noticed your story expands further….please tell me about that as well.

Mary Ellen: The boy’s story set the time and place. 1933 turned out to be deep in the Depression Era and a time when many Irish families immigrated to the United States. The time and place were a quandary to me. I had never been to that borough and I was not alive in 1933. But, the boy lived during that time in an old tenement building in Brooklyn. The story follows this boy, Francis Fleming, until 1948. My research revealed the amazing changes that took place in our country and the world during those years.

Stephanie: Please tell me about Francis. What are his strengths, weaknesses and what is an example of one of the challenges he faces that impacts his life greatly.

Mary Ellen: Francy is the only Fleming born in the States and was left an orphan. His mother and two sisters were lost to Tuberculosis while his father drank himself to death because of his loss. Facing a life at the orphanage, a kind police sergeant hides Francis in a canvas bag used for laundry in those days, and smuggles him out of the building. When Francis steps out of the bag and looks around, he is in The Apple Tree Tavern and the sergeant is asking Mae Morrissey to raise the lad along with her young daughter, Libby.

Stephanie: Tell me about Mae and Libby and what their relationship is like with Francis. Without giving too much away, of course.

Mary Ellen: Mae is also an Irish immigrant and it is an unquestioned mystery as to how she became the owner of a tavern and mother of Libby with no husband. She has a fine barman who is her right hand and together they serve a rough trade of factory workers. She lives in the apartment above the tavern with her daughter. A year younger than Francis, Libby suffers with Asthma and Mae has no intention of sending her only daughter to school with her poor health. Staring at Francis, the thought occurs to Mae that he could be a playmate for her sickly daughter and also help the girl to learn her home studies.

Stephanie: Who is Uncle Neil Flaherty and what is his role in the story?

Mary Ellen: Neil Flaherty is Mae’s brother. Neil is a man’s man and fun fellow who owns Flaherty’s pub in Dublin. Neil is a leader among men who govern the laws that might not be followed or applied to those who break the rules of a good society. Neil is old school and is a product of the ancient ways of justice. Neil teaches Francis that evil must be brought upon those who do evil.

Stephanie: In your research, what did you learn about the depression?

Mary Ellen: I interviewed people who had actually lived through that time in history. They told me how everything stopped. There were no jobs. Streets that had been empty during the day with men at work were filled with men milling around trying to find work. No one could pay their rent and most landlord’s took what they could just to keep their property occupied. Going on RELIEF meant that boxes of food or clothing would be thrown at your doorstep.

Some told me how their father worked at menial jobs so they were not allowed on Relief. They scrounged the garbage cans because much of what was delivered was unwanted and thrown away. They were happy to take anything home and wore the government shoes because they were walking with cardboard stuck inside their shoes with no soles.

There was another side to the Depression that I also got to hear about and that was how families pulled together to help each other get through their bad times. There was no delineation between their native ancestry because they were all poor and hungry and dressed in hand-me-downs.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about the interview with the person whose ship went down in the Pacific Theater when you were researching for your book.

Mary Ellen: The navy man who had been assigned to the USS Duncan from the time she was commissioned and hit water told of the harrowing battles in the Pacific Theater. Since he had become ill and was landed to go to Navy Hospital, he was not aboard when it went down. I have copied its entire history below for your review. It is amazing.

Duncan sailed from New York on 20 June 1942 for the South Pacific, arrived at Espiritu Santo on 14 September to join TFs 17 and 18, and with them departed the same day to cover transports carrying the 7th Marine Regiment to reinforce Guadalcanal. Duncan was in the screen of Wasp next day when the task force was attacked by two Japanese submarinesWasp was torpedoed, and so severely damaged that she had to be sunk by United States ships. Duncan picked up survivors from the carrier, transferring 701 officers and men to other ships, and 18 wounded and 2 bodies to the base hospital at Espiritu Santo upon her arrival 16 September.

Duncan continued to operate from Espiritu Santo to the Solomons, screening transports and ships of the covering forces. On 11 October 1942, she was in the screen of Task Force 64 (TF 64) which was assigned to protect a vital transport convoy carrying reinforcements to Guadalcanal. Contact was made with a large enemy surface force just as the American ships were executing a course change as part of their battle plan. Duncan, having a clear radar contact and seeing her flagship apparently steady upon a course which would close the target, believed the destroyers were closing to attack, and found herself charging alone toward the enemy force.

In the resulting Battle of Cape EsperanceDuncan pumped several salvos into a cruiser, then shifted fire to a destroyer, at the same time maneuvering radically to avoid enemy fire and that from her own forces, who were now joining in the attack. She got off two torpedoes toward her first target, Furutaka, and kept firing until hits she had received put her out of action. The commanding officer ordered the bridge, isolated by fire, abandoned, and the wounded lowered into life rafts. The men on board attempted to beach the ship on Savo Island, but then, believing she might yet be saved, continued to fight the fires until power failed, when they abandoned ship. Destroyer McCalla rescued 195 men from the shark-infested waters and made an attempt to salvage Duncan, but she sank on 12 October 1942, about 6 miles (10km) north of Savo Island.

Stephanie: How much time did you spend on research and how long did it take to write your story?

Mary Ellen: The research was unending for a good ten years and it took me two years to write the book once I had put all the pieces of the story together. I had three editors. One had lived through the Depression and WWII. One had grown up in Dublin. And one had grown up in the city of New York. Their touches on small items added to the realism that my readers said they enjoyed.

Stephanie: What do you find most fascinating about the periods you write about and how has that impacted your writing?

Mary Ellen: The surprise is to see how people who lived and died all those years ago are so much like the people of today. It proves to me, time and time again, that the spirit of humanity remains the same. Only the settings and turbulence surrounding their lives change.

Stephanie: How much time do you spend writing and how much time do you spend revising your work?

Mary Ellen: Because I formulate in my head where my story will begin and end, my writing time is reduced. It’s the middle where so much can change a story that is fun for me and surprising. Often, I will have to go back and revamp my opening and step aside of my preplanned ending because of what happened in the middle that changed everything. That is the joy of storytelling. We writers never have to stick to the original plan.

Stephanie: Where in your home do you like to write?

Mary Ellen: My narrow writing table is always in front of wide windows so I can look out. While living in Illinois I had a view of the Cuba Marshland where a variety of birds flew past my windows. Here in Virginia, I look over The Lazy River flowing below me. I swear it is the same variety of birds flying here and resting on the balcony. Beautiful vistas are a godsend to writers. Our eyes get tired. We need to look away while rethinking a scene.

Stephanie: What are you currently working on?

Mary Ellen: My three writing projects run from book two of the Irish Fire Series where we pick up on Frank Fleming 1949 Brooklyn. The second book of my girl detective series is titled, CRUISING IN THE TUNNEL OF LOVE where Pat and Meg are called to Chicago to investigate an exclusive dating website being hacked.

And something new for me, ALL IS WELL IN NIRVANA. This is a different science fiction story told from a female’s point of view. Set almost three thousand years into the future from a gigantic space ship, Sylvaria is being called back from Nirvana.

Stephanie: Where can readers but your book?

Mary Ellen: All of my books can be found on Amazon.

Stephanie: Thank you, Mary Ellen! It was a pleasure chatting with you.

Mary Ellen: Thank you for allowing me this forum and I do appreciate it.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Mary Ellen Gavin, who is the author of, Secrets of the Apple Tree Tavern, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Secrets of the Apple Tree Tavern, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.





Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Helen Sedwick

Helen Sedwick-BRAG

Helen Sedwick grew up in a theater family, spending many a vacation helping run a summer stock theater in the Poconos. From her theater years and from reading countless books, she fell in love with the power of the story to make us laugh, learn, love and cry. Her short stories have appeared in bosque magazine and Redwood Writers’ anthologies. Her novel COYOTE WINDS earned five-star reviews from ForeWord Reviews and Compulsion Reads and is an IndieBrag Medallion Winner. Helen is also a business attorney. In her latest release SELF-PUBLISHER’S LEGAL HANDBOOK, she uses 30 years of experience to show independent authors how to stay out of court and at their desks, writing their next books.

Stephanie: Hello, Helen! Thank you for chatting me with today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for you book, COYOTE WINDS. Please tell me a little about your book.

Helen: COYOTE WINDS weaves together the stories of two boys, living years apart.

In the 1930s, Myles brings home an injured coyote pup and is determined to tame him, just like his father is taming the land. For a time, both Myles and his father succeed. The coyote befriends the horses and the hog, and Myles’s father carves the prairie into fields of golden wheat. But when the rains cease and the winds blow, when dust seeps into everything they breathe, wear and eat, Myles wonders if they have made a mistake by trying to tame the untamable.

More than 70 years later, Myles’s grandson Andy tries to tune out his grandfather’s rambling stories about growing up on the prairie with a one-eyed coyote. But when Grandpa Myles dies, Andy wonders if shooting rabbits, building barns, even facing dust storms would be better than his mindless routine of algebra, soccer practice and community service. He sets out to discover what is left of the wild prairie.

Cover for Helen's book

Stephanie: Please share the historical significance of your story.

Helen: I was inspired to write COYOTE WINDS by my father’s stories of growing up in Eastern Colorado during the Dust Bowl. While there was plenty of blowing grit in this stories, he also talked about freedom. With the schools closed, he spent his days hunting pheasants, rabbits and rattlesnakes, including shooting wildly while riding on the front fender of a pickup truck. I wanted to contrast my father’s unfenced boyhood with the over-supervised life of a modern, suburban boy who “couldn’t ride a bike without a helmet, play soccer without pads, or ride in a car with a driver under thirty.”

As I researched the Dust Bowl, I discovered it is a classic example of American optimism; the can-do attitude that brought families to the frontier with dreams of owning land and feeding the world. For a few years, many succeeded. But “hope wears a blindfold.” The wind did what it always did–blow. The dreams that tore up the land gave the wind the weapon that ripped those dreams apart.

In every significant historical event there are thousands, if not millions, of smaller stories. Especially compelling are the times when people unknowingly bring about their own ruin. The Dust Bowl is one of those events.

In the modern day chapters, I explore what happens to a family that has lost the optimism, the faith in the American Dream. It’s not a better choice. This family’s tale reminds us that chasing a dream, even if it brings heartache, is better than not dreaming at all.

Stephanie: Helen, You mentioned to me in my questionnaire to you that the years leading up to the Dust Bowl, Coyote Winds explores a time when the American spirit was full of optimism, a time when a man was measured by what he produced, not what he could buy. The novel explores the can-do attitude that drew people to the frontier and examines the consequences of that spirit, both good and bad. Do you think Americans have that same spirit today? In your opinion do we face opposition in that mindset that a man is measured by what he produces, not what he can buy?

Helen: I think many Americans still have a can-do attitude, but feel discouraged for many reasons, including the shift to a technology-based economy.

Something valuable is lost when people are judged solely by what they can buy, which is the case in many communities. In earlier times, men and women earned respect in smaller communities as the town carpenter or tailor or teacher, or the head of an extended family, or a respected elder. These roles have been lost for many in our fast-moving, possession-focused culture. That is not for the better.

Stephanie: Surprisingly there is quite a few people who are not familiar with the, Dust Bowl. Could you please explain what it was?

Helen: Most people do not realize the Dust Bowl was one of the worse man-made ecological disasters in history. During the 1920s, farmers, believing in the power of tractors and fertilizers, plowed up grasslands in the southern prairie the size of Ohio. Scientists claimed that “rain would follow the plow.” But that area had always suffered droughts, and when long drought hit in the 1930s, all the newly plowed land blew away in the strong, prairie winds. Despite the best of intentions, tens of thousands of families lost their farms. Many traveled to California, which is the story of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Stephanie: What are Myles strengths and what is an example of how his strengths help him face the Great Depression and the prairie dying around him? And what is an example of a weaknesses that he might have?

Helen: Myles is an optimist. He likes to tell jokes and keep others happy. This positive attitude is his greatest strength and carried him through the struggles of his life. But it also blinded him to the consequences of his actions. It made him careless in a way that caused harm to others, harm he regretted all his life.

Stephanie: In explaining your inspiration for your book above, has writing this story made an impact on your life and what do you hope to bring to your readers with this story?

Helen: Writing COYOTE WINDS made me think a lot of American optimism and its effect on individuals as well as our society. That can-do spirit got us to the moon, but also brought on the Dust Bowl. It’s neither good nor bad; it’s complex. I grew to appreciate it as a gift.

In writing the book I thought about the importance of pursuing a dream in my own life. Yes, trying to live a dream, such as writing a book, is discouraging at times, but I would never want to give it up.

I try to communicate that message in COYOTE WINDS, that pursuing a dream, even if it brings heartache, is far better than not dreaming at all. I guess I am infected with American optimism.

Stephanie: How long did it take for you to write your story and where in your home do you like to write?

Helen: I wrote the first draft in three months, then rewrote the manuscript off and on for three years. I gave up on the project a few times, but the characters kept calling me back.

I wrote in a small bedroom in the back of our house that I converted into my office. It was cave-like and perfect for the hermit in me.

Stephanie: In writing this book, what have you learned about writing in general?

Helen: It’s hard to know where to start. For a novel, you must know your characters very well, even your villains. You must love their imperfections and contradictory impulses, since that is where you will find the heart of your story.

Some writers are naturally good at character development, others at plot. My strength is writing characters and setting; plot is more of a challenge. All my rewrites were related to plot. My advice is writers should relying on their strengths in creating their early drafts, and then revise to improve their weak areas.

Stephanie: What book project are you working on now?

Helen: Marketing the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook has taken more time than I anticipated. I have more requests for guest posts than I can handle on top of a busy law practice. I am winding that down so I can get back to writing fiction. I would like to write a sequel to COYOTE WINDS, and I am working on a crime novel in which I can use my legal background in a new and fun way.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Helen: I researched sites that reviewed and curated self-published books and came across it. With the tens of thousands of self-published books released each year, I was delighted to find a site that took the time to find the needles in the haystack without charging authors.

Stephanie: Where do you see the self-publishing industry in five to ten years and what has been your experience so far in this field?

Helen: Self-publishing is booming and will only get larger. It is an example of one of the good sides of technology. Publishing is now available for everyone with that dream.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Helen: Online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booksamillion and other online retailers.

In stores, at Copperfields Books here in California and Tattered Cover Books in Denver. Your local store can special order it.

I also do school visits in person or via Skype.

Stephanie: Thank you, Helen! It has been a pleasure chatting with you and I hope you visit Layered Pages again soon.

Author Links:


Blog Google + Twitter

Sign up for my Newsletter here

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Helen Sedwick, who is the author of, Coyote Winds, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Coyote Winds, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Review: The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton

The Tiger Queens

Publication Date: November 4, 2014 NAL Trade Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

In the late twelfth century on the sweeping Mongolian grasslands, following a violent feud between blood brothers, the victor Temujin ascends to power, declaring himself Genghis Khan. But behind one powerful man stand many strong women…

After her mother foretells an ominous future for her, darkness looms over Borte’s life. She becomes an outcast among her clan and after seeking comfort in the arms of an aristocratic traveler, she discovers he is the blood brother of Temujin, the man she was betrothed to years ago but who abandoned her long before they could marry. And he will only leave her behind again.

Temujin will make Borte his khatun, his queen, yet it will take many women to safeguard his fragile new empire. Their daughter, a fierce girl named Alaqai, will ride and shoot an arrow as well as any man. Fatima, an elegant Persian captive, seeks revenge against the Mongol barbarians who destroyed her city and murdered her family, but in the end will sacrifice everything to protect the Golden Family. Demure widow to Genghis’ son, Sorkhokhtani positions her sons to inherit the Empire when it begins to fracture from within.

As Genghis Khan sets out to expand his conquests and the steppes run red with blood, Borte and the women of the clan will fight, love, scheme, and sacrifice, all for the good of their family and the greatness of the People of the Felt Walls…


Tiger Queens is the second book this year that I felt the five star rating wasn’t enough to give. This book out shines that rating. You can’t count the stars with stories like this and I felt so inadequate in writing my review for, The Tiger Queens by. The story speaks for itself and Thornton displays such brilliance in her writing there seems to be no words to express my inner feelings about this book. I felt I would fail with my words…

I’ve never studied the late twelfth century Mongolian culture or Genghis Khan in-depth. I’ve only heard and learned bit and pieces through my life…I must say on of the reasons why Historical Fiction is so appealing to me is because writers such as Thornton brings readers the greatness, tragedies, conflicts, triumphs, warfare, and so on of the past to life. We learn from their stories and we connect to the people that lived long ago. Their voices come alive and we learn we aren’t so different from them…..or are we? There are so many questions one ask about history and why people did the things they did and how it has even impacted us today in the modern world. What I like most about The Tiger Queens is the contrast of the Queens and conflicts these women face and how while each of these ladies has their own attributes that are unique, they connect on so many levels. Courage being one of them. Thornton does an outstanding job portraying that. Ever line, every paragraph, every page will hold your attention. There are so many wonderful layers to the story. Not only in wonderful character development and historical detail, but the human condition of that time. The bravery of it, the harshness, death, family loyalties, war and culture.

At the end of the story I was trying to make a decision on which heroine of The Tiger Queens by is my favorite. I was really leaning towards Genghis’s daughter Alaqai’s story. She does something (I won’t say, I don’t want to spoil it) I completely admire and she didn’t have to do and no one would have thought less of her if she didn’t. However, I hold each one of these extraordinary women in my heart.

There are few stories that have really impacted me on so many levels. The Tiger Queens is one of them. I would have to say that Thornton is one of the best Historical Fiction writers of our time. Truly a master of the craft.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Buy the Book

Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository Books-a-Million IndieBound Powell’s

About the Author

03_Stephanie Thornton

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” and “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” are available from NAL/Penguin. “The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan” will hit the shelves November 4, 2014, followed by “The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great” in November 2015.

For more information please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, November 1 Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Sunday, November 2 Review at Let Them Read Books

Monday, November 3 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, November 4 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, November 5 Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, November 6 Review at The Mad Reviewer Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, November 7 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Review at Scandalous Women

Monday, November 10 Review at Reading the Past Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, November 11 Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, November 12 Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 13 Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Friday, November 14 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, November 17 Review at Turning the Pages

Tuesday, November 18 Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, November 19 Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, November 20 Review at Layered Pages

Friday, November 21 Review at Just One More Chapter

Monday, November 24 Spotlight & Giveaway at Reading Lark

Tuesday, November 25 Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 26 Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Friday, November 28 Review at Book Babe

04_The Tiger Queens_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL