Saturday, 28 March 2020

Author Drēma Drudge stops by on her blog tour!

I am pleased to host Drēma Drudge as part of her Book Tour.

By Drēma Drudge

In 1863, Civil War is raging in the United States. Victorine Meurent is posing nude, in Paris, for paintings that will be heralded as the beginning of modern art:
Manet's Olympia and Picnic on the Grass.
However, Victorine's persistent desire is not to be a model but to be a painter herself. In order to live authentically, she finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy.
Drema Drudge's powerful first novel Victorine not only gives this determined and gifted artist back to us but also recreates an era of important transition into the modern world.
(Victorine is currently up for pre-order on Amazon US only)

Here is a tempting excerpt from the book.

Victorine’s Song

After our morning session (Manet thoughtfully brings me a brioche and un café in an enameled mug), he leaves me to sort out my affairs, but not before foisting some francs in a monogrammed handkerchief upon me.
“An advance,” he says. I take the coins gratefully, offer him back his handkerchief, wishing he had advice to dispense as easily: I have no idea what to do now. The “friends” I had while with Alphonse quickly fell away as Willie and I wrapped our lives as one, two bodies in a bath towel. To return to my former friends would be to return to their hopeless way of life. I will not. To go back to Madeline is quite as impossible.
The room lights up with the sun as if the answer leaks in with it, but it doesn’t, not even as I acknowledge that the rosy bits of sky look like Willie’s cheeks. I reject the sky’s proposal: One does not welcome a tornado into one’s room. True, I have survived Willie, but just. My hungers do not scare me, but even I can recognize an unwinnable bout.
I pace the studio, but the room is too quiet, and the sun insists I listen to things I will not. I pick up my worn canvas bag, the one I used to carry my schoolbooks in, now filled with my portable life. Hesitating briefly, I pull the door shut, lock it behind me.
Paris will tell me what to do next, I think, as I promptly stumble over a loose brick. At the time, it doesn’t occur to me to be grateful. “Haussmann,” I mutter as I grab my ankle.
I’ve watched the architect ruin our city, block after block, a hungry monster with the sightline of a sugar-crazed toddler, squashing decades, centuries, of our history, obliterating my people, the poor, as if they were a nest of rats. Poorer Parisians have run from him from quarter to quarter, but no sooner are we safe in one house than Haussmann finds it, has his people give us notice one day, and tears it down the next. We can only watch, hope to rescue a brick from the house where our grandfather was born. I despise him.
There is, however, something euphoric about the planned natural disaster; I love the confused buildings that seemed so stable and secure now shaken. Watching them collapse thrills me. The rubble is a symphony of colors and textures. We see the inside turned out. We see things we are not meant to see. I notice that most people avert their gaze when they pass a worksite. Not me.
His new lines are straight and wide, and though I hate the uniformity of his design and his disregard for history, I do admire his ambition.
The wide boulevards are to aid, it is rumored, in the moving through of troops in case of another uprising. True, but there is such space now that has so often been denied us. I hate the daily cost as I watch the poor get poorer, as they pile into a house twenty thick, disease following them. At least outdoors we have all of the space God created; they cannot take that from us, and Haussmann creates even more as he purges the city of centuries’ worth of buildings.
While some have praised his sanitary building of public urinals in the streets, others have been scandalized that men would touch themselves in this manner publicly. Once when I had to go very badly, I lifted my skirts and managed to utilize one as well. Though there were men on either side of me, the cries of protest I heard behind me weren’t aimed at them, even though my wide skirts more than covered me.
My stumble provides me with an answer: A nearby sign in a window announces a room for rent. I bend over and kiss the brick before limping over to the soiled tavern.
I have to pay extra rent because the proprietress assumes I am a prostitute. I don’t bother to correct her because I don’t care what she thinks of me, and the “extra” isn’t enough to matter. For the first time I am to live alone, and though it is cold (I have bought no coal yet and it is not equipped for gas) and though it is dirty (I will clean it), it is a space that belongs entirely to me.
I strum the lovely, dove gray rails of my bed in my newly rented room. A few good wallops smooth the worst of the lumps in the horsehair mattress. I must carry my water up at night and my slops down in the morning, but I don’t care. It will give me an excuse to buy flowers from the little stand nearby. Flowers trump even night soil, and they certainly help mask the odor.
The first night I create shadow puppets on the walls to ease my loneliness and the slight ache in my ankle, in my heart. I wake to see a melted candle stub—I kept it burning not out of fright but because I adore the way the flame lights the walls.
My clothes hang from stray nails. That is all there is to my room besides the two windows and the cold tiled floor. I need nothing else besides enough dishes for one, possibly two if I invite anyone else over. I don’t know that I will. This brand of loneliness instructs, and I mean to surrender to it until I’ve learned all that I can.
I grab a chair and yank the paint skin from the ceiling in pieces, showering myself with plaster but revealing splotches of pink overhead. I laugh as I walk past the cracked mirror and see my whitened face. I stop and really look, see things now the other artists haven’t, like the humor at the corners of my eyes, the content set of my lips.
I’d rather model forever than paint flowers on a cup that someone is going to drink from without seeing. Tiny sips of beauty ruin the deeper thirst for art. Pretty cups and cheerful hats are made to mollify women.
Why can’t I paint myself? Create myself? I count the francs left. I may not be able to go to art school, but I can buy some art supplies. I pocket the money. There is next week’s rent to consider. Mine, not my parents’ rent, because they have decided that my money is not worthy of saving them. I must find a way to get them to accept. They cannot afford their pride, but I don’t think they know that yet and they may not before it’s too late.
And without a teacher, someone respected by The Academy, no one would take me seriously as an artist anyway. “So what?” begins gently stirring in me, and I crave absinthe. Instead, I carry up some water for a wash. It may have taken God a week to create the earth, but I have gone from homeless to having my own place in one day, which seems an impossible task. Being a woman and so young, I’d say I’m giving Him a run for His money; I think I can do without a drink for one day. Without meaning to, I cross myself.

Drēma Drudge

Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.

Drēma has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.

She and her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, live in Indiana where they record their biweekly podcast, Writing All the Things, when not traveling. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in five countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children.

In addition to writing fiction, Drema has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator. She’s represented by literary agent Lisa Gallagher of Defiore and Company.

Connect with Drema: Website • Twitter • Instagram • The Painted Word Salon.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The Wars of the roses and the Tudors in Wales

The Fyne Companye of Cambria
Every so often during the summer I get together with a few friends and dress up in Tudor finery and swish around castles. I've lived in Wales for more than twenty years and love the castles and places of historic interest. I was surprised to discover just how large a part Wales played in the wars of the roses and the transition from Plantagenet to Tudor rule.
Henry  Tudor - Wikimedia commons
When Henry Tudor won the crown of England and married Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Edward IV, he united the houses of York and Lancaster, thus ending years of strife in the realm.  The castles, palaces and manor houses of Wales  sheltered some of the key players during this time. 

Before the battle - reenactors at Raglan Castle
Henry Tudor’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was married to Edmund Tudor at around the age of twelve. As a young bride she lived with Edmund during his campaign in Wales on behalf of Henry VI. The lived together at Caldicot Castle, Lamphey Bishop’s Palace until Edmund died at Carmarthen Castle of a combination of wounds sustained in battle and the plague. 

Margaret Beaufort - wikimediacommons
Finding herself widowed, Margaret turned to the protection of her brother in law, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, who took her to his stronghold at Pembroke Castle where she gave birth to Henry.

Pembroke Castle
Just outside Abergavenney in Monmouthshire lies Raglan Castle where the young Henry Tudor spent much of his childhood under the care of William Herbert before escaping overseas with his uncle, Jasper Tudor.

Raglan castle
A short distance from Raglan is Tretower Court and Castle – a fabulous reconstructed Tudor manor house that belonged to William Herbert’s half-brother, Roger Vaughan. He fought at Mortimer’s Cross and Tewkesbury and was beheaded at Chepstow by Jasper Tudor in an act of vengeance for beheading his father, Owen Tudor, ten years previously.

Tretower Court

Toward the end of the wars of the Roses, Carew Castle belonged to Rhys ap Thomas who turning his back on Richard III supported Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth. He was richly rewarded with a knighthood and land which enabled him to make vast improvements to the castle in the late 15th century. His son Rhys ap Gruffudd was later executed for treason by Henry VIII in 1531.

Carew Castle - Wikimedia commons

All the above mentioned castles are within easy reach of where The Fyne Companye of Cambria and we hope to expand our horizons in the future.

Cydwelli Castle

Friday, 20 December 2019

A Tudor Christmas

If we were to travel back in time to any Christmas during the Tudor period, we’d recognise a few of the traditions but there were others that would certainly surprise us. Religion of course played a huge part in all aspects of Tudor life and at Christmas time fasting and mass took precedence over gift-giving and carousing. 
Alonso Sánchez Coello [Public domain]
Christmas was a time of prayer and feast; the spinning wheel which occupied a corner of most homes, sat idle until the first Monday after epiphany (Plough Monday) when work would be resumed. While we adorn a tree, they decorated the spinning wheel with evergreen boughs, holly and ivy, a remnant of a ritual from pagan times.

medieval singers mary evans picture library

Another tradition that preceded Christianity was the Wassail in which a wooden bowl containing hot ale, spiced apple, sugar and other spices, was carried from door-to-door. Neighbours were invited to drink in exchange for a coin. For the more formal Wassail held at court, a bowl was passed around by royal stewards, the king being served last. 

So now is come our joyful'st feast,
Let every man be jolly.
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.
George Wither (1588-1667)

The yule log, a huge trunk or bundle of faggots (depending on the size of one’s hearth) was brought in from the forest. It was burned for the entire twelve days of the Christmas celebration, and it was considered lucky to keep charred remnants to start off next year’s yule fire. Aspects of this tradition are still in use today, although our log tends to consist of cake and chocolate and icing sugar.

As part of the festivities in royal houses, a boy or a fool would be ‘crowned’ the Lord of Misrule. Under his command normal order was overturned and the fool became king, and vice versa. 
For the entertainment of the court, the Lord of Misrule could command anybody to do anything. It was a time of total chaos and one that escapes my usually fertile imagination, for I cannot imagine Henry VIII allowing anyone to make a public mockery of him, let alone a fool … but apparently, he did.

In Survey of London, published in the first year of James I rule, John Stow says:
In the feaste of Christmas, there was in the kinges house, wheresoeuer hee was lodged, a Lord of Misrule, or Maister of merry disports, and the like had yee in the house of euery noble man, of honor, or good worshippe, were he spirituall or temporall. Amongst the which the Mayor of London, and eyther of the shiriffes had their seuerall Lordes of Misrule, euer contending without quarrell or offence, who should make the rarest pastimes to delight the Beholders. 

In 1525 Henry VIII appointed not only a Lord of Misrule for his own household but also one for Princess Mary’s – the ensuing chaos must have been considerable and we know from records that things often got out of hand. There was even an ecclesiastic version of misrule when boy bishops were elected, often known as ‘Fool Bishop’ or ‘Fool Abbot’. John Southworth says in his book Fools and Jesters at the English Court:

‘What followed over the next few days is commonly described as burlesque, a turning upside down of the normal liturgy; it is more accurately seen and understood as the literal acting out of the Magnificat, in which the ‘nobodies’ among the clergy, as represented by the fool and his assistants, were exulted as a salutary foretaste and prophetic anticipation of the Last Judgement.’ (Southworth: p.70)
By Elizabeth’s reign, presumably having run out of ideas for inventive mischief, the practice had almost died out. 

Feast of Fools

All this unbridled excitement clearly gave the Tudors an appetite, for the Christmas menu seems more outrageous (to us) than their behaviour.

Poorer folk feasted on umble pie – pastry filled with the chopped and minced heart, liver, lungs and kidneys of a deer, but the affluent gorged on richer fare. Along with the traditional Christmas dishes of swan, peacock and dolphin (yes, I know) Henry VIII was the first monarch to introduce turkey to the royal table, but there were other … stranger things.

Christmas pie – sounds yummy – was rather like a Russian doll but with poultry, and consisted of a turkey stuffed with a goose, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a partridge, stuffed with a pigeon. This pie was served in a pastry case, surrounded by joints of hare, small game and wild fowl. May not be as yummy as it sounds then – I think I will be sticking with my nut roast this year.

And if that sounds weird, Cockenthrice was weirder still. Most of us have seen the grotesques in the margins of medieval manuscripts, strange half-beasts comprised of different animals – a rabbit with a man’s head or a lion with a dragon’s head, or a snail with the head of a cat. Well, it didn’t stop at the drawing stage. The Tudor table benefitted from dishes that were constructed in a similar inventive manner. Cockenthrice was comprised of a sucking pig, sewn to the back end of a goose (or something similar) – there are some gruesome pictures on-line - google it, I dare you!

Mince (or minst) pies might sound familiar but these were not made by Mr Kipling (other pies are available) and consisted largely of prunes, raisins, dates, powdered beef, butter, egg yolk, flour, suet or marrow, and minced mutton and seasoned with salt, pepper and saffron – these thirteen ingredients represented Christ and the apostles, all baked in a pie crust shaped like a manger to symbolise the holy birth.

Like the Christmases of today, everyone celebrated differently. Our Christmas has merged with winter celebrations of other religions, and new ideas and traditions have evolved but the Tudor Christmas is still detectable. While the Tudors brought in greenery to decorate their homes, modern homes are largely in tinsel and plastic and lights that can be seen from space. Tudors fasted until Christmas day, Christmas Eve being especially strict with no meat, cheese or eggs. This meant that come Christmas Day everyone was ready to gorge themselves and records show that royal households consumed as many as twenty four courses! Although we don’t tend to go that far today, lots of us diet desperately to fit into a little black dress and then blow it all by over eating on the big day! 

Now, as it was then, Christmas remains a time to be spent with family and friends, and however you spend yours, traditional or otherwise, celebrating with loved ones or working, make sure it is a good one, and after you’ve toasted the queen, don’t forget to raise a glass to the Tudors.

All of Judith Arnopp's books are available in Paperback, Kindle and some are on Audible. For more information click here:

The Heretic Wind: the story of Mary Tudor, Queen of England is available for Pre-order NOW!

Tomorrow is Tim Hodkinson's turn - click here to go to his blog.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

The death of Mary Tudor

Mary Tudor - Wikimediacommons

In November 1558 Mary Tudor died at St James’ Palace at the age of 42. By the standards of today, that is a horribly young age to die but Mary had suffered a hard life and was prematurely aged, and very sick.

Everyone is guilty of something. In most cases we are remembered for our good deeds, our happiest days, and our kindest actions but Mary, as with her father, Henry VIII, is only remembered for cruelty.

Personally, I think it would be awful if at my funeral people only spoke of my sins and overlooked my goodness (and there have been one or two occasions when I’ve been kind). The burning of heretics sounds dreadful to us because we live in a (ahem) tolerant society but in the 16th century burning was the standard punishment for heresy. Mary didn’t dream up the idea for the satisfaction of her monstrous soul.

While I am in no way seeking to excuse or white-wash her actions, I think she deserves a fuller picture. When you take into account the tragic childhood, her adult disappointments, her frustration then it is easier to understand her. There was much more to her than cruelty.

There are many recorded instances in which she was kind and generous, and I think she was terribly well-meaning. She adored her subjects and envisioned leading her people to salvation but things didn’t turn out as she intended. Her reign was far from benign.
Coming soon

While researching for The Heretic Wind I discovered Mary Tudor to be a sad, isolated and desperate woman whose intention was to be a good and loving Queen. The fact things turned out rather differently were mostly due to exterior forces. Her conviction that the Catholic faith was the only faith is difficult for us to understand but we don’t have to look very far to find other religious zealots. It doesn’t begin or end with Mary.

 In The Heretic Wind, the mortally sick and embittered Mary looks back on her life and explains to some extent, the reasons why events unfolded as they did.

Rest in Peace, Mary.

Short blurb of The Heretic Wind – Coming soon!

Adored by her parents and pampered by the court, the infant Princess Mary’s life changes suddenly and drastically when her father’s eye is taken by the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.

Mary stands firm against her father’s determination to destroy both her mother’s reputation, and the Catholic church. It is a battle that will last throughout both her father’s and her brother’s reign, until, she is almost broken by persecution. When King Edward falls ill and dies Mary expects to be crowned queen.

But she has reckoned without John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, who before Mary can act, usurps her crown and places it on the head of her Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey.

Furious and determined not to be beaten, Mary musters a vast army at Framlingham Castle; a force so strong that Jane Grey’s supporters crumble before a blow is struck, and Mary is at last crowned Queen of England.

But her troubles are only just beginning. Rebellion and heresy take their toll both on Mary’s health, and on the English people. Suspecting she is fatally ill, and desperate to save her people from heresy, Mary steps up her campaign to compel her subjects to turn back to the Catholic faith.

All who resist will face punishment for heresy in the flames of the Smithfield fires.

The Heretic Wind will be available on Kindle and in Paperback.

Judith Arnopp is the author of twelve Historical Fiction novels:

The Heretic Wind; the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Sisters of Arden
The Beaufort Chronicles: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series)
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
The Song of Heledd
The Forest Dwellers

To discover more visit Judith’s website or author page

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Great news! The Second Book in Lynn Bryant's Manxman Series is OUT NOW!

 Lynn Bryant

31st October 2019 sees the publication of the second book in Lynn Bryant’s Manxman series. The first book, An Unwilling Alliance was recently shortlisted for the Society for Army Historical Research 2019 fiction prize. Its sequel, This Blighted Expedition, tells the story of the Walcheren campaign of 1809.

Hugh waited, feeling oddly nervous. He had last seen his son as a small baby of four months. After their marriage in Denmark almost two years earlier, Roseen remained with him, even when his ship, the Iris, was sent to Gibraltar as part of a squadron to defend the island, which was a major supply base for the war against Bonaparte in Spain.

Roseen adapted to shipboard life with typical Manx practicality and Hugh loved having her with him although the times he had to leave her on shore worried him. Gibraltar was known to be an unhealthy place with regular outbreaks of disease and after Roseen’s brush with death on a fever-ridden ship going to Denmark, Hugh was permanently on edge about her health. Hugh was overjoyed when Roseen announced that she was with child and she had sailed through both pregnancy and childbirth without difficulty but Hugh knew that his wife and son could not remain with the Iris or on the fever-ridden shores of Gibraltar.

Parting from her tore a piece from Hugh’s heart, and he had lived the last eight months waiting for her letters and dreaming of her at night. He was shocked at how much his happiness had come to depend upon her, but the knowledge that she was safe and well back on Mann was a comfort through the long months.

Orders had brought Hugh back to England, ready to join a new expedition. There was no official destination yet, although navy gossip suggested it was likely to be somewhere in the low countries. Hugh, who had his own sources of information, summoned his first officer and asked for news.
“It’s not official yet, sir,” Lieutenant Durrell said.
“Clearly not, or I’d be telling you, not asking you. Sit down, pour the wine, and remove the stuffed owl expression from your face, I’m not going to write to the London Gazette with the information. Where are we going?”
Alfred Durrell folded his lanky frame into the chair in Hugh’s dining cabin and poured for both of them. “The island of Walcheren,” he said. “My brother writes that the government wishes to support Austria in its new campaign against Bonaparte, with more than just money.”

The Walcheren campaign was the largest British operation of the war, with 40,000 men and around 600 ships heading to the Scheldt for a lightning strike against Bonaparte’s dockyards at Vlissingen and Antwerp, yet most people have never heard of it. Possibly this is because it turned out to be one of Britain’s greatest military disasters. Vlissingen was almost destroyed by a bombardment, but the progress of the operation was so slow that the French had time to pour in reinforcements while the navy spent a good deal of its time pegged down by contrary winds. By the time Lord Chatham’s army was ready to march on Antwerp, the French had improved their defences and the British army were beginning to show signs of the dreaded Walcheren fever which killed over four thousand men and left many more on the sick list for years to come.

This Blighted Expedition follows the story of six people through the horror of the Walcheren campaign and its aftermath. Captain Hugh Kelly of the Iris, the Manx hero of An Unwilling Alliance is enjoying a brief reunion with his wife and baby son when he receives new orders to join the expedition on the south coast, along with his first lieutenant, Alfred Durrell. In the meantime, the second battalion of the 110th infantry is waiting to embark for Walcheren. Among them are a young lieutenant of the seventh company, Giles Fenwick, who is a permanently broke younger son of the aristocracy and Captain Ross Mackenzie, who is recovering from the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter and has recently transferred in to command the light company. Meanwhile, in Walcheren, Katja de Groot, a young Dutch widow is raising three children while managing her husband’s textile business, and worrying about the impact of a British invasion on her workshops, her family and her home.

The interaction of these six people with each other and with a host of secondary characters, both fictional and real is at the heart of the novel. In particular, Lieutenant Durrell finds himself torn between old family loyalties to the Earl of Chatham, who commands the army, and the clever, manipulative Sir Home Popham who serves the interests of the navy – and himself.
I love every one of my six protagonists. Hugh and Roseen are old friends, and it has been fun to revisit them two years into married life and in particular, to see how much Roseen has grown up from the shy, awkward tomboy that Hugh fell in love with. It is also interesting to see how much Hugh still has to learn about his wife.

Ross Mackenzie and Katja de Groot are both new characters, and have a lot in common. Both are widowed and have experienced the loss of a child to illness and both have become used to managing alone, not sharing their feelings. They are on opposite sides of a war, and the book explores what that means to them and whether friendship can develop in spite of it.
Giles Fenwick is the hero of The Reluctant Debutante, and features in the Peninsular War Saga and in one of my short stories, An Exploring Officer. I’m going back in time with Giles here, exploring his early history with the regiment, before he arrives in Portugal and it’s fascinating to be able to weave in his story to show how Giles became the man he is in later books.

But of all my characters, this book belongs to Alfred Durrell. Durrell was a secondary character in the previous book, a gangly, awkward young man who provided a comic foil to Hugh’s Manx directness. Durrell had the education and the political connections while Hugh was the man of action who “had the reputation of a man who could snatch a prize out of thin air and could keep any leaky old bucket afloat.”

Durrell isn’t a typical hero, but Walcheren isn’t a typical campaign. He’s very intelligent, well educated and very confident in his own abilities, but has no idea how to gossip, flirt or stop talking once he’s started. While Hugh Kelly managed to kiss Roseen on their second ‘date’ poor Durrell is more likely to give a girl a lecture on the physiology of crying. What Durrell has is integrity, and honesty and a good deal of kindness. He is incapable of being a bystander, he’s always the man who steps up and takes responsibility. Your brother and sister would take the mickey out of you if you brought Durrell home for dinner, but your Mum would be very pleased.

This Blighted Expedition is available on Amazon kindle here and will be out in paperback by the end of November. 

To celebrate publication, the first book, An Unwilling Alliance is available from 1st to 5th November 2019 FREE on Amazon here.

In the meantime, I am about to embark on book six of the Peninsular War Saga. It’s called An Unrelenting Enmity and to give myself a kick start with the writing process, I am attempting NaNaWriMo for the first time ever. 

To follow my progress why not join me on my blog over at Writing with Labradors, or on Facebook or Twitter? 

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Welcoming author Sally Spedding to the blog

I am very pleased to have Sally Spedding on the blog today. She is the author of multiple spooky crime noir novels. Tell us about your work Sally.

In 1997, having moved from rural Wales to Northampton, because of my late husband’s new job, I used a ruler to find the nearest coast, where Norfolk is divided from Lincolnshire by the River Nene. These atmospheric flatlands became the setting for ‘Wringland’ where a new housing development is haunted by a woman hanged in public in that very place.

Published in 2001 in a two-book deal with Pan Macmillan, this was the start of a journey where settings are paramount. Where characters don’t change, they just reveal themselves, and now with ‘The Devil’s Garden,’ set near Tulle in France, published by Sharpe Books as part of a seven-book deal, wannabe gendarme, Delphine Rougier faces a truly dangerous crisis.   

About the book

DI John Lyon Thriller - Book 1
One false move is all it takes...
France, April 1986.

John Lyon, newly retired Detective Inspector from Nottingham, breaks off his holiday in the eastern Pyrenees when he encounters Karen Furst.

This attractive, wheelchair-bound woman with a new name and nationality, soon draws him into her world. Karen is the product of a tragic past, a past which is slowly but surely catching up with her.

Yet the woman's story doesn't entirely add up. John suspects that Karen is lying to him. And how much is he lying to himself about how he feels, what he thinks?
Karen will soon be targeted - and John with her - by unseen enemies.
Only La Chasse, a hunt to the death in wild scrubland, will reveal the truth.
Blood will be shed.
The Nighthawk is a dark, enthralling novel that grips from start to end.

Recommended for fans of Gillian Flynn, Bernard Minier and Manda Scott.


‘Sally Spedding has been credited with being a latter-day Du Maurier.’ Crime Squad

‘Sally Spedding is a font of creepy stories, the kind of tales which wheedle their way into your mind days and weeks later.' Western Mail

‘Sally Spedding has unquestionably got what it takes.’ Crime Time

‘No-one does evil like Sally Spedding.’ Thorne Moore


Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Katherine - Tudor Duchess
New from Tony Riches, Author of the best-selling Tudor Trilogy
Available in eBook and paperback from Amazon UK and Amazon US
(Audiobook edition coming in 2020)

Attractive, wealthy and influential, Katherine Willoughby is one of the most unusual ladies of the Tudor Court. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Katherine knows all his six wives, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and his son Edward.

When her father dies, Katherine becomes the ward of Tudor knight, Sir Charles Brandon. Her Spanish mother, Maria de Salinas, is ueen Catherine of Aragon's lady in waiting, so it is a challenging time for them all when King Henry marries the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.

Following Anne's dramatic downfall, Katherine marries Charles Brandon, and becomes Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen.After teh short reign of young Catherine Howard, and the death of Jane Seymour, Katherine and Brandon are chosen to welcome Anna of Cleves as she arrives in England. When the royal marriage is annulled, Katherine's good friend, Catherine Parr becomes the king's sixth wife, and they work to promote religious reform. Katherine's young sons are tutored with the future king, Prince  Edward, and become his friends, but when Edward dies his Catholic sister Mary is crowned queen. Katherine's Protestant faith puts her family in great danger - from which there seems no escape.

Katherine's remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Author Bio

Tony Riches is a full time UK author of best sellng historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and lives of the early Tudors. Tony's other publishedd historical fiction novels include: Owen -Book one of the Tudor Trilogy, Jasper - Book two of the Tudor Trilogy, Henry - Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy, Mary - Tudor Princess and Brandon - Tudor Knight. For more information about Tony's books please visit his website: and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches