Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from The Admiral’s Wife by M K Tod #blogtour

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from The Admiral’s Wife by M K Tod.

Excerpt

August 1912 – The next hour passed in a blur as Flannigan unrolled and rerolled various bolts of cloth. Her selections made and the account tallied, Isabel gathered her things. “It looks rather stormy,” she said.

“We’re sure to get a big blow today, Mrs. Taylor. You might want to get home as soon as you can.”

Outside the wind was stronger and the sky was thick and menacing. Waves churned the harbor. Sampans lining the shore pitched up and down. The air smelled of lightning. An explosion sounded, the blast echoing in her ears.

Suddenly, the mood of the Praya changed. Chinese workers hurried away; some abandoned the tools of their trade—rickshaws, brooms, wheelbarrows, long poles, rickety chairs and tables—while others pushed, pulled, or carried their belongings with them. Those who made their homes and living on the sampans swarmed the decks of their vessels grabbing this and that, hurrying nimbly along the gunnels, and scrambling up the ladders connecting them to long-fingered piers.

The wind grew stronger. Isabel’s hat blew off, rolling along the Praya like a runaway wheel. Without thinking, she chased after it. Hampered by the bulk of her purchases, she weaved this way and that. Every time she got close, the wind picked her hat up again. It’s gone, she finally admitted as the blue concoction sailed off over the water and rain pelted down—big, fat drops that smacked her skin. I should return to Murphy’s and wait out the storm.

She swiveled around. The Praya was deserted. Several sampans were precariously close to capsizing. The wind that had previously been at her back now buffeted her with such force, she could barely keep her balance. Isabel braced herself against the gale. Murphy’s seemed a long way away.

The wind howled like an animal in distress. The rain grew in intensity. “One step at a time,” she muttered aloud. Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right foot. She caught a glimpse of a man falling from a sampan into the water. Should she try to rescue him? Would her skirts weigh her down so that she would only drown trying? The sky closed in. Day felt like night.

Isabel continued to push forward. Without warning, someone grabbed her arm. She struggled to break free.

“I’m trying to help you, Mrs. Taylor,” Li Tao-Kai said, his voice gruff. “Don’t you realize this is a typhoon?”

A typhoon. She’d heard about typhoons—the Asian equivalent to hurricanes—and had even heard about the devastation caused by one that hit Hong Kong in 1906, but she had no idea what such an event would be like. “How was I supposed to know?” she said.

“The typhoon signal went off.” 

“Was that the explosion I heard?”

He jerked his head in a quick nod and she thought he might be a little exasperated with her, although it was difficult to tell. They were both shouting to be heard. Li Tao-Kai held her arm firmly and a few minutes later, pulled her inside the shop.

“I saw a man fall into the water,” she said, as soon as she caught her breath. “He needs help.”

“We can’t go out again,” he said. “It’s dangerous. If you don’t believe me, look out the window to see for yourself.”

With the sun totally obscured and only one narrow window in Murphy’s Fine Silks and Linens, the interior was dim. Isabel hadn’t noticed the men milling about the room when she and Mr. Li had entered, but now she saw that there were about fifteen of them, a mix of Chinese and European. Isabel nodded in their direction, then crossed over to look out the window. Debris skittered along the Praya: bits of wood, sheets of paper, a straw hat, a broom. A table had fallen over and now scraped along the asphalt. She looked for the place where she’d seen the man fall, but everything was so topsy-turvy she could find no trace of him. A crash sounded as something smashed against the building.

“Step away from the window, Mrs. Taylor,” George Flannigan said. “It’s not safe.”

Isabel was so startled that she obeyed without question and took a spot standing next to Li Tao-Kai. Since his role brought him into frequent contact with the British community, she’d seen him on a few occasions following the opera and at times there’d been a chance to talk. He was an interesting man who, to her surprise, didn’t treat her as many men did: an attractive woman worthy of a flirtatious glance or two but unworthy of weighty conversation. She was just musing about whether he spoke to all women in the same fashion, when a bamboo pole shattered the window, flinging glass across the room.

“Good heavens!” she exclaimed. Her eyes wide with shock.

“Are you all right?” Li Tao-Kai asked.

“I think so.” Isabel spoke slowly. Nothing in her life had prepared her for a storm so fierce it left the surroundings looking like a bundle of jackstraws.

“Careful, I see something on your clothes.” He reached over and plucked a shard of glass from the sleeve of her dress.

The howls of the storm were deafening—like a train charging through a tunnel. Beyond the wind was the thumping and banging of debris tumbling past the warehouse. Without thinking, Isabel crossed to the window once more and peered out. Pellets of rain whipped her face.

“We have to help,” she said. “I can see women on the dock trying to save their children. They can barely stand. Look at them,” she urged.

“It’s too dangerous outside,” George Flannigan said.

“But we can’t just think of ourselves. Surely there are enough of us here to help.”

“You don’t understand how deadly typhoons can be,” Mr. Li said. “I’ve seen men blown down the street and trees uprooted by the force of the wind.” He shook his head. “It’s dangerous outside.”

“But those people could die without our help. If we were to form a human chain, each person standing close to the next person in line, we could rescue them. Whoever heads the line will help these people off their boats and hand them over to the next person in line and so on. Surely we can at least try.”

“It could work, Mr. Li,” George Flannigan said. “The wind has eased a bit, so we may have a few minutes before it strengthens again. Now might be the perfect time.”

“All right. We can try. But Mrs. Taylor remains in the shop.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” Isabel declared.

Li Tao-Kai drew his lips into a tight grimace. “If you’re determined to help, perhaps you will agree to be at the end closest to the shop.”

Isabel debated the benefit of further argument. “All right,” she said.

One by one, they stepped outside. When it was her turn, the wind tore at her clothes and rain pummeled her face. From all around she heard the clang, clatter, and smash of items hurled by the wind.

Here’s the blurb:

The lives of two women living in Hong Kong more than a century apart are unexpectedly linked by forbidden love and financial scandal.

In 2016, Patricia Findlay leaves a high-powered career to move to Hong Kong, where she hopes to rekindle the bonds of family and embrace the city of her ancestors. Instead, she is overwhelmed by feelings of displacement and depression. To make matters worse, her father, CEO of the family bank, insists that Patricia’s duty is to produce an heir, even though she has suffered three miscarriages.

In 1912, when Isabel Taylor moves to Hong Kong with her husband, Henry, and their young daughter, she struggles to find her place in such a different world and to meet the demands of being the admiral’s wife. At a reception hosted by the governor of Hong Kong, she meets Li Tao-Kai, an influential member of the Chinese community and a man she met a decade earlier when he was a student at Cambridge.

As the story unfolds, each woman must consider where her loyalties lie and what she is prepared to risk for love.

Trigger Warnings:
Brief sex scenes

Praise:

“Family secrets and personal ambitions, east and west, collide in this compelling, deeply moving novel.” — Weina Dai Randel, award-winning author of THE LAST ROSE OF SHANGHAI

“Irresistible and absorbing.” Janie Chang, bestselling author of THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS

Buy Links:

Amazon (Universal Link)

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CA:  Amazon AU

Meet the author

M.K. (Mary) Tod’s interest in historical fiction began as a teenager immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy, and Georgette Heyer. In 2004, her husband’s career took them to Hong Kong where, with no job and few prospects, Mary began what became Unravelled, her first novel. The Admirals Wife is her fifth novel.

Mary’s award-winning blog, www.awriterofhistory.com, focuses on reading and writing historical fiction. She’s an active member of the historical fiction community and has conducted five unique reader surveys on topics from readers’ habits and preferences to favorite historical fiction authors. Mary is happily married to her high-school sweetheart. They have two adult children and two delightful grandsons.

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Today, I’m delighted to welcome Ann Bennett and her new book, The Lake Pagoda to the blog #blogtour

I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Ann Bennett’s new book, The Lake Pagoda.

Excerpt

They moved on beyond the prayer hall to another square where the great red-brick pagoda soared above them, its eleven roofs jutting out from the walls at regular intervals, with the still, white Buddhas looking down impassively at them from each level. Arielle leaned back and stared up to the top of the pagoda where a marble lotus soared even higher into the sky. 

In front of the pagoda was an altar, where more incense burned and people had laid flowers, candles and fruit as offerings.

‘Come, let us meditate and pay our respects to the Buddha,’ said Ba Noi, laying her lotus flower on the altar, stepping back and sitting down on the stone floor, lotus style. Arielle followed suit, laying her incense, candles and flower on the altar, then sitting down beside her grandmother. It was hard to force her unaccustomed legs into the lotus position, even though she was several generations younger than Ba Noi who managed it with ease. 

Arielle closed her eyes and tried to settle her mind, allowing the chanting of the monks in the monastery, the discordant clang of the temple bells and the gentle voices of other worshippers to calm her down. They sat for ten or fifteen minutes and during that time, try as she might, Arielle couldn’t empty her mind of thoughts. It kept returning to Etienne again and again. What was he doing now? Where was he? Had she been wrong about him and wrong to trust his assurances about his business? What did the future hold for the two of them? At last she heard Ba Noi getting to her feet, so she gave up the struggle to meditate, but she vowed to return to the temple. It felt good being here, connecting with her mother’s faith, letting the calm of this spiritual place permeate her soul.

‘Come, I need to go home now,’ said Ba Noi. ‘I am tired and I need my bed.’

‘Me too,’ said Arielle, a feeling of trepidation creeping through her at the thought of the huge, empty house she must go back to, alone but for the reticent servants. 

They returned along the walkways to the yellow gateway where they put on their shoes and bowed their heads to the monk as they went through the gates. As they did so, a man stepped out from the shadows beyond the gate. He was dressed all in black and he came forward bowing his head respectfully to Ba Noi.

‘Good evening, phu nhan – madame,’ he said. Ba Noi stopped, a smile spreading across her face.

‘Good evening, Xan. Nice to see you here on this beautiful evening. I hope you are well. This is my granddaughter, Arielle. Madame Garnier, in fact.’

The man turned his attention to Arielle, and she felt his serious, dark eyes sweep down her body, scrutinising her from head to toe, like the beam from a searchlight. He held out his hand and she took it, feeling the warmth and strength of his as she shook it.

‘Good to make your acquaintance, Madame Garnier. I read about your wedding in the newspaper the other day. Your husband is … an important man,’ he trailed off but still he held her gaze. She looked away, the honesty in his look felt intrusive somehow.

‘He is just a businessman,’ she said, wondering how and why this man knew about Etienne or was interested in their marriage.

‘Of course. Well, phu nhan, Madame Garnier, very nice to see you. I must go and do my devotions now. But perhaps I will see you here again one evening soon?’

‘You will, of course,’ said Ba Noi, putting her hand on Arielle’s back to usher her to the gate. As they walked away, Arielle felt those black eyes boring into her back. 

‘Who’s that?’ she asked. ‘He’s a bit intense, isn’t he?’

‘Oh, I often see him here,’ said Ba Noi. ‘He is a very nice man. But he has every reason to be serious. He is a communist. Fighting the corner of exploited workers all over Indochina. He is very passionate and serious about his cause.’

Here’s the blurb:

Indochina 1945: Arielle, who is half-French, half-Vietnamese, is working as a secretary for the French colonial government when the Japanese storm Hanoi. Although her Asian blood spares her from imprisonment, she is forced to work for the occupiers. The Viet Minh threaten to reveal dark secrets from her past if she won’t pass them information from her new masters.

Drawn ever deeper into the rebels’ dangerous world, will Arielle ever escape the torment of her past? Or will she find love amidst the turmoil of war? 

A novel of love, loss, war, and survival against all odds. 

Trigger Warnings:

Violence

Buy Links:

Available on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: http://mybook.to/lakepagoda

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Ann Bennett was born in Pury End, a small village in Northamptonshire, UK and now lives in Surrey. Her first book, A Daughter’s Quest, originally published as Bamboo Heart, was inspired by her father’s experience as a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma Railway. The Planter’s Wife (originally Bamboo Island) a Daughter’s Promise and The Homecoming, (formerly Bamboo Road), The Tea Panter’s Club and The Amulet are also about the war in South East Asia, all six making up the Echoes of Empire Collection.

Ann is also author of The Runaway Sisters, The Orphan House, and The Child Without a Home, published by Bookouture.

The Lake Pavilion and The Lake Palace are both set in British India in the 1930s and 40s. Her latest book, The Lake Pagoda, set in French Indochina in the 30s and 40s, will be published in April 2022.

Ann is married with three grown up sons and a granddaughter and works as a lawyer. For more details please visit http://www.bambooheart.co.uk

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Cragside, again, in photos

It’s not very often that I actually get to visit the places I write about. Very little of Saxon England remains as it would have been. But for Cragside, I could visit as often as I liked, and I did. I’m going to share some images of the interior of the house with you. These were either taken during December 2021, so might be a bit Christmasy, or were taken in August 2021. (apologises to people I’ve accidentally snapped).

Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery is now available in ebook, hardback, paperback and audio.

Today, I’m welcoming The Professor’s Lady by Holly Bush to the blog

Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from The Professor’s Lady by Holly Bush.

Excerpt

The long ride through New Jersey toward Philadelphia was done quietly as Miss Thompson looked out the window, her hands folded in her lap, humming a tune he heard from her occasionally. He was soon engrossed in a medical article written by Joseph Lister on the subject of cleaning surgical instruments and the dramatic decrease of deaths after surgery. 

He lifted his head when that lovely young lady beside him pinched his hand enough to leave a bruise. “Ouch!”

“I have been trying to get your attention, Mr. Watson,” she said in a breathy voice, her eyes darting the length of the train car. “I think the man who was drunk in the hallway of the hotel just walked past us.”

“Are you certain?”

“Not completely, but I’m fairly sure. He is wearing a minister’s collar today.”

“We are not far from Philadelphia. We will depart the station as quickly as possible and hire a carriage to take you home.”

She looked at him then, her face wreathed in worry. “We will be no match for them, I’m afraid.”

“I intend to guard you, Miss Thompson. I will not let anyone harm you. I promise.”

She shuddered a breath and laid her head on his shoulder. “I’ve been imagining what would have happened if you hadn’t found me on the Maybelle.”

“Do not make yourself uneasy. And there is no use dreaming of tragic endings. We are closer to your family with every turn of the train’s wheels, and then you will be safe. In the interim, I will have to do as your protector. Mr. Clawson and I.”

“I feel so much better when you talk sensibly to me,” she whispered and clutched his arm. “You will come into the house with me? Explain what has happened?”

“Your family will be so glad to have you back in their arms, any anger will be short-lived. And I wouldn’t want to impose on a family reunion.”

She harrumphed. “Short-lived? You do not know my family.”

The train was on time, a near miracle in Albert’s estimation, when they rolled into the Philadelphia station. They had not been delayed by broken tracks or a herd of pigs or any other obstacle that so often made train travel less than timely. Miss Thompson was still leaning against his arm, although she was not sleeping, and had long ago slipped her hand into his. He’d spent much of the last hour looking at one of the marvels of the human body, the hand, and observing the differences between his and hers. Those twenty-seven individual bones, allowing humans to grip and fist and caress, were dainty and dwarfed by his. He rubbed his thumb over her knuckle as its tendons and muscles tightened, bending her finger against his with soft pressure. 

As the train slowed into the station, Clawson took his bag, as they had discussed, intending to go directly to the home Albert shared with his mother to deposit his belongings and check to see if his trunks had been delivered. He would have both hands and the gun in his pocket to protect Miss Thompson until he could hand her over to the safekeeping of her relatives. The train chugged to a stop and he stood, offering his hand to her to rise, guiding her to step in front of him. He kept his hand on her shoulder as they slowly walked down the aisle, waiting to depart the train onto the crowded platform. He bent down and looked out a window and saw Clawson, who nodded and turned into the crowd.

Albert took her hand as she stepped down and slipped his arm around her shoulders, keeping her tight against him as they moved toward the street, away from the house that served as the train station, now a tavern and inn. There were carriages for hire, and he quickly hailed one and gave the address to the driver. He glanced over his shoulder as he helped her climb in and saw two men heading their way that could have been the hotel drunk and the man behind the planter, one wearing the collar of the church. 

“Make haste, please,” he said to the driver. “There’ll be extra for you if you get us moving immediately.”

Albert was not quite in his seat when the carriage driver maneuvered out of the line of carriages and into the street, weaving in and out of slower vehicles, and causing him to drop hastily down next to Miss Thompson. He risked a glance back and saw no one following. 

“They were there, weren’t they?” she whispered, tightening her grip on his hand. 

“They were, but we are on our way now. Everything will be fine.”

“But you don’t know that.”

“Your family will keep you safe,” he said and squeezed her hand. 

She was silent for a long moment, staring out at the passing businesses, turning back to him with wide eyes and a trembling lip. 

“What is it, Miss Thompson?”

“I prefer you, Mr. Watson. I prefer you to keep me safe.”

He stared at her, willing himself not to gather her in his arms and kiss her. And then she turned away from him and pointed as the carriage slowed down. He stepped down quickly, helped her alight, and reached to pay the driver and ask him to wait to see him home as well. As he turned, a fist connected with his chin.

Here’s the blurb:

Meet the Thompsons of Locust Street, an unconventional family taking Philadelphia high society by storm…

1870 Kirsty Thompson is determined to begin her own business bringing beloved Scottish fabrics and yarns to Philadelphia but first she must meet the men and women who weave the plaids and spin the wool. How will she ever escape her protective older siblings and sail to Scotland?

Albert Watson is a medical doctor focusing on research, especially that of Joseph Lister and his sterilization techniques. He speaks at universities in America and in England while visiting his London relatives. As he prepares to sail for just such an engagement, Kirsty Thompson boards his ship to beg him to take her with him. What’s a gentleman to do? Albert cancels his trip across the ocean to escort Miss Thompson back to Philadelphia and finds there is danger afoot for her and her family.

Soon he comes to realize there is also danger for his heart, even for a man who rarely pulls his nose from a medical journal. He finds himself unable to put Miss Kirsty Thompson out of his thoughts, where they belonged, because certainly a beautiful, ambitious, and charming young woman could have no interest in him. Or could she?

Buy Links:

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Meet the author

Holly Bush writes historical romance set in the U.S.in the late 1800’s, in Victorian England, and an occasional Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Connect with Holly at www.hollybushbooks.com and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Professor’s Lady blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

I’m excited to share an excerpt from Heidi Eljarbo’s new book, The Secrets of Rosenli Manor #BlogTour #HistoricalMystery

I’m excited to share an excerpt from Heidi Eljarbo’s new historical mystery. Enjoy.

The pendulum on the grandfather clock next to the grand piano swung rhythmically back and forth, back and forth. The hour hand was approaching two. She should leave. The lawyer had asked her to stop by his office before she left town, and the train ride home would take three quarters of an hour.

What was she to do? Lilly leaned back into the soft pillows. Was it all true? Had she inherited a fortune, and could she picture herself living here? What about Father? She’d moved into her own place a while back, but would he insist on living at Rosenli with her? His daily pessimistic outbursts and derogatory comments had taken their toll on her, but what would her father say if she moved away? Who would calm him when his temper steered his mood? Maybe more than anything, was she capable of taking care of Aunt Agatha’s estate?

She stopped by the casket one last time then grabbed her handbag and walked into the hallway. 

The butler stood by the wardrobe as she came out. It was as if he expected her.

“Mr. Bing, I need a word with you.”

“You may call me John, miss. Now that we’ll be seeing more of each other, you should know we go by first names in this house. Agatha insisted on it.”

“Very well. Then I would like you to call me Lilly.” She showed him the photograph. “Please tell me about this man. Who is he?”

John smiled. “Oh, so you found the picture. Good. Agatha placed it there for you to find. She had much to tell you, and now it’s up to you to discover what. Find her story, and you’ll understand who that man is.”

Lilly widened her eyes. “That sounds intriguing, but I must warn you; I’m usually not very patient. At least show me where to look?”

“You’ll understand. Just follow your heart.”

“My heart?”

John handed her a miniature box tied with a red silk ribbon. “She wanted you to have this.”

Lilly gingerly unfastened the ribbon and opened the lid. Inside was a small silver amulet. She picked it up. Half a heart. She lifted her gaze to John, but he said nothing. The old man stood there with a stoic but friendly look on his face.

“What does this mean, John? How can I follow my heart if I only have half of it?”

The butler smiled but didn’t answer her question. He didn’t even ask her if she planned to move in. Lilly narrowed her brow, confused at such limited information. She’d grown used to working with numbers, patterns, and orderly schedules. How did one learn something new by merely listening to their heart? She pulled her shoulders back. “I will try, John, but I hope for some help along the way. I truly want to understand who Agatha was. Even if it might seem late now that she has passed, I’d like to become acquainted with her.”

John touched her shoulder. “That’s the spirit.”

Here’s the blurb:

Betrayal and trust go hand in hand in the first book of Heidi Eljarbo’s new turn-of-the-century series.

It’s 1898, and Lilly has spent most of her life motherless and living with a father who never looks for a silver lining. When her great-aunt Agatha passes, Lilly’s existence takes a drastic turn. She packs her few belongings and moves into the old lady’s magnificent estate, Rosenli Manor.

In the days that follow, Lilly tries to understand who Agatha really was, and hidden secrets slowly rise to the surface. Her great-aunt’s glamorous legacy is not quite what Lilly had imagined. She must trust in newly forged friendships, and to her surprise, she discovers what it means to truly fall in love. But not everyone is happy about the new mistress of Rosenli.

Intrigue, mystery, and a touch of romance in the Norwegian countryside fill the pages of Secrets of Rosenli Manor.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK:   Amazon US:  Amazon CA:   Amazon AU

Meet the author

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.

Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

Sign up for her newsletter at https://www.heidieljarbo.com/newsletter

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Cover Reveal -Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery

I’m very excited to reveal the cover for my next foray into twentieth-century crime.

Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery is another of my Lockdown projects, inspired by my weekly walk around Cragside, a nineteenth-century country estate in North Northumberland.

But enough of that.

Here’s the wonderful cover, designed by Shaun at Flintlock Covers. And isn’t it amazing.

Here’s the blurb

Lady Merryweather has had a shocking year. Apprehended for the murder of her husband the year before, and only recently released, she hopes a trip away from London will allow her to grieve. The isolated, but much loved, Cragside Estate in North Northumberland, home of her friends, Lord and Lady Bradbury, holds special memories for her.

But, no sooner has she arrived than the body of one of the guests is found on the estate, and suspicion immediately turns on her. Perhaps, there are no friendships to be found here, after all.

Released, due to a lack of evidence, Lady Ella returns to Cragside only to discover a second murder has taken place in her absence, and one she can’t possibly have committed.

Quickly realising that these new murders must be related to that of her beloved husband, Lady Merryweather sets out to solve the crime, once and for all. But there are many who don’t want her to succeed, and as the number of murder victims increases, the possibility that she might well be the next victim, can’t be ignored.

Journey to the 1930s Cragside Estate, to a period house-party where no one is truly safe, and the estate is just as deadly as the people.

Cragside will be released on 14th April 2022 in ebook, paperback, and, also audio – I’m really excited about the narrator. I will share more details nearer the time.

PREORDER NOW

Coelwulf’s Company – Tales from before The Last King

Here it is – a little treat for fans of Coelwulf and his warriors.

Having given many hints as to how the motley crew got together, I decided to write some short stories, from different points of view, to see just what Icel, Edmund, Coelwulf, Pybba and of course, Rudolf, think of one another and how they came to be battling the Raiders in AD874.

The collection consists of 5 short stories, and also another short story which laid the foundation for Coelwulf and his warriors. (This short story is freely available on the Aspects of History website, but I added it just so readers who haven’t discovered it yet could see it. Do please check out my author platform on Aspects of History and all the other excellent authors on there as well.)

I hope you’ll enjoy it, and if you do, I can press on with writing more short stories, because it’s been a great deal of fun! And you know me, I do like to tell a story backwards:)

Coelwulf’s Company is available as an ebook from Kindle and can be read with Kindle Unlimited.

Ten Years an Indie

At some point in December 2011, and I don’t remember the exact date, other than it was before the schools broke up for Christmas in the UK, I indie-published my first fantasy book, then called Purple, and now renamed to Hidden Dragon. I’d spent years writing it (over three, but the idea had been with me for fifteen.) I’d sent it to just about every UK based agent that would consider fantasy, and I’d got precisely nowhere. Unsure what more I could do, I was convinced to put it on Amazon Kindle just to see what would happen.

I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time. (Some might argue I still don’t). But, that means that in December 2021, I’ll celebrate ten years as an indie author. And what a ride it’s been. There have been a few dizzying highs and primarily many, many lows. I would like to think that I finally know what I’m doing, but every so often, such as recently with IngramSpark, something happens that I realise I don’t know. Anyway, I think this anniversary allows me to reflect on the last ten years.

Firstly, I would say that indie publishing is just about unrecognisable to when I started. Yes, Amazon Kindle hasn’t changed in any way – it still offers writers an affordable means to publish, but the way books are ‘built’ and put on the service is very different, in a good way. The options are far more sophisticated, and indeed, I think every platform has undoubtedly changed for the better in the last ten years. I can only speak mostly about Amazon Kindle because while I’ve flirted with other platforms, I’ve only used Amazon Kindle for much of the last few years.

The way indie-writers approach their writing is entirely different. The options available in terms of editors, cover designers, advertising, printing paperbacks, accessing multiple market places has also changed over time. I genuinely pity anyone starting today because it is a minefield. It doesn’t have the quirkiness about it that it once did when anyone could try their luck, and success stories were built on it. Writers have higher expectations of themselves. Readers have expectations that exceed those of authors with traditional publishing deals. And authors with traditional publishing deals increasingly look to indie-publishing if they have projects that are rejected by their usual route. 

My journey has seen me pivot more than once. My desire to write fantasy that fans of ‘my sort’ of fantasy could enjoy (my influences were and remain, Anne McCaffrey, Katharine Kerr, Patricia Keneally Morrison, Melanie Rawn, Robin Hobb, Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin), but this isn’t where fantasy is these days. (All hail grimdark – apart from Robin Hobb). I took to historical fiction when I discovered a historical character that needed writing about – Ealdorman Leofwine – but even then, it wasn’t a smooth journey. Once more, I went down the route of trying to find an agent and failed. And once more, I went indie. I will share the story of how I placed Ealdorman, as the book was then called, for pre-order on Smashwords for three months and got precisely no pre-orders – even though I stayed up until midnight on release day to watch them all flood in. It would be another three months until someone picked up that book!

I still toyed with fantasy, but I was increasingly finding my ‘home’ in historical fiction – a genre I didn’t particularly enjoy reading apart from five authors – Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Penman and Bernard Cornwell’s Excalibur trilogy, as well as Stonehenge and some Egyptian historical mysteries by Paul Doherty. I wrote different periods (but still in Early England). I tried different writing styles. I just didn’t stop because the only way to succeed was to write something that would be successful. 

I had a false start with The First Queen of England book, a novel I tried to write as a historical romance, but where the sequels pivoted towards the political (I mean, the poor woman’s husband died!) and which therefore landed me in trouble with my readers who didn’t want a romance, and with romance readers, who were unappreciative that the trilogy didn’t continue as a romance. But the success of the Lady Elfrida books did allow me to give up my part-time job to write full time.

I wrote some more fantasy. I wrote a modern-day/dystopian future mash-up under a different name and sold about ten copies. But all the time, readers were slowly coming. My pre-orders all made it beyond my zero for Ealdorman.

And then, one day, King Coelwulf came to me. He wasn’t very clear to start with, and he sat on the back burner for two years, and then, when I began to write him, he sort of exploded onto the computer screen. (I believe his character is so strong because of a character I’d written in one of my fantasy books, who isn’t Coelwulf but has some of his qualities, while the battle scenes have been built upon by my attempts to recreate the three famous battles of the seventh century and Brunanburh in the tenth). I also decided to ‘sod it’ and write a character the way I wanted to. That doesn’t mean that my other characters aren’t the men and women I want to portray, but I think there was some hesitancy in them and me. This time, I downplayed the history a little and upgraded the violence and the swearing. I brought the humour. I brought the peril, and I had a bloody good time doing it. And you know what, people loved it (or hated it), and Coelwulf connected me with an audience who had just been waiting for me to discover them. 

I’ve written 46 novels and one short story (15K) throughout the last ten years, which I published (not all under M J Porter), and a shorter short story in Iron and Gold with fellow Aspects of History authors. I have four further novels which aren’t yet published, which I’m writing – Son of Mercia will be published by Boldwood Books in February 2022 and is complete, the second book in the Eagles of Mercia Chronicles will be published by Boldwood in June 2022, the third, later in 2022. This means that after ten years as an indie, I’m becoming a hybrid author.

I have four series I’m currently writing (three set in Early England and one in 1940s Erdington), so more books will come, and I have many more stories to share. Whether I make it another 46 books in the next ten years, I genuinely don’t know. I can’t see I’ll lose the desire to write. To do that, I’ll need to stop attending history and archaeology talks which offer me so many new stories to tell. I’ll also have to stop reading because often, my ideas come from what I read. And that just isn’t going to happen. 

So, thank you to everyone of my readers who’s made the last ten years possible. You rock (well, most of you do – you know who you are:)) Let’s see what the next ten years bring. 

An Earls of Mercia short story

Alas, the writing gods have kept me busy this year, but not on a new Earls of Mercia story, which I hope to start early next year. I really must apologise for this. I considered spending December working on it, but I’m going to work on editing my two current projects, allowing me to begin on the new book, which will cover the reign of Edward the Confessor after he marries, in the new year.

But, fear not, fans of the series, I have written a new short story for you, which you can find in the Aspects of History collection, Iron and Gold, also featuring Anne O’Brien, Paul Bernardi, Theodore Brun, Paula de Fougerolles, Philip Gooden and Peter Sandham.

The collection can be read free via Kindle Unlimited, ebook or via paperback. If you don’t have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, and haven’t held one for the last 12 months, then you can get a free 30 days subscription by following this link, but do remember to cancel it if you don’t wish to continue with the subscription.

I have powered my way through all the other stories and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. It has added to my TBR list as well.

And, that’s not it, for Aspects of History have also released Imperium, a collection of Roman short stories.

And if that’s not enough, you can also find some more short stories, by me, and the other Aspects of History authors over on the website and you can read these for free.

Enjoy.

(This post does contain Amazon affiliate links).

The Custard Corpses is on blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

I’m taking The Custard Corpses on blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources. 30 bloggers over 10 days will share their thoughts and reviews on the ebook, paperback and audiobook. Massive thanks to Rachel for organising such a huge tour. I’m really excited to find out what people think of my slightly twisty 1940s mystery.

And, there’s a competition to win one of two copies of The Custard Corpses. Good luck. https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494455/

For those who’ve not read The Custard Corpses yet, here’s the blurb;

A delicious 1940s mystery.

Birmingham, England, 1943.

While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

But, the chance discovery of another victim, with worrying parallels, sets Mason, and his constable, O’Rourke, on a journey that will take them back over twenty-five years, the chance to finally solve the case, while all around them the uncertainty of war continues, impossible to ignore.

The Custard Corpses is available as an ebook, paperback, hardback and audiobook (Thank you to Matt Coles for doing such a fabulous job with the narration). And, I’ve written a sequel to. The Automobile Assassination which will release on 25th November 2021.

I’ll be adding links here as the tour progresses, and I want to say thank you to all the bloggers for taking a chance on The Custard Corpses.

Tuesday 16th November

https://whatcathyreadnext.wordpress.com

https://norwayellesea.blogspot.com/2021/11/book-blog-tour-stop-with-author-guest.html

Wednesday 17th November 2021

https://fourmoonreviews.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter-review.html

Thursday 18th November 2021

http://pettywitter.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses.html

Friday November 19th 2021

https://nickislifeofcrime.blogspot.com/2021/11/blogtour-book-excerpt-giveaway-custard.html

http://pettywitter.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses.html

Saturday 20th November 2021

https://chezmaximka.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter.html

http://www.booksarecool.com/2021/custard-corpses-delicious/

Sunday 21st November 2021

https://dogsmomvisits.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-m-j-porter.html

https://www.jazzybookreviews.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter-book.html

Monday 22nd November 2021

https://www.instagram.com/mickysbookworm/

https://www.jazzybookreviews.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter-book.html

Tuesday 23rd November 2021

Wednesday 24th November 2021

https://wordpress.com/post/mjporterauthor.blog/3701

Thursday 25th November 2021

Huge thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising such a fantastic tour, and to all the tour hosts and reviewers for welcoming The Custard Corpses to their blogs.