Category Archives: Guest Posts – Authors

12 days of Clink Street Christmas Event: Guest Post – Monika Jephcott Thomas


As part of the 12 days of Clink Street Christmas blog tour i’m very happy to bring you a guest post from Monika Jephcott Thomas, author of “Fifteen Words” which i reviewed recently

If you didn’t see the review click the image below to open a new window 🙂


I hope you all enjoy the guest post! My blog is yours Monika.


Christmas In Germany 

Christmas for me as a child was a wonderfully long drawn out affair. It started 4 weeks before X-mas with Advent and ended on the 6th of January on Epiphany. During that time there were highlights filled with long established traditions in our family.

There was no Father X-mas. Presents would be brought by ‘Christkind’ i.e. baby Jesus, on Christmas Eve.

Every Saturday night before the 4 Advent Sundays we children put our shoes outside our bedroom door, well cleaned and polished and lined with x-mas wrapping paper. If you had been a good girl the angels would come during the night and bring you little presents and on the first weekend also an Advent calendar. Not a bought one with doors to open and finding chocolate behind it but one that was made by my Mum, which must have taken her ages for all of us. Little felt bags on a string for every day with the dates on it.  When you opened it there might have been a couple of marbles, some sweets something little that I was really looking forward to.

On December the 4th , St Barbara, we would go into our garden and cut some branches from our fruit trees. These would blossom at Christmas and would decorate our dinner table.

On December  6th , St Nicholas was celebrated. In the early evening we would gather as a family in our living room and sing X-mas and Advent songs, read poems and my parents would read us stories. Then at some stage there would be a loud knock on our front door. St Nikolaus, dressed up as a bishop and Knecht Ruprecht, St Nikolaus’ slave, dressed up as a chimney sweep, black and dusty, would arrive when snow was outside, on a horse drawn sleigh. He would come into our living room with a golden book and a sack of presents. We would sit with big eyes and in expectations of what presents we would receive and also a bit frightened about how Knecht Ruprecht might punish us if we had not been good over the year. St Nikolaus would read out from his golden book all the good things we had done during the year and also remind us where we had to improve so Knecht Ruprecht would not have to be angry with us next year. Then he left the sack of presents and we waved to him good bye from our front door when he left in his sleigh. It was so realistic and I wondered for many years how he knew all the things we had done over the year.

On the 3rd Advent Saturday night we wrote a letter to Christkind with our wishes for presents for X-mas and the angels would take this to him.

Every day during Advent we also had a wooden crib on the window sill of our living room. Every night before going to bed my mother would take us to the crib. We had to either choose some hay if we had been good to put it into the crib or some straw if we had not. We were in other words responsible for how comfortable baby Jesus would be when he was born and would lie in the crib under the X-mas tree. An effective way for parents to get 4 weeks of good behaviour!

On X-mas eve we would gather up in our dining room and sing X-mas songs until a little bell rang and the angels had finished arranging our presents under the tree (a big fresh pine tree with real candles). After a delightful time of unwrapping all we had our dinner which was always fish and then went to Midnight Mass

X-mas day was spent with our grandparents and X-mas dinner always was a goose, red cabbage and Kloesse (dumplings)

We had a relaxing time playing with family, celebrated NY eve with fireworks in our garden and had a family holiday till Jan 6th, Epiphany. At breakfast my Mum would have baked a sponge cake and a coffee bean would be buried in it. Whoever got the slice with it was King for the day and could do what they liked (within limits of course.) After breakfast my father followed by us would go to our front and back door and write e.g. AD 19 C+M+B 56 (initials of the 3 kings) in chalk over the front door to bless the house for the coming year and the same on the back door which would first be opened to let the bad spirits out.


Fifteen Words Blurb

Two young doctors form a profound and loving bond in Nazi Germany; a bond that will stretch them to the very limits of human endurance. Catholic Max – whose religious and moral beliefs are in conflict, has been conscripted to join the war effort as a medic, despite his hatred of Hitler’s regime. His beloved Erika, a privileged young woman, is herself a product of the Hitler Youth. In spite of their stark differences, Max and Erika defy convention and marry.

But when Max is stationed at the fortress city of Breslau, their worst nightmares are realised; his hospital is bombed, he is captured by the Soviet Army and taken to a POW camp in Siberia. Max experiences untold horrors, his one comfort the letters he is allowed to send home: messages that can only contain Fifteen Words. Back in Germany, Erika is struggling to survive and protect their young daughter, finding comfort in the arms of a local carpenter. Worlds apart and with only sparse words for comfort, will they ever find their way back to one another, and will Germany ever find peace?
Fifteen Words is a vivid and intimate portrayal of human love and perseverance, one which illuminates the German experience of the war, which has often been overshadowed by history.

Purchase on Amazon UK

About Monika Jephcott Thomas

Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002.

12 days of Clink Street Christmas Event: Enemy Series Intro & Review – Rob Sinclair


Today i’m very  happy to bring you my review of Dance With The Enemy by Rob Sinclair and also a little intro to the series which Rob has kindly written for us.

First off i must say I’ve heard many a good things said about this author by fellow bloggers. I’ve actually had the three books in the series for a little while already so when i heard he would be taking part in the Clink Street Christmas event it was an easy decision for me to pick him as someone i’d like to feature . Word of mouth speaks a lot to me and with so many good comments i just had to buy the series and i’m very glad that I’ve had the time to read/review the first book in the series.

I’ll pass you over to Rob to give you an intro then you can read my review 🙂

Intro to Enemy series

My Enemy series of books have now sold 200,000 copies worldwide since the release of the first book, Dance with the Enemy, in 2014, which was followed by Rise of the Enemy and Hunt for the Enemy. But for those people not familiar, what are they about?

I set out with the Enemy series to write books that were fast-paced and filled with action, because those are the types of books that I’ve always enjoyed reading myself (not to mention the types of TV and film that I watch too). I had a vague concept in my head as to who the central character would be. A tough guy. An all action hero who’d lived much of his life in that vast area of grey that separates right and wrong, but who had a certain vulnerability about him too. That last part was very important to me. I’d become increasingly tired of heroes who were too perfect, almost superhuman, and wanted a much more grounded and human hero. One who makes mistakes and one who gets hurt. And so was born Carl Logan.

Many years ago Logan, as a tearaway teenager, an orphan moving from foster home to foster home, and increasingly getting himself mixed up with gangs and drugs, was recruited by a shady law enforcement figure – Mackie-  as a low level informant. Over the years that relationship grew until Mackie himself moved on in the world becoming a Commander of a secretive intelligence agency known as the JIA (Joint Intelligence Agency). Seeing potential in Logan, largely given his bleak outlook on life and his nothing to lose mindset, Logan was brought into the fold at the JIA and, through years of physical and psychological training, was turned into something of a killing machine, travelling the world and carrying out the dirty work of the UK and US governments, under the radar.

But, despite the brainwashing training, there was always a gnawing inside Logan that he was more than just an assassin, a feeling that wholly comes to the fore when Logan is captured, tortured and left for dead while on a JIA mission in the Middle East. Which is the point in time where the Enemy series picks up, with Logan struggling to come to terms with that trauma, and trying to figure out exactly who he is, with many in his organisation now believing him to be goods damaged beyond repair.

The three books follow Logan from that lowest point on a journey of not just redemption and proving his self worth, but of revenge too, as he tries in vain to get his life back on track and to get his own back on those who’ve wronged him. Starting in Dance with the Enemy, Logan is drawn into a plot to kidnap America’s Attorney General in Paris, and the series follows Logan across the globe as he tracks down the bad guys whilst coming to terms with betrayal after betrayal – some closer to home than others – and all the time wondering where his life is headed, and whether he can ever truly escape his past, and what he is.


My Review – Dance With The Enemy 

Carl Logan is a man who has been trained to take orders and not ask questions but after things go wrong on a recent job he’s no longer the same agent he was. He’s been broken and it’s clear throughout the story that while he’s still good at his job he’s just not as focused as he should be.

From the first big scene involving the kidnapping of the Attorney General Frank Modena I was hooked. The detail had me gripped as I focused on the action.

Logan is sent in to find and retrieve the Attorney General little does he know that the man who broke him is involved somewhere along the line.

What happens next is a great spy thriller  where Logan has to put the pieces together and find out what’s truly happening. It’s clear to Logan from the start not everything is clear cut as some would like it to be.. so what is the real truth behind the kidnapping??

I won’t give the game away but the author did throw in some great twists. One i’ll admit i thought was coming but as to how it played out i had no idea.. and’s a good one.

Development is a big thing for me. Not only do i have to like the characters but i need to see a path for them to grow and Rob Sinclair delivered everything i could have wanted with Logan. You’re  given tit bits of info building as the story unfolds and this way of developing the lead character really helped hook me in.

I loved that Logan isn’t perfect..he’s far from it. You know he won’t come out of this without a scratch and it just makes the whole tale all the more  gripping.

The supporting characters were pretty well covered too. i loved the way the author managed to again give little bits of info.. just enough at the time but never overdoing it..keeping you just a little in the dark to everyone’s motivations.. as it should be with a spy thriller.

When i reached the end i could easily see why so many people had given great’s more than deserved.

This tale is ultimately about revenge. It’s full of action and intrigue. The plot has to be the number 1 thing that stood out for me.. lot’s of different motivations and agendas and i just couldn’t put it down

My rating – 5/5 Stars!


About Rob Sinclair


Rob’s first novel, Dance with the Enemy, was published in June 2014 and is the first in the bestselling Enemy Series following embattled intelligence agent Carl Logan. Rise of the Enemy, the second book in the series, was released in April 2015, with the third book, Hunt for the Enemy, being released in February 2016.

The Enemy series has received widespread critical acclaim with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob’s work to authors at the very top of the genre, including Lee Child and Vince Flynn.

Rob’s latest thriller, the pulsating Dark Fragments, was released by Bloodhound Books on 8th November 2016.

Rob worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. He now writes full time.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

Rob’s website is

He can be followed on social media at:



Dance With The Enemy – The Enemy Series Book 1

Dance with the Enemy is the explosive first chapter in the highly-acclaimed Enemy series of espionage thrillers featuring Carl Logan.

Rise of the Enemy – The Enemy Series Book 2

Redbrick “Carl Logan may be a battled hardened agent, but Rob Sinclair has managed to find his soul” –

Everyone has a breaking point. Carl Logan might just have found his. The Joint Intelligence Agency sends agent Carl Logan on a routine mission to Russia. It should have been simple. But when Logan’s cover is blown, he’s transported into a world of hell he thought he would never see again. Something is different this time, though, and before long doubts begin to surface in Logan’s mind as to why the assignment went so wrong. Logan has never been short of enemies. And sometimes the enemy is closer to home than you think. Could his own people really have set him up?

Hunt For the Enemy – The Enemy Series Book 3

They’ve erased his past. Wiped out his very existence. But Carl Logan isn’t finished yet. On the run in a harsh Russian winter, Logan – once an invaluable asset but now branded a traitor – has been framed for murder. His own firm, the secretive Joint Intelligence Agency, have labeled him a rogue operative after two decades of loyal service. The agency is hunting him down… and they’re not the only ones. But there’s much more at stake than just Logan’s life. One by one, agents and informants from all sides, all allegiances, are dying. And Carl Logan is the only man who can put a stop to it, once and for all.

Guest post – The Matter Conundrum by Arthur M. Doweyko (@aweyken)


Today i bring to you a guest post from Arthur M. Doweyko author of As Wings Unfurl which i’ll be reviewing on my blog in the near future!

Here’s the blurb..

Applegate Bogdanski returns from Vietnam with a missing leg, a Purple Heart, and an addiction to morphine. He stumbles through each day, looking forward to nothing and hoping it will arrive soon. When he attempts to thwart a crime, he is knocked unconscious and wakes up to discover that people are once again calling him a hero, though he feels undeserving of the praise.

Apple returns to work and meets Angela, a mysterious woman who claims to be his guardian. Immediately, he feels a connection to her, which morphs into an attraction. But he soon discovers that Angela is much more than she seems.

Apple and Angela are swept up in a conspiracy that stretches through time and space. Together, they must fight to save everything they hold dear from an alien race bent on destroying humanity.

If you’d like to learn more about the book you can visit Goodreads or Amazon!

Thank you for agreeing to guest post and without further ado my blog is yours Arthur, enjoy everyone 🙂

The Matter Conundrum

by Arthur M. Doweyko – 20 Nov 2016

Our definition of what’s alive is quite simple: it needs to move, eat stuff, replicate, and mutate. That’s all based on our observations, mostly of animals and plants on this world.

Now, it’s easy enough to apply these rules to just about everything we bump into on the Earth, and for that matter, elsewhere, when the time comes. There are of course a few wrinkles, like virus particles and even prions (proteins that have the wrong shape and convince normal proteins to look they do). This can be sticky territory and apt to result in lengthy discussions which generally end where they started.

Now, let’s make things a bit more controversial. There’s this whole thing about self-awareness. We claim to have it, and we may accept that some other animals have at least some elements of such awareness. Even plants are aware of their surroundings. So, how is it that matter, namely atoms and molecules, can assemble in such a way as to observe itself? There’s something downright spooky about that, especially if we assume that matter itself is inanimate. Somewhere along the line of molecular evolution inanimate matter became animate, and in the case of beings like ourselves, continued to evolve into something that’s self-aware. We could slip in a soul at this point to explain the transition. But that might not be necessary.

What if there was something special about matter that might explain everything? Take a close look at the atom—a nucleus surrounded by electrons. One of its physical properties is the tendency to react. Atoms will bump into one another and the result can be a fusion, a bonding between two or more. Not all atoms react with each other. They have specific likes and dislikes. The same goes for the molecules they create, leading to very long and complicated molecules created from a wide variety of atoms. Each molecule’s likes and dislikes steer that molecule’s association with other molecules. Our current understanding of evolution suggests the growing  complexity led to the creation of simple organisms, and eventually to us.

That last line is where theologists may begin pointing at the Divine, for how could it be possible that life sprung forth from inanimate matter? But what if matter is not inanimate?

What did you just say?

Think about it for a moment. If matter was “animate” to begin with, then where’s the surprise that complicate combinations of matter start crawling around, assimilating other molecules, making copies and changing their makeup with changing conditions?

We recognize that the simplest forms of matter, let’s say, atoms, have likes and dislikes. Why did matter come into existence with such a property? The Big Bang could easily have produced a bunch of mush that stayed mush for the last 13.7 trillion years. Instead, atoms showed up which had tiny personalities, which led to specific interactions, which led to us. You might even think that atoms are aware of each other. Curious, isn’t it?

Guest Blog – JJ Sherwood – Character Interview – Kings or Pawns Blog Tour

Today i bring to you something a little different..a first for my blog. I’ve opened my blog to the awesome JJ. Sherwood to host a interview with a couple of the characters from her book Kings or Pawns, if you’ve not read my review yet click here 🙂

Without further delay…here we go

Hey Soplings! Today we have a special interview where I sat down with Itirel and Sellemar to ask them some pressing questions that you, as fans, have been nagging me about. Well, I don’t have the answers, but these two do!

JJ Sherwood: Welcome Itirel, Sellemar. It’s a pleasure to have you two back for an interview—and together, no less! What a treat!

Itirel: Why thank you for the opportunity, JJ.

Sellemar: Thank you.

JJ: Let’s start with you, Sellemar. People often wonder about your identity and by association, Itirel’s. In Kings or Pawns, Alvena romanticizes that you look like the statue of the legendary king, Ephraim. How do you feel about this? And, if you were Ephraim, who then would be Itirel?

Sellemar: I assume by feel you mean think. I think it is a silly notion fantasized by a child. But on that note, who would not wish to be Ephraim? He was respected and unparalleled in talent. And wealthy: as opposed to myself. Who currently lives in a rundown flea mine.

Itirel: *chuckles*

Sellemar: *glares at Itirel* As for Itirel, he would be my servant. Because if I was Ephraim I would be a king and as such, I would certainly need servants. He could be… a cleric in service of Sel’ari and his job would be to pray and heal me during battle. And cook, because as a king you must overwork your servants or they will find time to invent notions for gossip. As Alvena clearly has.

JJ: Well, I can’t say I’d be eager to serve you if you were king. But, speaking of kings, let’s touch on the True Bloods. We know Sellemar has a uniquely close relationship with their royal family, in particular King Sairel—how about you, Itirel? What is your relationship with the True Bloods?

Itirel: I consider myself to be very fortunate to be able to call the True Blood royals my allies. Their friendship and generosity has been a boon in these difficult times—both for myself and those I seek to aid.

JJ: That’s very interesting. How did you two meet? Was it through the True Bloods?

*Same time* Sellemar: Yes.

*Same time* Itirel: No. *Itirel looks reproachfully at Sellemar* I will answer this question on Sellemar’s behalf because it seems he is determined to take the easy way out of answering. In fact, the story took place as follows: near Sellemar’s place of birth, there is a glade through which a small river flows. In the heat of one summer, Sellemar’s father bathed in this spring, unaware of a northern human settlement which had taken to dumping the bodies of their plagued into this same river. He became gravely ill and healer after healer was called upon to save him—but they too succumbed to the illness. At this time, Ilra saw fit that I should pass through this city and, upon hearing of the people’s misfortune, there I remained until the plague was no more. As I spent time with Sellemar’s father, I too became acquainted with Sellemar himself. When I was preparing to depart for a dangerous mission, Sellemar asked to accompany me as payment for his father’s health. And we have had many adventures since.

JJ: Oh, what a fantastic story! Sellemar, you would have robbed us of that?

Sellemar: *Shrugs*

JJ: *Sighs* Ok, let’s move on—Itirel mentioned Ilra as the god whom he serves. Sellemar, you, as we all know, serve Sel’ari. Are you a cleric of her order then, as is suggested in Kings or Pawns?

Sellemar: *Irritably* One need not be a cleric to be religious.

JJ: Well… it’s just that there are other signs… you know…

Sellemar: …What other signs?
JJ: Well… I mean… I’m mostly thinking about women.

Sellemar: Women?

JJ: Yes. Well, you… seem a bit oblivious to their existence. In Heroes or Thieves, you hardly seem aware of Ilsevel’s advances. So I was just wondering if you had taken a vow of celibacy…

Sellemar: *Flushes* No. I—I do not—have not. I just simply am above the seductive wiles of lonely females.


Sellemar: What?

Itirel: Nothing. I was only thinking that this was the time to take the easy way out of answering.

JJ: Er, this is where we should take an intermission—*cough*before Sellemar walks out on me*cough*! But we’ll continue with Part II of their interview on August 26th at! 

I Had A Dream by Owen Mullen – Guest Blog

Recently I reviewed Games People Play by Owen Mullen which follows the life and cases of PI Charlie Cameron. You can read my review here

Today i’m very glad to say Owen has kindly offered to do a guest post on my blog.

I very much enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to reading the second book Old Friends and New Enemies in the next few weeks

Click the images below to head to Amazon


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I hope you enjoy the post 🙂


I Had A Dream

I didn’t start out to be a writer. Or rather, I did but somehow managed to forget about it. One early memory I have is of a recurring daydream – I guess I would be twelve or thirteen at the time. In the dream I saw myself on top of a hill, lying on the grass with paper and a pen. Below me was a city. The city was Naples. No idea why; I’ve been to Italy many times though never there. Around that time I was reading the short stories of Somerset Maugham. Maugham was tremendously successful and wealthy enough to be able to live in the South of France, which has always had a particular fascination for me. The writer’s life allowed him to travel and many of his stories are set in the Far East: ‘Rain’, ‘The Force of Circumstance’ and ‘The Outstation’ are favourites of mine.

So I grew up with a head filled with the idea of me as a well travelled writer living in the Mediterranean. Now, many years later, I fit that description. The daydream has become reality. With my wife, Christine, I have been all over the world – mostly organised by ourselves – from the Brazilian Amazon to the Himalayas in Nepal; Borneo to Botswana; the Ganges to the Zambezi. And great fun it has been. As for the rest, well, we didn’t quite make the South of France and settled for the Greek Islands instead. Shame, eh?

The journey has been interesting.

Those childish ambitions were overtaken by another creative outlet, one that seemed much more glamorous and exciting to a teenage boy: Music.

When I was sixteen I started a band with some of my friends. I played guitar [kind of] and practiced in my father’s garage. Where else? Of course, as you might expect, we were pretty awful and before long a few of the guys got fed up and moved on. I stuck at it.

A month before my nineteenth birthday I packed in my job and ‘went professional’. By then, I was in a group with people who had a lot of talent and a couple of them went on to be famous. I washed up in London, writing songs with another guy, doing session singing and playing the London club and pub circuit which existed at that time. But I didn’t make it and eventually went home to Scotland with no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Fortunately I met Christine.

We had met when I played her school Valentine’s Day dance. She was fifteen. I was seventeen. But I remembered her. With her help I got down to creating a new life. I went to college then university. As a teenager, music had been just the distraction I needed to bomb at school. Two higher and some ‘O’ Levels were all I had to show for the many wasted years in classrooms switched off from the lesson. Now I was on the road back. I re-invented myself as Owen Mullen MSc DipM CIM and ready to take on the world.

Getting a job was the next step. Not easy. Not many employers are keen to take a chance on an old muso; they’ve heard the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll hype and believe it. So they should. In the end I realised I was a free spirit and could do better on my own. As a marketing manager I had had dealings with design companies who charged a fortune for their services. I hadn’t been over impressed with the ones I’d had dealings with and had been forced to step in and rescue the artwork more than once. I left – you may have noticed I have had a habit of pulling the plug on ‘good’ jobs. It’s true. I didn’t know it, of course, but I was going full circle; all the way back to the boy and his daydream – and-set up my own business which, thank god, was successful.

But there was always that Mediterranean thing, wasn’t there?

On one particular trip we made a detour to the Greek island of Santorini and loved the climate. When we got back to Scotland I said to Christine. ‘Why don’t we pack everything in [there I go again] and move to the Greek Islands.’

She considered this for almost five seconds and said, ‘All right. Let’s do that.’

The idea in my head was that we buy a fisherman’s cottage and do it up. We were out of luck. We couldn’t find the fisherman or his cottage and instead bought land on a hill overlooking the sea. We found a builder, an architect and began to build our new home. That process is probably a book in itself but eventually we were in and ready to live the dream. Little did we know that just over the horizon was the biggest financial depression in living memory.

The life we had planned was in danger. We had to do something so I started to write, thinking I could save the day, not realising that the book business had troubles of its own. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to become a writer.

Somehow we survived.

When my first book, Games People Play, came out I remembered the twelve year old boy and his day dream. That was when it hit me. I was on a hill, though in a villa not lying on the grass. And the pen and paper was a pc. From the window I can see the blue water of the Mediterranean.

The dream has come true.

Games People Play and the follow up, Old Friends and New Enemies, are in print and doing alright. The third book – as yet untitled – is underway and will be finished in about ten weeks.

And then..?

Well, if form is anything to go by I’ll pack it in and do something else, won’t I?

No. Not this time. I got where I wanted to go. Now I intend to get as many people as possible reading about Glasgow PI Charlie Cameron. For me and for  Charlie, the adventure is only just starting.

Twitter – @OwenMullen6

Facebook –

Cover design and it’s importance – Guest post by author C.R. May

Today i bring to you a guest post from author C.R. May. Cliff will talk about covers and their importance . You may remember recently i posted a review of one of his books Fire & Steel. Covers are so important to me and play a big part in deciding what books i buy. Cliff i must say has some awesome covers which definitely catch the eye and draw a reader in.

I hope you find his take on covers as interesting as i have.

Without further ado..take it away Cliff.


This is a tale (cautionary if you are a new or aspiring author) about the very first thing which draws us to a book which is, of course, the cover.

As a first-time author I looked forward to the cover design part of the writing process; it must be easier than writing a novel, right? If only that were true. The simple fact is that if you are an independently published author the whole shebang, research, planning, writing, re-writing, editing, cover design, promotion etc, is entirely in your hands. Of course there are a myriad number of professionals out there willing to help you out for a fee, but it is a truism of writing today that the cottage industry of editors, proofreaders, and cover designers which has grown to satisfy this demand often make far more money from the business than the people who write the books themselves. A professionally produced cover can easily cost four figures. What if, like the vast majority of self published books, your surefire bestseller actually sank like a stone? Amazon alone publish thousands of new titles each and every day and even at a very reasonable £1.99 a go, the author actually receives not much more than £1 per download. For a physical copy the profit margins can be even worse. The production costs for a print-on-demand publisher like Amazon’s Createspace will produce an average sized paperback containing around 100,000 words for about £8. If the author adds just £1 to that for their own profit he or she will still be priced out of the market by the big boys. I once saw Tesco selling Ben Kane’s latest hardback bundled with his previous volume for £6. Paperbacks in the big supermarkets are typically £3, or two for £5.

So it can be tough out there, your cover has to grab a potential reader’s attention straight away. Let’s see how my own cover developed over time using my very first book, Sorrow Hill, as an example. The story starts off with young Beowulf poaching two eagle chicks from the nest so, after spending days groaning over jokey or just plain ridiculous ‘Viking’ pictures on photo sites such as Shutterstock, Getty Images etc I gave up with that angle. Anglo-Saxon was even worse, pictures of Big Ben, red post boxes or Union Jack knickers seemed to be about all that they had to represent one of the most advanced cultures in early medieval Europe. Beowulf? Angelina Jolie of course. So back to the eagles it had to be. This is my first design from back in 2013.


A nice image, monochrome to be ‘different’ – (before I discovered that most readers don’t do ‘different’). If they are interested in Roman literature they expect to see a Centurion or legionary standard on the cover; Dark Ages, longship/swordsman.  Even before book two had appeared I decided that if I wanted affordable originality, I would have to make my own.

I have a statue of Odin/Woden which is a copy of an original in the Swedish National Museum Stockholm. By placing this onto a picture of a pattern-wielded sword (and supporting the head on a ball of blu-tack!) I developed a common look to the series which also reflected the series title, Sword of Woden. Delving into the various fonts and script types which you can find on most computers gave me this…


Although this image looked far better, and certainly easier to develop into a series, at a smaller scale it quickly became apparent that it was not much more than a red and yellow blob and far too dark when viewed on an e-reader or mobile phone screen so… A bit more proficient by now, I stripped off the script and increased the shading before adding gold and white lettering. The darker lower third helped with the clarity of the title, and thus was born Sorrow Hill – mark 3:


Not convinced? No, neither was I, so back to the eagle it went, this time using an image which I had taken at Battery Park in New York City with my trusty Canon IXUS.


It’s a nice cover, and it might have remained that way if the book had not done too well. Fortunately not only did it seem that I could spin a good yarn after all, but others seemed to agree. As word spread and the Sword of Woden series was followed by the equally well received Brennus, Conqueror of Rome series of books, it became obvious that my homemade covers were just not up to scratch. With an established readership and more confident now in my ability to sell books on a consistent basis, this year I finally took the leap of faith and began to commission professional covers…


The Sword of Woden trilogy, being the early life story of the legendary figure Beowulf, necessarily contained a few supernatural elements. One of the minor characters who appeared in books one and three, the Angle, Eofer, is now the subject of my latest series, King’s Bane, which tells the story of the Anglian migration from present day Jutland to the lands which would in time become England. By using the same cover designer for both series of books and writing a novella, Dayraven, to link the two storylines, I have left the myth and legend element of the Beowulf tale behind and grounded the events more firmly within the  history of early sixth Century Europe. Utilising the same designer for the Sword of Woden and King’s Bane series’ means that I can finally obtain the homogenous look which I have strived for over the past few years, while injecting a greater degree of action into the cover images. Here is the cover for the first book of the King’s Bane series, Fire & Steel to illustrate the point.


I think that we all agree that it is an unfortunate part of book buying that a book really is judged initially by its cover. However good an author’s work, he or she has not much more than a second for their thumbnail sized image to spark an interest in the potential reader from among dozens of others. Even though the book has been available and selling steadily for three years now, the new cover for Sorrow Hill has led to a spike in sales and increased traffic to my website. Every one of the various stages which a novel undergoes from the initial idea in the author’s mind to completed book is important, but the cover art really is vital to its success.

Similarly, the addition of good quality maps can really help to lift your book above the competition, especially in these days of ‘look inside’ features on e-book websites. My first books had no maps at all, and several readers were good enough to contact me via the link on my website to suggest that they would really help to understand the storyline. As my books are all set in the ancient past, most of the names used are either in their archaic form, Hroar’s Kilde for present day Roskilde for example, or even based on educated guesswork as in Sleyswic for present day Schleswig.

My first maps were similar efforts to the cover designs which I made at the same time, best described as helpful rather than artwork. This is an example of my first maps, in this case the map which accompanied the concluding volume of my Brennus series, Nemesis.


As you can see the information is all there and it’s not the worst map that I have ever seen in a book, but it’s obviously homemade and has no ‘wow’ factor. Here is the new map which replaced it:


All of my books now contain maps of this quality, hand drawn by the same artist Simon Walpole who will also draw the maps in my future books. This will help lend a feeling of continuity and familiarity, reenforcing the effect of the similar cover designs.

Covers and, thanks to the ability to look inside or even download samples of ebooks in moments, maps, really do give a book the best chance of success and are an essential investment for any novelist.

To connect with Cliff head to the author’s website or Twitter. You may also like to view his author page on Goodreads, or

From One Sentence to a Full Manuscript: How Novels are Born – Annie Whitehead

Today i open my blog to Annie Whitehead! author of the amazing To Be a Queen and Alvar the Kingmaker. Both books I’ve recently reviewed and enjoyed immensely  🙂

Thanks Annie.. myself and my readers appreciate you taking the time to be here with us.

My blog is all yours…


Apart from the odd foray into fantasy fiction (Fattypuffs and Thinifers by André Maurois – although I notice now that apart from it being incredibly non-PC, it has historical costumes) I only ever read historical fiction when I was a child. I wasn’t a quick or voracious reader, so I really think it was the tales of history being brought to life which appealed to me, rather than the literature. But I also wrote my own stories (about Ferdinand the Hedgehog!) so I guess the desire to write was always there, and at some point the desire to write, and the desire to write history, coincided.

While history remained my first love, the literature thing continued to burgeon – I studied both subjects for ‘A’ level and was all set to read English at university when I switched and read history instead. My first two historical novels both came about because of a single sentence. In the case of To Be a Queen, the story of Alfred the Great’s daughter Aethelflaed, it was a sentence about her husband. My tutor said of Ethelred of Mercia that “Nobody knew exactly where he came from.” I suddenly had a vision of this guy riding onto the pages of history out of some unknown hinterland. I wanted to write his story and, in a way, I have. Although of course the real story was that of his wife: daughter of a king, wife of a man with the powers of a king (albeit a sub-king); a woman who led her army into battle against the Vikings.

Queen promo

My second novel was born when I read a paper written by that same tutor. It was about Aelfhere, earl of Mercia in the 10th century, and in a little footnote there was mention of a widow who had been deprived of her lands following his death. It’s the only known reference to this woman and the supposition is that she was Aelfhere’s wife. Hmm… Why did we not know more about her? This became part, although not the whole, of the story in Alvar the Kingmaker. A central theme, yes, but there was more which needed to be told. I wanted to write his story, but never as a thesis, or a non-fiction book. I suppose I wanted the element of ‘romance’, in its broadest term.


So how does one go about constructing an historical novel?

I had my ambition to write. I had my stories. And I knew my stuff. Ask me the names of any king between AD600 – 1066  and I could oblige. Ask me who invaded whose lands at any given period and why, and I could tell you.

Just one problem. I quickly discovered that I didn’t know how people lived; what they ate for breakfast, what they wore, how they built their houses and ships, which animals they reared and what type of crops they farmed.

It’s all very well having a chapter plan but not so great if you can’t actually describe what’s happening in every scene. I learned that knowing about history and having the information required to write an historical novel are not the same thing. Turns out that it was the literature, as well as the history, that had made those stories so interesting for me when I was young.

I also learned that it’s sometimes better to write the story and then only stop when you need to look up some historical detail – it keeps it human and personal if you concentrate on your characters and story. I know I’m not the only author who will draft sentences like this: ‘The table was laid with plates of check seasonal foods’ or ‘The children were waist-deep in the river, fishing for check types of freshwater fish later.

Luckily for me, I had contacts within the ‘industry’ who were more than happy to help, or knew someone who could. I immersed myself in my early medieval world, finding out about looms, textiles, cooking methods, flour production, and I even learned how flammable flour dust can be (a fact which served me well in one particular passage in ‘Queen’.)


But research isn’t the only thing required: you have to decide your story. It can’t simply be a narrative of what is known to have happened, otherwise it will read like an essay. But stray too far from the facts and you might as well just write pure fiction. Do you tell the whole of a person’s life, and end when they die, or do you focus on a particular period of history? Yes, you have your timeline already worked out, but where along that line do you start and stop?

Sometimes there are gaps in that timeline, and that’s where the fun can be had. You wonder ‘What if?’ And if the answer is ‘Nobody knows’ then you’re free to let your imagination fly. Sometimes you then unearth a scrap of evidence that gives credence to your idea – what’s known in the trade as a  ‘Bingo’ moment.

You also need to make your characters out of the chronicles and mould them into people. Carefully. My characters are not the Anglo-Saxons of Middle Earth. They are not mystical, magical or mythical, but rather they are medieval. My stories don’t contain elves or monsters. The ‘Dark Ages’ covers a period of over 500 years. To lump all the Anglo-Saxons together would be like saying the Tudors were a lot like us.

Alvar lives in a period of relative peace. People have a breathing space between Viking attacks to find out who they are, what their values are. ‘England’ is a reality and yet still only a concept to many. It’s a Christian world where people cling to superstition, too. It’s important not to place modern values on your characters – they need to live and work in their own world. Aethelflaed is a strong-minded woman, yes, but in writing her, I needed to keep her firmly rooted in her early medieval environment. She’s a woman in a man’s world, but she’s not what we would recognise as a feminist.

A sense of place, a sense of time. For me, the art of writing an historical novel is a subtle blend, requiring equal measures of: the story, the characters, the history, and the details. When the blend is right, it should be possible to have the reader not just dip into it, but  become fully submerged without those precious parts separating at any point.

Thanks Annie!

To keep in touch with Annie check out her BlogTwitter, Facebook, or Annie’s Author page on or 🙂