Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

For the month of July, Smashwords is offering huge discounts on many ebooks. Syncopation is available at half price: Syncopation at Smashwords. Be sure to notice the coupon code and enter it at check out to receive the discount.

Browse the Smashwords catalog for more summer/winter deals.

Smashwords ebooks are available worldwide, so the season of your savings depends on your hemisphere.

Happy reading!

Author Interview: Annie Whitehead

annie whiteheadToday I’m welcoming Annie Whitehead to my series of author interviews. Annie is an author of historical fiction, including To Be a Queen, the story of Aethelflaed, the daughter of Alfred the Great and the only female leader of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Her most recent novel is Alvar the Kingmaker, a novel about the tenth century nobleman who helped King Edgar ascend to the English throne.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Annie.

Annie: Thank you, it’s lovely to be here.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us more about To Be a Queen?

annie whitehead queen bookAnnie: To Be A Queen is the true story of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great. She spent her formative years in the Kingdom of Mercia (which roughly equates to the modern day Midlands of England) and was married off to the leader of Mercia as part of a political alliance against the Vikings who had overrun all the other kingdoms barring Mercia and Wessex in the south east. Her role became more than just that of a political pawn when her husband became incapacitated and she found herself ruling Mercia as a queen, in all but name. I was thrilled when the book was long-listed for the HNSIndie book of the Year 2016 and even more delighted when it was recently awarded an IndieBRAG Gold Medallion.

Elizabeth: Congratulations! What drew you to this character?

Annie: Initially, it was her husband. When I was an undergraduate student, my tutor spoke about Ethelred of Mercia and how ‘nobody knew who where he came from.’ I was fascinated by this man who seemingly rode onto the pages of history from nowhere, and I vowed one day to write his story. Of course, once I began researching, I realised that while he was an interesting and admirable person, the real story to be told was that of his wife. I was staggered to discover that no-one else had ever written her story and I needed to put that right.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us more about Alvar the Kingmaker?

annie whitehead alvar bookAnnie: This book is set in Mercia about fifty years later and features the descendants of some of the characters from the first book, although it is a stand-alone story. Aelfhere (Alvar) was a powerful noble who was instrumental in helping successive kings, but who paid a high personal price. Unusually, this was a period where there was no Viking threat, but this left a gap, and it was filled with in-fighting, treachery and murder… He spent a lifetime trying to prevent uprising, and anarchy, and often found the ‘Establishment’ was his greatest enemy.

Elizabeth: What drew you to this character?

Annie: Because he angered the Church, who wrote the histories, Aelfhere got a bad press, and was accused of colluding with the queen, who herself had something of a bad reputation, even being suspected of murdering her own stepson. Studying this period for my degree, I came across a footnote in an academic paper, which mentioned a widow who was deprived of her lands after Aelfhere’s death. It’s thought that she might have been his wife, and I knew I wanted to write their story and explain why it might have been that he had no sons to leave his earldom to. These characters really existed, but I was free to make up their love story.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Annie: I try not to alter known history, (although an exciting new project has seen me doing just that, for a very specific reason.) Obviously with this period it is rather difficult and sometimes the chronicles are pretty sketchy. But wherever there is a stated date, or fact, I try not to mess with it. Occasionally, for the sake of my narrative, it’s necessary, but I make that clear in my author notes. I want people to be able to feel that what they read could really have happened, so I only fill in the blanks and I try to do it logically and plausibly.

Elizabeth: So tell us about your project that has you altering history.

Annie: I’m part of a project with eight other others that has us re-telling the events of 1066 while imagining, What if?

Elizabeth: What are the challenges when writing about this time period?

Annie: The frustrations are, as mentioned above, the paucity of sources, although we are incredibly lucky to have as much of the surviving record as we do, particularly when the Vikings had a habit of burning down churches where a lot of this material was kept! The other thing is that the landscape has changed so much; coastlines have moved, forests have disappeared/sprung up. There are few buildings from this period, either, as the Anglo-Saxons tended to build in wood which does not survive the centuries in the same way as stone does.

Elizabeth: What fascinates you about this time period?

Annie: The fascination comes from knowing that these people didn’t live in some ‘dark’ place inhabited by dragons and elves, but were real, medieval folk who had sophisticated laws and government and where women had more rights than later on in the Middle Ages. I wanted to tell their stories and bring them out into the spotlight.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Annie: I begin by researching the period, before, during and after the years in which my stories are set. I set up a time-line and then begin weaving my story around that. I always have an idea before I start about the nature of each character, and I try to find reasons for their actions so that they remain ‘in character’ throughout. I then write the story and research any additional detail I might need, such as which foods were available in certain areas in specific season, adding this in later so as not to interrupt the first draft ‘flow’.

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Annie: I’m editing the third in my Mercian ‘series’ and simultaneously working on a novel which won a prize in the Mail on Sunday competition. Judge Fay Weldon encouraged me to complete it, so I thought I probably should! It’s not historical, well, not strictly anyway, and it’s set in the Lake District.

Elizabeth: Congratulations again! What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Annie: I recently read The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman. Not only was the premise of the story unusual and interesting, but the historical detail was superb. The sense of time, place and atmosphere was brilliantly drawn. Every so often I would look up after having read a beautiful phrase and think, “I wish I had written that.”

Elizabeth: Can you tell us more about yourself?

Annie: I’m not ‘from’ anywhere, having moved around as a child because my father was in the forces. After graduating I lined up a job in publishing in Manchester, but took a train to the English Lake District one day, and stayed there! I have three children, all grown up, and when they were little I re-trained as an Early Years Music and Singing teacher, something I still do occasionally on a freelance basis, although my writing takes up most of my time these days.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Annie: Tea

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Annie: Ocean

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Annie: Hiking

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Annie: Piano

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Annie: Fantasy

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Annie: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Annie: Love Scene

To learn more about Annie and her books, visit:

Annie’s Website
Annie’s Blog

Author Interview: A.M. Bostwick

bostwick 2I am pleased to be able to interview Abigail Bostwick for the second time. Abigail’s first middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap, was published by Cornerstone Press in 2013. It is the story of Ace, a reporter and a cat, who solves the mystery of a missing show cat. Abigail, who publishes as A. M. Bostwick, talked about writing that novel in our first interview. The Clawed Monet is the sequel to The Great Cat Nap and was released in February of this year.

Elizabeth: Welcome Abigail! Tell us what new adventure Ace, the mystery-solving cat, is up to now.

bostwick monetAbigail: Thank you so much for hosting me, Elizabeth! In The Clawed Monet, we find Ace on the trail of a new mystery following the scandalous opening of a new art exhibit at the historic Rhys Art Museum. When opening night is lights out after a peculiar power failure and a priceless Monet reproduction is clawed beyond repair, all paws point to the new curator’s prim and proper feline – Miss Kitty. Hired by Miss Kitty, Ace and his feline and canine friends are out to find the criminal and restore the reputation of Miss Kitty and her companion before they are fired. Tailing the shadow of a “ghost cat” through the historic district and a cemetery, Ace finds himself interrogating museum guests, local residents and even a so-called psychic cat to try and solve the crime. He’ll have to fend off a pack of Dobermans and contend with a gang of raccoons– all under deadline.

Elizabeth: Sounds like fun! Do you have plans for more books about Ace?

Abigail: In my mind, Ace is always having one adventure or another! While I certainly have ideas for a third novel, I don’t have anything concrete in the works right now.

Elizabeth: You’ve also published a young-adult novel called Break the Spell. Can you tell us about it?

bostwick breakAbigail: When Allison Evans walks out of high school the last day of her senior year, she has no idea that her carefully guarded life is about to unravel. Her classmate, Ethan Knight is on the run. Accused of dealing drugs and armed with nothing but a bad reputation and his motorcycle, he takes refuge for the weekend inside the old high school. Thinking no one will find him and no one does. At least not at first. Allison tracks him down, hoping to get a newspaper story out of him. Panicked and left with no other choice, Ethan takes her captive. It should be a nightmare, but together, both of their lives take an unexpected turn. It’s time for them both to stop running from their problems, and in each other, they find common ground and someone they can trust.

When I wrote this novel, I think I most wanted to explore the secrets we sometimes keep, and how they can become toxic without someone to talk to. I found it especially hard when I was a young adult to confide in other people, especially about the things that scared me, or the things I could not fix or control.

Allison’s particular struggle with coping to accept the possibility of a debilitating, life-changing neurological disease – multiple sclerosis – was rooted in my own experience. While I couldn’t hide my early diagnosis from those around me the way Allison did, I certainly found myself wanting to do everything I possibly could to make it more bearable. Even if readers don’t have MS, I think they’ll be able to relate to Allison’s driven motivation to change her circumstances.

Elizabeth: It’s wonderful that you’ve shared your experiences and written about MS in a way accessible for young people. Do you approach writing for middle-grade readers (ages 8-13) differently than writing for young adult readers (ages 13-18) ?

Abigail: I do. When I’m writing Ace, I’m mostly having fun with the antics of felines and canines while also trying to entertain young readers (though I was reminded this week I have readers of all ages for this cat!) When I’m writing for young adults, I’m a little more candid and raw. Kids, especially teenagers, can see right through a façade or something that isn’t real. A book should be, most of all, fun. Engaging. Something people can see themselves in. If kids can see ordinary teens in literature rising to the occasion and figuring issues in their lives out, I think it’s easier for them to envision themselves doing it as well. And that’s empowering for them.

With both, I do my best to keep readers engaged with suspense and humor.

Elizabeth: What advice would you like to give to my readers who are also writers?

Abigail:I think many of us write because we have something to say, or something we want to be heard. Don’t write for trends, or the market, or what you think will sell. Write because you love it, because it’s your passion, and part of you. Write for you. Make friends who are writers, they’ll understand you better than anyone. Also, feed the cat before you start writing or he’ll lay across your keyboard.

Elizabeth: What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Abigail: I recently read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood, and I absolutely loved it. She writes with this beautiful clarity, and her characters are so well-drawn and heart-wrenching. In middle grade, I read Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and I’m still smiling about the story. The poetry in it was lovely. I also have to say, two of my great writing friends had books release last week that are incredible – Running for Water and Sky by Sandra Kring and Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black. These are don’t miss books, and make me want to go on a road trip.

Elizabeth: What do you do when you are not writing?

Abigail: I read – haha! I also enjoy spending time with my cat (who looks a lot like Ace), my husband, and my niece, who is turning 9 next week. I garden a little bit, love to paint and enjoy walking in the woods.

Elizabeth: Thanks so much for joining me today.

Abigail: Thank you for hosting me. Always a pleasure.

Elizabeth: If you’d like to learn more about Abigail Bostwick and her books, visit

You can also follow her on Twitter: @bostwickAM.

She is on Goodreads under A.M. Bostwick and welcomes questions there from readers.

Anyone can email Abigail via her website.

Writers’ Conferences

Writers’ Conferences are a great way to meet others in the industry, talk books, discuss craft, participate in workshops, buy books, sell books and have a good time.

A few weekends ago, I went to the Lakefly Writers Conference in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It is a well-organized, inexpensive and fun conference. I was able to pitch to two editors, learn about a “Books & Beer” book club, get details on creating a “30-Day Promotional Plan” and meet and re-meet some wonderful authors.

Of course, I can’t go to a writers’ conference and not buy books! Here are the books that came home with me: K.W. Penndorf’s Freya and the Dragon Egg (middle grade time-slip fantasy!), REUTS press novels: Melinda Michaels’s Golden (a loose re-telling of Sleeping Beauty) and Valentina Cano’s The Rose Master (a re-working of Beauty and the Beast and Jane Eyre!) I’m so excited to read these books!

lakefly books

The three other books in the picture came to me via a door prize gift basket that included a bottle of wine, chocolate pretzels, and a deck of cards. Lucky me!

My next conference will be the SCBWI-Wisconsin fall conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Next summer, I hope to attend the Historical Novels Society Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Fun times to come!

Author Interview: Camille Di Maio

camilleToday I’m welcoming Camille Di Maio to my series of author interviews. Camille is the author of The Memory of Us, the story of a young and wealthy Protestant woman in pre-­‐war Liverpool who befriends an Irish Catholic seminarian. Torn between her family’s expectations and her growing love for someone she’s not supposed to be with, the story follows Julianne’s journey through war, tragedy, secrets, and redemption.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Camille. Can you tell us more about your novel?

camilles bookCamille: Thank you for having me. I have always wanted to write a novel, ever since I was twelve years old. The idea to write something about a forbidden love appealed to me. When I was a teenager, we participated in something called the Ulster Project. It brought teens from Belfast, Northern Ireland to Denver for a summer. At the time, tensions were still very high between the denominations over there. Catholics and Protestants did not mingle, date, do business together, etc. So, this became the basis for the idea of a forbidden love. Ratcheting it up with Kyle, a poor immigrant on the path to priesthood and Julianne, a wealthy Protestant socialite, put many obstacles in their path – money, religion, etc.

Elizabeth: What drew you to this topic?

Camille: The topic really came together for me one day as I was driving, and the Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby” came through on my iPod. Although I’ve heard it many times, I think I had this “forbidden love” theme brewing, and the song hit me in a particular way. Who was the old priest in the song? Who was the lonely woman? Then I thought – what if they had a history together? All the pieces started to fall in to place.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven in to your story?

Camille: Quite a lot. While the plot is entirely fictional, everything surrounding it is not. The cultural tensions. The details of nursing school at the time. The terrible bombings during the Blitz. I meticulously researched fashion, food, history, lingo and such to give it as authentic a feel as I could. Nearly every place mentioned is real.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Camille: While writing The Memory of Us, I drank lots of Dr. Pepper (I’m a good Texan) and stayed up until about 3 or 4 every morning writing a first draft. We have four children and run a business, so this was the only quiet time I had. My husband was a champ. Now that I’ve learned so much more about the craft of writing, I am trying to be disciplined by writing about one thousands words per day. Either the early morning or late night works best for me – when everything else in the house is settled.

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Camille: My publisher just bought my second book, Before the Rain Falls, which will be out in the spring of 2017. I’m about halfway finished writing it. It is quite different from the first book. It is partially historical, being set in Texas during the 1940s. And, it is told from three points of view.

Elizabeth: What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Camille: I am an unabashed Kate Morton fan, and her most recent book, The Lake House, was full of her signature poetic words and captivating story. This one was her first attempt at a mystery, and I found elements to be quite like another of my favorite authors, Agatha Christie.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us more about yourself?

Camille: I love the phrase “suck the marrow out of life”. I really don’t waste a minute. My bucket list is a zillion miles long, and I’m always in pursuit of something adventurous. My biggest passion is travel. I’ve been to about three-­quarters of the states, four continents, and I’m always figuring out a way to plan another trip. But, most importantly, I have been married to my husband, Rob, for nineteen years, we home school our four children, and Rob and I have been real estate investors/counselors for sixteen years. And, my faith is a big component of my life.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-­get-­to-­know-­the-­author-­better, nearly pointless, sort-­of-­silly, rapid-­fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Camille: Coffee – but only if it has loads of sugar and flavoring so that it masks the actual taste of the coffee. I like the IDEA of coffee.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Camille: Ocean. I grew up in Denver at the foot of the Rockies, but I am SO at home near water.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Camille: Shopping. I don’t own one pair of shoes that would be appropriate for a real hike.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Camille: Piano. I studied it for eight years, but I’m quite rusty now.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Camille: Mystery.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Camille: Both! But, even better, Mr. Rochester. (I’m a huge fan of British literature.)

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Camille: Death scene. I love a good cry.

To learn more about Camille and her books, visit the sites below:

Twitter: @camilledimaio
Instagram: camilledimaio_author
Book trailer:

Buy a book; help an African village

imageI am donating all the money I make from sales of Syncopation in the month of April to A Ray of Hope Mission Project. This is an interdenominational project that supports the village of Aworowa in Ghana. Money will be used for social projects including expanding the availability of clean water, support to the Aworowa Clinic, teacher training, school computers, uniforms and playground equipment, supplies for four schools, support for the Wenchi Hospital, medical equipment, small business support, job training and more.

So, please help me help the people of Aworowa. My church has a close working relationship with the Methodist church in Aworowa. The money I raise will be spent by the people of Aworowa.

Syncopation is available as an e-book for $4.99 from SmashwordsBarnes and Noble , Kobo, iBook (via your iProduct’s Apple store). My cut of the price of the book is different at each retailer, but I will donate all that I earn.

I grabbed the can (pictured above) from my church, St. Paul’s United Methodist, this morning. My family’s goal is to fill it with $100.

Thanks for your support!

Author Interview: Michelle Cox

michelle cox

Today I’m welcoming Michelle Cox to my series of author interviews. Michelle is the author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard mystery novels. The first in the series, A Girl Like You, has just released.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Michelle.

Michelle: Thanks for having me, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: Can you tell us about your novel?

michelle cox book coverMichelle: A Girl Like You is the first in a historical mystery series set in 1930’s Chicago. It’s about a young, impoverished woman, Henrietta Von Harmon, who works as a 26 girl at the local bar to support her mother and siblings until she is persuaded by a friend to take up taxi dancing. Soon after she starts working there, the floor matron is murdered, and Inspector Clive Howard appears on the scene to investigate. Drawn to her apparent innocence and beauty, he persuades her to go undercover for him in a burlesque house to search for the killer.

Elizabeth: What drew you to this time and place?

Michelle: I’ve always loved the war years, and originally I wanted to set the story in the 1940’s, but the real woman that the fictional Henrietta is based on had a job at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, and I really wanted to use that detail, so I set the story a decade earlier. As for the place, I love Chicago. I’ve been here since 1986 when I came for college and have never looked back. It’s a very cool, unique city.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Michelle: The character of Henrietta is based on a real woman’s story I heard while working in a nursing home. I’ve written an article in which I outlined what parts of the story are real, and oddly, the more outlandish parts are the truth! Obviously, though, her story didn’t really involve a murder nor an aloof, handsome detective! The streets and the neighborhoods are all real, as are some of the places mentioned, such as the Aragon Ballroom and the Green Mill, but other places are made up.

Elizabeth: What does your research process look like?

Michelle: Honestly, a lot of Googling. Unlike a lot of other historical fiction writers, I don’t really get caught up in researching all the details. I’d much rather write the story. Anything that requires a bit of research gets written as “XXXX’s” in the narrative, and then I go back later and fill it in.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Michelle: I have to write first thing in the morning, so as soon as the kids are off to school and my husband to work, which is 6:50 am, I sit down and start writing. No exceptions. I write even on vacations and sometimes even on holidays! When I first started, I would write just an hour a day, then two, then four. Now I set aside seven hours, but a lot of that these days is taken up with promo work.

Elizabeth: In what sort of situation will we next find Henrietta?

Michelle: Great question! Book 2 and 3 of this series are already written. In fact, I’m due to turn in the manuscript for Book 2 (working title, But Was He Honest?) for edits any day now. I don’t want to give anything away, but Book 2 picks up just where Book 1 ends. We find out what happens next in Henrietta and the Inspector’s relationship and what trouble they find themselves in now. Also, the reader has to figure out who the “he” is in the title who wasn’t exactly honest. Is it the Inspector? Or someone else? Or both?

Elizabeth: You are also the author of “How to Get Your Book Published in 7000 Easy Steps–A Practical Guide” which appears on your blog. Can you tell us about that?

Michelle: Thanks for asking about my blog! It’s the thing that gives me the most dread each week to write, but once it’s done, I find it amusing. I hope others do, too. I started it because I wanted to write about the publishing process in a funny way, from the newbie’s perspective. Everyone thinks that getting a book published is the end-all, the pinnacle! But then you find out that your work is just beginning, that you’re not at the pinnacle, you’re just at the base of yet another mountain. There’s something tragically funny there. But I try to throw in some real tips, too.

Elizabeth: What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Michelle: To be honest, I haven’t read a ton of contemporary fiction. I’ve spent most of my teens and adult life reading the classic canon, so questions like this always make me nervous. Since I’ve ventured out of my hole, I find Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series and Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series extremely well-done. Excellent writing and very funny. I also think Barbara Stark-Nemon’s Even in Darkness was incredibly well-written, in my humble opinion. I absolutely loved it. It goes beyond entertainment into the realm of serious literary art.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us more about yourself?

Michelle: I’m married to a Brit and have three children, all of whom present their own challenges, especially the Brit. We live in the Chicago suburbs with a very needy dog. I used to love baking, gardening and board games before the book took over my life.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Michelle: Coffee

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Michelle: Mountain

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Michelle: Hiking

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Michelle: Piano

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Michelle: Mystery

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Michelle: DARCY!

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Michelle: Love scene!

To learn more about Michelle, her mystery series, and her tips for newbie writers, visit her blog at

You can also friend her on Facebook,

Follow her on twitter: @michellecox33

And buy her books on amazon:

Thanks to Michelle for joining us today.