Thursday, 25 November 2010


In true bardic style, even Meredith Whitford’s title to her new novel, Shakespeare’s Will, is a pun.

The book, released today by BeWrite Books, has little to do with Shakespeare’s last will and testament and everything to do witth his wanton will and his wayward wont. And the pun on Willy’s name doesn’t end there ... but let’s allow readers to discover that for themselves.

Shakespeare’s Will
is based on thirty years’ hard research that has led Meredith to portray an Anne Hathaway that shatters the popular image. Her Anne is as lovingly devoted, loyal, intelligent and strong as her William is insecure, weak and bed-hoppingly unfaithful.

Meredith is a myth-buster. Profound research for her last BeWrite Books novel, Treason (which won the prestigious international Eppie Award for Historical Fiction), brings to vibrant life a Richard III who is the opposite of the cruel, conniving, hunch-backed king in Shakespeare’s play. But, of course, unlike Shakespeare himself, Meredith didn’t risk a traitor’s sticky end with her neck stretched across the Bloody Tower’s chopping block.

Her new novel – and you’ll find subtle and fun references to the Bard’s work carefully hidden on almost every page – is a tantalising mix of fact and fiction, populated by larger-than-life characters that actually existed and is set against the often harsh realities of Elizabethan life in London and rural England. The accompanying author and editor notes are a fascinating bonus.

Here’s what the back cover notes to Shakespeare’s Will have to say:

The last man well-off, clever and attractive Anne Hathaway needs is the penniless eighteen-year-old son of a disgraced and bankrupt glove-maker.

But she shares unhappy William Shakespeare’s secret dreams ... and she's pregnant with his child. Eight years his senior, she marries him, and she soon discovers that to keep her husband’s love she must do everything in her power to make his dreams come true.

For years, she and her children endure the boredom of rustic Stratford while William writes and acts in London and tours the country with his troupe of actors, making no secret of his romantic conquests along the way.

When things start to look up for the budding play-maker, Anne takes her little family to join him in the dirty and dangerous, plague-infested capital; a world of eccentric actors and heartless cut-throats, pompous writers and sly royal spies, spendthrift playboy aristocrats and brazen whores.

Her love and unbounded ambition for her husband lead him to a wealthy, titled and beautiful young patron ... and into the golden boy’s arms, and his bed.

Anne can turn a blind eye to this affair, but when Shakespeare’s wayward will takes another turn and he falls hopelessly in love with a dark and dangerous woman, she must apply her devotion and cunning in a way that will defy even history’s greatest story-weaver’s imagination.

Will Anne’s desperate risk save their marriage ... or destroy it?

The book was written, of course, by Meredith Whitford. It was edited by Neil Marr. Cover art and external and internal design was by Tony Szmuk, who also prepared the ebook editions in PDF, ePub and Mobi formats.

It’s available in paperback and ebook at all major online stores, paperback on order from your local brick-and-mortar bookshop, and in all forms direct from BeWrite Books online bookstore at

You can read more about Meredith and her book and enjoy an entire chapter right now by going to BeWrite Books’ bookstore at or by clicking on the open book icon at the top right of this blog post.

Follow this link for an early review by CompulsiveReader’s Magdalena Ball:

The first BeWrite Books blog reader to email me ( will receive a free paperback copy hot off the press. Three others can claim the ebook edition in the digital format of their choice.

Happy reading. Neil

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Victoria Strauss is the author’s friend. A very best friend.

A through-and-through industry pro, who pulls no punches and isn’t afraid to take risks, her long-running Writer Beware blog has, time and again, fingered the wolves and saved countless over-enthusiastic, lesser experienced, perhaps even desperate, authors from becoming fang-fodder in a bloody feed frenzy. All because she knows her way around, treads fearlessly, and really does give a damn.

When it comes to watchdogs, she’s the leader of the pack. And wolves don’t scare her.

Victoria fairly challenged BeWrite Books itself some years ago in possibly the most terrifying but vital publishing forums on the net (Preditors and Editors’ #1-rated Water Cooler). She and her astute and expert colleagues taught us a thing or two, I can tell ya – we were all ears and we thank them for inspiring the important changes they encouraged us to make a year or two back. We learned that good intentions make bad paving stones. I hope they learned that even our failings leaned to virtue’s side. But, gosh, that was some rough ride, folks.

Now she has agreed that we may – with rare special permission – reproduce, from time to time, some of her own blog posts that might be of pressing interest to readers of our own BeWrite Books blog, who are so often themselves developing authors and at risk of deception. Here is the first.

Please do take note … Victoria’s advice, we know from bitter-sweet experience, is not to be taken lightly. I urge you all to sign up to her blog, to visit Preditors and Editors before placing your faith in a ‘publisher’ or ‘agent’, to sign up with the Water Cooler at AbsoluteWrite and read, mark, learn. Maybe even contribute … if you dare.

Victoria Strauss:

Writer Beware gets a ton of email. Reports of schemes, scams and fee-charging, of course, but also questions about agents’ and publishers’ reputations, questions about the researching/querying/submitting/publishing process, requests for advice, requests for recommendations.

Requests to deny reality.

Say what? Well, a request to deny reality is when a writer sees something on this blog or on the Writer Beware website, doesn’t wish to believe it, and wants to be told that in his or her case, it’s just not true.

As in, “Your website says that agents shouldn’t charge upfront fees, but this agent who wants me to pay $500 is so nice, are they maybe legit anyway?”

Or, “Agent X is on your Thumbs Down list, but they want to represent me and their website looks professional, are they really so bad?”

Or, “I found your Alert that says Publisher Y is being sued, but they have books on Amazon, so couldn’t it all be a mistake?”

Or, “According to your blog there are lots of complaints about Publisher Z, but they’ve offered me a contract and they love my book, so maybe they’ll do a good job for me?”

Um. Maybe not.

What this is all about, usually, is a head-on collision between reality and every writer’s craving for validation and acceptance. Especially where the writer has been submitting for a long time without success, the faux validation provided by disreputable agents and publishers is as powerful as it is illusory. It can trump both good sense and actual facts, and it is very hard to relinquish. You don’t want it to be true – so there must, there just must be the possibility that it isn’t true, that just this once, and just for you, the rule doesn’t apply. That the person you contact for advice – because in fact your gut is telling you something, even if your heart doesn’t want to heed it – will eat their words and their warnings and give you their blessing.

I get it. I’ve been there; I think we all have. But facts are facts, and they don’t change just because you wish they would. Sometimes my correspondents get angry when I can’t tell them what they want to hear, and write back to challenge my expertise, or to demand that I give them the names of everyone who has complained (and to declare me non-credible when I refuse). Sometimes they thank me for saving them from a bad mistake. Most often, I never hear from them again, and can only wonder which impulse won out: the gut instinct that prompted them to contact me, or the hope and desire that made them want to believe the promises of a scammer.

Here’s how to avoid putting yourself in that position.

Know the business before you start submitting. Publishing is a confusing and complicated field, but it is possible to acquire enough basic knowledge to protect you from the most obvious schemes and scams. Knowledge is your greatest ally and your best defense. For some suggestions on acquiring it, see my blog post, Learning the Ropes

Be careful of your information sources. Google is not necessarily your friend. There’s a lot of good information on the Internet, but even more bad, and unless you have a decent knowledge base, it’s hard to filter the information you find. For a more detailed discussion of these dangers, see my blog posts, The Perils of Searching For Publishers on the Internet and Using Caution on the Internet .

Research before you query. You can save yourself a huge amount of angst – and temptation – if you check reputations before you submit … not after you’ve sent the query letter, or, worse, after you’ve gotten an offer. For the consequences of not doing so, see my blog post, Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas .

We and Victoria would be glad of your comments and stories of your own grim experiences ... and, of course, your good ones.

Best Wishes. Neil

Monday, 15 November 2010


Head held high, I’ll admit that I devour every word and line I set my eyes on that touch on the 19th Century American War Between the States: What has become known as THE Civil War.

But if you are to read only one novel based on this world-changing tragedy and travesty, it should be The Ballad of Johnny Madigan by John Bray.

It is Gone With the Wind, The Red Badge of Courage, Andersonville, Gettysburg, Cold Mountain and a shelf full of other finely crafted novels rolled into one new powerful, painstakingly researched and fulfilling piece of historical fiction that should make even the genre itself proud.

BeWrite Books is delighted to announce its release today (Nov 16) in paperback and all ebook formats.

Here’s the back cover note:

***Johnny Madigan's journey starts with a lie – then life presents him with the reality of its most terrible truths.

The lie is told to a Union Army recruiting sergeant on the dockside when Johnny – orphaned, penniless and barely sixteen years old – blushingly claims to be eighteen to join up and march to war.

It's Johnny's first and last lie. And it almost costs him his life, time and time again. Will his next brush with death be his last?

There is no room for make-believe on the blood-soaked killing fields of the bitter battle between the states. He becomes a reluctant killer … and a mourner ... as close friends in blue and stranger-boys in gray are scythed down by the pitiless and ravenous reaper of young lives and innocent dreams.

But it is a dream that sustains Johnny: A young girl who showed kindness to him back in the slums of New York City.

As the mini balls and shells take their awful toll, as he suffers capture, as he struggles to live through the ordeal of a gruesome makeshift hospital, as he plays the deadly game of undercover work to expose a nest of enemy plotters, Johnny has two questions burning in his mind …

Can he survive? And if he can, will he return home in time to thwart his sweetheart's mother's plan for her to become a nun?

John Bray takes no prisoners in this disturbingly detailed telling of the ordeals of that cruelest of all conflicts – civil war. As the pages turn, the reader can only hope that Johnny will survive against all odds, that his endearing innocence will somehow escape being slain or maimed in the bloodbath, that he will save Deidre from life behind a convent's walls. This is a tale terrible yet tender, brutal yet beautiful.***

You can read about the book, read an extended excerpt and also read about the author’s intriguing background by going to the novel in the front page of the bookstore at BeWrite Books’ website ( or simply clicking the open book icon at the top right of this blog post.

The book was written by John Bray, edited by Hugh McCracken and proof read by the entire BB editorial team. Tony Szmuk provided cover art and external and internal design and also produced all ebook formats.

The Ballad of Johnny Madigan is available in paperback at all major and minor online bookstores or on order from your local brick-and-mortar bookshop. Ebook versions are available in the format of choice for all digital reading platforms from all online ebook retail stores. Paperback and ebook formats are also available direct from BeWrite Books at

Sound, exciting, touching  and satisfying reading of rare quality, folks. Beautifully written by a master wordsmith. Highly recommended. Neil M

The first BeWrite Books blog reader to email me ( will receive a free paperback copy hot off the press. Three others can claim the ebook edition in the digital format of their choice. N

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


The strangest thing about today’s new release from BeWrite Books is that it exists at all.

Irene Thompson – author of The A-Z of Punishment and Torture – I remember from shared Fleet Street newspaper days in London over thirty-five years ago as a gentle, cat-loving, human interest writer of great skill and sensitivity, a ballet dancer of grace, with a tiny country cottage in Kent and who spent her spare time quietly in the cathedrals of England, patiently taking brass rubbings from medieval tombs.

Illustrator Catherine Edmunds I’ve known for many years as a fine, nature-inspired, landscape and portrait artist who gives violin lessons to local children and writes haunting poetry and beautiful books and short stories of whimsical fantasy.

Both are warm-hearted mothers who coaxed their children to sleep and sweet dreams with fairy tales and lullabies.

Yet together they have produced a catalogue of cruelty ... from A-Z!

But let’s look again. This is not a sensationalised and gore-splattered work to appeal to the blood-thirsty. The A-Z of Punishment and Torture documents, through sound journalistic research and with no embellishment, man’s inhumanity to man over the ages and makes its readers more aware than ever of how misguided ideas of justice and morality, even today, could (and perhaps do) reduce ‘civilised’ society to barbarity.

As always, Irene’s writing is spiked with subtle humour. As always, Cathy’s art is emotive. You could safely gift this book to your grandchild. And you probably should. The only shock and horror is that every word and every one of the twenty-six illustrations remind us of what can so easily happen when we don’t keep our dark side in check, when we sanction the unforgivable. It’s a vital lesson in book form.

Irene, who after a lifetime of international writing travel now lives with journalist husband John in a peaceful, rural, medieval village fifty miles south of London said: “You can only imagine the flurry of raised eyebrows when the title emerged, accompanied by a chorus of astonished query: ‘What's someone like YOU doing writing something like THAT!’

The A-Z of Punishment and Torture is a far cry from anything I’ve written before. However, in other respects, it was for me simply a matter of reporting the facts, hard or otherwise which, as a journalist, I had done for decades. In the same way a surgeon regards his patient as a section of flesh to be probed and corrected, I took the tales of torture and cruelty and wrote them down without judgment or sentimentality.

“I did try to minimise the more gory parts as the object of this book is to inform rather than to shock. It’s intended to present an overview of the ways in which humans have punished each other over the centuries and as a warning that some still do. There are moments of levity to lighten the load and some splendid illustrations.”

Illustrator Cathy from England's north east said: I’m not into nastiness and gore, and neither is Irene or her book. The information is fascinating, but it doesn’t set out to terrify or sensationalise, and I was happy to bear that in mind when planning the illustrations. You’ll find nothing graphically revolting in here, but plenty to make you wonder at humanity’s inhumanity.

“‘Q for Quicklime’ was problematic, for instance. It’s not the most picturesque stubstance. Looks like lumps of chalk. I drew some in a bucket. It was either that or do something totally grotesque with people being boiled alive in the stuff, which was not the sort of thing I wanted to be drawing or that Irene wanted to see. It wasn’t until weeks later that the idea of ‘Queen’s Pleasure’ was mooted by our editor,  an additional section was written, and I was able to draw a stern looking Queen Victoria holding a bunch of keys.

“It’s now almost a year since I started on the project. Every picture has been approved, checked for errors, double-checked, the entire book proof-read an incredible number of times by everyone, pictures checked yet again, emails flown back and forth, adjustments made, and now – finally – it’s finished and I can go back to drawing Connemara ponies and curraghs.

“I’ve had a ball. I started off wondering what I was letting myself in for. I ended up thoroughly satisfied that between us – writer, illustrator, editor and publisher – we’ve produced a highly informative and fully illustrated exploration of the darker side of humanity that would make a most unusual addition to anybody’s Christmas list. Plenty of people are going to receive e-book readers this year as a gift and are going asking what they can read on their shiny new gadget that’s a bit different: The A-Z of Punishment and Torture is the answer.”

So no XXX-rated chamber of horrors, The A-Z of Punishment and Torture, but a careful chronicle, a documentary revelation of what mankind is capable of under the spell of twisted ideas of right and wrong.

And why ‘the strangest thing about today’s new release’ as though all this isn’t strange enough?

Well, there are two other firsts. This is the first time BeWrite Books has published a non-fiction book. And it is also the first time BB, Irene and Cathy have worked on a project intended for publication in ebook form only. It’s a revised, extended, re-illustrated, re-designed and re-covered version of the hardback by The Book Guild, UK (for those old-fashioned folks here who haven’t caught on to e-reading yet the hardback is available from major online stores. ISBN for hardback is 978 1 84624 203 8).

The BeWrite Books ebook edition is available at all major and minor ebook stores in all formats for everything from PC and laptop, through Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo et al, to iPod and even smart phones. And, of course, you can buy it direct from the BeWrite Books website on or by clicking on the open book item at the top right of this post.

Words by Irene, Illustration by Cathy, edited by Neil Marr, cover art and internal design by Tony Szmuk who also prepared the ebook in PDF, ePub and Mobi digital formats.

Author Irene Thompson’s own blog post about The A-Z of Punishment and Torture is here: From the illustrator’s POV, you can read Catherine Edmund’s blog here: 

And the critics are already reacting – the day before release!

This from the renowned Jan Goodwin, author and investigative journalist with a focus on war, conflict and human rights … Man’s Inhumanity to Man (as well as Woman, Child, and even Beast) dates back to the beginning of time, and is limited only by the perpetrator’s  depraved imagination. Tragically, as Irene Thompson documents, too many of these primitive tortures are still carried out today. From President Bush justifying waterboarding of prisoners, to the constant mutilating rapes ignored by the UN in the Congo, far too many victims still endure the unimaginable. This is humankind’s shame and a must-read.

World-famous best-selling author, James Herbert, says: Splendidly written … a gruesome but enjoyable journey through the history of pain and punishment. I was hooked from A-Z … a fascinating compendium of horror, death, torture … and not just for sado-masochists.

Best wishes. Neil Marr

The first three BB blog readers to email me will receive by return a complimentary copy of The A-Z of Punishment and Torture (Illustrated) in the ebook format of their choice. NM

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


BeWrite Books today releases Horseshoes by Harry Hughes in paperback and all popular ebook formats. And these horseshoes are certainly lucky for Harry’s readers … they get five extra tales thrown in, because the new book – a long novella – includes five extended short stories.

Harry’s Horseshoes follows in the hoofprints of his hilarious (but also chilling) crime novel The Bait Shack, published by BeWrite Books last year.

You can read about Horseshoes by clicking on its cover in the bookstore section of our website at or reach the site by clicking on the open book icon at the top right of this page. It’s available there, at all major and minor online bookshops for paperback and at ebook stores in formats to suit every electronic reading platform through PCs, laptops and netbooks, to Kindle, Nook, Kobo et al, and for iPods and smartphones. You can also order the paperback from your local brick-and-mortar bookshop.

Harry is a Viet Nam and Woodstock vet, an award winning popular song writer and a professor of psychology. Seven years of his life in New York is the subject of the National Book Critics Circle Award nominated book, Homefires; An Intimate Portrait of One Middle-Class Family in Postwar America, by Donald Katz (Harper Collins Press, 1992). Harry's short story, A River Too Distant (which is included as one of the tales in Horseshoes), was published, along with works by Edward Albee and Joseph Heller, in Hampton Shorts, Vol. 3, 1998. He currently lives, writes and teaches in Utah.

So why the switch from a full length novel to novella and short story format? Let’s leave it to Harry to explain:

“The novella, Horseshoes, which opens the book, did start out as a novel. But if I’ve learned anything as a writer of fiction, it’s that stories end themselves. Any attempt to stretch a piece of fiction into something longer than what it can comfortably carry usually becomes an exercise in contrivance. If I had forced the novella into a novel, the tension, humor and impact of the work would have been diluted with filler.

“So I decided to add five short stories (although they’re not really very short) to allow the novella to reach publishable book length. I do not regard these stories as fillers, but rather as slices of life from various milieus, each revealing something palpable about the human condition. Some of these stories were written before the novella was born, others after the novella was completed.”

HORSESHOES is a comic novella about an aeronautical engineer’s mid-life crisis precipitated by one too many trips to the drawing board. His irrational fugue state carries him from East Hampton to Dallas to New York City with relentless irony shredding the seat of his pants.

In SWOOP, two US Marine combat veterans concoct an outrageous plan to keep a young surfer from being shipped to Viet Nam.

In A DOLLAR TWENTY-FIVE PER MILE, a Long Island night-shift cabby eyes the beautiful day driver Althea from an immeasurable distance. One morning he drops to the back seat of her taxi. "California," he tells her.

A RIVER TOO DISTANT concerns an African-American repo man who reclaims the Honda Civic of a white southerner abruptly fired from his job at the lumberyard. But the errant car-owner and his chainsaw are ready for him.

tells the story of an aimless, underachieving Latino who rediscovers his self-worth following a nightmarish weekend of migraine headaches, prescription drug abuse and the death of two close friends.

And in FRY COOK, a North Carolinian woman named Marnee tells the story of her otherwise gentle husband’s grotesque plan for revenge and its inevitable execution, an act that is both unnerving yet strangely reasonable.

Harry added:  “Of course, works of fiction are never only fictional. The author invariably infuses bits of his or her own realities into the mix.

“Of the short stories, for instance, Swoop is closer to an actual event that occurred during the late 1960s. It qualifies as fiction merely because some of the facts have been embellished and because names of those involved have been changed. The story also reveals a dirty little secret about medical treatment of a certain class of military veterans returning from the Viet Nam War. It is my belief that readers will find Swoop to be a harrowing account on every level of human conflict imaginable.

“Naturally, I believe that you will also discover that the novella and other stories enliven your sense of humanity in the realms of drama, humor, compassion, and wit.”

Harry’s BeWrite Books editor on Horseshoes was Hugh McCracken. Cover art and external and internal design is by Tony Szmuk, who also handled the technical side of things, including the careful preparation of all ebook presentations.

Happy reading. Neil Marr

Psssst ... First BB blog reader to email me gets a free paperback, three others will get a free ebook download in the format of their choice: PDF, ePub or Mobi. Good luck. Neil --