Saturday, 14 January 2017

Discovering Diamonds with Helen Hollick

Today, I have the lovely, bestselling author, Helen Hollick, who I am proud to have as a friend, talking about her fantastic new project, Discovering Diamonds.

Launched to a full gun salute on 1st January, Discovering Diamonds is a new Review Blog site, but it is not just any ordinary Review Site, Helen please tell about this exciting new venture.

We review historical fiction (and maybe the occasional non-fiction, but that will be by invitation only). By ‘historical’ I mean anything that has 75% of the story set pre-1950 (this is because I was born in 1953 and I refuse to be thought of as ‘historic’!) although at our discretion we will review something history-based set in the 1960s. We might even consider something contemporary if it has a very strong historical connection – I am thinking specifically of time travel, or Alison Morton’s wonderful Roma Nova series, which are modern-day thrillers, but with the theme that the Roman administration survived, which I think readers of Roman-Age novels (especially mystery/thrillers) will find fascinating.

From those submitted to us, we select which books to review which means just because you submit a book it doesn’t mean we will automatically review it. A novel has to be a very good 5 star read to reach the status of a Discovered Diamond!

The books that are not quite 5 stars – the 4 stars – will also get a review, and occasionally a new debut author will also receive a review by way of support and encouragement. These latter reviews will usually have a certain amount of constructive criticism included – maybe another edit will be suggested to pick up some missed typos, or perhaps a note to watch a tendency to ‘head hop’.

Let me stress that we are not a critique service, but our view is that potential good authors (especially indie authors) need support to start the climb up that long, steep, ladder, and I, and my ‘team’, take great pleasure in seeing these new authors improve and grow as they write more books. But to do so they often require that little bit of courage and confidence to keep going, a thing that is so easy to destroy if enthusiastic encouragement is not given.

We also accept any historical sub-genre: romance, fantasy, GLBT, alternate… even erotica. Nor do we differentiate between traditional mainstream or indie – a good book is a good book whatever its sub-genre and however it is produced. The emphasis, though, is on the word good. We are looking for quality produced books that are value for money to buy, and are suitable for recommending by ‘word of mouth’ (the best way for authors to sell books!)

How does Discovering Diamonds work?

With a lot of hard work from myself and my wonderful Review and Admin team! It is fairly simple: fill in the contact form on the blog’s sidebar (or just email me) and you will receive detailed instructions of where and how to submit your novel.

We primarily only want e-books (mobi or e-pub preferably) not hard copy paperbacks or hardbacks, this is because we do not charge a fee of any sort (we are all volunteers!) so there is no funding to cover forwarding books to various reviewers, nor do I want to give out personal addresses. In some cases, if there is no e-book version, or there are complications we can arrange to receive a paperback edition. We do not accept gift vouchers by the way – they are too complicated to use when other reviewers are involved.

Once received our e-book editor, Nicky Galliers, sends the files to our network of reviewers, who read the book and if they enjoyed it, write a review, which is sent to me. I edit, add links to Amazon and a cover image… and off we go!

Note: no books are passed on, all are deleted once read.

We also have some interesting additional pages – a regular slot for reader’s to have their say or comment on a selection of monthly topics on our Reader’s Voice page, or our Guest Spot will have tributes to special authors or books – we started with my own personal Best Author, Rosemary Sutcliff. In February we have a tribute to |Bernard Cornwell.

I see there are several awards on offer, tell a little about them.

For the books we select to review we give some nice logos for authors to use as and where they wish to promote their books. The basic two are the Discovered Diamond and ‘this book has been reviewed by Discovering Diamonds’. Then there is the Book of the Month and Book of the Year – which are somewhat self-explanatory!

We also include the Indie BRAG medallion logo and the Chill With a Book Award for novels that have achieved these honours. (But authors must tell us about these, we do not have time to go looking!)

How often do you post reviews?

Thanks to the ability to schedule posts… everyday, except Sunday.

How can readers / authors make sure they keep up to date with what is happening on Discovering Diamonds?

Fill in the subscribe by e-mail form is probably the best and easiest, and you will automatically receive notification of new books reviewed every day. Alternatively, ‘like’ our Facebook page or look for the hashtag #DDRevs on Twitter.

I see there is a monthly award for the best book cover can any author put their cover forward for this?

Yes, this has kindly been promoted by graphics designer Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics, and there will also be a Cover of the Year at the end of 2017. Authors cannot enter for this, though – Cathy selects a shortlist and an eventual Cover of the Month from the books we have reviewed. So maybe your novel was reviewed but didn’t quite make it as an elite Discovered Diamond … but it still might be chosen as Cover of the Month!

Where do you see Discovering Diamonds in a year’s time?

I must be honest, once we get established I would like someone else to take over the every-day running and organising, although I’d still like to keep an eye on things (and maybe have more time to do some actual reviewing!) Volunteers welcome to contact me!

I am hoping the site will keep a nice, steady, tick-over of submissions and reviews and reaches a status of having your book reviewed by #DDRevs is a sought-after achievement. I want this accolade not for myself, but for the wonderful authors we review. I want an author to be able to boast, with pride and pleasure, ‘Look, my book has the great honour of being selected as a Discovered Diamond – reviewed by one of the best UK-based review blogs on the Internet!”


Helen Hollick moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse surrounded by thirteen acres of fields and woodland. A variety of pets include horses, three Exmoor ponies, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and geese.

First published over twenty years ago, her main passion is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages.

Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) – the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US) is a re-telling of the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. While her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely acclaimed as a different telling of the Arthurian Myth.

She has written two non-fiction books, Pirates; Truth and Tale and as a supporter of indie writers, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new and novice writers who are interested in self-publishing.

Helen is published in various languages including Turkish, Italian and German.

Cath Helms : (Graphics Designer and Cover of the month judge)

Twitter: @HelenHollick #DDRevs

Helen Hollick :

Thank you Helen and I know Discovering Diamonds is going to be a runaway success.

Thank you for stopping by and finding out about Discovering Diamonds and I hope I will be seeing your books sporting one of the fabulous logos.

Until the next time, I hope the sun is shinning in your heart and on your face.


My first love

My other love


Helen Hollick said...

Thank you Pauline for hosting this post, your support - and that of your readers - is most appreciated.

Pauline Barclay said...

It is a joy to have you here Helen.

Loretta Livingstone said...

I love your reasons for not reviewing anything set later than 1950, Helen. Seems fair enough to me, haha.

Pauline Barclay said...

Thank you Loretta for visiting. Have a lovely weekend.

Helen Hollick said...

Thanks Loretta we are willing to be flexible so the pre 1950 (to quote a certain pirate movie) is more like a guideline really...

Rosemary Gemmell said...

What a great idea, Helen - all the best with this encouraging new venture!

Pauline Barclay said...

It is exciting isn't it Rosemary. Thanks for stopping by.

Helen Hollick said...

Thank you Rosemary