24 February 2018

Special Guest Post: Malcolm III and Tostig Godwineson, by Author Mercedes Rochelle

Battle of Stamford Bridge: Cambridge University Library MS. Ee.iii.59

The friendship between Tostig Godwineson and King Malcolm of Scotland seems to have been largely overlooked, but it seems to me that it had a significant impact on Tostig's career. When Tostig was made Earl of Northumbria in 1055, Malcolm had been unofficial king for a year or so. As usual, there is much confusion regarding this period, but it is thought that Malcolm reigned over Lothian-south of the Firth of Forth-and Strathclyde, or Cumbria. He would not officially be crowned while Macbeth lived, as Macbeth still ruled in the northern part of Scotland.

In 1054, Earl Siward of Northumbria invaded Scotland in conjunction with King Edward's housecarls to put Malcolm on the throne. The invasion was very real; the battle of Dunsinane may have been apocryphal-though there was certainly a major battle somewhere. I was surprised to discover that Siward was not Malcolm's uncle (did I get this from Shakespeare?). 

His interest in Malcolm was predominately political, for he was continually concerned about the safety of his northern borders. Historian William Kapelle (The Norman Conquest of the North) tells that before 1054, "both Edward and Siward must have hoped that as king he (Malcolm) would end the hostility that had characterized the northern border since 1006".  Kapelle tells us most definitely that "Malcolm did not hold Scotland as England's vassal. He was king of Scots by inheritance and battle; his obligation to King Edward rested solely on gratitude." Alas for Tostig, his gratitude was fleeting.

But that was later. When Siward died a year after the famous invasion-his heart broken by the death of his son in battle-the earldom was awarded to Tostig. There's no evidence that Tostig had met Malcolm yet, but in 1057, the new Earl of Northumbria joined Malcolm's final expedition against Macbeth. They tracked down and defeated the fleeing king at Lumphanan in Abersdeenshire; Macbeth allegedly died a few days later at Scone. 

According to E.A. Freeman, Edward's biographer tells us that "Macbeth...was first defeated by Siward, then by Tostig." (History of the Norman Conquest Vol 3, Appendix EE). So in some eyes, Tostig carried on the conflict begun by his predecessor. It seems he must have had a vested interest.
Tostig went on to create a very strong friendship with Malcolm. In 1059, Malcolm accompanied Tostig to King Edward's court, probably at York (first visit by a Scottish monarch in 80 years). 

Somewhere in that time frame, Tostig and Malcolm became sworn brothers-blood brothers, as it were. This was a strong tie between rulers, but it seems that Tostig took it more seriously than Malcolm, for the Scots raided across the border whenever it suited them. These hostile acts culminated in 1061 when Tostig went on pilgrimage to Rome in support of his favorite Bishop, Ealdred, who expected to receive his pallium from the pope. 

Malcolm took advantage of Tostig's absence to lead the most vicious of all raids deep into Northumbria, and even the sacred abbey of Lindisfarne was not spared. Tostig is accused to have responded to this outrage with diplomacy rather than reprisals, much to the dissatisfaction of his earldom. They seem to have thought him ineffectual in defending them, though according to Freeman, Tostig's growing unpopularity made it hard for him to raise troops. This sounds like a vicious cycle!

Could it be that Tostig wanted to keep his friendship with Malcolm intact to ensure his welcome if the occasion arose? It seems unlikely he knew what was brewing in his earldom in 1065, for he was frequently in the company of King Edward-and was accused of neglecting his earldom. When the terrible and well-planned revolt broke out in Northumbria and all 200+ of his household were killed, Tostig was once again in far-off south, hunting with the King. Ultimately he was forced into exile, and the next time he set foot on English soil he was an outlaw intent on revenge-or at least getting his earldom back through force of arms.

It was thought he was testing the waters, so to speak, in May of 1066 when he landed on the Isle of Wight with a handful of ships, mostly loaned from Normandy and Flanders. He worked his way around the coast of Wessex, impressing more English ships and crews into service. After an aborted raid on Sandwich, he sailed north and stopped at the Humber, but earls Edwin and Morcar were ready for him and drove his little fleet back into the sea. At this juncture, most of his allies melted away, and he limped off with only seven boats in tow out of his accumulated sixty. 

This was when his friendship with Malcolm really gave him a boost, for the King of the Scots welcomed his sworn brother with open arms and reportedly gave him sanctuary for the rest of the summer. From this safe haven, Tostig is said to have recruited Scottish mercenaries as well as allies from the Orkney Islands, who were planning to join Harald Hardrada's September invasion. King Malcolm did not accompany Tostig on his last campaign, but it is supposed he saw him off with a fond farewell. I wonder if he said "good riddance" under his breath.

Mercedes Rochelle
# # # 

About the Author

Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamoured with historical fiction ever since. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they built themselves. For more information please visit Mercedes Rochelle’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter


   

22 February 2018

Special Guest post by Derek Wilson, Author of The Queen and the Heretic


Available on Amazon UK

The dual biography of two remarkable women - Catherine Parr and Anne Askew. One was the last queen of a powerful monarch, the second a countrywoman from Lincolnshire. But they were joined together in their love for the new learning - and their adherence to Protestantism threatened both their lives. This book explores their lives, and the way of life for women from various social strata in Tudor England.


Question:   In terms of Tudor history what is the significance of the following:
                                    24, 3, 1.15, 0.5, 1.75, 3.5

Answer: they are (roughly – I’m no mathematician) the reigns, measured in years, of Henry VIII’s six queens. We can see, at a glance, that Catherine Parr (No.6) edges into second place. In terms of popularity with writers of novels and historical non-fiction she comes further down the list. Her story, it is commonly supposed, doesn’t lend itself to heart-in-the-mouth narration – no scandal, no romance, no sex! She was, wasn’t she, a dowdypants blue stocking; a caring biddy whose marital life was dedicated to nursemaiding a succession of sick or ageing husbands? In a word,
NO
Beyond the fact that she was the wife who survived, she has no significance in the great Tudor scheme of things, has she? In a word,
YES

OK, so, given that Queen Catherine, might be a valid subject for a biography, why couple her story with that of another contemporary woman, Anne Askew? And, anyway, who was she? Most fans of Henry VIII’s reign will have come across her as probably the most famous Protestant martyr of the early years of the Reformation. Her trials and tribulations merit a sad footnote in chronicles of the period. Nothing more, surely? In a word – well you get the message!

Good historical writing should do at least two things:

(a) It should take us beyond the headline stories of long-dead celebs. ‘History’ didn’t just happen in the tapestried halls, the scented bedchambers and the hunting parks of the top people. To discover the real lives of our ancestors we need to read their letters, burrow away in family and county archives, get some feel for the changing colours of the passing years, the beliefs, ideas and concerns that shaped relationships.

(b) It should sift for us the grains of significance from the chaff of the ephemeral (no matter how titillating old gossip may be). It should offer answers to the question, ‘Why does this matter now?’ We need to see the past through mental bifocals which give us a clear image of Hartley’s ‘other country’ while also enabling us to evaluate why it matters to us

This is what I’ve tried to do in The Queen and the Heretic, one of the most exciting projects I’ve tackled in several years of writing about the 16th century. I’ve taken the lives of two women from the middle shires and ‘middle class’ of England and shown how they followed very different paths which dramatically converged in a catastrophic series of events that saw one burned at the stake and the other almost beheaded (the final notch on Henry VIII’s bedpost). 

Their ups and downs through the 1520, 30s and 40s reveal in detail much of what it was like to live through that turbulent epoch. Moreover – and this is really exciting – we don’t have to go to third-party accounts to stitch the narrative together. We know what Catherine and Anne thought, felt, believed – because they tell us.

They wrote about their experiences and innermost feelings in letters, pamphlets and books. Those writings (absolutely unique in England of the period – women, even royal women, did not publish books) take us, I believe closer to the heart of a nation undergoing profound change, bitterly divided, plagued by rebellion and ruled by an unpredictable tyrant. This is an account of two true heroines – intelligent, passionate and courageous – whose stories long outlived them and became an encouragement and inspiration to later generations.

The Queen and the Heretic is not dry-as-dust history nor pink-frilled romance. I hope that anyone reading it will turn the last page thinking, ‘Yes, that’s what it must have been like.’

Derek Wilson

# # #

About the Author

Derek Wilson has been writing historical fiction and non-fiction since the mid 1970s and is the author of 70+ books, as well as work for radio and television and innumerable newspaper and magazine articles. After graduating from Cambridge in History and Theology, he spent some years teaching and travelling abroad before settling to a freelance writing career. Steadily he built a large following for his books. He specialises in the Reformation and his more recent works include a series of Tudor crime thrillers - the Thomas Treviot tales - and an analysis of the relationship between religion, philosophy, occultism and science (Superstition and Science). However, his large output also includes studies of the Rothschild family, the Plantagenets, Peter the Great, Charlemagne and the history of circumnavigation. In fact, he writes about whatever interests him. For example, Magnificent Malevolence is a venture into fantasy fiction. No longer needing to chase success in the urban jungle, he enjoys a life of peaceful seclusion in Devon and is the patriarch of a family of three children and six grandchildren. You can find out more at Derek's website
www.derekwilson.com and follow him on Twitter @DerekAlanWilson 

20 February 2018

Guest Post by by Kevin O'Connell, Author of Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe (The Derrynane Saga Book 2)


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

It’s 1767. As the eagerly anticipated sequel to Beyond Derrynane begins, Eileen O’Connell avails herself of a fortuitous opportunity to travel back to Ireland. In Two Journeys Home, the O’Connells encounter old faces and new—and their lives change forever.

The History behind Two Journeys Home

The history behind and involved in writing Two Journeys Home - indeed, in varying degrees, the entire Derrynane Saga - is complex, in some ways contradictory, and, in no small part, painful. As with any work of historical fiction, there are actually two strains of history with which I have had to work:

The history of the period, of the setting, encompasses that of Ireland, Austria and France, the tensions, stresses and romance of places on the verge of significant - in the case of France, turbulent, violent - change. Though I have liberally woven my stories into its fabric, to the overall history I have stayed true. Though fictional or largely-fictional characters join actual ones in populating the settings and living out their lives in actual historical locations, and during certain actual events, I have not altered this history in any significant or material way. 

The premise for much of the story related in the books of the Derrynane Saga arises out of what was, in effect, the occupation of the island of Ireland by the British - known locally then (well before Diana Gabaldon popularised the term) as the Sassenach, literally, "strangers", a usurpation that, though the precise length is hotly-debated, predated the eighteenth century by several hundred years.

During virtually all of this time, there existed in England an at least at times wholly-reasonable fear of a successful invasion of Ireland by the French and Spanish, which, it was felt, would lead to a direct one of Great Britain itself.

In an effort to secure Ireland against what was feared could be a massive assault, during the Sixteenth and the Centuries, the English monarchy and Parliament laboured mightily and were ultimately able to attain effective dominion over the island of Ireland through a series of confiscations of Irish Catholic-owned property, and the subsequent colonisation of this land by settlers from England and Scotland, this process became known as the "plantation" of Ireland.

In the horrific aftermath of Oliver Cromwell's brutal invasion of Ireland in 1649 a series of statutes, collectively referred as the "Penal Laws" - which Edmund Burke characterised as being "a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man." - were enacted, as further plantation was underway.

Though by the years covered in the Derrynane Saga the laws were being unevenly, in many instances arbitrarily, applied and enforced, they remained nevertheless cruel, the sole purpose of them being the continued suppression and disenfranchisement of the native Irish Catholic population who by the mid-Eighteenth Century controlled but 10% of Ireland's land - the rest being in the hands of "planters" and the descendants of planters. 

By the period related in Two Journeys Home the occupiers' goals of pacifying a tumultuous people, whom most referred to as the "mere Irish" had been large achieved, the vast majority of the Irish people by then being landless, impoverished and illiterate.

The nexus of the histories of Ireland and Catholic Europe, France and Austria, which plays a significant role in the story, lies in the fact that, in addition to many young Catholics being sent abroad for schooling (the native Irish Catholics being forbidden by the Penal Laws to learn to read and write) there had, since the early Seventeenth Century, been a steady drain of members of the Gaelic Aristocracy, to serve in the armies and at the courts of Catholic Europe, to France, Austria and Spain . . . indeed, as far as Russia. Thus, the significant Irish presence in Vienna which greeted Eileen and Abigail on their arrival there in 1762.

It was, however, James II's vanguishment by the forces of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689 and the subsequent defeat of General Patrick Sarsfield at Limerick in 1691 that resulted in what has become known as the "flight of the Wild Geese". This term is applied to the soldiers who, having been loyal to James's cause, who were permitted to leave Ireland as a relatively-intact, albeit defeated army, to follow the Stuarts into exile in France - this led to the formation of the famed "Irish Brigade of France", which plays an increasingly-important role in Two Journeys Home and even more so as the Saga continues.

All of this said, the history of the characters, on the other hand, is perhaps more complex and has been the more challenging with which to deal. Virtually all of the individuals about whom I write - including the O'Connells themselves - actually lived; indeed, it is as the books continue to relate their largely-fictional lives, that the tantalisingly few facts that are historically documented about them which provide the basic sources from which the tale flows, strategic additions of numerous historical and fictional personalities and events melding naturally with both fact and fable.

Thus, whilst, for example, Eileen was "real" very little is known about her life in the period covered by the first two books in the Saga; thus, it is in her case, as well as the others' that I have relied on my imagination, believing that nothing that I have written could not have happened, and, indeed, that at least some of it actually might have occurred!

In dealing with well-known characters - such as the Empress Maria Theresa - I have taken certain liberties. From what I knew generally of her and certainly from what I came to learn from my substantial research, she was a relatively cold woman; she was also a prude. As I have written her, she is a warmer, perhaps even more "human" individual and there is no mention of her "morality squads" roaming the court and the streets of Vienna, policing the mores and activities of her subjects, both courtly and otherwise. That she is a warmer, gentler woman is the result of the presence and influence of several of my characters - so, while it is not wholly historically-accurate, it is believable.

The history of the period and the historical stories of the character I believe meld well, though, in Ireland, this was not without challenge. In writing of the socio-political situation in Ireland in the mid-to-late Eighteenth Century, I have, I trust successfully, largely avoided unfairly "demonising" the British occupiers. I was aided in this effort by being well aware that some small percentage amongst the scattered remnants of the old Gaelic order had, in as many ways as one could imagine, arrived at some measure of understanding, reached some degree of compromise with the Sassenach, amongst the most successful of these families being, significantly, the O'Connells at Derrynane.

Fictionalised depictions of the relationship between the family and the King's men in several places in Two Journeys Home and the other Derrynane books, depict the uneasy calm of such an arrangement.

In much the same way, the on-going interaction of the O'Connells and others with their Protestant neighbours is set out in some detail and accurately depicts more than a few Protestant landowners, no matter the origin of their land's acquisition, to be kind, decent and accommodating individuals. Indeed, the O'Connells themselves could not have maintained their own - still largely illegal - land ownership absent a significant degree of cooperation of some of their Protestant neighbours entering into with them unrecorded deeds, subleases and trust instruments.

As I have said, the history about which I have written, into which I have woven my characters and against which I have told their stories, is, indeed, complex, in some ways contradictory, and, in no small part, painful. Yet, for these very reasons, I have found it also to be a fertile, albeit rough, ground, out of which, I hope, have leapt and will continue to emerge rich, vibrant, exciting and moving stories.

Kevin O'Connell
# # #

About the Author

Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and  holds both Irish and American citizenship. An international business attorney, Mr. O’Connell is an alumnus of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre. A lifelong personal and scholarly interest in the history of eighteenth-century Ireland, as well as that of his extended family, led O’Connell to create his first book, Beyond Derrynane, which will, together with Two Journeys Home and the two books to follow, comprise the Derrynane Saga. The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland. Find out more at Kevin's website derrynanebooks.com

17 February 2018

How to build your author platform on Google+ and get over 1,000,000 views #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #writing



I was an early adopter of Google+ so have actively used it as part of my author platform since it started as an ‘invitation only’ network in 2011.  Since then Google+ has matured into a lively and often thought provoking community. As well as being a great place to easily cross post your blog and get useful feedback on ideas, such as your new book cover, Google+ content has higher visibility in Google searches than content from other social networks.

Google+ is free and fairly easy to use, with no limit to the length of posts so makes a sensible addition to your author platform. I find it doesn’t distract you from your writing too much and feels much more relaxed than Twitter without the ‘complications’ of Facebook.  Here then are my ten top tips for getting the best from it:

1. Set up a banner and photo that fits your ‘brand’

Google+ cover photos now automatically resize to fit your screen resolution - and are the first thing your visitors see. You need a high resolution image and it is an opportunity to make a good first impression. You also need to make sure your profile image (which is now round) fits well with your background image – and remember that Google+ fades in a black border so that your details stand out in white. Don’t fall into the trap of making it too complicated - simple is often best.  

2.  Edit your Google+ ‘tagline’

When you add someone to one of your Google+ ‘circles’ it helps if they can easily see who you are and what interests you share. The ‘tagline’ is displayed when you go to the ‘about’ page. There is a section on the right under the heading ‘story’ where you can change the tagline, as well as add a longer introduction, if you wish to.

3. Link your Google+ profile to your website or blog and other social media accounts

You can fast track building your author platform by making it easy for people to connect with you on other social media. Google+ makes it simple to add links to Facebook and Twitter, as well as your blog and even sites such as Pinterest and YouTube. 

4. Join communities to find like-minded people

One of the best discoveries I’ve made on Google+ are the communities where I’ve met some great writers.  People have to be in at least one circle to be a contact on Google+ but you can also add them to several and it’s useful to organise your contacts into circles that help you interact more easily with readers, writers, agents and publishers – and ‘segment’ people into topic specific groups or categories that help build your author platform. There are so many communities it can be hard to decide where to start but a couple I recommend are Writers Corner.

5. Post interesting links you think people in your circles will like

Google+ is much more of a forum for new ideas than many of the other social media platforms. If you can find the time to post links that you find interesting, other users with similar interests will ‘tune in’ and add you to circles. Your network of contacts starts to grow organically without you doing much - useful when you are trying to avoid distractions from hitting a writing deadline. When sharing links, it helps if you can create a headline and pose a question to encourage discussion and comments.

6. Cross post from your blog

You can easily increase the audience for your blog by sharing new posts on Google+.  Blogger prompts me to post to Google+ when I publish a new post  - and Wordpress can auto post using plugins and tools such as Hoot Suite’s free service.

7. Interact with other G+ users by commenting on posts

It is a community, so people do appreciate it if you make the effort to comment when you have something to add. At the very least, find the time to click on the +1 (recommended) for posts that interest you.

8. Make your posts stand out

A useful tip is to add an * each side of your post heading, which makes it appear in bold on Google+.  You also need to make effective use of eye-catching images. ‘Animated Gifs’ are particularly good at catching attention – and you can easily make your own using free online apps. A good one is gifs.com which enables you to ‘grab’ a few seconds of any YouTube video and create an animated Gif to illustrate your post.

9. Use Google+ as a source for other social media

I often pick up great links and ideas which I convert into Twitter ‘tweets’ and post on my author Facebook page. As well as helping the originator of the content, it means you can easily ‘enrich’ your social media posts without wasting valuable writing time.

10. Add a Google+ button to your blog

Blogger has a ‘widget’ to make this really easy – see example in the sidebar of this blog.  If you are a Wordpress user there are several clever third-party ‘plugins’ for the technically minded – but I find it easier to simply add a standard button in the sidebar see https://tonyrichesauthor.wordpress.com/.

Happy writing!

Tony Riches

Do you have some great writing tips you would like to share?
Please feel free to comment


The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in.

16 February 2018

Special Guest Post ~ The Evolution of an Historical Fiction Trilogy, by Millie Thom


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Thank you for the invitation to guest post on The Writing Desk, Tony. I am delighted to accept. Sons of Kings is an historical fiction trilogy set in the Anglo Saxon and Danish lands during the second half of the 9th century. The first two books are available on Amazon and I hope to have Book 3, Wyvern of Wessex, published by late May 2018.

The three books follow the lives and exploits of historical figure, Alfred of Wessex, and the fictional Eadwulf of Mercia. The trilogy title stems from the fact that both characters are the sons of kings: Alfred the fifth son of the historical King Aethelwulf of Wessex, and Eadwulf the fictional son of the historical Mercian king, Beorhtwulf. Their stories run concurrently, and I was careful to fit Eadwulf's story into the chronology of Alfred's.

I first became interested in King Alfred when I lived and taught in Wantage in the 1970s. Wantage was, reputedly, where Alfred was born. Today, in the market place of the small Oxfordshire town, stands one of the two most famous statues of the Wessex king. The other is in Winchester, which became Alfred's capital.

The story of Alfred's long fight against the invading Danes (Vikings) intrigued me even before I moved to the town, and in Wantage I learnt so much more about him. Unfortunately, juggling the raising of six children with a teaching career meant that my story was left 'on hold' for many years before I could actually set to and write it down.

Although my second protagonist if fictional, Eadwulf's story is not too far-fetched to believe. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle tells us that King Beorhtwulf was 'put to flight' when Danes sailed up the Thames in 851 and ravaged the London region. Further research told me that Beorhtwulf possibly had two sons, although I found no reference to them elsewhere. Not that I looked too far. That little snippet was enough to spark my imagination… and Eadwulf was created as Beorhtwulf's eldest son.

The three books follow Alfred and Eadwulf through their trials and tribulations, their times of sorrow and joy, their responsibilities and duties, and vows made to avenge past wrongs. Eadwulf's story of his life as a Danish thrall (slave) forms the main focus of Book 1, Shadow of the Raven. Alfred was a child of two at the start of the trilogy, so much of his early story revolves around events in Wessex under the rule of his father, King Aethelwulf, and other family members. Alfred's early life is not easy as he suffers the loss of people he loves.

Book 2, Pit of Vipers, brings Alfred's route to kingship to the fore. The invasion of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms by the Norse 'Great Army' in 865, is relentless as more and more Danes arrive each year. One kingdom after another succumbs to Danish control and when Alfred comes to the throne in 871, he vows to keep Wessex safe from the hands of the pagan Norse. Meanwhile, Eadwulf continues his incessant quest for revenge on those who betrayed his family.

Alfred's desperate battle to save his kingdom is the main theme of Book 3 as he comes face-to-face with the new Danish warlord who appears to be more than his match. And Eadwulf eventually finds a purpose to his life. 
 
Initially, I set out to write a single novel about the life of King Alfred and the invading Danes. When I decided to add the second protagonist, Eadwulf, I soon realised I had far too much material for a single book - and the trilogy was born. Nor did I intend to write my story as straight historical fiction. Shadow of the Raven and the first half of Pit of Vipers, were originally written as historical fantasy - until I realised that the lives of Alfred and Eadwulf did not work too well as fantasy, and spent ages taking all the fantasy out!

So, the trilogy has been several years in the making. I've learnt much during that time and reinforced my love of historical fiction as a genre. But, although I appreciate the value of writing a series of books, my next novel will definitely be a one-off!

Millie Thom

# # #

About the Author

Millie Thom is a former geography and history teacher with a degree in geology and a passion for the Anglo Saxon period. Now that their six children have all 'flown the nest' and Millie has retired from teaching, she and her husband live in a small village in Nottinghamshire, midway between the town of Newark and the lovely old city of Lincoln. Here, Millie spends her time writing and enjoying long walks in the countryside. Millie is the author of the first two books of the Sons of Kings trilogy, set in the mid-ninth century, and is currently writing the third, which she hopes to publish by late spring 2018. Millie has also published, A Dash of Flash, a book of very short stories and flash fiction pieces. Find out more on Millie's website 
https://milliethom.com/ and follow her on Twitter @MillieThom

Blog Tour ~ Tips for Researching Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction, by Nicole Evelina, Author of The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Guinevere's journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years - and it's not over yet. Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot.


I love research. A LOT. Like I could do it for my full-time job if someone would offer. (Hint, hint.) So I guess it is natural that I gravitated toward historical fiction when I started pursuing writing as more than a hobby. Because why not give yourself ongoing, voluntary homework as an adult, right?

I was very lucky that in my senior year of college we had to write a thesis paper and learned proper research techniques. Everything from citing sources to using journal databases was covered, so I had a solid foundation. For the next decade or so, I cut my teeth on learning everything I could about Arthurian legend in order to write my historical fantasy trilogy about Guinevere. And in case you are wondering what kinds of things I researched, I put together a list of things you need to know about your time period when writing historical fiction.

I never thought I would graduate to non-fiction, but in late 2016, I was asked to give a presentation on Guinevere for Women's History Month in 2017. Since Guinevere is fictional, I had to come up with some kind of way to organize my talk, rather than just giving a life story. I ended up wondering how the character had evolved over time, and once I started doing my research, I realized I had the makings for a book. That's how The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend was born.

I could teach a whole class on research, and I kind of do in my online class on historical fiction, but today I'm going to offer some research tips I've learned along the way that might be helpful to others:

1. Use Amazon to your advantage - The first thing I do for any research project is look up the subject on Amazon to get an idea of the kinds of books available on my subject. If they don't have it, chances are good it will be a bear to track down. (Though not impossible, mind you.) As I go, I add to my "wish list" so I can easily find books I liked later on. Abe Books is another site you can use like this, though it is a little more cumbersome than Amazon.

2. Take advantage of the interlibrary loan system - Most libraries (at least in the U.S.) will allow you to request a certain number of books (my library's limit is five at a time) from other libraries with which they have agreements if they don't have a book in their catalogue. Worldcat.org, a library holdings database, is a great tool to find out if any libraries near you have a book you're looking for. And interlibrary loans aren't just for books; you can request copies of journal articles, CDs, DVDs and microfilm that way as well. Check out your library's web site to see if they have a form you can fill out to make a request.

3. Talk to experts - Don't be afraid to email people who are experts in your area. Most are more than willing to share what they know, especially if they know you are writing a book. My top suggestion is to wait to contact them until you have done your basic research so you can ask informed, pointed questions. I was very lucky that when I was researching my Guinevere books, I was able to talk with Arthurian scholar Sir Geoffrey Ash and Arthurian enthusiast Jamie George, both of whom helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research her famous book, The Mists of Avalon.

4. Travel, if you can - As author C.C. Humpries says, "There is memory in stone, in the places where the characters you hope to conjure trod." Places have an energy that remains even over centuries. Because of this, there is something about traveling to a location, even many years after your characters would have been there, that can't compare to all the Internet research or looking at pictures in the world. Take in the slant of light and smell of the air and then translate that into your book; your readers will notice.

5. Journal articles don't have to cost an arm and a leg- If there is an article you want to read, first check Jstor.com and Academia.edu to see if they have it. If not, see if you can get it through your library's interlibrary loan system. If that fails, ask if that library (or another one nearby, like at a college or university, especially if you are an alumni) has access to a database that can get it for you.

6. Don't neglect theses and dissertations - They contain not only new theories and original research, but also often cite sources that will be useful in your own research. They can be hard to get a hold of, but many are available online or at request from the school at which they were submitted. Try Googling your topic plus "thesis" or "dissertation" and see what you get. If you know the school at which the paper was submitted, you can also see if they house their listings online. (Some do, like Standford, UC Davis, Oxford, etc.) You can also try databases like EBSCO, ProQuest, OATD, or Global ETD, though they often require you to login. Your local public or college/university library might be able to help you get access to those for free or at a discount.

7. Remember to use the bibliographies and footnotes in your sources - Some of my best sources have come from the bibliographies in other books, at least in part because two people will approach researching a subject differently and people don't always have access to the same sources. If your source is more than a few years old, the author may have had ready access to books/articles you'll now have to search for because they are out of print or old, but at least you know they exist since they were cited. Sometimes awareness is as important as anything else in research.

8. If you are writing non-fiction, learn how to index your own book, especially if you are an indie or if your publishing house would make you pay for it. It takes time, is tedious, and can be quite frustrating, but no one knows your material better than you do. Here's an article I wrote on my first foray into indexing and what I learned.

And I'm not quitting after one non-fiction book. I'm already hard at work on two more: a biography of Catholic mystic Marie Rose Ferron and a book on the history of feminism in the United States. But I'm also working in historical fiction as well, expecting to publish the last book in my Guinevere trilogy this year and gearing up to work on a couple of WWII novels. And I'm just as excited about the research as the first time, though perhaps a little wiser thanks to experience.

Nicole Evelina

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About the Author

Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction, romantic comedy and non-fiction writer, whose four novels have collectively won over 20 awards, including two Book of the Year designations (Daughter of Destiny by Chanticleer Reviews and Camelots Queen by Author's Circle). Nicole is currently working on Mistress of Legend (2018), the final book in her Guinevere's Tale trilogy. As an armchair historian, Nicole researches her books extensively, consulting with biographers, historical societies and traveling to locations when possible. For example, she traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere's Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon. Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, as well as a member of the Historical Fiction Writers of America, International Arthurian Society - North American Branch, Romantic Novelists Association, Novelists, Inc., the St. Louis Writer's Guild, Alliance of Independent Authors, the Independent Book Publishers Association and the Midwest Publisher's Association. For more information, please visit Nicole Evelina's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads. Sign up for Nicole's newsletter to receive news and updates.


Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, January 31 Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 1 Review at Pursuing Stacie
Friday, February 2 Feature at A Bookaholic Swede Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, February 6 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Wednesday, February 7 Excerpt at What Cathy Read Next
Thursday, February 8 Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
Friday, February 9 Interview at Donna's Book Blog
Monday, February 12 Review at Bookworms Anonymous Feature at View from the Birdhouse Tuesday, February 13 Feature at A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, February 14 Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Thursday, February 15 Feature at Just One More Chapter
Friday, February 16 Spotlight at The Writing Desk
Monday, February 19 Review at Clarissa Reads it All
Thursday, February 22 Feature at A Holland Reads
Monday, February 26 Review at Cup of Sensibility Feature at The Lit Bitch
Tuesday, February 27 Review at Curling Up by the Fire
Wednesday, February 28 Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two paperback copies of The Once and Future Queen! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules: Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.  Giveaway is open to US residents only.  Only one entry per household.  All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.  Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Once and Future Queen

15 February 2018

Book Launch Interview: La Reine Blanche Mary Tudor a Life in Letters, by Sarah Bryson


 New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Today I would like to welcome author Sarah Bryson:

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is entitled ‘La Reine Blanche Mary Tudor a Life in Letters’. I’m very excited about this book on Mary Tudor, younger sister of King Henry VIII. I have spent years researching Mary’s life, particularly studying the personal letters she wrote as well as documents and dispatches which mention her. I really feel these personal letters are a wonderful insight into the strong and incredibly smart woman that Mary was. I hope that my book helps to shed a brighter light upon Mary who has so often been overlooked throughout history.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I don’t actually have a preferred writing routine. I tend to write whenever I have time and I feel inspired. I work full time and I am also a full time wife and mother so writing tends to be done around other daily activities. I do prefer to write on a desk top computer for some reason! I spread all my books and documents out around me so I can pore through them as I write.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Send e-mails, ask questions, seek help and most of all write, write, write. It seems incredibly hard and sometimes may seem impossible but please, please never give up. Keep on writing.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I post a lot on social media - for me that’s Facebook and Twitter. I try to give people little snippets of information and facts about Mary’s life to hopefully gain their interest as well as to promote my book.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

I think what I found most inspiring about Mary was her ability to manoeuvre herself within a male dominated time. As a woman she was subject to her husband and her brother and yet she managed to marry a man of her own choosing without her brother’s permission while still retaining his love and affection. There’s a common misconception that Mary and her new husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk had to repay a huge fine, and yes there was a fine, but the amount they actually ended up repaying was very small. Mary brilliantly convinced her brother that the whole marriage was her idea and avoided both his anger and blame. She was an incredibly smart woman!

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

For me the hardest part to write was Mary’s time in France in 1514/1515. Although only covering a short period of time it was the most highlighted period of Mary’s life and there was so much information that I wanted to cover. I wanted to be true to Mary and include everything so it took me a great deal of time to research and write this six month period of Mary’s life.

What are you planning to write next?

I can’t give to many details away, however I will say that I am researching a fascinating family of 15th and 16th century England.

Sarah Bryson
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About the Author

Sarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Boleyn, Charles Brandon, the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. She is the author of Mary Boleyn in a Nutshell and Charles Brandon: The King’s Man. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing and Tudor costume enactment, and wishes to return to England one day. Find out more at Sarah's website sarah-bryson.com and follow her on Twitter @SarahBryson44.

12 February 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Line of His People by C.J. Adrien


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

France, 799 A.D. The Northmen sacked the monastery at dawn, before anyone had awakened. They burned the village and slaughtered all who stood in their path. The relics of Saint Philbert were lost, and the island was abandoned by those who once dwelled there. Years later, the monk Abriel - survivor of the same attack as a young boy - is sent to recover the relics to help restore the reputation and legitimacy of Saint Philbert. What he discovers on his journey changes his life forever. Northmen had colonized the island in the absence of the monks. They hold the key to finding the relics, but they have greater plans for Abriel, plans that will take him to the North to find his destiny.

Although I know little about the period and this book is clearly aimed at the younger reader, the author's knowledge shines through to create an evocative picture of a savage time in history.

Fast-paced, with a complex plot, we follow the main character of Abriel, a  young priest orphaned by the Vikings, on a life-changing journey, with enough suspense to keep a discerning reader guessing.

Convincingly written and supported by a cast of Viking raiders and all-knowing witches, I'm happy to recommend The Line of His People and hope this book will encourage readers new to historical fiction.

Tony Riches

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About the Author


C.J. Adrien is a French-American author of Viking historical fiction with a passion for Viking history. His Kindred of the Sea series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett. C.J. Adrien�s novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. For more information, please visit C.J. Adrien's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter @authorcjadrien


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 29 Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Thursday, February 1 Review at Donna's Book Blog (The Line of His People)
Monday, February 5 Review at Pursuing Stacie (The Line of His People)
Wednesday, February 7 Feature at A Bookaholic Swede
Monday, February 12 Review at The Writing Desk (The Line of His People)
Tuesday, February 13 Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Thursday, February 15 Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Friday, February 16 Feature at Broken Teepee
Monday, February 19 Review at Laura's Interests (The Line of His People)
Tuesday, February 20 Review at Donna's Book Blog (The Oath of the Father) Feature at A Literary Vacation
Friday, February 23 Review at Cup of Sensibility
Monday, February 26 Review at Pursuing Stacie (The Oath of the Father)
Thursday, March 1 Review at Locks, Hooks and Books (The Line of His People)
Monday, March 5 Review at Laura's Interests (The Oath of the Father)
Tuesday, March 6 Review at WS Momma Readers Nook (The Line of His People)
Tuesday, March 13 Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a set of The Line of His People & The Oath of the Father! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Giveaway Rules � Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. � Giveaway is open to US residents only. � Only one entry per household. � All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. � Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. C.J. Adrien Blog Tour

11 February 2018

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Bohemian Gospel: Bohemian Gospel, by Dana Chamblee Carpenter


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.

When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. 

But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her?

A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.

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About the Author

Dana Chamblee Carpenter is also the author of The Devil’s Bible, the sequel to Bohemian Gospel, a supernatural historical thriller which won the 2014 Killer Nashville Claymore Award and which Publisher’s Weekly called “a deliciously creepy debut.” Dana’s award winning short fiction has appeared in The Arkansas Review, Jersey Devil Press, Maypop, and, most recently in the anthology, Killer Nashville Noir: Cold Blooded. She teaches at a private university in Nashville, TN where she lives with her husband and two children. Find out more at Dana's website http://danachambleecarpenter.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @danaccarpenter

10 February 2018

What's in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance, by Sally Cronin


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year's Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.

Meet Queenie and Rosemary who have both lost their husbands and must face a very different future. One that will take courage and the use of new technology.

Sonia is an entitled princess whose father has reached the end of his tether and Theresa has to deal with a bully in the checkout. Usher is an arrogant narcissist with a docile wife and is used to getting his own way and Vanessa worries about the future of her relationship with her teenage son. 

Walter is a loner and is happy with just his dog for company, Xenia is the long awaited first baby of a young couple. Yves is a dashing romeo who has the tables turned on him unexpectedly and Zoe... Well she can see into the future.

In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.

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About the Author

Sally Cronin has written short stories and poetry since a very young age and contributed to media in the UK and Spain. In 1996 Sally began studying nutrition to inspire her to lose 150 lbs and her first book, Size Matters published in 2001, told the story of that journey back to health. This was followed by another seven books across a number of genres including health, humour and romance. For the last two years Sally has written a daily blog covering the subjects close to her heart and it is called Smorgasbord Invitation – Variety is the Spice of Life. You can link to it from smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com and follow Sally on Facebook and Twitter @sgc58

9 February 2018

Book Launch Guest Post by Brittany Lewis, Author of Reunited (The Zion Series Book 3)


New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Just as Katie's life is settling into a new normal after leaving Zion and the birth of her son, she is given news that will forever alter her reality. Meanwhile, the moment that Michael has so desperately wished for, but never thought would come has finally arrived. He must make the hardest decision of his life, and if he doesn't choose correctly, 
he could lose everything, forever.


My latest novel, Reunited, is the third book in my Young Adult series, The Zion Series. This series is about a family that was born and raised in a very strict, cult-like community. One of the children decides to risk everything and leave the community before her baptism. Her parents go with her, leaving their other child, Katie's twin brother behind. 

The first two books go through the struggles each of the teenagers face, one trying to build a life in mainstream society, and one trying to rebuild a broken life within their old community. In the third book, the family is briefly reunited, and once again someone risks everything and makes a very grave decision, one that they may never be able to come back from, but it isn't who you may expect…

Many new authors frequently ask me for tips on how to further their writing career. The most important thing that I can tell you is to be persistent. Do your best to write every day, even if it's only for a few minutes. I understand how busy life can get. I have two young children, and my husband works two jobs and is in school full time, our house is always busy. 

But even just setting a timer for fifteen minutes, staying focused during that time, and using that time solely for writing will eventually add up and make a big difference. I normally try to alternate my days between writing and marketing. Obviously if you don't have any books written yet, your main focus should be writing that first draft. 

It took me three months to complete my first novel, but I wrote a little bit every single day for those three months. After your books are written and you send it off to an editor, you can begin self-promotion by creating an author page and a website. 

I built my mailing list organically over time, by offering free short stories. If you write a short story that is 1,500 words, and split that up into a daily word count goal of 500 words, that isn't very much writing that needs to be done each day (maybe two short paragraphs a day) and you'll have finished your first short story in just three days. 

You can use some free editing websites such as www.paperchecker.com to edit it and start asking people if they would like to read it. If they say yes and they enjoy it, you can let them know that you will be writing more short stories in the future, and let them know that if they join your mailing list, they will get your new short stories as well. 

This has worked pretty well for me. Another reason I really like using the short stories is because you can save them all and after you have a good amount (20-50 stories) you can compile them into a  new book. 

Later, I moved on to offering free promo codes for my audiobooks in exchange for email addresses. Another great way to build your email list is by doing newsletter swaps with other authors after your book is released. 

Brittany Lewis
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About the Author

Brittany Nicole Lewis from North Carolina is the best selling author of  Finding Freedom (The Zion Series Book 1), her YA Zion series and her works of poetry. Brittany enjoys helping women and teens who suffer from depression and anxiety and she regularly donates copies of her books to ministries Find her on Facebook and Twitter @BLewis2008.

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