June 26, 2012

Pitfalls of Quick Writing by Amy Croall

Please welcome author Amy Croall:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing. Even at ten years old, I’d concoct stories with my father about ducks and frogs playing in the swamp and making life-long friends. Since then, writing has come a long way. I am almost always bogged down with “rules” and such relating to what can and can’t be done, what should be included in a book and what shouldn’t.

But there’s only one piece of advice that I’ve taken with me through everything I’ve done—you must write what you know.

As writers, we’re expected to be experts on the subjects we write. Therefore, writing what you know is an amazing piece of advice and the only rule to which I submit myself.

My debut novel, A Cure for the Condition, released on June 1, 2012. It is available on Kindle, in print, and coming soon to Nook. I began writing the book in December of 2010, and was finished with it mere months later. It made me proud. It was my baby. But beta readers ripped it apart, and naturally, because I knew nothing about history.

A Cure for The Condition
A Cure For the Condition
So, what did I do? I went back to my roots, consulted my father who has a Bachelor’s in History, and buckled down to do some hard-core research. After a year of revisions and beta readings, the book was solid, informational, and historical. Now, it’s accurate with the subtlest touch of fiction and romance, taking place over a span of two decades in the Late Victorian Era.

When seventeen-year-old Catherine assumes the throne as Queen of Cannary following her mother’s murder, she is forced to punish the man she loves, but when she develops a serious heart disease, the only cure for her condition may be the truth.

This being said, writing what you know is important—it’s necessary. If I were a historian, this book would have been flawless the first time around. But because I’m not my father, I had to do a year’s worth of research to get it there. I can happily say that it is, now, sparkling. And all thanks to the people who mean the most in my life. Thank you, all!

Buy A Cure for The Condition

Amy Croall lives with her husband and cat in the mountains of Northern California. To her husband, she dedicates all her success, because, without him, Malcolm and Catherine would never have been born. Please visit her website or blog for more information on her debut novel, A Cure for the Condition.


June 22, 2012

The Concubine Saga by Lloyd Lofthouse

 E-book released June 2011
Paperback released March 2012

Please welcome author Lloyd Lofthouse to HF-Connection! I asked him what is the driving force behind his work, and what was the message he wanted to convey?

In 1999 and 2000, as I was reading "Entering China's Service, Robert Hart's Journals, 1854 - 1863", published by the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, my curiosity was aroused by two aspects of Sir Robert Hart's life (1835 - 1911).

First, Robert's early years in China, in his own words, made it clear that he was a conflicted individual—torn between the morality of his religious Victorian upbringing and the lusty temptations that life offers a young man through his often red-hot adolescent libido.

In China, that temptation turned out to be women he found extremely attractive and the fact that "Chinese women were for sale in unlimited supply," at a reasonable price.

Robert grew up in Northern Ireland near Belfast the oldest of twelve children. His father was a merchant and a Wesleyan pastor, a religion that saw women as equal to men at a time when women were mostly the property/chattel of men the world over.

How devout was Hart's father?

At the dinner table each day, as the food sat steaming in front of the hungry children, the father would ask each child what they had done for God that day. No one ate until all of the children answered.

In addition, Robert was the oldest and was expected to set an example for his younger siblings.

In fact, as a young man first attending the Queen's College in Belfast, Robert expressed a desire to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Wesley Pastor.

However, that changed while he was living in the dorms at the Queen's College. At age of 15, he found Belfast women and drink a temptation he could not resist, and he had a number of affairs with loose young women. The conclusion of that episode in his life was a dose of syphilis diagnosed by the family doctor and what was probably an embarrassing family scandal, which caused Robert to change his goals. As soon as he graduated from college, he applied to become an interpreter for the British Consulate in China, as far from Ireland as he could flee. In those days, China might as well have been on another planet.

For his first year in China, Robert, although tempted by the easy access to reasonably priced women, managed to resist, but on the voyage from Hong Kong to Shanghai in 1854, he made friends with Captain Dan Patridge, who was the principal agent in China of the wealthiest British opium merchant in the world. The good captain offered Robert an invitation difficult to resist—stay the summer with Partridge and his flock of concubines in a cooler, more comfortable location in China.

In the early 20th century, Robert burned the journals that covered that summer with Patridge and the next two and a half years, which also covered his early years with Ayaou, his concubine.

This almost secret affair with Ayaou was the second aspect of his life in China that aroused my curiosity. Before Robert died, he attempted to erase any evidence of his romance with Ayaou and directed his family and friends, after his death, to burn the surviving journals and all of the personal letters he had written to them—a request that was ignored.

Since I was raised as a Catholic, attended a private Catholic grade school and my mother was extremely spiritual and religious, I identified with Robert's guilty struggle with his adolescent libido and the temptation that comes with it. Then, on page 154, the Harvard scholars that compiled and edited Robert's surviving journals wrote, "We may surmise that Hart's years of liaison with Ayaou gave him his fill of romance, including both its satisfaction and its limitations."

I was curious about the love story that Sir Robert Hart wanted to hide from the Victorian world he grew up in.

Not only did I want to breathe life into the intimate details of this passionate, lusty romance, but I wanted to know who Ayaou was and to do that I had to learn about Chinese culture and its history until 19th century China also became a character in my novel, "The Concubine Saga".


You can buy a signed Limited Edition of The Concubine Saga on the author's website.  (View the book on Amazon)

Leave an approved comment on one or more Blog posts found at Lloyd Lofthouse.org or iLook China.net
between May 30, 2012 and June 30, 2012 during "The Concubine Saga" Web Tour and automatically be entered into a drawing to win a limited edition, signed and numbered hard-cover copy of the novel.
(NOTE: only one limited-edition, hard-cover copy is available to give away)

No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart's status and level of power in China. Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Hart became the "godfather of China's modernism," inspector general of China's Customs Service, and the builder of China's railroads, postal and telegraph systems and schools. However, his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine. Sterling Seagrave, in Dragon Lady, calls her Hart's sleep-in dictionary and says she was wise beyond her years. Soon after arriving in China in 1854, Hart falls in love with Ayaou, but his feelings for her sister go against the teachings of his Christian upbringing and almost break him emotionally. To survive he must learn how to live and think like the Chinese. He also finds himself thrust into the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest rebellion in human history, where he makes enemies of men such as the American soldier of fortune known as the Devil Soldier. During his early years in China, Robert experiences a range of emotion from bliss to despair. Like Damascus steel, he learns to be both hard and flexible, which forges his character into the great man he becomes. Full of humanity, passion, and moral honesty, The Concubine Saga is the deeply intimate story of Hart's loyalty and love for his adopted land and the woman who captured his heart. Historical fiction potboiler, yes. But where The Concubine Saga truly shines is its thought-provoking passages on relationships, attitudes and cultural differences. The heated dialogue between Hart and Ayaou will especially touch a nerve for any westerner who has ever lived and loved in China…" Thomas Carter, photojournalist and author of "China: Portrait of a People"

Many thanks to Teddy Rose of Premier Virtual Author Book Tours who organized the tour for us.

June 18, 2012

The Queen's Vow Read-Along Schedule

By C.W. Gortner
The Read Along at HF-Connection for July has been announced, and we welcome anyone with thoughts on the book to read along and comment on the posts when they get a chance.

The Schedule:
Kick off Reading day is July 7th, 2012
July 10: Page 128 (end of part I) First discussion post
July 14: Page 215 (end of part II) Second discussion post
July 17: Page 299 (end of part III) Third discussion post
July 21: Page 382 (end of part IV) Fourth discussion post 
Wrap up post will follow shortly after, which is where readers can link up their reviews if they would like, and the giveaway winner will be announced. 

The schedule follows the "parts" divided within the novel, and the discussion posts will post in the mornings of Tuesday and Saturday and you can discuss anything you would like from the novel up to those parts in the schedule, whenever you get to those parts.

There will be spoiler warnings in the post for those that have not reached the reading point in the schedule.

Feel free to invite your friends, and you may use the following image to link to if you would like to announce the read-along on your blog or just link to it in your sidebar.

Arleigh of Historical-Fiction.com is also generously sponsoring a giveaway of a special item from one of her very favorite online retailers, tartx:


This pocket mirror features our main protagonist Isabella of Castile, and it will be awarded to one of our most active participants in the USA. Visit tartx to see all of the fabulous items for sale there.

 We will also invite you to ask questions of the author of The Queen's Vow, C.W. Gortner, as he will stop by and address your comments during the read along!

Hope to see you there!

June 14, 2012

Announcing the next Read-Along

The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile

 Grab a copy of C.W. Gortner's The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile, which is available now..
We will start our read along officially on July 7th, so this should give you plenty of time to purchase the book online and have it shipped to you, or go find it at your local bookstore if you are so lucky to have one!

If not, Here are some links to buy the novel:

Barnes and Noble

Plot description for The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile:

No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.
Be sure to follow HF-Connection on Twitter and Facebook so you can get reminders of the event and follow along. (There is also an email subscription available through the sidebar link).
We will have the discussions in a Chapter format where you can comment right here on the blog, so you can stop in at any time as you read along. This one is half the size of our last read along, so we won't need as many weeks.. and from prior experience Gortner's reads are page turners...
Are you joining in? We'd love to have you!

(Here's the post to the schedule)

June 08, 2012

Her Majesty's Will by David Blixt

 From David Blixt, the author of Her Majesty's Will, a novel of Will Shakespeare and the Babington Plot:

HER MAJESTY’S WILL is many things.

It’s a spy novel.
It’s a Tudor novel.
It’s a Shakespeare novel.
It’s my (unintentional) answer to the film Anonymous.
It’s inspired by Tom Jones (both the novel and the film).
It’s an ode to the late Robert Asprin’s Myth Adventures series.
And it’s an homage to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. (I’ve always loved the Road Movies, the original buddy comedies.)

So when I first conceived this rather ridiculous story, it leapt from my brain like Athena from the brow of Zeus, fully formed.: Will Shakespeare. Kit Marlowe. The Babington Plot. Absurd!

And yet – Marlowe was a spy for Walsingham. Shakespeare did have these ‘lost years’ between Stratford and his first recorded London appearance. And the cast of London characters is far too good to resist.

I love spy novels, with secrets and reveals. But too often the right piece of information comes along at just the right moment. What if it didn’t? What if we think we have all the pieces, only to discover we’re just really bad at being a spy.

I love Tudor novels, with their copious details and period flavor. But too many of them seem to view the world from the court down, not the gutter up. Actors were the ones who bridged that divide, residing in the gutter but playing for monarchs. Warfare, church, and theatre – the three modes of social mobility. What if we never even get more than a glimpse of Elizabeth and her court?

And I love Shakespeare, love him too much to leave him in peace. Because while I love him, I do not revere him. His characters are great, but his plots are pretty dumb. He stole everything he ever wrote, and just happened to improve it along the way, thereby helping to create the modern idea of humanity.

So for HER MAJESTY’S WILL, I employed a ridiculous stolen plots with copious details amid lots of secrets and reveals. Most of all, it’s a buddy comedy. Will and Kit on the Road to London.

I hope it’s as fun to read as it was to write. Because I was smiling the whole time.

Her Majesty's Will by David Blixt
Available on Amazon
 Before he was famous, he was a fugitive.
Before he wrote of life, he lived it.
Before he was a bard, he was a spy.
A very poor spy.
England, 1586. Swept up in the skirts of a mysterious stranger, Will Shakespeare becomes entangled in a deadly and hilarious misadventure as he accidentally uncovers the Babington Plot, an attempt to murder Queen Elizabeth herself. Aided by the mercurial wit of Kit Marlowe, Will enters London for the first time, chased by rebels, spies, his own government, his past, and a bear.
Through it all he demonstrates his loyalty and genius, proving himself to be – HER MAJESTY'S WILL.

I LOVE this book! I'm laughing and on the edge of my seat and turning the e-pages so fast, I'm gonna fry my iPad. -- C.W. Gortner, author of THE QUEEN'S VOW and THE TUDOR SECRET

Author sites - http://www.davidblixt.com/ http://www.themasterofverona.com/
Read David Blixt's other posts on HF-Connection

June 04, 2012

Colossus: Stone and Steel by David Blixt

Colossus by David Blixt is an epic novel of the Roman-Jewish War.

From the author:
Unlike my other books, COLOSSUS wasn’t born from a line in Shakespeare, but in a very specific place. A place that never actually appears in the novel, that won’t be seen until book five of this series. It’s a rather small church in Rome, just south of the Colosseum – the Basilica of San Clemente.

I was overseas on the modern equivalent of the Grand Tour, a semester-long trip hosted by Eastern Michigan University called the European Cultural History Tour. It started in Oxford, and went to a staggering list of cities over four months. For brevity’s sake, I’ll only list countries or islands – England, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Turkey, Egypt, and Israel. It was amazing, a whirlwind tour with professors in tow, lecturing on art in the Louvre, on politics on the Acropolis, on history in the Roman Forum.

One of the places our Art History professor Benita Goldman took us was St. Clement’s. We’d just been to the Colosseum that morning, and I remember waiting outside on a bench and wondering what was so important about this sleepy church. Going in, the mosaics are pretty incredible. And being the home of the Irish Dominicans in exile is historically neat. But that isn’t what makes Saint Clement’s amazing.

It’s the excavation.

They’ve dug down, and created a tour through the history of Rome itself. As a city that’s always building up upon it self, it’s often hard to see ancient Rome in anything but the famous edifices and the shapes of the streets. But here is Rome encapsulated. You start in an 17th century church, then descend into an early 12th century church, then to a 4th century church, a 3rd century Mithraeum (temple to the god Mithras), then finally to a 1st century Roman street and insula (apartment). You can hear the Tiber running just under your feet through the ancient sewer system.
It was such an experience to travel through time that way, when I was looking for new matter to write upon, I thought about a novel tracing history through those layers.
I never got past that 1st century street. Because I started looking into Saint Clement himself, and what was going on when he was living there – the fall of Jerusalem, the building of the Colosseum, the rise of Christianity in Rome. That was how the Colossus series was born. It starts small, almost intimately, with two Judean brothers at the siege of Jotapata. But in the next several books, the scope widens out, keeping those brothers as our base and our eyes as we explore how drastically the world changed in just that little span of time.

COLOSSUS: STONE & STEEL. The start to a grand adventure.

Colossus: Stone and Steel by David Blixt

Judea, 66 AD. A Roman legion suffers a smashing and catastrophic defeat at the hands of an angry band of Hebrews armed with only slings and spears. Knowing Emperor Nero's revenge will be swift and merciless, they must decide how to defend their land against the Roman invasion.

Caught up in the tumult is the mason Judah, inadvertent hero of Beth Horon, who now finds himself rubbing shoulders with priests, revolutionaries, generals, and nobles, drafted to help defend the land of Galilee. Denied the chance to marry where he will, he turns all his energy into defending the besieged city of Jotapata. But with a general suffering delusions of grandeur, friends falling each day, and the Roman menace at the walls, Judah must brave a nightmare to save those he loves and preserve his honor.

Read now for $2.99
Author sites - http://www.davidblixt.com/ http://www.themasterofverona.com/
Read David Blixt's other posts on HF-Connection

June 01, 2012

Voice Of The Falconer by David Blixt

From the author, Voice Of The Falconer by David Blixt:
I get a lot of compliments for my battle scenes. Which is lovely, as they’re some of the most fun and challenging for me to write.

I come from the theatre, and among the hats I wear in my professional life is Fight Director. I’m trained in different styles of swordplay, and I’ve traveled all over the world to learn from the best in the field. So when it comes time to write an skirmish, a duel, or a battle, I find myself standing in my office, sword in hand, working the movements one after another. I pick up a spear. Then an axe. I actually own a halberd, a gift from a cast of a Richard III I once directed, and that came into play up on my roof. I always find myself choreographing the fights as I would for a stage show, but on a much larger canvas.

The art of stage combat is looking incredibly violent while being incredibly safe. I try to bring some of that to my novels, varying the type of fighting, the kind of weapons, the intent of the combatants. Sometimes the fighting is light-hearted, sometimes desperate and sudden. But there’s a secret to making a good fight on stage, and I’ve found it works perfectly well in my writing as well.

But first, the technical elements. The page allows me to do two things. First, I can broaden the scope of the fighting, doing a great deal on horseback, which I have only had one abortive attempt at in theatre (seriously, don’t ask). Second, I can slow the action down. Part of the trouble in stage violence is that if it goes by too quickly the audience isn’t sure what happened. If it happens too slow, they don’t believe it. A very tricky balance to maintain. Pacing is as important in a novel as it is onstage, but the written word does afford me a little more latitude.

In fact, one big influence in how I “stage” my written fight scenes is, of all people, Tom Clancy. The pacing in his early novels is fantastic. I love the way he intercuts scenes, building tension and rhythm for Jack Ryan’s adventures, cutting away at the most dramatic moments. Having stolen this technique, I’m told it makes my novels cinematic, which I choose to take as a compliment.

Something else I’ve noticed I do is wound my characters far more than I ever intend at the outset. In the Star-Cross’d series, Pietro was never meant to be crippled by a blow to the leg so early. It just happened, and I have to admit it’s made all his subsequent fighting much more interesting. I’ve always been a fan of the James Bond and Sharpe books where the hero has to spend a month in the hospital after saving the day. Violence has to have stakes. We can’t just create a red shirt to kill him off. People we care about have to die, or at least be hurt, to make us feel the importance. There have to be consequences.

The hardest part for me is balancing what I need to know to write a fight with what the reader needs to read it – which is often much less. I write out the whole of the physical fight scene, then begin paring away excess detail, revealing the core.
Which brings us to the secret of a good fight scene. One thing I’ve learned in theatre is that a good fight is not about cool moves. It’s not about blood, or violence. It’s about story. The fight itself has to tell a story. A fight is like any conflict – it’s a tale of desire and denial.
Desire: I want your life.
Denial: You can’t have it.
It’s almost romantic, and combatants have just as much intimacy as lovers. One funny story is that a rather famous theatre with rather famous actors had to hire a Fight Director friend of mine, not for a fight scene, but for a love scene. The actors just couldn’t stage the lovemaking right – kept stepping on toes and banging teeth. So they hired a Fight Director to stage the lovemaking.

Likewise, I’ve found that writing a love scene is very much like writing a duel – everyone has a motive, everyone has a goal. The writer cannot be too graphic without losing the audience, but too vague and it becomes a wash.

Sex and violence - two sides of the same coin. Both are all about desire.

Voice Of The Falconer by David Blixt, sequel to Master of Verona
Read now via Amazon

Italy, 1325. It's eight years after the tumultuous events of THE MASTER OF VERONA. Pietro Alaghieri has been living as an exile in Ravenna, enduring the loss of his famous father while secretly raising the bastard heir to Verona's prince, Cangrande della Scala.

But when word reaches him of Cangrande’s death, Pietro must race back to Verona to prevent young Cesco's rivals from usurping his rightful place. As stake is the tentative peace of Italy, not to mention their lives. But young Cesco is determined not to be anyone’s pawn. Willful and brilliant, he defies even the stars. And far behind the scenes is a mastermind pulling the strings, a master falconer who stands to lose – or gain – the most.

Born from Shakespeare's Italian plays, this sweeping epic introduces Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, the Nurse, as well as revisiting Montague and Capulet, Petruchio and Kate, and the money-lending Shylock. From Ravenna to Verona, Mantua, and Venice, this novel explores the danger, deceit, and deviltry of early Renaissance Italy, and the terrible choices one must make just to stay alive.

- Shakespearean actor David Blixt traces the genesis of the famous feud between the Montagues and Capulets in this sharp, arresting novel that is completely impossible to put down. - Michelle Moran, NEFERTITI and MADAME TUSSAUD

- Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it. - Historical Novel Society

Read David Blixt's other posts on HF-Connection
Author sites - http://www.davidblixt.com/  http://www.themasterofverona.com/