December 10, 2013

Erika Mailman's Woman of Ill Fame--Guest post and {Giveaway}

 WINNER: Terry


Do you think you have what it takes to have been a Gold Rusher?

First of all, you need a lot of greed. You’ve got to want to race out there and fill your pockets with gold.

Secondly, you need a certain amount of arrogance/fearlessness. Think for a moment about whether you’d be willing to undertake a seven-months journey to a land very few people you know personally (or maybe none) have actually visited. On the way:

Overland: You face being attacked and possibly killed by Native Americans protecting their land. You may get lost or delayed and perish, like the Donners. You may fall prey to the diseases that stalked the wagon trains: diptheria, smallpox and the like. You may die of starvation or thirst as your supplies run out and you can’t replenish them. You may die of heatstroke. Or pure exhaustion, since many emigrants, to spare the cattle already pulling a very heavy load, walked rather than rode.

By ship: You face the perils of being vulnerable to the sea: shipwrecks, mutinies, rogue waves. Wooden ships, paired with open flame lighting, introduce the very real danger of a ship fire. Plus there’s scurvy, rats, nausea… Oh, and the Panama Canal hasn’t been built yet, so when you arrive in Panama, you’re going to have to debark and keep watch of your trunk and belongings as you are canoed across the isthmus and then ride a mule to reach open sea on the other side.

And once you get there, you’re not sure what it’s going to be like. Will it be safe? Is everyone so gold-blind that they’ll kill you as soon as look at you? Will there be things to eat? Will you regret coming? (And if you do, can you face doing that same horrible long voyage in reverse?) Will you think of all the folks you left behind in the East and weep?

Based on all of this, I admire the Gold Rushers for their fortitude and brassiness, even while I admit probably a fair number of them were depraved and unprincipled.

And then, when you think of unescorted women making their way to the West Coast… well, the admiration becomes a little stronger, because this was an era when women (at least upper class women) were not supposed to even step outside by themselves without a chaperone. This was the Victorian age, with all its rules for “protecting” females. Certainly, many of the women who came to California during that time did not arrive under their own steam (my novel Woman of Ill Fame mentions the deplorable plight of Chinese prostitutes brought over in cages), but those who did make the journey willingly and under their own power earn my respect.

Photo credit: San Francisco Public Library History Center/Creative

Prostitution in the 1800s was a different undertaking, at least psychologically, than today. Women had so few options for employment, and so many real possibilities for starving to death, that embarking on prostitution was more of a put-food-in-mouth situation than today. Supermarkets did not exist. Many people grew their own food, or bought it directly from those who did. Same with meat: the same guy who owned the animals was the one who butchered them and sold the meat, at least in the very early days of San Francisco. In many cases, reform had not yet hit charity houses, so women shied away from the prison-like institutions that might be able to help them.

In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, allowing faster and safer travel across the country. By 1900, 50 years after the Gold Rush, the Bay Area had significantly grown up. The landscape looked very different, with buildings galore and streetcars connecting the various neighborhoods. And while women were now permitted to gain employment in ways previously unheard of, they were still not making the wages that their male counterparts made (still the case today). In 1913, a prostitute told the Oakland Welfare Commission, “If working girls were paid living wages, there would be fewer prostitutes.”

Do you think you would’ve have had the courage (or foolishness) to set out for California during the Gold Rush? I’d love to hear….

Erika Mailman’s novel Woman of Ill Fame, set in Gold Rush San Francisco, was traditionally published by Heyday Books in 2007, where it is still available in trade paperback, and released in e-book form this year at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The book was a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award nominee. Erika is also the author of The Witch’s Trinity, set in medieval Germany, about a woman accused of witchcraft by her own daughter-in-law. Visit her at

About Woman of Ill Fame
eBook Publication Date: November 11, 2013

Looking for a better life, Nora Simms sails from the East Coast to gold rush San Francisco with a plan for success: to strike it rich by trading on her good looks. But when a string of murders claims several of her fellow “women of ill fame,” Nora grows uneasy with how closely linked all of the victims are to her. Even her rise to the top of her profession and a move to the fashionable part of town don’t shelter her from the danger, and she must distinguish friend from foe in a race to discover the identity of the killer.

Praise for Woman of Ill Fame

“I LOVED Woman of Ill Fame! Nora Simms is hilarious, heartbreaking, tough, perceptive…and one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever met between the pages of a book. Wonderful story, great setting and really good writing made this one of the best books I’ve read in a long time!” -Diana Gabaldon, internationally-bestselling author of the Outlander series

“The whodunit aspect makes Woman of Ill Fame a page-turner, and Mailman manages to keep the reader guessing. Yet it’s the depiction of early San Francisco that propels this thriller above its genre, in the manner of historical fiction such as Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.” -Kemble Scott, San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Mailman serves up vivid description, sparkling prose and a Gold Rush prostitute as scrappy as Scarlett O’Hara.” -Kathleen Grant Gelb, Oakland Tribune

About the Author

Erika Mailman is the author of The Witch’s Trinity, a Bram Stoker finalist and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book, and Woman of Ill Fame, a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award nominee. While writing The Witch’s Trinity, she learned she was the descendant of a woman accused twice of witchcraft in the decades predating Salem.
For more information please visit Erika Mailman’s website and blog.

 Visit the other tours for more guest posts, reviews and giveaways - HFVBT TOUR SCHEDULE

Follow the tour on Twitter - #WomanofIllFameTour

Comment below with your answer to Erika's question...Do you think you would’ve have had the courage (or foolishness) to set out for California during the Gold Rush?...for a chance to win a Kindle eBook of Woman of Ill Fame by Erika Mailman (U.S. only). Be sure to include an email address so we can contact the winner. Good luck!

December 06, 2013

Anna Belfrage's A Newfound Land {Giveaway}

About the book
Publication: November 1, 2013
Matador Publishing
Paperback; 402p
ISBN: 978-1781321355

It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland. Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland.

Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers enter their lives.

Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all.

Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes.

Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest?

A Newfound Land is the fourth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

About the author

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Visit the other tours for more guest posts, reviews and giveaways - HFVBT TOUR SCHEDULE
Follow the tour on Twitter - #NewfoundLandTour

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance at winner's choice of a Kindle eBook or paperback edition of A Newfound Land by Anna internationally!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 27, 2013

Eliza Graham's Blitz Kid: Guest Post and {Giveaway}

The teenage voice in historical fiction

I’ve just published my novel for young adults: in this case, people of roughly 12 to 15. My protagonist, Rachel, 14, lives in London in autumn 1940. Primary and secondary sources galore exist on the effects of the Blitz on London: books, archives, websites, libraries and museums. What’s been more challenging is knowing how Rachel would have viewed her particular time of life. She would not have used the word ‘teenager’ to describe herself, but would almost certainly have regarded herself as different from both younger children and adults, inhabiting a kind of mid-ground.

Writing a 1940s young adult character has been challenge enough, but what of those writers painting characters from earlier times? Suppose your protagonist is a 17-year-old medieval nun? Or a 17th century 15-year-old farm worker? Would they view themselves as young women or men, or still as children, or as somehow inhabiting a separate group?

During the Middle Ages, groups of young men were given the ‘right’ to form their own groups, perhaps based on shared apprenticeships. Apparently drinking and staying out late featured in the social lives of these groups, as it still does, in Britain at least. Young women do not appear to have been afforded the same rights of rowdy association. But the big move towards regarding young people as a distinct group started in the nineteenth century within industrialized nation-states. At this point, societies began to acknowledge adolescence as a particular life stage: a time of vulnerability because of the many changes – physical and emotional – it brought with it.

As populations moved into cities and young people were released from labour in fields, schools became more important, often mandatory. For the first time there were large numbers of young people clustered together in schools and colleges. Commercial popular culture was not slow to appreciate the opportunities presented by these concentrated groups of youngsters, and, as the twentieth century progressed, film in particular became a form of popular culture explicitly targeted at young people.

So what was happening in the world of books while this shift took place?

The novels of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century certainly have their share of teenage protagonists: Jane Austen’s Catherine Morland, Jane Eyre, Jo March in Little Women and Pip in Great Expectations among them. But these characters are not all necessarily intended for a teenage audience.

Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey grasps towards a more adult and knowing way of viewing life. But while sympathetically viewing Catherine and her often cack-handed attempts to grasp reality, the novel points to Catherine’s need to grow up and stop seeing her life as a Gothic novel: to become ‘rational’. Poor Catherine. Fast-forward her two hundred years and she could have starred in her own vampire young adult novel and had lots of fun.

Although many young people read Great Expectations – it’s one of the shorter and ostensibly more straightforward of Dickens’ novels – Dickens is perhaps really writing the novel for those experienced enough in life to see the tragedy and irony in Pip’s young adult life, to know that he is chasing false gods in his pursuit of fashion and Estella’s heart. The older Pip interjects into the younger Pip’s accounts, thus young Pip does not entirely inhabit the first part of the book in his own right. Great Expectations is a bildungsroman, a novel of development from innocence to experience, while YA, by contrast, revels in the young adult stage of life. In the same way Jane Eyre’s years at Lowood School, gripping as they are, form but one part of her life, to be read in the context of her overall development into mature womanhood.

Louisa Alcott, by contrast, intended her book for a young female readership. The girls may be called ‘little women’, but they are portrayed with their own distinct interests and entertainments: the Pickwick Club, for instance. Jo and Meg work, so they are obviously no longer children, but they are not yet expected to take on the full mantel of adult womanhood, even if they do (for better and worse) help out with domestic and charitable chores. Indeed, Meg’s parents worry that she wants to marry Brooke and take on an inevitable maternal role at too young an age.

But there’s a limit to how much we see of the teenage psyche in nineteenth century novels, no matter how masterful the author. Writers then were without some of the vocabulary we take for granted to explain people. No Freud. No psychology. No modern understanding of neurology and hormones. The modern meaning of the latter word wasn’t in use until early C20th, even if doctors had long regarded the womb as a source of trouble: hysteria, for instance.

Nor was there much understanding of how greatly the brain changes between childhood and adulthood. We now know that teenagers literally use different parts of their brains to carry out tasks than do adults, and this process goes on for longer than was once recognized. Moreover, certain areas of teenage brains undergo profound alteration during adolescence. One of these changes in brain wiring is that which ultimately enables an individual to take into account another’s perspective before making decisions or drawing conclusions. Empathy, in short, is an attribute that takes longer to develop in adolescents than we once thought.

This slow-developing empathy sounds like a negative, and may well be in private and social life, but there may be an upside for the author writing a young adult novel. Think of the passion the protagonists of young adult novels display – they sometimes feel and act without fully understanding the consequences on other people. Many of us can remember something we did as a teenager that had, to us, completely unforeseen, negative consequences for others. But in fiction this lack of mature empathy perhaps allows characters a kind of freedom: dangerous and even selfish as it may be.

If you choose to write about a young adult character inhabiting an earlier century, you have to both know about and unknow these neurological and hormonal discoveries. A sixteenth-century teenage girl would not have understood that her brain was undergoing profound ‘wiring’ changes, and that was why things that had once seemed straightforward were now complicated. She would not have understood that hormones were flooding her body, changing her physically and emotionally, even if she could see the external effects of their activity on her body. Of course, she may also have been a few years older than her modern equivalent, as puberty and menarche occurred later on centuries ago.

In trying to explain herself to herself, this girl of hundreds of years ago and her family might instead have used religious beliefs or the theory of the humours affecting health and mental state. She wouldn’t be a hormonal teenager; she’d be a young woman expected to behave like an adult. Nobody would have been targeting her with music, books, clothes and goods aimed at her demographic. She would not have had access to the internet or social media to discuss the things that worried her. What a challenge it is to accurately paint characters whose social mind-set is so unlike ours, and whose normal (to us), hormonally driven sexual impulses are regarded as sinful.

I had to wait until I read Cassandra in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, written in the 1950s but set in the 1930s, to find a real relish for the young adult stage of life in its own right, no matter how difficult and painful it might be. By the end of the book Cassandra hasn’t ‘fixed’ everything: there will still be heartbreak, misunderstanding and difficulty, but she knows more, and knowing means everything to this questing protagonist.

The period starting roughly at twelve and continuing until about eighteen is rich creative territory, full of emotional resonance. Authors are certainly showing eagerness to mine its possibilities, even if, or perhaps because, the challenges of writing young adults from earlier periods are so great.

About the book

London 1940. Rachel is alone and adrift in a stricken city as the Blitz reaches its most deadly stage and thousands die in nightly air raids. Her father is under arrest as a suspected spy, her mother seriously ill in hospital. Can she survive in the murky blackout alongside London’s criminals and unearth the real traitors?

Blitz Kid is on a special 99-cent promotion this week at Amazon,, Kobo, and iBooks.

About the author 
Eliza Graham is a British author living near Oxford. Her adult novels blend historical threads with contemporary issues of grief, loss and the aftermath of war, and include Playing with the Moon, Restitution and Jubilee. The History Room, was published by Macmillan in 2012. In 2007 Playing with the Moon was longlisted for the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club, and shortlisted for the World Book Day Book to Talk About. Her novels have been translated into German and Norwegian.

Eliza’s new book Blitz Kid is the first in a new series of young adult novels for readers of 12-plus.

Find out more about Eliza at her website and blog.

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance at a digital copy of Blitz Kid by Eliza Graham, open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 12, 2013

Rich DiSilvio's A Blazing Gilded Age--Guest Post and {Giveaway}


Please welcome today, Rich DiSilvio, author of A Blazing Gilded Age.

The Blazing Inspiration to Write A Blazing Gilded Age

I was first drawn to this story due to the many books I had read about this era. The Gilded Age was jam-packed with bold iconic figures that seemed larger than life. And while the Civil War era or later Roaring Twenties have been sources for popular novels and silver screen films, the Gilded Age, quite inexplicably, has had no standout novel or movie about it, thus heightening my obsession with this fascinating era.

Having studied history for well over twenty years and penning “The Winds of Time,” a nonfictional tome on Western civilization, I naturally had a great deal of insight under my belt, but not enough about this robust and volatile era. As such, as I delved deeper, it brought to light many impressive and crucial developments of the time, but also the plight of the common laborer. Worse yet, the abominations of child labor. Some of the harrowing events I had read burned in my mind, thus turning a passive obsession into a fervent necessity. As such, my focus switched abruptly, thus devising this poor, fictional immigrant family from Poland, named the Wozniaks. This family of coal miners would serve as the rock-solid foundation, while erecting the huge superstructure that would include a vast assortment of steely iconic figures, like Teddy Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain and others, along with lesser knowns, such as Albert Bierstadt, Robert Lincoln and others.

While devising the Wozniak family, I realized that I wanted to have two main brothers acting as opposites, while the addition of a third and oldest brother would add to the dynamics of family life. Having grown up in a house with brothers, I had some very good firsthand knowledge to draw from. No family is without conflict, yet how they deal with conflict becomes the key to success or failure.

As such, I quickly decided to reject the traditional roles of a Cain and Able or Romulus and Remus, where one brother kills the other or severe conflict ends up destroying their blood bond or love. Real life can often times produce such unfortunate results, but instead, I decided to have the one “good” brother help his “wayward” brother to overcome his rebellious nature. That isn’t always an easy task, yet it is this dynamic of unyielding brotherly love that I found to be an uplifting quality about this particular family, which evidently proved endearing to readers, as I had hoped.

Marcus is the main character, Tasso is his wayward brother, and Stanislaw is the eldest. However, they all Anglicize their names at their father’s request in order to blend into their new American home, thus becoming Marc, Ted and Stan. The story begins with the boys being child laborers and quickly shifts into a fast-paced rollercoaster ride, as the family endures one tragic event after another. The villain (every gripping tale needs a villain!) happens to be their rich and ruthless boss, the infamous coal tycoon Archibald Desmond Huxley.

Here again, I made a concerted effort to paint Huxley as a real man of flesh and blood, not some cardboard villain that is pure evil and receives little to no development. Therefore, Archie is allotted a fair share of the story. He is intelligence and savvy, yet coupled with a crude inner core that is as evil as evil gets.

As the tale unfolds, historic figures and major events are woven into the storyline, such as the Columbian Exposition, Spanish-American War, Pan-American Expo, and two presidential assassinations, not to mention a great deal of sordid political, social and economic antics that had a direct impact on issues that still haunt us today. Therefore, many American readers will be intrigued by these revelations. Moreover, my love for art, architecture and classical music blends beautifully with this time period, so I had plenty of opportunities to include tidbits of culture that will please those interested in the arts or at least pique the interest of others. As such, I believe this saga is a full-blooded American story that has something for everyone.

Praise for “A Blazing Gilded Age”

Exciting Read

I laughed, I cried, I held my breath, with an open mouth. What a great story, keeping me on the edge of my seat. 
-- Mary Yoder, Amazon review

An Exceptionally Written Novel that is Deeply Affecting!

What a magnificent book!!! As soon as I started it, Rich DiSilvio's prose immediately grabbed me. The opening scene in the coal mine is so very touching and disturbing. When one thinks of the Gilded Age, one thinks of the Morgans or the Vanderbilts—yet this brilliantly written historical novel shows the other side—the millions of people—many of them children—who labored in horrific and dangerous situations, many dying, so that the tycoons could live like kings and the Industrial Revolution could transform America. …These figures burst to life thanks to the narrative skills of a terrific writer. A very important book to read. 
-- Rick Friedman, JMC Book Club


This novel is terrific. I didn't want to put it down…I absolutely love how the family's story is intertwined with historical events and people. Very entertaining and factual. I learned so much while I was reading this and it amazes me how much of history has repeated itself in this day and age. Our current leaders really could learn
some lessons by looking back. 
-- Debra S. McGuiness, Amazon and Goodreads review

About the author
Rich DiSilvio’s passion for art, literature, music, history and architecture has yielded contributions in each discipline in his professional career. Noted as a world-class artist and new media developer, DiSilvio’s work has adorned the projects of star celebrities, such as Cher, Pink Floyd, Yes, Moody Blues and many others, as well as cable TV shows and documentaries, including “Killing Hitler,” James Cameron’s “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” “Celebrity Mole” and many others.

For a full biography and more info on his books, please visit his website



Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance at a paperback copy of A Blazing Gilded Age by Rich DiSilvio (U.S. only)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 06, 2013

Guest Post: J. Boyce Gleason's Anvil of God

Please welcome J. Boyce Gleason as part of the virtual tour for his novel, Anvil of God.

I always had a passion for history, but writing? It scares the hell out of me. I’m not sure why. There is something about a blank page that assaults the ego. “You think you have something to say? Why, how self-important of you!” In college, I even tailored my classes based on the length of the papers required. (Twenty-five pages? Flip on to the next course). For the most part, during those four years, I got away with it. And as a history major, that’s saying something.

Even so, every once in a while I’d surprise myself on an assignment. I’d like the way a sentence hung together or how a paragraph seemed to flow. I’d find myself spending twenty minutes over a single sentence wanting the consonants to match up, sure that it wasn’t quite right.

When I graduated, I set off for Washington to work on Capitol Hill as a legislative aid. It took two years – starving as an intern, working on campaigns and freelancing – before I finally landed a job there. Yet when the offer came, I almost didn’t take it. It was working as a press secretary. All they do is write.

The first day, I was told I had to compose an op/ed column for the Congressman by 3:00 p.m. I didn’t even know what an op/ed column was. I called a friend who supplied me with a couple of samples and so armed I sat down to type. (Back then it was at a typewriter). I stared at the page for over an hour as the clock raced toward my deadline. I knew this was a test and that if I wanted to keep the job, I would have to deliver.

From the samples I had, I could see that the first line set up the argument. It had to be catchy and relevant. (Later I would learn this is called the “lead).” If I could come up with a good one, at least I’d have a chance.

Another hour went by. Still, I stared at the page. Then it hit me. With a thrill of possibility, I typed out a line then raced to frame out the arguments for and against the issue at hand (I think it was something exciting like tax-indexing). To be honest, I don’t remember much of the next ninety minutes. What I do remember was coming to the end and thinking, “done.” I went back to reread the copy. To my surprise, all I edited were a few typos, a sentence or two, and then cleaned up the grammar. It was done. I had time to spare. Best of all, I could keep my job.

Twenty years later, when I sat down to write Anvil of God, I suffered from the same doubts I had in college. I could write for the news media, but creative writing? I didn’t think I had the stuff. But there was story running around in my head based on an epic poem about Charlemagne’s greatest knight. I had to try.

I sat down and stared at the blank screen. I couldn’t find a place to start. I decided to write a scene between Charlemagne’s father and the last of the Merovingian Kings…just to create some character interaction. Four hours later, I shut down the computer. I was shaking. The characters had run amok and the scene I had written was so disturbing that I couldn’t look at it for three days. I had written that? (It still scares me).

I understood then what writers talk about when referring to their “muse.” (Okay, mine is a dark muse, but it’s still a muse). When I had recovered from the shock, I knew there was no going back. Although I still consult about the news media, my world has refocused on the writing. I spend a few hours a day bending sentences to my will, waiting for the next gush of words to kick in.

It is still scary. I still worry that I have nothing new to say. And there are days when I have to talk myself into sitting down before the screen. But, thankfully, I do a better job of keeping my characters in check so it isn’t quite so frightening.

About the book
Publication Date: July 26, 2013
Paperback; 440p
ISBN-10: 1475990197

It is 741. After subduing the pagan religions in the east, halting the march of Islam in the west, and conquering the continent for the Merovingian kings, mayor of the palace Charles the Hammer has one final ambition-the throne. Only one thing stands in his way-he is dying.

Charles cobbles together a plan to divide the kingdom among his three sons, betroth his daughter to a Lombard prince to secure his southern border, and keep the Church unified behind them through his friend Bishop Boniface. Despite his best efforts, the only thing to reign after Charles's death is chaos. His daughter has no intention of marrying anyone, let alone a Lombard prince. His two eldest sons question the rights of their younger pagan stepbrother, and the Church demands a steep price for their support. Son battles son, Christianity battles paganism, and Charles's daughter flees his court for an enemy's love.

Based on a true story, Anvil of God is a whirlwind of love, honor, sacrifice, and betrayal that follows a bereaved family's relentless quest for power and destiny. 

About the author
After a 25-year career in crisis management and public affairs, J. Boyce Gleason began writing historical fiction and is publishing his first novel ANVIL OF GOD, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles. With an AB in history from Dartmouth College, Gleason brings a strong understanding of the past to his historical fiction. He is married, has three sons and lives in Virginia.

For more information please visit

 Visit the other tours for more guest posts, reviews and giveaways - HFVBT TOUR SCHEDULE
Follow the tour on Twitter - #AnvilOfGodTour

Stop by for my review and a giveaway of Anvil of God at The True Book Addict on November 25. 

October 30, 2013

Trini Amador's Gracianna--Guest Post and {Giveaway}

Why Gratitude?

Gracianna was my great-grandmother and when I was a child she used to talk a lot about being thankful. “Grateful?” Who talks to a four year old about that concept? Later in life I began linking shreds of stories I had been told with my own my beliefs to a jolting incident of being found walking around her house at four years old with a loaded German Luger. As a brand marketing executive that owns his own business I travel a lot. In the last few years I have put in over 750,000 miles worldwide and took advantage of that flying time by writing.

I live in Sonoma County, California where my family owns the lauded Gracianna Winery in the Russian River Valley but nearly all of my marketing work is outside the US. I wrote Gracianna in over thirteen countries. Gracianna took eight months to write but nearly two years in editing with the talented Hillel Black, who has edited over 20 New York Times bestsellers, and who gave Gracianna its wonderful tempo and grace notes.

After reflecting on the legacy of powerful values and a powerful woman, we arrive here.

Gracianna is the story I pieced together from bits I picked up from my family, some of my own memories, and memories of memories, and well-known family stories and interviews.

The rest is how I imagined my great-grandmother would have acted, based on my observations of her worried mind; controlling tendency; and pensive inward-looking gaze; and also of my perceptions of her joy, sadness, and beliefs.

But this will not be forgotten. Gracianna’s sister miraculously did live through Birkenau, where it is estimated that between 700,000 and 1 million people were gassed, hanged, or shot.

I needed to tell the story about my lifelong belief of how that gun had gotten into my grandmother’s nightstand and into my boy-hand.

I wanted to convey my understanding of her values and what they meant to her, and what they took from her and what she gave us. I believe these values were always on her mind, never far from her always-moist, pursed lips and French-accented thoughts. I wanted to understand her values and convictions and compare them to now-values, and I wondered, “What might this generation believe in so strongly that it would cause them to act so desperately….What is it that is so important that each of us would act upon it, based on our values, beliefs, and attitudes today?”

But gratitude stuck with me throughout the years, from “Grandma Lasaga.” I did not understand what gratitude was until I was in my forties. When I was young, she used the word “thankful” in a powerful way.

She spoke to me as an adult, I think, hoping that this message would stay with me; maybe reasserting itself when I was able to understand. And it did.

So, I wanted to bring Gracianna and her values to life, while revealing their meaning in mine. Now, modern research tells us that living a “grateful” life calms us, allows us a bit more peace and happiness and that those of us considering the things we should be thankful for live longer. Think about it.

All these years later, my family, the Amadors of Sonoma County, started our winery as a way to express the hand-me-down gratitude of Gracianna. And now folks from all over the world share our Sonoma County wine with their friends and family and appreciate that Gracianna wines are for those with something to be grateful for.If you have any questions or want to know more inside stories about the book just contact me—I would enjoy hearing from you.

About the book
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Greenleaf Book Group Press
Hardcover; 296p
ISBN-10: 1608325709

The gripping story of Gracianna–a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won’t soon forget.

Praise for Gracianna

“Gracianna is a riveting and remarkable narrative. The characters come alive through their unassuming but compelling stories, as Nazi-occupied Paris unfolds before our eyes. We come to care deeply about the characters, which makes putting down the book almost impossible. Highly recommended.” – Stacey Katz Bourns, Director of Language Programs, Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

“While wine is obviously a significant part of life’s enjoyment, the story behind the wine can be even more gratifying. You will be fixated on this thrilling story written by Trini Amador which was inspired by Gracianna, his great-grandmother, the French Basque namesake of his family’s award-winning winery in Sonoma County.” – Bob Cabral, Director of Winemaking & General Manager, Williams Selyem Winery

“Gracianna is a gripping story about human courage and determination. This book truly deserves a movie because of the action and emotions in it. Trini Amador has done a fantastic job in bringing the story of his amazing grandmother to life. A must read for fiction and non-fiction lovers alike.” —Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, Florida State University.

About the author
Trini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Learn more at:, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.

Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.

Visit the other tours for more guest posts, reviews and giveaways - HFVBT TOUR SCHEDULE
Follow the tour on Twitter - #GraciannaTour

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a print copy of Gracianna by Trini Amador (U.S. only)!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 23, 2013

Guest Post: David Blixt's Colossus: The Four Emperors

Please welcome David Blixt as part of the virtual tour for his novel, Colossus: The Four Emperors.
Memory v. Imagination

Before the advent of certain small persons into my life, I had the good fortune to be rather well-traveled. I made it a point to visit all the major locales in my stories – London, Paris, Verona, Florence, Rome, Delphi, Masada, Jerusalem, and more. It’s so useful to walk the streets, breathe the air, literally see the light. Towns have flavors, colors, all their own.

Yet I’m convinced that travel is actually second to research and imagination. Why? Because cities change. Because experience, while powerful, can be misleading. Because of the trickiness of memory.

Here’s what I mean: Rome is a city built upon itself. You can see this if you visit the Forum Romanum – you have to descend from the modern street above to reach the excavation. But in my memory, it’s hard to remember that it was not that way in 69 AD. I mean, Rome is the City of the Seven Hills, right? So it’s natural to think of the area as hilly. And it was. But the hills were on the other side.

Yet, as I wrote the climax of The Four Emperors, which all takes place on the Capitoline Hill that overlooks the Forum, I kept envisioning the Forum as I had experienced it – not as it had been 2000 years ago. To rectify that, I started poring over maps, reimagining the Forum from both a bird’s eye view and from the ground up. I had to mentally reconfigure the site as something quite different than what I had seen, construct monuments, invent ornaments. And I had to re-orient myself entirely to what had been there then, not now. The result is pretty accurate and, I’m told, quite vivid.

So being there helped for flavor, but I couldn’t rely on my memory to guide me. I had to create – or rather re-create – the place anew.

This same tale holds very, very true for Jerusalem, which appeared in the first Colossus book and is the central locale for the next one. Being there was fantastic. But to rely on my memory of a place would be to cheat the reader of the experience of traveling through time, seeing it as it was, not as it is.

Another example, from another series: I first visited Verona in 1998, up from Florence where I was visiting my girlfriend. I was about to direct Romeo & Juliet back in the states, and I thought it would be great fun to see the city where it all went down.

Emerging from the seemingly all-glass train station, the streets were slick with rain, the sky grey. Determined to see as much of the city as possible, I decided to walk. It was a steep, slick climb from the train station to the Arena, battling wind all the way.

Later, when it came time to write Pietro Alaghieri’s entrance to the city, I recreated that breathless climb up the hill, the Arena bursting upon him from the horizon. It was a dramatic introduction to the city, and I was quite proud of that bit of writing. Until 2002, that is, when I returned to Verona on my honeymoon. I had warned my wife of the hill. As we walked I kept wondering when the hill started. “Any second now!” Naturally, we reached the Arena having experienced barely any incline at all. Jan has mocked me mercilessly for it ever since.

Thus the danger of memory.

I love travel. Beyond cultural cues and local sensations, it sparks ideas. There are details in cities that are not visible in photos that are irreplaceable, wonderful. I would never have known about death doors or seen Verona’s underground Roman ruins without taking the time to go.

Yet, knowing of excavations in Rome, I imagined them in Verona long before I ever saw them. The best journey for an author is the imaginary one, recreating each city, brick by brick. Imagination can conjure up just as much detail, and is less fallible than memory.

About the book
Publication Date: April 7, 2013
Sordelet Ink
Paperback; 406p
ISBN-10: 061578318X

Rome under Nero is a dangerous place. His cruel artistic whims border on madness, and any man who dares rise too high has his wings clipped, with fatal results.

For one family, Nero means either promotion or destruction. While his uncle Vespasian goes off to put down a rebellion in Judea, Titus Flavius Sabinus struggles to walk the perilous line between success and notoriety as he climbs Rome's ladder. When Nero is impaled on his own artistry, the whole world is thrown into chaos and Sabinus must navigate shifting allegiances and murderous alliances as his family tries to survive the year of the Four Emperors.

The second novel in the Colossus series.

 About the author

Author and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it." Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

For more about David and his novels, visit

Visit the other tours for more guest posts, reviews and giveaways - HFVBT TOUR SCHEDULE
Follow the tour on Twitter - #FourEmperorsTour

Stop by my main blog, The True Book Addict, to read my review and enter the giveaway to win a print copy of the internationally!

October 08, 2013

Rebecca Hazell's The Grip of God--Guest Post and {Giveaway}

Please welcome today, Rebecca Hazell, author of The Grip of God.

The Magic and Mystery of Writing Historical Fiction

What happens when a plot grips a writer and won't let go? This happened to me many years ago, but it took many more to give in and write the novel--in my case three! Meanwhile, among other things, I wrote and illustrated educational materials and award winning nonfiction books for young readers. Little did I realize that I was honing the skills I'd need to write an epic saga set in a vanished time, covering about ten different conflicting cultures. It took seventeen years just to do the research, but what an adventure!

The first mystery is why I waited so long to get going, because writing these novels, The Grip of God, Solomon's Bride, and Consolamentum, was such a magical experience.

I loved my young heroine, for one thing. Despite living seven hundred years ago, she is much like you or me but for the fact that she is swept along in the the Mongol invasion of Europe, flees at last to what she thinks will be safety, falls into the hands of the Assassins, is thrust into the conflicts between Crusader and Muslim, falls in love--and lots more.

Back to magic and mystery, what also happened was that I would put in a made-up detail and then discover it was true. Here are a few examples. As a child, I had imaginary friends, a tiny old man and woman, though the old woman had a bird bill instead of a mouth. I put them into the story as a way of linking my heroine with another character who appears much later. But then, researching my story, I discovered that there actually is a Slavic house spirit from ancient times, an old woman with a bird bill for a mouth!

Another example: I put a blue vial of rose water into the story as a nice detail, then traveled to Paris and found that exact vial in a museum I had never visited before.

Even taking our children to Disney World was magical and mysterious: it was hosting a huge traveling exhibit about traditional Mongol culture, including attire, saddles, weapons, and personal items like chopsticks and hankies, all of which went straight into my story.

Perhaps the biggest element of magic was discovering that I am related to my heroine. Technically this is impossible, since I made her up. Or did I? In researching my family tree, I traced my ancestry all the way back to medieval Kiev, and when I visited it a couple of years ago, it felt like coming home. Several new friends even commented on how I could easily be Ukrainian. So who knows? Maybe she really did exist, and maybe ...

So in writing this trilogy, I learned just how magical and mysterious our world really is as I sought to recreate a lost era and make it real to you, dear reader.

About the book
Duncan, BC Canada: Award Winning Writer Rebecca Hazell Releases First Book in Trilogy of Historical Fiction Novels

Rebecca Hazell has just released The Grip of God, the first novel in an epic historical trilogy. It is available on and its affiliates and by special order through your local bookstore. The saga’s heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. Clear eyed and intelligent, she recounts her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol hordes that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is haunted by a prophecy that catalyzes bitter rivalries in her new master's powerful family. She must learn to survive in a world of total war, always seeking the love she once took for granted.

Sofia's story is based on actual historical events that determine her destiny. Readers will delight in this very personal and engaging tale from a time that set the stage for many of the conflicts of today's world.

Praise for the trilogy 

“How deftly and compellingly Hazell takes the reader with her into that mysterious and exotic world, and makes it all seem so very close to hand!” – Peter Conradi, Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature and author of Iris Murdoch: A Life, and of A Very English Hero.

"I enjoyed watching her morph from a spoiled sheltered princess with slaves of her own, into a tough, savvy survivor, with a new awareness of social injustice. The book is action packed. I couldn't put it down." -- from a review on

"I got completely caught up in the characters and story and always looked forward to getting back to them. What a fully fleshed and fascinating world you developed and it was wondrous to learn so much about that time and the Mongol culture. Your gifts come out in your lush descriptions of place and objects. All very vivid and colorful." --author Dede Crane Gaston

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order. The subsequent two novels in the trilogy are scheduled for publication later this year.

About the author

Rebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca:

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win one of five copies of The Grip of God by Rebecca Hazell!

a Rafflecopter giveaway