July 31, 2014

R.L. Bartram's Dance the Moon Down - Guest Post

Dance The Moon Down - The reason behind the book.

As August approaches we are reminded that this year is the centenary of the First World War. On August 4th 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and set in motion one of the darkest episodes of English history. In the June of that year the author John Galsworthy wrote a critique of the younger generation in which he remarked that “they had been born to dance the moon down to ragtime”, and we all know what happened next.

It was the very irony of Galsworthy’s statement that inspired me to write my debut novel “Dance the Moon Down” From the outset the biggest challenge I faced was to produce something different on one of the most written about subjects in the world. Neither did I have any intention of adding yet another WW1 story to the mountainous pile that already exists. So I left the mud and trenches of Flanders behind and began to search nearer home. It was there that I discovered the women of Britain.

Extensive research revealed to me that this, incredibly, was an area which had been left relatively untouched. Based on this I decided to make my central character a civilian woman. Thus, “Victoria” was born. An upper-middle class girl, privileged, highly educated (something of an anomaly for those days) whose naive perception of the harsh realities unfolding around her are mirrored by the nation.

I had always intended that my novel should cater not only for those readers with some grasp of WW1 but also for those who have none. To that end I created, what I choose to call, a “docu -drama” This is a medium by which the reader can assimilate the necessary facts and understand why the story unfolds as it does, with myself, the author, acting as an omniscient narrator offering a counterpoint of modern hindsight. It has been said “never let a fact get in the way of a good story.” I do, and they don’t.

Essentially “Dance the Moon Down” is Victoria’s story, a tale of one young woman’s courage and faith against almost overwhelming odds. Through her the reader will experience, first hand, a hitherto untold version of the First World War.

If you were to ask me what kind of a novel I think “Dance the Moon Down” is, I would have to say that first and foremost, I hope, it’s a rattling good read, but it’s also something of a chimera. It’s a non-war war story, it’s a romance with virtually only one participant, it’s an adventure without weapons and a story from a woman’s prospective, written by a man, generally classified as “Historical Drama”.

Throughout this year you will doubtless hear the phrase “Lest we forget”. Agreed, we haven’t forgotten the mud, the trenches, the poppies and the men they represent, but that’s only part of the story. To my mind what we , tragically, always overlook is that the men and, most particularly, the women who lived through those times are not mere images from history, but ordinary flesh and blood people who, like ourselves, treasured their lives as much as we do now. And that is what Dance the Moon Down is truly about.



About the book
In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father’s decision to enrol her at university that began to change all that. There she befriends the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future.

After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteers and within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria’s initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery.

Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustains her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.

July 28, 2014

Susan Spann's Blade of the Samurai - Guest Post and {Giveaway}

The Rope and the Sword: Justice in Medieval Japan

Prisons existed in medieval Japan, but mostly as holding areas for commoners accused of crimes. Unlike modern prisons, which house convicted criminals for the duration of their sentences, medieval Japanese prisons were not designed or intended for long-term incarcerations.

The medieval Japanese justice system was actually a pair of parallel systems: one for commoners, and the other for samurai.
By the 16th century—the era when I set my Shinobi Mysteries—Japan had a highly developed system of courts and law enforcement. Magistrates presided over courts in every major city (and many towns had magistrates as well). Magistrates acted like modern judges, resolving disputes and conducting trials when commoners were accused of crimes. Although the magistrates themselves were members of the noble (samurai) class, but their actions and jurisdiction generally focused on commoners.

Beneath the magistrates, a group of “assistant magistrates” (called yoriki) acted as supervisors for the “beat cops” (known as dōshin) who patrolled the cities and arrested those accused of crimes. Like the magistrates, yoriki and dōshin were always members of the samurai class. However, policemen were usually low-ranked samurai, where the magistrates came from “better” families.

Although the police force was composed entirely of nobles, samurai rarely used the police or the justice system to resolve their own disputes. By law, samurai had the right to address legal matters privately—by violence if necessary. Samurai families generally tried to resolve minor issues through negotiation, but where that failed, samurai justice was delivered on the edge of a sword.

Like the justice system, punishments meted out to criminals often depended on the social class or rank of the convicted (or condemned). 

As the highest-ranking social group, samurai had special privileges where punishment was concerned. For serious crimes, a samurai often had the right to commit seppuku– a form of ritual suicide in which a samurai sliced his own belly with a dagger, spilling his intestines (and ensuring himself a slow and painful death). The samurai was usually allowed a “second,” called the kaishakunin, who stood behind the “self-determining”
samurai with a sword, and ended the samurai’s life with a merciful strike to the neck after the fatal stomach cut was completed.
In medieval Japan, ritual suicide by seppuku restored a samurai’s honor, and that of his family, preventing the need for a feud between the wrongdoer’s clan and the clan of his victim. However, only samurai were allowed the option of seppuku—and the “honor” was not extended to every samurai who committed a crime.

Among commoners, the sentence for serious crimes was generally death by hanging. Unlike seppuku, which restored a condemned man’s honor, hanging was a degrading and defiling form of death. It shamed the convict and also his (or her) family. Hangings generally took place in public, and were sometimes followed by decapitation and display of the criminal’s head as a warning to the rest of the population.

In an ironically “modern” twist, the Japanese justice system treated women as equal to men, at least where punishment was concerned. Female criminals went to the gallows alongside their male counterparts.

Medieval Japanese justice plays a major role in my mystery series, which looks at crimes among commoners as well as among the samurai. The newest Shinobi Mystery, Blade of the Samurai, involves the murder of the shogun’s cousin. Magistrates play less of a role in this novel than they did in the first Shinobi Mystery, Claws of the Cat, but in exchange, readers get a glimpse inside the walls of the shogun’s palace.

The next book in the series, Flask of the Drunken Master (Minotaur, July 2015), involves the murder of a brewer. Since brewers were commoners, Flask involves the other side of Japanese justice ... and execution.

For people living in medieval Japan, crime and punishment were inseparable from the larger ideals of honor, respect, and social class. Serious crimes were an unforgivable disrespect for the law and the social order. A major crime created a debt that could only be “repaid” with the criminal’s life—a truth that transcended even the sharp class lines that pervaded every aspect of medieval Japanese culture.

About the book
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Series: Shinobi Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

Add to GR Button

June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the Shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the Shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the Shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the Shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the Shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the Shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the Shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time … or die in his place.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in 16th century Japan.

Book One of the Shinobi Mysteries series, Claws of the Cat, was released in 2013.

Praise for Blast of the Samurai

“The second Hiro Hattori mystery (after 2013’s Claws of the Cat) finds the sixteenth-century ninja—and unofficial investigator—presented with an interesting problem…A strong second entry in a very promising series.”—Booklist

“Hiro and Father Mateo’s second adventure (Claws of the Cat, 2013) combines enlightenment on 16th-century Japanese life with a sharp and well-integrated mystery.”—Kirkus Reveiws

Buy the Book

About the Author
Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #BladeoftheSamuraiBlogTour #HFVBTBlogTour #HistNov #HistFic #HistoricalMystery
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SusanSpann @MinotaurBooks

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a hardcover copy of Blade of the Samurai! (Open to U.S./Canada)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 24, 2014

Caddy Rowland - Making History, Bohemian Style (Part 7)

Please welcome back historical fiction author and artist, Caddy Rowland, our monthly contributor here at Historical Fiction Connection.

Au Lapin Agile

Last month I blogged about one of the two most popular places for artists to hang out during the whole bohemian era. The other was a notorious, raucous cabaret named Au Lapin Agile. Au Lapin Agile had been in existence since around 1850. People often gathered there for sing-alongs. Bawdy, graphic songs about bawdy, graphic subjects sometimes were the songs chosen. Inflammatory political songs were also popular. Other times French chansons (love songs) ruled the night.

The Au Lapin Agile had a variety of clientele. Wagoneers with their knives stuck in the table tops as they drank, local villagers, artists, writers, pimps, down and outers and anarchists all gathered there. The name of the place was Cabaret Das Assassins for awhile because a band of assassins broke in and killed the owner’s son. For most of the nineteenth century, it was a rough place to hang out.

In 1875 an artist named Andre Gill painted a sign that hung outside the building. A rabbit in a chef hat jumping out of a saucepan was the theme; a tribute to one of the dishes served there. Le Lapin a Gill, which meant "Gill's Rabbit”, was soon what most people called the cabaret. The name evolved into Cabaret Au Lapin Agile (The Nimble Rabbit Cabaret). Most simply called it Au Lapin Agile or Lapin Agile. It became even more popular with artists, but still also drew the same questionable crowd in addition to those slumming it for an evening of daring fun.

Andre Gill’s Artwork for the Cabaret

There is conflicting information on who owned this cabaret during most of its history. Some information shows a woman owned it for awhile (during the time the sign was painted). She had been a singer at another venue. Other references say the artist who painted the sign (Andre Gill) owned it for a time. Whoever owned it did little to discourage nefarious sorts from frequenting the place, but they were also very generous to artists.

Paintings could be exchanged for a meal. At the end of the night any artist who had no money to eat would be given soup. Artists were allowed to become as drunk as they wished, fight, and eventually pass out at one of the tables. They were not to be disturbed. Police weren’t called. The artists would find their way out in the morning.

Painters, writers, comedians, sculptors, poets, musicians and singers all hung out at Au Lapin Agile toward the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Ownership had changed and a man named Frédé ran it. A previous cabaret owner, he also used to push a wagon of goods around town. Therefore, he owned a donkey. The donkey was allowed to roam around the various tables in front of the cabaret, as was a flea bitten dog. Frédé would play his guitar or cello most nights. Patrons once again sang along.

Frédé playing his guitar

In the early 1900's Picasso also made Au Lapin Agile a favorite haunt. He did a painting titled Au Lapin Agile in which he was represented as a harlequin. Frédé is shown playing the guitar. It belonged to the cabaret and Frédé sold the painting in 1912 for $20! In 1989 it was auctioned for $40.7 MILLION dollars.

Au Lapin Agile by Pablo Picasso

Forty million would buy quite a few rounds of drinks—and perhaps feed a donkey and dog as well.

*Au Lapin Agile still exists today. They put on evening shows in the old French style.

Historical Fiction by Caddy Rowland: 

Contact and Social Media Info. For Caddy Rowland:

Author Email: caddyauthor@gmail.com
Twitter: @caddyorpims

July 21, 2014

M.J. Neary's Never Be At Peace - Guest Post

A pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom - and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices. In the words of Patrick Pearse, "Ireland unfree shall never be at peace". For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

"You cannot march into a battle with one hand tied behind your back!" With those words the legendary Maud Gonne (1866 – 1953), W.B. Yeats' muse, advocated for women's participation in the nationalistic movement in Ireland. Given that Maud had spent her childhood at a boarding school in France, it is not surprising that her traditional Anglo-Irish father had little influence over her. Contrary to popular assumptions, you do not learn obedience and conformity in boarding schools. You learn independence and elusiveness. It is no wonder that Maud defied the expectations of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy class into which she was born by embracing social activism, feminism and nationalism, the three concepts she believed went hand in hand. In 1900 women were excluded from political organizations and even cultural societies. When she approached the National Land League, she was told that ladies were not admitted. Interestingly enough, even though women were taught that ultimate fulfillment could only be achieved through marriage and motherhood, fifty percent of women in Ireland remained unmarried, fending for themselves in a rather inhospitable job market that favored men. Unhindered by the restrictions of the day, Maud went on to create her own organization called Daughters of Erin. It was the first step towards the integration of women into Ireland's nationalistic movement.

It was Maud Gonne's habit of having intimate relationships only with those men who shared her political ideals. In her 20s she had carried on with Lucien Millevoye, a married French politician. To him Maud had born two children, a boy who had died in infancy and a girl Iseult who had gone to become a noted beauty. Splitting her time between France and Ireland, Maud engaged in a turbulent emotional romance with W.B. Yeats and starred in his play Cathleen Ní Houlihan. She had rejected Yeats' marriage proposals at least three times, because he was not sufficiently patriotic. She went on to marry Major John MacBride, an Irish nationalist a few years her junior. Their marriage ended up falling apart due to allegations of domestic violence. MacBride was later executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Yeats, who hated MacBride for obvious reasons, briefly mentioned him in his poem "Easter, 1916" as "a drunken, vain-glorious lout."

I did not make Maud Gonne the focal figure in my latest novel Never Be at Peace (Fireship Press, 2014). She is already an iconic figure and does not need any more exposure. Rather, I chose to focus on the underrated heroine Maud had informally adopted and groomed to be her . This earnest and ferocious Irishwoman was Helena Molony (1884-1967). A quintessential lower-middle class Dublin girl with frizzy auburn hair, freckles and a button nose, Helena was earnest and idealistic. Orphaned at a young age, she had no blood relatives except for her older brother Frank, who already was involved in nationalistic politics. On Frank's urging, she attended a Daughters of Erin meeting hosted at Maud's house. When Helena arrived, the house was being raided by the police. When questioned by the constable whether or not she was a member, the girl boldly stated that indeed she was. Moved by the young girl's audacity, Maud took her under her wing and made her the secretary of the new organization. That day Helena's fate was sealed. There was no turning back. Peaceful, boring life was not an option. Helena continued to cultivate her acting talent and went to become an actress at the Abbey Theatre co-founded by Yeats and Lady Gregory.

One of Helena's responsibilities was editing the organization's literary journal, to which many literary voices of the era contributed. Through her activism she met many fellow-nationalists who came from various walks of life. Contrary to popular assumptions, not all Irish nationalists were Irish, Catholic and economically disadvantaged. One of Helena's comrades, her future lover-turn-adversary, was Bulmer Hobson, a charismatic Ulsterman of from a liberal Quaker family of predominantly English blood. The members of Bulmer's immediate circle did not understand his interest in Irish nationalism, given that he did not have strong genetic links to that culture. Nevertheless, he was one of Ulster's most prominent nationalists who greatly contributed to the revival of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the north. One of the sources of friction between Helena and Bulmer was that she championed the labor cause, he did not fully understand her concern for the poor. Unlike Helena, Bulmer had the support of a solid, prosperous family. His father was a successful businessman. His mother was a feminist writer and freelance archeologist. And his older sister was Ireland's first female architect. Although not grossly privileged, Bulmer did not have firsthand experience with addiction, destitution and abuse. In his social strata, unemployment did not necessarily mean starvation. Bulmer spent long periods of time "searching for himself". Holding down a job was not a priority for him. A few times he got fired for putting his nationalistic activities first. Apparently, his parents did not pressure him too aggressively into gainful employment. Authenticity and staying true to one's self rank pretty highly on the list of priorities for Quakers. Bulmer could go for years without a steady income, and his parents would always give him money for food and clothes. Even though he and Helena shared a vision for a liberated Ireland, Bulmer could not help rolling his eyes whenever Helena mentioned the interests of the working class. In my novel I took this opportunity to elaborate on the socioeconomic disparity between the two lovers.

James Connolly's Death
by  Alissa Mendenhall

The final ideological rift between Helena and Bulmer happened over the idea of an armed rising. Helena fully supported a rebellion, especially in light of England's involvement in World War I, especially since Germany promised to help the Irish. It did not matter to her that the chances of a military success were non-existent. Like Patrick Pearse, she believed in the symbolic power of bloodshed and martyrdom. Bulmer, on another hand, felt that a premature rising would be a waste of human life. A romantic in every other respect, he showed strange pragmatism. He went as far as trying to stop the ill-fated rising. This act of defiance had nearly cost him his life. He was kidnapped and held at gunpoint until the rising was well underway, while his former love Helena was on the roof of the City Hall with her comrades-at-arms.

When it came time to choose which military organization to join, Helena Molony chose the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) over Cumann na mBan (translated as Women's League), because in the ICA women were allowed to join on the same level as men, where as Cuman naBhan was a medical adjacent unit to the Irish Volunteers. She objected to the idea that women were only good for bandaging the wounds of their male comrades'. Irish girls were also damn good at making gunshot holes in their enemies. Helena's combat experience was short-lived. On Easter Tuesday, she was captured along with the surviving contingent of the Irish Citizen Army. The girls were separated from their male comrades and locked up in a filthy store where they waited out the rest of the uprising.

Even though Maud Gonne did not participate in the hostilities of 1916, she monitored the events closely and even hired an attorney to defend her former protegee - an act of compassion that Helena proudly declined. For her it was an honor to be imprisoned for what she believed in. Interestingly, Maud admitted to hating violence and regarded an armed rebellion a necessary evil. "I have always hated war and am by nature and philosophy a pacifist, but it is the English who are forcing war on us, and the first principle of war is to kill the enemy." It's questionable whether or not Helena shared the same distaste for violence. It could be that she actually derived some pleasure out of physical hostilities. In 1911 during the royal visit protests, Helena was arrested for throwing rocks at the king's portrait. While serving her time in jail, she actually worried that Maud might find her behavior childish and embarrassing. Imagine Helena's delight when she received a telegram from Maud stating "Well done!" For Helena, being congratulated on an act of juvenile hooliganism was the highest form of validation. In spite of all the hardship she had witnessed, she still retained that pugnacious tomboy side. In my novel, I wanted to explore the psychological complexity of a rebel's psyche. The fine line between heroism and hooliganism is very fine. A martyr is just one step away from becoming a traitor. That's what makes it interesting for a writer to explore the events of that era. It's not just black and white - or in Ireland's case, green and orange.

About the author
Marina Julia Neary is an award-winning historical essayist, multilingual arts & entertainment journalist, novelist, dramatist and poet.Her areas of expertise include British steampunk, French Romanticism and Irish nationalism.

Her latest novel, Never Be At Peace, is garnering rave reviews from prominent authors, historians and critics. Her novel Wynfield’s Kingdom(Fireship Press, 2009) was featured in the March 2010 edition of First Edition Magazine in the UK, followed by the sequel Wynfield’s War in 2010. She is also the author of two historical plays, Hugo in London (licensing available through Heuer Press), and the sequel Lady with a Lamp: The Untold Story of Florence Nightingale (illustrated edition available through Fireship Press).

Her poems have been organized in a collection Bipolar Express (Flutter Press, 2010).Her sci-fi novelette, My Salieiri Complex is available as an e-book through Gypsy Shadow Press. Neary currently serves as an editorial reviewer and steady contributor for Bewildering Stories magazine.

July 16, 2014

Deborah Hill's The Heir - Guest Post

Here’s the question: how does the writer wrap the plot around history?

I take it as given that history can't change. Nor am I fond of narrative, which I use very sparingly. My characters, by their actions, have to tell us what is happening. A segment of The House of Kingsley Merrick, the second novel of the Kingsland Series, demonstrates the possibilities and the problems.

The scene is Cape Cod, the era is the beginning of the Civil War. One problem is that nothing happened on Cape Cod that relates to the war, except, of course, for young men volunteering. I struggled on through it 35 years ago, when I first wrote and published these books. This victory, that victory – frankly rather boring, but I didn’t know what else to do, and eventually the war ended, thank goodness.

But now! With the internet at my fingertips, I made a wonderful discovery: THE STONE FLEET.

The Fleet consisted of defunct whaling ships in New Bedford, MA, bought for a song by the government, fitted out with removable plugs and loaded with stones from the fields of local farmers. At a certain date the fleet was to sail for Charleston, the plugs pulled, and the ships sunk in the harbor, blocking it. Well, if not exactly on Cape Cod, New Bedford is close enough.

Was there a possibility that Kingsley could watch the fleet leave? If he could get himself to the top right of the map, sail south-west down past Falmouth, the ships would be sailing right past him.

As it turns out, he boards a schooner hired by old captains, helping the father of his beloved to climb on, along with the beloved herself. (Not an easy feat to arrange, but I persevered.) History was not violated, the action involved the Cape, and my characters were there, witnessing the event while starting to move forward and into their love affair.

In fact, the dithering and delay of the Union army and navy caused the fleet, which was sunk on schedule, to break up in the tides and currents of Charleston Harbor, providing no barrier at all. But this was not my concern! My characters are living in the moment, when everyone believes the fleet’s mission to be viable.

More troubling was the fact that the date of departure from New Bedford was top secret. But I decided that the captains knew someone important (after all, they’d spent their lives at sea and must have been acquainted with naval personnel of one sort or another.) Deep water mariners stick together; surely someone would be willing to humor them.

Someone does. Problem resolved. The story moves on and into the love affair, which we all have been waiting for. And that is, at least, one instance of how the plot can be made to wrap itself around history.

About the book
In the third book of a series chronicling 200 years of an American family’s triumphs and troubles, a young man returns to his roots to reclaim his heritage.
“I married into this family. Its ancestors did interesting things, and since they aren’t my own, I was able turn their story into historical fiction with a lot more freedom anyone related to them could have done.”-Deborah Hill, The Kingsland Series.

Thirty-five years ago, while living in Cape Cod, author Deborah Hill became captivated by the memoirs of her husband’s mariner ancestor and began to research the family’s history. In a pre-Internet world, Hill found herself pouring through old library books and ancient church records, and began to piece together the saga of the fictional Merrick family. The result was The Kingsland Series, a historically accurate, adventure-filled, spicy trilogy, which will conclude with the release of The Heir in March.

The Heir follows Steven Sinclaire, who grows up with the malicious husband whom his mother, Emily Merrick, tricked into marrying her. Steven endures the humiliations this man inflicts on him by escaping into his memories of Kingsland, the Merrick family’s estate on Cape Cod Bay. Refusing to study at Harvard University, as is expected of him, Steven flees to Kingsland where he learns to value the skills and hard work of the countrymen he meets. When he saves enough, he attends the college of his own choice, and then enters the world of corporate America. Years later, after having inherited the Kingsland Estate, he again returns, hoping to find an alternative to his generation’s frantic post-war climb – and a way to restore his own honor and that of his family.

This is the House, the first book in the Kingsland Series, was originally published in 1976 and sold over 700,000 copies. Set on Cape Cod in the years following the American Revolution, it is the story of Molly Deems, a woman who marries Captain Elijah Merrick in order to escape her mother’s shame. The captain is the ancestor of the author’s hus-band, and the story is based on his own memoir, which Hill has also edited and published as Recollections of a Cape Cod Mariner. The second title in the series, The House of Kingsley Merrick, picking up twenty years after the previous novel ended, follows the title character from Cape Cod to Australia and back to Cape Cod, where he seeks retribution for persecutions he endured as a youth. Both books were re-issued two years ago, coinciding with the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

About the author
Deborah Hill graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Creative Writing and was an elementary school counselor for many years. She currently lives in Brockton, Massachusetts. The Heir by Deborah Hill (published by North Road Publishing, RRP $17.95, e-book RRP $10.99) is available online at retailers including Amazon.com and all good bookstores. For more information, please visit www.DeborahHillBooks.com.

July 11, 2014

Devil in the Marshalsea - Spotlight and {Giveaway}

About the book
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Add to GR Button

Thrilling new historical fiction starring a scoundrel with a heart of gold and set in the darkest debtors’ prison in Georgian London, where people fall dead as quickly as they fall in love and no one is as they seem.

It’s 1727. Tom Hawkins is damned if he’s going to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a country parson. Not for him a quiet life of prayer and propriety. His preference is for wine, women, and cards. But there’s a sense of honor there too, and Tom won’t pull family strings to get himself out of debt—not even when faced with the appalling horrors of London’s notorious debtors’ prison: The Marshalsea Gaol.

Within moments of his arrival in the Marshalsea, Hawkins learns there’s a murderer on the loose, a ghost is haunting the gaol, and that he’ll have to scrounge up the money to pay for his food, bed, and drink. He’s quick to accept an offer of free room and board from the mysterious Samuel Fleet—only to find out just hours later that it was Fleet’s last roommate who turned up dead. Tom’s choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder—or be the next to die.

Praise for The Devil in the Marshalsea
“Hodgson…conjures up scenes of Dickensian squalor and marries them to a crackerjack plot, in her impressive first novel…Hodgson makes the stench, as well as the despair, almost palpable, besides expertly dropping fair clues. Fans of Iain Pears and Charles Palliser will hope for a sequel.” –Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

“The plot develops almost as many intricate turns as there are passages in the Marshalsea…Hodgson’s plotting is clever…the local color hair-raising.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Satisfyingly twisty debut thriller…so well detailed that one can almost smell the corruption, and the irrepressibly roguish Tom makes a winning hero.” —Booklist

“Historical fiction just doesn’t get any better than this. A riveting, fast-paced story…Magnificent!” —Jeffery Deaver, author of the bestselling The Kill Room and Edge

“Antonia Hodgson’s London of 1727 offers that rare achievement in historical fiction: a time and place suspensefully different from our own, yet real. The Devil in the Marshalsea reminds us at every turn that we ourselves may not have evolved far from its world of debtors and creditors, crime and generosity, appetite and pathos. A damn’d good read.” —Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Swan Thieves

“A wonderfully convincing picture of the seamier side of 18th-century life. The narrative whips along. Antonia Hodgson has a real feel for how people thought and spoke at the time—and, God knows, that’s a rare talent.” —Andrew Taylor, author of An Unpardonable Crime and The Four Last Things

Buy the Book

About the author
Antonia Hodgson is the editor in chief of Little, Brown UK. She lives in London and can see the last fragments of the old city wall from her living room. The Devil in the Marshalsea is her first novel.

For more information please visit Antonia Hodgson’s website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Twitter.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #DevilintheMarshalSeaTour

Read my review of this terrific book here.

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win one (1) of two (2) copies of The Devil in the Marshalsea! (Open to U.S. only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 10, 2014

Barbara Kyle's The Queen's Exiles - Guest Post and {Giveaway}


Readers love series. It's a benign addiction. We get to know the continuing characters so well we can't wait to find out what happens to them in the next book.

What happens can sometimes surprise the author. The surprise for me was Fenella Doorn.

Fenella is the heroine of my new historical thriller, The Queen's Exiles. She's a savvy Scottish-born entrepreneur who salvages ships. This is the sixth book in my Thornleigh Saga which follows a middle-class English family's rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns.

Fenella played a small but crucial role in The Queen's Gamble, and then I kind of forgot about her. She didn't appear in the next book, Blood Between Queens, but when I was planning the story after that Fenella sneaked up me.

She's a determined, passionate, courageous woman, and rather cheeky—she insisted that I include her in the new story. She reminded me that she had past connections with two exciting men in the series, Adam Thornleigh and Carlos Valverde, which promised some dramatic sparks.

So, I did more than include her in the new book. I made her its star.

That can happen when you write a series—a secondary character can take over. I was glad Fenella did. She offered me an opportunity to create a complex, admirable woman who doesn't fit the ingénue heroine so common in historical fiction.

She's not a young thing; she's thirty. She's not a pampered lady; she rolls up her sleeves running her business of refitting ships. She's attractive but not a smooth-faced beauty; her cheek is scarred from a brute's attack with a bottle years ago. And she's not a virgin; she was once the mistress of the commander of the Edinburgh garrison (he of the bottle attack).

In other words, Fenella is my kind of woman.

But making her the star of the new book in my series meant some serious recalibrating. How could I fit her into the Thornleigh family? Writing a series opens up a vista of opportunities but also a minefield of traps. I'll share a few with you here.

Creating a Series Bible

Before writing full time I enjoyed a twenty-year acting career, and one of the TV series I did was a daytime drama called High Hopes. Its writers kept a story "bible," a record of the myriad details that had to be consistent from show to show concerning the dozens of characters. It's a wise practice for the writer of a series of novels, too.
My Thornleigh Saga books follow a family for three generations so it's easy to forget facts about a character that were covered three or four books ago. So I keep a "bible" that tracks the characters' ages, occupations, marriages, love affairs, children, ages of their children, homes, character traits, and physical details like color of hair . . . and missing body parts! Richard Thornleigh loses an eye in The Queen's Lady (Book 1) yet in later books I would often start to write things like, "His eyes were drawn to ..." So I keep that "bible" near.

Each Book Must Stand On Its Own

An author can't assume that readers have read the previous books in the series. My agent always reminds me of this when I send him the outline for a new book in the Thornleigh Saga. "Many readers won't know what these characters have already been through," he wisely says.

So each book has to give some background about what's happened to the main characters in the preceding books, enough to fill in new readers. However, it can't lay on so much back story that it bores readers who have followed all the books. Getting the balance right is tricky.

I like the way episodes in a TV series start with a recap: "Previously on Downton Abbey . . . " It refreshes the memory of viewers who've seen the previous episodes, and is just enough to tantalize those who haven't and fill them in. I wish I could have an announcer give a recap at the beginning of my Thornleigh books! The point is, each book in a series has to stand on its own. It must be a complete and satisfying story for any reader.

Consistency Can Yield Rewards

When I had a brute cut Fenella Doorn's cheek in The Queen's Gamble I never expected Fenella to reappear in a future story. Two books later, when I brought her back in The Queen's Exiles, I could not ignore the fact that she would have a sizable scar on her cheek. So I used that scar to enrich her character.

She had been a beauty at eighteen, relying on men to support her, but when her cut face marred her attractiveness she realized that it was now up to her to put bread on the table and clothes on her back. I made her aware, even grateful, that the scar freed her from the bonds of beauty; it made her independent. And she became a successful entrepreneur.

Letting Characters Age

It's hard for readers to believe that a hero can fight off bad guys like a young stud if the decades-long timeline of the books he appears in make him, in fact, a senior citizen. J. K Rowling was smart. She let Harry Potter and his friends grow up.

I've enjoyed letting my characters age. Through six books I've taken Honor Larke from precocious seven-year-old to wise grande dame as Lady Thornleigh. Her step-son Adam Thornleigh's first big role was in The Queen's Captive where he was an impetuous seafaring adventurer, but by the time of The Queen's Exiles Adam has become a mature man, a loyal champion of his friend Queen Elizabeth. He has been through a loveless marriage, adores his two children, and falls hard for Fenella Doorn.

I'm grateful that Fenella insisted I feature her in The Queen's Exiles. (By the way, that's her on the cover.) The book has been out for just a month and already I'm hearing from readers that they love her.

I don't know if Fenella will reappear in a future book or not, but right now she's a star.

About the book
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Kensington Publishing
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

Add to GR Button

Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the Crown, and restore a peace that few can remember. With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history’s grimmest chapters. The Queen’s Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age when love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.


Praise for The Queen’s Exiles
“Riveting Tudor drama in the bestselling vein of Philippa Gregory” – USA Today

“A bold and original take on the Tudors that dares to be different. Enjoy the adventure!” – Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author

“This moving adventure pulses with Shakespearean passions: love and heartbreak, risk and valour, and loyalties challenged in a savage time. Fenella Doorn, savvy and brave, is an unforgettable heroine.” – Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival

“Brilliant. A page-turner of love and loyalty in treacherous Tudor times. A truly unforgettable adventure.” – Deborah Swift, author of A Divided Inheritance

“A vivid and compelling novel by an author at the very top of her craft.” – Diane Haeger, author of I, Jane

Praise for Barbara Kyle’s Books

“Kyle knows what historical fiction readers crave.” – RT Book Reviews on Blood Between Queens

“A complex and fast-paced plot mixing history with vibrant characters” – Publishers Weekly on The King’s Daughter

“An all-action thriller, bringing to life the passion and perils of the Tudor period.” – Lancashire Evening Post on The King’s Daughter

“Riveting…adventurous…superb!” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Gamble

“An exciting tale of the intrigue and political manoeuvring in the Tudor court.” – Booklist on The Queen’s Captive

“Boldly strides into Philippa Gregory territory…sweeping, gritty and realistic.” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Lady

About the Author
Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed, internationally-published Thornleigh Saga novels which follow a middle-class English family’s rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns:

The Queen’s Exiles
Blood Between Queens
The Queen’s Gamble
The Queen’s Captive
The King’s Daughter
The Queen’s Lady

Barbara was a speaker in 2013 at the world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers’ organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

For more information visit www.barbarakyle.com. You can also connect with Barbara at Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag:  #QueensExilesTour

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Queen's Exiles! (Open to US/Canada only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 03, 2014

Elizabeth Chadwick's The Summer Queen

About the Book
Young Eleanor has a bright future as the heiress to wealthy Aquitaine. But when her beloved father dies, childhood is suddenly over. Forced to marry Prince Louis of France, she barely adjusts before another death catapults them to King and Queen. Leaving everything behind, young Eleanor must face the complex and vivacious French court – and all of its scandals.

Buy the Book

About the Author
Elizabeth Chadwick (UK) is the author of 20 historical novels, including The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion, A Place Beyond Courage, The Outlaw Knight, Shadows and Strongholds, The Winter Mantle, and The Falcons of Montabard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards.

July 01, 2014

Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco's Tempesta's Dream - Guest Post


My novel, Tempesta’s Dream – A Story of Love, Friendship and Opera, is the inspirational story of a young man who grows up in Milan and aspires to become an opera tenor.

The story is a tribute to the majesty and miracle of opera. For those new to opera, the novel perhaps opens a door that heretofore has not been opened for them. And for those readers who love opera, I would imagine the novel is like visiting with an old friend.

Opera has been around since the 1700s when it was born in Florence. Soon it flourished all over the globe.

In this guest post, I will endeavor to discuss and highlight a few key ways in which opera has changed over the years and the effect those changes have had on the singers, the audience, and on opera itself. There is no particular order given, just some random thoughts on how it has changed.

To start, let’s see how the life of a singer has changed. To do so, let’s look at the career of Enrico Caruso, perhaps the greatest tenor who ever lived.

Caruso, who lived near Florence, would sail to New York in the fall and he would be stationed at the Metropolitan for the entire Met season. He would sing at some other cities while here, but most of his stay was in New York. At the end of the season, he would sail back to Italy where he would rest for the summer, with perhaps a few stops to sing along the way. He was the face of the Metropolitan Opera. That is how it was for singers. For example, Beniamino Gigli, Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano were the faces of La Scala.

A singer today is not tied to one house during an entire season. And that is because of the ease of travel by air. Now a singer jets all across the world, singing with almost no downtime. Does this affect the voice? You bet. So, while air travel has allowed singers opportunities to be heard at many locales, it has also resulted in opera houses not having a singer around all season.

Some further thoughts on air travel. It has brought a singer’s career in direct contact with jet lag, the bane of all singers. As George Shirley, a wonderful tenor at the Met in the 60s and 70s, told me, jet lag is always in the mind of a singer and trying to find ways to cope and perform with it. Is never ending; not to mention the atmospheric changes and pressure changes that affect a singer’s voice while travelling by plane. After all, a stuffy nose for an opera singer can be terrifying.

Another way opera has changed is the impact of social media. A young singer takes the stage at a small theater of 1500 patrons and, in the early part of the career, uses these early opportunities to learn and perfect the art. Are mistakes made? Of course, but they are learning. And if a singer gives a bad performance, only 1500 people saw it. Not today. With YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, that bad performance can be broadcasted all across the globe. This makes it very tough for a singer in his/her galley years, as they are at the infancy of their careers. Of course, the reverse is true as well. Social media also
opens the door for world wide fame and recognition very quickly for a singer.

One big change for opera has been the introduction of supertitles. These are translated words of the opera projected usually above the stage. (At the Met they are on the seat in front of you.) This has made opera very much understandable to many operagoers. Now, an audience member can read along during the opera and understand every word of an opera being sung in a language they may no nothing about. That is a good thing. Yet, supertitles have many critics. Some say it takes the audience members attention away from the stage as they look to read. Singers say it makes it difficult as they will sing a funny phrase, but the laugh only comes after the words are read by the audience. It’s a debate that will always happen. I did see an article last week that in Japan a company is introducing glasses you can wear to the opera and the words scroll across the glasses, so you don’t need to look away from the stage. A very interesting concept and I am curious to see how they are received.

Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on some changes in opera over the years. Opera may change over the years, articles will be written on the demise of opera, but as long as there is love, passion, sadness, and a desire for melody in the world, there will always be a place for opera.

Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco
Author of Tempesta’s Dream – A Story of Love, Friendship and Opera

About the book
Publication Date: September 26, 2013
Cefalutana Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Add to GR Button

Tempesta’s Dream is the story of an aspiring opera singer coming of age in Milan; a tender and moving love story; a testament to the bonds of friendship; and, at its core, a tribute to the beauty, majesty and miracle of opera.

Giovanni Tempesta always dreamed of becoming an opera tenor and one day singing from the stage of the La Scala Opera House in his hometown of Milan, Italy. But with no real training, his dream has little chance for fulfillment . . . One day, he meets and immediately falls in love with Isabella Monterone, a dark-haired beauty, whose father, a very rich and powerful Milanese Judge, refuses to allow his daughter to date a penniless musician . . . At the lowest part of his life, Giovanni comes upon the Casa di Riposo, a rest home for musicians established by the great opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi . . . It is at the Casa Verdi that Giovanni meets Alfredo del Monte, a blind, retired opera singer with a secretive past who gradually becomes his mentor . . . Could Alfredo be the one person who could assist Giovanni in finding the break he needs? Or is Giovanni destined to be on the cusp of reaching his life long dream, only to find failure? . . . Tempesta’s Dream, at its core, is an Italian opera love story. The author tells the story simply and swiftly with an ending that is both an emotional and poignant moment of both “amicizia e amore” (friendship and love.)

Praise for Tempesta’s Dream
“The novel has enormous heart and a few times my eyes filled with tears. I was vividly involved with this young tenor, his dreams, and the wonderful old man who taught him. It is not an easy thing to convey the passion for song. However, the way the author did it, I could physically feel the young tenor singing and hear his voice.” -Stephanie Cowell, Author of Marrying Mozart

“The story holds charm and appeal. There is beauty in the depiction of the relationship between Giovanni and Isabella, as well as in the bond between Alfredo and the young tenor. Giovanni, Isabella and Alfredo will remain in ‘memoria mia’ for years to come.” -George Shirley, Tenor, University of Michigan Emeritus Professor of Music (Voice)

“Within a very moving story of romance and friendship, the author has created a realistic portrait of a young singer’s pursuit of an operatic career. This lovely tale allows one to acquire an understanding of and an affection for opera.” -Audrey Schuh Redmann, Soprano

“This novel is a thorough pleasure.” -Christina Vella, Author of Intimate Enemies, The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba

“The story surprised me and involved me. The development of the book was very intriguing and moving.” -Cecilia Gobbi, founder of the Associazione Musicale Tito Gobbi, an organization devoted to preserving and celebrating the record of her famous baritone father’s contribution to opera

“What a story! Quite possibly, the best novel about opera I have ever read. The passion of opera pulsates throughout the entire novel. Highly recommended.” -John Gehl, Opera historian and the only American collaborator on The Oxford Concise Encyclopedia of Opera

“The author’s contagious love of opera and his faith in human decency sing through this loveable page-turner of a story.” -Susan Nicassio, Author of Tosca’s Rome

“An intelligent and entertaining lyrical journey . . . A rare, beautiful story with passion and opera pulsating through each page. LoCoco has woven a unique novel with exceptionally developed characters, realistic dialogue and a well-balanced narrative.” -Penn Book Review

“A Powerful novel . . . Tempesta’s Dream is all about the music, it’s all about the passion; and it’s all about pursuing one’s dream . . .a moving, engrossing story.” – D. Donovan, Ebook Reviewer, MidWest Book Review

Watch the Book Trailer

Buy the Book
Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon US (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
Book Depository

About the Author
Chip LoCoco was born and raised in New Orleans. He is an attorney, with an emphasis on estate planning. A lifelong lover of music, Chip’s passion for opera dates back many years now. He has seen operas all over the world at some of the greatest opera houses. Chip has been asked to give talks on opera as well as the Sicilian-American culture of New Orleans.

Chip’s second novel, Bellafortuna, has been named a Short List Finalist in the William Faulkner Writing Competition. A date for publication has not been set yet for his second novel.

Chip is married to his wife of 15 years, Wendy. They have two children, Matthew and Ellie and a beagle, named Scout. They reside in their beloved city of New Orleans, where if you try to find them on a Sunday in the Fall, they will be somewhere rooting on their Saints.

For more information please visit Chip LoCoco’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #TempestasDreamBlogTour