Blog Tour – Daughter of the Sun

Daughter of the Sun
Cult of the Cat Book 1
by Zoe Kalo
Genre: YA Contemporary Mythological Fantasy
EGYPTOLOGY. MAGIC. MYSTERY. AND CATS, LOTS OF CATS…
Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.
But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.
Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny.
Storyteller at heart…
A certified bookworm and ailurophile, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has remained. Today, Zoe passes her stories to you with lots of mystery, adventure, a hint of romance, and the delicious sweep of magic.
Currently, she balances writing with spending time with her family, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.
Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web.
An ancient Egyptian themed gift related to the book (I need to decide which, as I have several possibilities)
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

 

Blog Tour – Jack the Ripper Victims Series – Guest Post – Alan M. Clark

Themes in the JTR Victims Series

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 (Although this list is rather dry reading, imagine they are not just themes in a set of novels, but aspects of a reality that had an impact on the lives of real people)

Women’s issues and how they evolved in Victorian England

1)Women as the property of their husbands, having to obey, with little or no recourse against physical, psychological, or sexual abuse.

2)The slow evolution of these issues in Victorian England.

3)The worth of a woman in society having much to do with the worth of the man to whom she is wed.

4)The relative worth to society and employers of single middle-aged women with no family ties.

Poverty and social conscience

1)The relief system—the workhouses, out-relief, casual wards, and infirmaries.

2)Opinions based on social Darwinism that helped maintain a class system. The oppression and suppression of those of a lower station in a class system.

3)The various approaches of the innumerable beggars in the streets.

4)The use of child labor.

5)Scavengers of Victorian London, such as bone grubbers, toshers, pure finders, and mudlarks.

6)The struggle for survival in a time of societal change, great advances in technology, and a rapidly changing economy.

The industrial revolution and unemployment

1)The advantage employers had over workers with high-unemployment during the industrial revolution: low wages, abusive practices.

2)Child labor.

3) Piece work for manufacturers, such as finishing articles of clothing, making small items, adhering labels, or whatever small factory work a laborer might take home to be done in spare time or by children in the evenings. The term “piece work” comes from the fact that the worker is paid by the completed piece.

4)The dangers of the workplace in a society with few industrial and employment safety regulations: exposure to poisonous chemicals, powered equipment, and the stresses of highly repetitive labor over long work shifts with little variety.

Alcoholism/Addiction

1)The availability of drink (considered by many in that time another form of food).

2)Alcohol used to treat water to make it potable. Such water is given to children even at a very early age.

3)The use of alcohol to dampen feeling and the escape intoxication provides.

4)The bargaining alcoholics do with themselves as the disease creates ever more physical and social difficulties for the sufferer.

5)The availability of opium in various forms for children and adults.

Education

The evolution of education for the children of the poor—the slow introduction of mandatory education.

Prostitution

Who engaged in prostitution and why the practice could seem attractive—see all categories above.

Alan M. Clark’s Jack the Ripper Victims Series is comprised of five novels, one for each of the canonical victims of the murderer. These stories are not only meant to appeal to those interested in the horror that was the Autumn of Terror, but also those interested in the struggles of women in the 19th century. They are well-researched, fictional dramatic stories meant to help readers walk in the shoes of the victims and give a sense of the world as each of the women may have experienced it. The timelines for the stories run mostly concurrently, so it doesn’t matter in what order the books in the series are read. They are simultaneously drama, mystery, thriller, historical fiction, and horror. They are novels concerning horror that happened.

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A Brutal Chill in August

The First Victim of Jack the Ripper

by Alan M. Clark

Genre: Crime Horror

Print Length: 348 pages

Publisher: IFD Publishing

Publication Date: December 7, 2019

We all know about Jack the Ripper, the serial murderer who terrorized Whitechapel and confounded police in 1888, but how much do we really know about his victims?

Pursued by one demon into the clutches of another, the ordinary life of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols is made extraordinary by horrible, inhuman circumstance. Jack the Ripper’s first victim comes to life in this sensitive and intimate fictionalized portrait, from humble beginnings, to building a family with an abusive husband, her escape into poverty and the workhouse, alcoholism, and finally abandoned on the streets of London where the Whitechapel Murderer found her.

With A Brutal Chill in August, Alan M. Clark gives readers an uncompromising and terrifying look at the nearly forgotten human story behind one of the most sensational crimes in history. This is horror that happened.

Amazon * Apple * Apple Audiobook * B&N * Kobo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31683532-a-brutal-chill-in-august

 

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Apologies to the Cat’s Meat Man

The Second Victim of Jack the Ripper

Print Length: 158 pages

Publisher: IFD Publishing

Publication Date: June 9, 2017

This novel is part of the Jack the Ripper Victims Series. Each novel in the series is a stand-alone story.

Annie Chapman led a hard, lower-class life in filthy 19th century London. Late in life, circumstances and her choices led her to earn her crust by solicitation. After a bruising brawl with another woman over money and a man, she lost her lodgings and found herself sleeping rough. That dangerous turn of events delivered her into the hands of London’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

Contrasting her last week alive with the experiences of her earlier life, the author helps readers understand how she might have made the decisions that put her in the wrong place at the wrong time

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34862405-apologies-to-the-cat-s-meat-man

 

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Say Anything But Your Prayers

The Third Victim of Jack the Ripper

Print Length: 224 pages

Publisher: IFD Publishing

Publication Date: June 11, 2017

This novel is part of the Jack the Ripper Victims Series. Each novel in the series is a stand-alone story.

An imaginative reconstruction of the life of Elizabeth Stride, the third victim of Jack the Ripper. The beast of poverty and disease had stalked Elizabeth all her life, waiting for the right moment to take her down. To survive, she listened to the two extremes within herself–Bess, the innocent child of hope, and Liza, the cynical, hardbitten opportunist. While Bess paints rosy pictures of what lies ahead and Liza warns of dangers everywhere, the beast, in the guise of a man offering something better, circles ever closer.

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22913933-say-anything-but-your-prayers

 

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Of Thimble and Threat

The Fourth Victim of Jack the Ripper

Print Length: 168 pages

Publisher: IFD Publishing

Publication Date: September 28, 2017

In Victorian London, the greatest city of the richest country in the world, the industrial revolution has created a world of decadence and prosperity, but also one of unimaginable squalor and suffering. Filth, decay, danger, sorrow, and death are ever-present in the streets. Catherine Eddowes is found murdered gruesomely in the city’s East End. When the police make their report, the only indicators of her life are the possessions carried on her person, likely everything she owned in the world. In Of Thimble and Threat, Alan M. Clark tells the heartbreaking story of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth victim of Jack the Ripper, explaining the origin and acquisition of the items found with her at the time of her death, chronicling her life from childhood to adulthood, motherhood, her descent into alcoholism, and finally her death. Of Thimble and Threat is a story of the intense love between a mother and a child, a story of poverty and loss, fierce independence, and unconquerable will. It is the devastating portrayal of a self-perpetuated descent into Hell, a lucid view into the darkest parts of the human heart.

 

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36440709-of-thimble-and-threat

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The Prostitute’s Price

The Fifth Victim of Jack the Ripper

 

Print Length: 342 pages

Publisher: IFD Publishing

Publication Date: August 30, 2018

 

A novel that beats back our assumptions about the time of Jack the Ripper. Not the grim story of an unfortunate drunken prostitute killed before her time, but one of a young woman alive with all the emotional complexity of women today. Running from a man wanting her to pay for her crimes against his brother, Mary Jane Kelly must recover a valuable hidden necklace and sell it to gain the funds to leave London and start over elsewhere. Driven by powerful, if at times conflicting emotion, she runs the dystopian labyrinth of the East End, and tries to sneak past the deadly menace that bars her exit.

Although THE PROSTITUTE’S PRICE is a standalone tale, and part of the Jack the Ripper Victims Series, it is also a companion story to the novel, THE ASSASSIN’S COIN, by John Linwood Grant. The gain a broader experience of each novel, read both.

Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41796486-the-prostitute-s-price

About the Author

Author and illustrator, Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including twelve novels, a couple of novellas, four collections of fiction, some of them lavishly illustrated, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr Clark’s company, IFD Publishing, has released 42 titles of various editions, including traditional books, both paperback and hardcover, audiobooks, and ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan M. Clark and his wife, Melody, live in Oregon. www.alanmclark.com Visit his blog: https://ifdpublishing.com/blog

Website * Blog * Facebook * Facebook * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

Giveaway

 

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

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Warrior Woman of the Samurai – Blog Tour #Historical Fiction

Firefly
Warrior Woman of the Samurai Book 1
by India Millar
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
There are some who believe that the honor of a samurai is reserved for men.
But they are wrong.
Keiko was born the daughter of a samurai. But as a mere younger sister, her future was to run errands for her lovely elder sister and obey her father. Until the day it fell to her to defend the honor of her sister and her family…
Mantis
Warrior Woman of the Samurai Book 2
Keiko’s men are dead, slaughtered by peasants in a desperate attempt to obtain food for their starving families. She is the last of her line; without her, the noble and ancient house of Hakuseki will die.
In order to try and save her family name, this noble samurai warrior woman is forced to humble herself at the feet of the local daimyo. When he ridicules her and takes the family estate for himself, the samurai code of bushido says there is only one thing left for Keiko.
Vengeance.
Keiko plots to take revenge for the actions of her greedy noble lord and revenge against the men who wanted to buy her and keep her as their slave.
Just like the praying mantis, Keiko lures her enemies into a sense of safety before taking her revenge…
Chameleon
Warrior Woman of the Samurai Book 3
Keiko’s revenge on her enemies is almost complete. Like her namesake, the chameleon, she has changed herself to attract and entrap the men she seeks. Now, just one man remains unpunished. But before she can complete her vengeance, karma destroys her plans cruelly. Niko—her adopted younger sister—has been kidnapped. Keiko is sure she knows who is behind the abduction, but she cannot act alone to get Niko back. She is forced to turn to the most unlikely ally to help her—Akira, the most feared yakuza in Edo.
Karma forces Keiko to change her colors to get what she wants. She has become as adaptable as the chameleon. But first and last, she is still a warrior woman of the samurai.
I started my career in the heavy industry of British Gas and ended it in the rarefied atmosphere of the British Library. Now, I share a blissful early retirement on the wonderful Costa Blanca, living in a male-dominated household with my long-suffering husband, a cat and a dog.
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

 

Guest Post and Book Spotlight – Historical Fiction – Never The Twain – Jane Fenwick

Brothels and Prostitutes by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby

Brothels and prostitution feature in the opening of my new book Never the Twain. Men have used prostitutes since time began. There is even one mentioned in that very famous book The Bible!

Prostitution has always been a way for women to support themselves when all other means of earning a living have been exhausted. Very few women would have chosen this path had another option been open to them. In Never the Twain identical twins April and May find themselves in the unenviable predicament of being sold into prostitution.

Never the Twain is set in 1890 a time when it is easy to forget that women had very few rights. Women were considered chattel and on marriage were passed from their father’s care to that of their husband. Women like April and May, the protagonists in Never the Twain, had no male protectors and so had to make their own way in the world. April and May, through no fault of their own, are sold into prostitution so their actress mother can be rid of them. The acting profession in Victorian times was regarded as only a step away from prostitution and so it is easy to see why the twins’ mother would place them in the care of a Madam.

Educated women were still rare and middle class educated women rarer still. Had they been impoverished vicars’ daughters they would have found it relatively easy to get positions as governesses or companions. However, without a letter of reference they would have struggled to gain respectable employment. The twins could have taken work in domestic service or shop work but April and May would have found such work low paid and demeaning. Without means or protection their options would have been limited and falling into the poverty trap was a risk to avoid at all costs; once you lost the roof over your head there was no social security to fall back on. Once their “mother” died April and May were very much on their own.

Each twin had a different solution to their dilemma but ultimately the solution they agreed upon led to dire consequences. April knew that although they were educated it would be difficult to find respectable positions though she was willing to try. However, she allowed her twin to convince her to enter the brothel as a way of buying time – they were assured they would be untouched until their eighteenth birthday. It was a decision they would both come to regret.

***

Every port and harbour had their fair share of prostitutes. In seafaring towns prostitution was especially rife. Men who had been at sea for months had needs and a range of options were available for them to choose from when they were back ashore depending on their tastes and budget. From tuppeny streetwalkers to those who worked the inns, taverns and bawdy houses. And then there were the higher class brothels such as the one in Never the Twain, Mrs Jansen’s establishment where the higher ranks of the seafaring community, as well as the local gentry, were catered for.

In Victorian times gentlemen of rank often married for reasons other than love. The aristocracy, and increasingly the newly emerging merchant classes, often married to improve their finances and position in society. They married to join two influential families together or to gain the dowry of an heiress. Couples often married to unite two prominent families where one provided a title and the other party supplied the money. These misalliances often resulted in some gentlemen seeking their pleasures elsewhere especially once their wives had produced an “heir and a spare”.

For some, using “high class” brothels as opposed to regular bawdy houses offered ‘respectability’ as the brothels were often well-appointed almost like a gentlemen’s club. The girls were also thought to be cleaner and accomplished in the art of seduction. However, I found from my research, that some gentlemen liked “a bit of rough” too on occasions and would purposely seek out women of the lower orders as something different, a thrill!

The Victorian period saw the rise of a new class; the middle or mercantile class. “New Money” was made from newly emerging industries and manufacturing. The industrial revolution made enterprising men rich. My male protagonists Edward and Alistair Driscoll would have been part of this growth of the Nouveau Riche. Their fortunes had been made in the past from the slave trade and from importing tobacco from the New World – in this instance from Virginia. Now they were dealing in imports and exports and were adding to their fortunes.

Mrs Jansen boasted that her whores were “free from disease” and “practised in the arts of seduction”, something most men of position would appreciate. Men like Captain Edward Driscoll – being from new money – would have been the mainstay of Velda Jansen’s provincial brothel. In a port such as Whitby where a whore could be bought cheaply by any passing sailor, Mrs Jansen’s brothel would have been the epitome of class – if you weren’t from London that is. Anything which could attract her more wealthy clients would have been a boon for the avaricious Madam. So when beautiful, identical twin virgins were offered to her she saw the guinea signs flash before her eyes. She knew a marketable commodity when she saw it and here were two beauties ready for the plucking.

***

Sometimes prostitutes are portrayed as being happy with their lot or “the tart with a heart” but the reality was seldom so straightforward or agreeable. The girls were effectively slaves and the Madams ruthless. You can probably guess what would happen to one of Mrs Jansen’s “clean girls” if she became infected by a punter or when she lost her looks. Her only choice would be to walk the streets for business. As a result her life span would be considerably shortened. A girl would put up with a lot to keep herself from plying her trade in the dangerous ginnels and inns of Whitby so whatever the punter wanted the punter invariably got. The Madams would turn a blind eye to most things, even if this meant the girls were brutalised. So long as the gentleman did not spoil a girl’s face – the Madams would not be pleased if one of their precious girls were to be disfigured. Very occasionally a girl would get “lucky” and a punter would pay for her sole use or set her up in her own establishment as his mistress. Rarer still was the gentleman who married a whore.

In Never the Twain I wanted to show how devastating it would be for two relatively well brought up, educated young girls like April and May to find themselves in this frightening and dangerous situation. The twins, had they been ‘launched’, would have been sold to the highest bidder and thereafter used and abused day and night until their beauty faded. Such an end for the girls who were only valued for their beauty and bodies would have been shameful. In Never the Twain we see April and May struggle to survive the brothel but their lives soon become marred by jealousy and greed, betrayal and murder.

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Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.

The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.

Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.

But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?

April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?

 

Available from:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2mbA6hp
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ksAaZI

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Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.

 

Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!

Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.

When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.

 

Find her on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest or Web.

 

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Dirty Dozen Author Interview – Judith Starkson #Histfic #Hittites #Meetanauthor

Author Name: Judith Starkston

  1. *Please tell us about your publications.

I’m the author of three books of historical fantasy based on the Bronze Age Hittites—an empire of the ancient Near East nearly buried by the sands of time. My books take “a quarter turn to the fantastic,” to borrow Guy Gavriel Kay’s phrase, and give full expression to the magical religious beliefs of these historical people. My first book, Hand of Fire, is set in the Trojan War and told from a woman’s viewpoint, Briseis, Achilles’ captive. Currently, I’m writing a historical fantasy series based on a Hittite queen. The first book in that series Priestess of Ishana is available FREE Oct 2-6. The second book, Sorcery in Alpara, launches Oct 14.

  1. What first prompted you to publish your work?

When I was researching my first book and figuring out the Trojans, I made a startling side discovery—a queen I’d never heard of who ruled for decades over an empire I’d barely heard of, despite my training and degrees as a classicist. It was the Hittite empire, of which, it turns out, Troy was a part. The queen was Puduhepa (whom I call Tesha in my fiction–the Hittite word for “dream” because she had visionary dreams). I’m particularly interested in the theme of women as leaders, so I was hooked. The Hittite empire could be called the forgotten empire, but fortunately, recent archaeology and the decipherment and translation of many thousands of clay tablets have filled in parts of the lost history. We now have many Hittite letters, prayers, judicial decrees, treaties, religious rites and a variety of other documents, but overall our knowledge still has huge gaps in it. I use shifted names in my series, such as Hitolia for the Hittite empire, to cue my readers to how much I have to fill in imaginatively from those fragmentary records. It also gives fair warning to the magic that I give free rein to, the rules of which derive from Hittite practices, but I do let the story go where a good story should and that means a lot of fantasy. It was that juicy primary source material, an extraordinary female ruler, and an intriguing ancient world that prompted me to write Priestess of Ishana and Sorcery in Alpara.

  1. Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’?

I outline my novels in a couple different ways before I start writing, but those outlines are subject to change whenever the story and characters take me into new realms I hadn’t imagined at the start.

I use a couple approaches to outlining and organizing my manuscripts. One is very character/theme/pacing driven, Libbie Hawker’s book Take Your Pants Off. The other, very plot and pacing driven, is a storyboarding technique that means I’ve got each of my books laid out on a three-sided board like we used for our school science projects. It’s explained in Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. You’ll notice in both the word “pacing.” I found as I learned the craft that pacing was both the hardest part to get right and the most essential. If readers aren’t compulsively drawn through my story, it doesn’t matter how beautiful my writing is and all the rest (though I work hard to get all that nailed). A good story is hard to put down—that’s something we all intuitively know. The corollary is that if a story is hard to get through, it isn’t very good!

  1. What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey?

Write at least a little bit every day and give yourself permission to write “bad words.” What do I mean by that? Just write and don’t worry whether it’s crap or not. Later you can go back and edit or trash if need be. I find that it is often the days when I think I’m writing the worst that I discover on later read, I’ve written some of my best. And you can only fix words that are actually on the page.

  1. If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat.

I’ve never gotten over my fascination with Achilles in the Iliad. He’s maybe legendary rather than literary, but I’d like to sit down and listen to him (probably admire his physique also…). He’d probably want lamb roasted on spits spiced with garlic and cumin, and I love that also, so I’ll go with that. Some fresh flatbread right off the hot stones to go along with it!

  1. What are your views on authors offering free books? Do you believe, as some do, that it demeans an author and his or her work?

I’m using this technique—offering free my first book in the series, Priestess of Ishana, from Oct 2-6. I’m doing it right before the second book comes out, so I’ll see buy through and get paid that way. I think it’s a viable marketing strategy. I don’t think reaching new readers is demeaning. It’s what you do as an author, and putting books into people’s hands seems like a good thing overall. If I was expected to give away books for free all the time, that would be silly. But accessing a lot of new readers I wouldn’t have any other way? That sounds smart to me. So do download a copy of Priestess of Ishana, and then if you really enjoy it, buy Sorcery in Alpara.

  1. What are your views on authors commenting on reviews?

I spread the word when I get a particularly strong review, especially from someone I really respect. When someone writes a bad review, I see no reason to react one way or the other, certainly not comment on it. I let my fiction, my author notes, all the background material on my website speak for itself when someone has a wrongheaded idea in a review. Reality has a way of coming through over time, so I don’t sweat it. If someone points out a perceptive way to improve in a review, I go to work in my next book and make sure I fix that. I’m happy to learn from all sources.

  1. How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at?

I have gone deep into the research, both the book/reading part (years of that) and the travel. I’ve gone to the archaeological sites, landscapes, and museum collections in Turkey that are the source material for my world-building. I contact the dig directors and museum curators so that I can talk with them and learn first-hand from the people who really know. I spent a whole day at the site that we think was Tesha’s hometown that I call Lawaza, but was called Lawazantiya by the Hittites. It’s the archaeological site of Tatarli near the city of Adana in Turkey. The key reason they think it’s her hometown is that the dig mound (with Bronze Age ruins of the right kind) is surrounded by seven springs. The Hittite records from the capital of the empire describe this town as having seven springs. The dig director took me to each of the springs–one of them appears in a key scene in Priestess of Ishana and I could never have gotten the atmospherics of that scene right if I hadn’t been there. One of the wildest subjects I’ve run across is the Hittite magical rite to remove a curse that I use in Priestess of Ishana. It involves chickpeas. Who knew that the way to get the demons out was via garbanzo beans? The Hittites were obsessed with curses and they believed sorcerers caused all kinds of evil with them. If you had to remove a curse from someone, you baked a loaf of bread with chickpea paste in the middle (basically humus) so that when you touched the bread to the cursed body while saying the right spell, the paste would absorb the pollution. I couldn’t make up this stuff in a million years, but the Hittite culture hands it to me. I just have to write it into compelling page-turners.

  1. If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why?

I’m having a lot of fun writing griffins into my series, so I’ll choose that mythical creature to be. It turned out, much to my surprise as I wrote, that griffins, or at least the ones in my books, have a very dry sense of humor. And they are wickedly good warriors and can soar into the heavens, and yet they have a big soft spot for their cubs who are allowed to climb all over the grownups, so I suspect hanging out as a griffin for a while could be very entertaining.

  1. What is your writing space like?

I’m very lucky and have a big window in front of my workspace that looks out on my garden. I write on a lovely inlaid wooden writing table with a comfortable armchair. So I’m all set to keep my butt in that seat for a good stretch every day.

  1. Is there a message in your books?

My fictional Tesha, based on the historic Queen Puduhepa, provides a worthy model for leadership—particularly the value of female leaders, which we’ve been thinking about lately, so this seems timely. She certainly wasn’t perfect, and some of her actions are hotly debated among historians as possibly self-serving or politically motivated rather than ethically driven. She gave me nuanced material to work into my hero’s character. But, despite that human complexity, or perhaps because of it, she had brilliant skills as queen in many areas: diplomatic, judicial, religious and familial. Most famously, she corralled Pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt into a lasting peace treaty. The surviving letters to Ramses reveal a subtle diplomat with a tough but gracious core that made her able to stand up to the arrogant Pharaoh without giving offense. She also took judicial positions that went against her own citizens when the truth wasn’t on their side. Fair justice wasn’t something she was willing to toss overboard when it was politically inconvenient. Her equal partnership with her husband was a much-admired model even in the patriarchal world of the ancient Near East. I’m enjoying working in these themes from a real woman into my historical fantasy series, one book at a time.

  1. How important is writing to you?

I love the long hours at my desk spent lost in the world that I write and in the company of my characters. I enjoy it every day. It’s my fulltime occupation.

Links

Newsletter sign up (for a free short story and book deals): https://www.judithstarkston.com/sign-up-for-my-author-newsletter-for-books-news-special-offers-and-freebies/

Website  https://www.judithstarkston.com/

Priestess of Ishana  https://amzn.to/2DXpdXt

Sorcery in Alpara  https://amzn.to/319vuIj

Hand of Fire  https://amzn.to/2KOb6a0

 

Bio

Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell. She loves myths and telling stories. This has gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age. Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award.

 

Summer in Scotland – Tour and Giveaway

summer in scotland banner.jpg

Walking in Queen Mary’s Footsteps: Palaces and Castles

By Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

Welcome to “Summer in Scotland,” our month-long celebration of Scotland and in particular the Scotland known and loved by its most famous queen, Mary Stuart, better known simply as “Mary Queen of Scots.”

 

Across Queen Mary’s forty-four years she lived in France, reigned in Scotland, and died in England. Though not all of the places she guested at, lived at, and/or worked from still exist (notably Fotheringhay Castle where she was executed in 1587), these six palaces and castles are not only still standing, but they are open to the public for you to visit this summer.

Linlithgow Palace (West Lothian, Scotland)

Built as a retreat from court life at Edinburgh Castle by the Stewarts, the peace and quiet of Linlithgow make it the perfect getaway for royals and modern visitors alike. Overlooking Loch Linlithgow, there is scenic beauty and waterfowl aplenty to melt away whatever stress comes your way. No wonder it was the Stewarts’ preferred place to give birth and is Queen Mary Stuart’s birthplace.

Open year-round except on 25 December, 26 December, 1 January, and 2 January. Tickets start at £7.20 and are available at https://tickets.historic-scotland.gov.uk/webstore/shop/viewItems.aspx?cg=TKTS&c=WSLOTHIANS.

 

Château Blois (Loire Valley, France)

Located in the Loire Valley about halfway between Orléans and Tours, Chateau Blois was 15th and 16th century France’s preferred royal residence.  Here Queen Mary and Prince François spent countless weeks in the year at court.  Later, in 1617, it became home to Marie de Medici’s court in exile. Along with her came her very loyal chief advisor, Armand-Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu (see “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu”).

Open year-round, tickets start at €12. Go to http://en.chateaudeblois.fr/EvenementChateauVisite/2040-prepare-your-visit.htm for details and tourism package options.

 

Château de Chambord (Loire Valley, France)

Favoured by Queen Mary’s father-in-law Henri II and designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci, Chambord is an architectural masterpiece that takes you into the mind of its creator.  Features a unique double-helix staircase designed by da Vinci so that no one going up can meet anyone going down on it.

Open year-round except on 25 December and 1 January, you can stroll the outside grounds for free. Tickets to visit the castle and private gardens start at €14,50.  Go to https://www.chambord.org/en/plan-your-visit/opening-hours/ for more information.

 

Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, Scotland)

At the heart of Queen Mary’s reign stands Edinburgh Castle which, appropriately, dominates the Edinburgh skyline.  Situated on a cliff high above the rest of the city, it is easy to see why King David I (son of Margaret of Wessex and brother to Empress Matilda of England) chose the site for his castle. Queen Mary and her parliament ruled from here and on 19 June 1566 she gave birth to King James VI in the same bedroom you can visit today. Queen Mary herself made several improvements to the castle which intially she found dark and cold compared to the airy grandeur of the French court, adding wall-coverings and art to warm both body and soul, especially in winter.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December. Tickets start at £17.50 if you purchase your tickets online or £19.50 if you purchase at the gate.

 

Stirling Castle (Stirling, Scotland)

Built in 1107, Stirling Castle is one of the historically most significant landmarks in Scotland’s long pursuit of freedom and independence from English conquest. William Wallace and Andrew Moray famously fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge near here in 1297 to retake the castle from England. Robert the Bruce’s 1304 victory at Bannockburn likewise returned it to Scotland. In 1503, King James IV built its Great Hall. Queen Mary held her baptism service for her son James (VI) here in 1566. When it was James VI’s turn to baptise his son Henry in 1594, he also held the baptism and its celebrations at Stirling Castle.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December.  Tickets start at £15 if you purchase online or £16 at the gate.

 

Lochleven Castle (Kinross, Scotland)

Built in the 14th Century, Queen Mary guested at Lochleven before its tower turned into her prison in 1567.  This is where she miscarried or aborted James Hepburn’s baby, and where she abdicated her throne in favour of her son James.

Open 1 April to 31 October. Closed from 1 November to 31 March. Access by boat only. Tickets start at £9.00 which includes boat fare. Go to https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/lochleven-castle/prices-and-opening-times/ to purchase advance tickets (strongly recommended).

Wherever your summer takes you, I hope you will spend part of it with Queen Mary Stuart and will make “Mary Queen of the Scots: the Forgotten Reign” your first and best introduction to Scotland’s most tragic and famous queen. Available at your favourite bookstore worldwide in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, and Italian. See http//www.laurelarockefeller.com for complete links to all editions.

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His Red Eminence – Blog Tour

His Red Eminence featured a while back, and I am pleased to share a blog tour and giveaway for this great historical fiction book by Laurel A Rockefeller.

The prizes include a copy of the book and a boxed DVD set of The Musketeers (1 prize each).

https://www.silverdaggertours.com/sdsxx-tours/his-red-eminence-book-tour-and-giveaway

Priest. Lover. Statesman. Cardinal Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu is one of the most famous — or infamous politicians of all time. Made a villain in the popular Dumas novel, “The Three Musketeers,” the real man was a dedicated public servant loyal to king and country. A man of logic and reason, he transformed how we think about nations and nationality. He secularized wars between countries, patronized the arts for the sake of the public good, founded the first newspaper in France, and created France as the modern country we know today.

Brief Excerpt 250 words:

Excerpt one – La Rochelle

“21st of April, 1628. Dear Anne, At long last everything is ready. The fortifications begun before my departure from Paris in August are now at very long last complete, as is the new seawall designed by Jacques-Clément Métezeau. What began with only four thousand men and a few horses and cannon has grown to over thirty thousand men manning entrenchments nearly seven- and one-half miles long and with eleven forts total. Huguenot commander Henri duc de Rohan attempted to raise a rebellion in the countryside near here, but was unsuccessful due to the loyalty of the overwhelming number of protestants. Likewise, our new seawall has already proven its value against England’s Duke of Buckingham and his fleet. Thanks to the perfection of Métezeau’s design, Buckingham has lost the support, both moral and financial, he needed to continue his opposition against us. As of this moment it is likely England is no longer a threat to any Frenchman nor is likely to be for some time, depending of course on its queen, the king’s sister Henrietta-Marie.  More than these things, all of them public knowledge here and likely to become even more so as news spreads across France and beyond, I dare not tell you in writing. Instead, I must wait until I am able to return to Paris at the completion of this siege to share with you the details, both those of a personal and political nature.

“Know that despite the months of silence you remain in my thoughts often. The gift you gave me I keep close to me at all times, especially when I am at prayer and in those quiet times when I am able to be alone to reflect and listen to the voice of God. Your wisdom often flows through my memory, as does the beautiful cadence of your voice when you sing. God grant I may hear your music again soon for yours is one of the most beautiful sounds to ever touch my ears.

“God keep you safe, Anne. Now and always. Armand, Cardinal de Richelieu.”

Why should readers buy this book?

Priest. Lover. Statesman.

Based on Richelieu’s “Political Testament,” this very slightly fictionalized, narrative biography showcases the kind, thoughtful, and dedicated public servant who transformed our concept of nations and international relationships. A delightful historical romance that brings you back to the vibrant court of King Louis XIII.

Eminence book tour banner (1).png

https://www.silverdaggertours.com

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NTKF4RV

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130522188

IBook: https://itunes.apple.com/mt/book/his-red-eminence-armand-jean-du-plessis-de-richelieu/id1451645762?mt=11

 

Website: http://www.laurelarockefeller.co.uk

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurelarockefellerbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurelworlds

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/peersofbeinan/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-213198671

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAiAQRKQ2lTxdNx9quqtorA

 

Review – I, Claudia – A Novel of the Ancient World – Lin Wilder

This #HistoricalFiction, it might be argued, could be controversial. It’s the story of the wife of Pontius Pilate – the man religious history has damned with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  This is Claudia’s story – starting with the person barely out of girlhood with big and dangerous ideas, and a terrible foresight.

The author crafts this well enough, with sympathy, despair at what will come, but from an intriguing perspective. What did Pilate think? Did he have a choice? Of course, we don’t know that – but that’s what historical fiction is about – it’s the might have been.

The chapters jump between Claudia, setting out to marry a man she has never met, and Pilate’s promotion to Governor of Judea – and the inherent troubles therein.

Although the jumping between points of view is a little confusing at times the story is very engaging.

4 stars.

 

Character Interview – Madam Giry – Tears and Crimson Velvet/Eclectica

Name: Madam Lise Giry

Which book/world do you live in? Tears and Crimson Velvet.

Tell us about yourself: I am a wardrobe mistress at the Opera House in Paris. I have been here many years – M. Giry died not many years after our marriage and the children from his first marriage ensured I was left with very little. I have a daughter – Meg – the only one of our children to survive and thus at first my life was hard.
How do you see your world? A friend, I suppose that is the correct term, arranged for my employment here. I have been seamstress, box-keeper, ballet mistress, and almost every role open to a woman in this grand establishment. I am eternally grateful to Erik, through his kindness my daughter has been educated, danced and we have had, if not a life of luxury then at least more comfortable than otherwise. Once I was an innocent girl with dreams. Now I am an old woman with arthritis, a heart that loved unwisely and memories of an angel in cage.

I have a kind benefactor – perhaps the greatest, but most unhappy and tragic of men. I could have a life so much worse.

What part do you play in this tale? This is my story, our story. The tragedy of the Phantom of the Opera is well known; the deaths, the disappearances, the music, the Opera Ghost. I knew the man behind them when we were both barely out of childhood. I suppose you might say I saved his life, and he changed mine.

Do you consider yourself a good person? I have tried to live a good life, a life to please God, and in that, I may have failed.

He could have left me to starve, or eke out my living in the slums, but he did not. He remembered me, and he repaid the debt he thought he had – and more. Women of my status and situation have very little on offer without a husband or money and I have seen many sell everything, including themselves. I could have, should have been one of those unfortunate women.

There was something about that young man, a caged songbird filled with despair, hatred and the most exquisite song, and marvellous tricks, even then. There is not another such as Erik, no do I believe there ever will. But that haunted, twisted face still appears in my dreams. An angel damned to wear the face of a monster and be shunned by man and god alike. I am not surprised he lived apart from men, and the tragedy of his misguided love happened. My heart broke that day. Now my friend is gone and the world is thus emptier.

Should I have told what I knew? Should I have turned in the man I suspected to be a murderer? Probably. Do I regret that I did not? No. Not for one single day. I should have told the authorities where he was, who he was and yet I perpetuated his legends and his secrets. Yet I have heard him sing, and seen the tragedy and the curse in his eyes. And I have been part of that curse.

Do you follow any religion? I was raised a Catholic. Do I still believe? I pray, but mostly it is out of habit. The prayers are hollow. I have seen, and been complicit in too much to believe I will be forgiven. Once I may have thought that, but many years have passed.
What is your favourite music? I love Opera – the glory of the human voice and the excitement. One cannot work here without that love.

ToCV Eclectic ad

Eclectica A Short Story Bundle
From fantasy to space adventure, pirates, mystery, horror, historical fiction, romance and coming of age you’ll find short, snappy reads herein. There is something for everyone in this lucky dip.

19 short stories and collections from multiple authors.
https://books2read.com/EclecticaBundle
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NWQ4YTP/?tag=kydala-20
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07NWQ4YTP/?tag=kydala-20
https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/eclectica-1
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1458246383
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1131078746?ean=2940161178102
https://bundlerabbit.com/b/eclectica

Blown – Diana Deverell
Socks and Pins and Aliens – Thea Hutcheson
Tales of Blood and Ink – Kate MacLeod
Tales of Tomorrow – Debbie Mumford
Shaken, Not Stirred: A Dawna Shepherd Short Story – Diana Deverell
City Shadows – Chuck Heintzelman
Outside the Walls – A.L. Butcher and Diana L. Wicker
Tales of an Altered Past Powered by Romance, Horror, and Steam – Donald J. Bingle
Dear Brother – Felicia Fredlund
The Cache and Other Stories – Sherry D Ramsey
Sword Oath – Jackie Keswick
The Hooded Man – Barbara G. Tarn
S F & H – Harvey Stanbrough
Resonant Bronze – J.M. Ney-Grimm
Hitomi’s Path – M.L. Buchman
Children – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Jhyoti Planetside – Marcelle Dube
Petra and the Blue Goo – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Tears and Crimson Velvet – A. L. Butcher

Book Spotlight – His Red Eminence – Historical/Biography/Historical Romance – Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

Title: His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu

Author: Laurel A. Rockefeller

Genre: Biography, historical fiction, historical romance

Main character description.

His Excellency, Armand-Jean du Plessis, the Bishop of Luçon (1608). Trailblazing bishop and the first French bishop to bring his diocese into compliance with the Council of Trent. Enters government service in 1615 following his rock-star performance representing the clergy of Poitou at the États-Généraux (1614-1615). Invested a cardinal in 1622. Elevated to First Minister of France in 1624. Made Duc de Richelieu by King Louis XIII in 1631. Died of consumption 4 December, 1642. Creates modern France.

Synopsis:

Priest. Lover. Statesman. Cardinal Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu is one of the most famous — or infamous politicians of all time. Made a villain in the popular Dumas novel, “The Three Musketeers,” the real man was a dedicated public servant loyal to king and country. A man of logic and reason, he transformed how we think about nations and nationality. He secularized wars between countries, patronized the arts for the sake of the public good, founded the first newspaper in France, and created France as the modern country we know today.

Brief Excerpt 250 words:

Excerpt one – La Rochelle

“21st of April, 1628. Dear Anne, At long last everything is ready. The fortifications begun before my departure from Paris in August are now at very long last complete, as is the new seawall designed by Jacques-Clément Métezeau. What began with only four thousand men and a few horses and cannon has grown to over thirty thousand men manning entrenchments nearly seven- and one-half miles long and with eleven forts total. Huguenot commander Henri duc de Rohan attempted to raise a rebellion in the countryside near here, but was unsuccessful due to the loyalty of the overwhelming number of protestants. Likewise, our new seawall has already proven its value against England’s Duke of Buckingham and his fleet. Thanks to the perfection of Métezeau’s design, Buckingham has lost the support, both moral and financial, he needed to continue his opposition against us. As of this moment it is likely England is no longer a threat to any Frenchman nor is likely to be for some time, depending of course on its queen, the king’s sister Henrietta-Marie.  More than these things, all of them public knowledge here and likely to become even more so as news spreads across France and beyond, I dare not tell you in writing. Instead, I must wait until I am able to return to Paris at the completion of this siege to share with you the details, both those of a personal and political nature.

“Know that despite the months of silence you remain in my thoughts often. The gift you gave me I keep close to me at all times, especially when I am at prayer and in those quiet times when I am able to be alone to reflect and listen to the voice of God. Your wisdom often flows through my memory, as does the beautiful cadence of your voice when you sing. God grant I may hear your music again soon for yours is one of the most beautiful sounds to ever touch my ears.

“God keep you safe, Anne. Now and always. Armand, Cardinal de Richelieu.”

Why should readers buy this book?

Priest. Lover. Statesman.

Based on Richelieu’s “Political Testament,” this very slightly fictionalized, narrative biography showcases the kind, thoughtful, and dedicated public servant who transformed our concept of nations and international relationships. A delightful historical romance that brings you back to the vibrant court of King Louis XIII.

 

Red Eminence.jpg

 

Links etc.

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NTKF4RV

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130522188

IBook: https://itunes.apple.com/mt/book/his-red-eminence-armand-jean-du-plessis-de-richelieu/id1451645762?mt=11

 

Website: http://www.laurelarockefeller.co.uk

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurelarockefellerbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurelworlds

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/peersofbeinan/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-213198671

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAiAQRKQ2lTxdNx9quqtorA