The Domestic Revolution – Review #History

The Domestic Revolution by historian Ruth Goodman is an interesting insight into how coal, and later soaps changed Britain, and the Empire. Everyone has heard of the Industrial Revolution, but in many ways the changing habits of how humans burned fuel for warmth, food-making and the domestic domain was more significant, if less well known.

For thousands of years humans have burned wood, peat, or variations thereof in the home – cooking and keeping warm. This practice shaped the landscape – wood was used everywhere – fuel, building, weapons, war, ships, homes etc. Land was managed, farmed, coppiced and the industries around this were important. Many folks did not travel far, and so utilised what was around them. Certain foods and ways of cooking do not manage on wood or peat, and others do not manage well on coal. 

Ms Goodman describes cooking on wood, peat, dung and charcoal, how it was sourced and the foods which worked best. Cleaning was done, largely with wood ash, lime and various other intriguing ways.  Ash doesn’t work on coal dirt and so hot water became the norm, and new vessels for boiling, new detergents and new roles.

Then came coal – which burns differently from wood, cooks differently, is used in industry differently, heats differently. People, pots, manufacturing, transport, food, housing, cleaning and pretty much every aspect you can think of changed with it, or as a result. Coal creates smoke which leaves smuts, dirt and dust. It produces pollution and is much harder to clean off. All those coal fires – say goodbye to your family tapestry, and your old cleaning habits. Bring on different smelting, transport, industry, soap-making, production and recipes.

The domestic hearth was, for much of history, the female domain, and although the records from women are scarce, from the 19th Century the records do bring to life the challenges, solutions and habits of women, from highborn ladies, to the lower classes. Status was important, and coal and soap brought with them status. 

The book is a little slow to start, but the author knows her stuff and the book brings an interesting view on the lives of our ancestors, and how change, once it starts can be inexorable.

A good book for writers, and readers of history/historical fiction/fantasy as a reference to living with wood fires and coal, foods, cleaning and the role of women in these times (who became more tied to the home as things changed).

4 stars

 

 

Summer Warrior – Blog Tour

Summer Warrior
The Clan Donald Saga Book 1
by Regan Walker
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction

Somerled’s parentage was noble, of the Kings of Dublin, the royal house of Argyll and the great Ard Ri, the High Kings of Ireland. But when the Norse invaded Argyll and the Isles, his family’s fortunes fell with those of his people. When all hope seemed lost, he rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots and the Irish.

Sweeping across Argyll and the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, Somerled began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people from the Norse stranglehold. In doing so, he would win the title Somerle Mor, Somerled the Mighty, Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne and, eventually, Lord of the Isles.

This is the unforgettable saga of his path to victory that birthed the Kingdom of the Isles and won him the heart of a Norse king’s daughter.

A lawyer turned writer, Regan Walker is an award-winning, bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romantic historical fiction. Her novels weave history and historical figures into fictional stories with political intrigue, a bit of mystery and love. She lives in San Diego and loves to walk along the seashore with her dog “Cody”.
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
$20 Amazon giftcard + winner’s choice of ebook from Regan Walker
(If US winner, you can choose an autographed paperback if preferred!)

Meet My Character Week – Jack #Horror #HistoricalFiction

Who are you? (Give a brief description of yourself). I am Jack, I seek to clean up the once noble streets, deal with the vice and the stain on our glorious empire.

How did you find yourself in your current predicament/on your current adventure? My adventure? I suppose it is. I avenge my brother, I avenge those who have fallen to the pox. I do it for her – the shining icon of decency and family life. She whose character is unstained.

Who are your companions? I have none, except the beast and the blade.

What is your moral code? How does it compare with the general moral code of your area?  You mean the whores, the drunkards, the gamblers and the dens of vice? I come to solve the problems of the streetwalkers and their filth. I serve the common good. I serve in her name.

How many crimes have you committed? Five or five hundred – it matters not.

How do you think others see you? They fear me. My reign of terror has them cowering but still some ply their trade. I hear the cry of the newsboy on the corner when my night’s work is done, and the beast laughs. I want them to fear the blade in the night. I want them to smell the blood.

Do you see yourself as a ‘good’ person? I kill the tainted, the corrupt and the wicked. I serve the empire, I serve her.

What is your greatest achievement? The Double Event – two in one night!

If you could live your life again would you make the same choices? Of course

Do you have any dirty secrets? You have no idea!

Why should we read about your adventures? I will be a legend, a myth. I will disappear and yet my name will live forever.

***

Author – A. L. Butcher

Jack appears here:

The year is 1888, and the place is Whitechapel, in the very heart of London. But the heart is bleeding. A mysterious killer is stalking women of the streets – his true name is unknown, but his legend will go down in history. This is a short tale of Jack the Ripper.

18 rated for scenes of violence.

 

https://www.books2read.com/TheWatcherJTR

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Kobo http://bit.ly/2v6zoG6

Apple

 

Audio

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Echoes of Love – Book Tour – Guest Post – Gina Ardito – #Historical #Romance

Today we welcome Historical Romance writer Gina Ardito.

Gina – over to you…

We’re living in strange days. And we’re all trying to find a new normal we can live with. One of the aspects of writing historical romances I love is that I know how it’s going to end. Oh, not the way my characters will win in the end (I’m a total pantser, which means I have no idea where my story will go ‘til it lands somewhere), but definitely how the historical crisis they’re living through will end. That’s a luxury we don’t have these days. But it’s important to remember that when our historical figures were surviving their trying times, they had no idea how it would end, either. We just have the luxury of hindsight.

When I opted to choose to set ECHOES OF LOVE during the time of Napoleon’s march on Russia, I knew how the emperor’s gambit turned out. Chesna, my royal governess, has no such certainty—though she suspects. And yet, time and again, when I threw the worst sort of betrayals at her, she outwitted me and rose to the occasion. Take, for instance, this scene when the French army has invaded her city and she has fled to the church with her young prince for sanctuary until she can plan their next move.

“Please, Your Majesty, you must listen to me.”

The boy flipped down the blanket and opened one eye to stare at her. Obviously, her use of his new title had struck through his sleep-fogged brain. His brow furrowed, and a lone tear slipped down his cheek. “Papa?” The squeaky tremor in his voice confirmed her suspicion that he sensed the truth regarding his father’s fate. “He’s gone, isn’t he?”

She bowed her head. “Yes, sire. Forgive our haste, but we must speak quickly.”

The cot creaked as Mikhail sat up. With a shiver at the cold air, he folded his arms over his chest, and looked around in confusion. “Where are my garments?”

Chesna exchanged a quick glance with Karol, who came forward with the bundle of dirty clothes. “Here, Your Majesty.”

Mikhail’s expression mirrored his disgust. “Those are filthy. Where did you get them?”

Cheeks flushed, Karol backed away from the boy’s indignance. “From a dead boy in the street, sire.”

“How dare you!” he shouted. “I do not wear dirty garments.”

“You do now,” Chesna said flatly. She halted the argument he might attempt with an index finger pressed to the child’s lips. “Please, Your Majesty. Listen to me. I’ll explain.”

Although his eyes narrowed in displeasure, Mikhail nodded.

She removed her finger and gestured for Karol to bring the clothes forward. “Do you recall what you asked of me when I told you of your mama’s death?”

“Yes,” he replied warily. “I asked if you’d be my mama now. But you said you could never take her place.”

She shook out the threadbare shirt to remove any stray dust or insects, then slid the rough garment around his satiny shoulders. “Well, sire, I’ve changed my mind.”

The boy looked up, one eyebrow quirked. “How so?”

“To rule Amatia, Napoleon would destroy the royal family, including you. But the French only plan to remain here for a short time before pressing on toward Moscow. They must cross the mountains before the cold weather sets in. And if they’re defeated in Moscow, a fate my father claimed was all but certain, your throne reverts back to you based on your alliance with Tsar Alexander. Until then, we must keep these foreigners from discovering your true identity so they cannot harm you or take you prisoner.”

One eyebrow quirked up, an expression so like his father’s, Chesna sucked in a sharp breath. “And how will we accomplish this?”

She refocused on the new king. “While you slept, Karol took your garments and went out into the streets. He found a dead boy of about your age, removed his clothing, dressed him in your royal attire and left his body beneath that of your father’s. By tomorrow morning, Napoleon’s army will be under the assumption they succeeded in killing the entire royal family.”

“So you’re going to pretend to be my mama to fool our enemies,” he surmised. At Chesna’s nod, he clapped. “How clever of you!”

I wish I had the answer as to how our current circumstances will end, but the best I can promise is that it will, eventually, end. Until then, why not lose yourself in stories where you may not know how they’ll wind up together and happy at the end, but you know they will? I highly recommend you start with ECHOES OF LOVE.

Echoes of Love
by Gina Ardito
Genre: Historical Romance
Royal governess Chesna Dubrow must protect the five-year-old king of Amatia from Napoleon Bonaparte’s invading army. To do so, she’ll be forced to wed one of the emperor’s loyal soldiers. But Pietor Gabris isn’t any soldier. Years ago, he broke Chesna’s heart, forgetting the vows they’d made to love each other forever.
Pietor’s return to Amatia is embroiled in subterfuge. Amidst the deceit surrounding him, he clings to the one truth he cannot ignore: his timeless love for Chesna. Yet confessing what’s in his heart would sentence them both to death. To keep Chesna safe, he must portray the role of traitor, ensuring her animosity continues to blow hot and harsh.
As danger and intrigue swirl around the palace, can Chesna place her faith—and heart—with the one man she swore she’d never forgive?
Editorial Review from Entrada Publishing:
The old saying goes, if you love something, set it free, and if it is
meant to be, it will return. In Gina Ardito’s historical fiction
novel, she explores the idea of lost love, and bitter-sweet homecomings.
Set in the fictional country of Amatia, Chesna is the governess of the
young prince Mikhail, as a means to ease her broken heart. Six years
prior, her childhood sweetheart, Pietor was sent off to Russia, and
soon forgot all about Chesna. However, fate will soon bring the two
lost lovers together again, but under dire circumstances. As
Napoleon’s armies march upon Amatia, Chesna finds herself caught
between loyalty to her country, and what her heart desires.
Ardito does a masterful job blending real-life historical events, with a
beautifully crafted love story. She crafts a suspenseful and engaging
narrative, taking readers through historical events, and the inner
conflicts within Chesna, and Pietor. The storytelling is beautifully
done as Ardito explores the concept of long-lost lovers, betrayal,
and learning to follow your heart. The narrative flows in an organic
way, with tension masterfully woven throughout. The dynamics between
Chesna and Pietor is natural, and their relationship is very well written.
Along with a tender love story, the author sets up a mystery that Chensa,
and Pietor must unravel before it is too late. Readers will be on the
edge of their seats, as they follow along in the race against time.
Chesna must figure out who to trust, and who she can place her faith in.
For those looking for a suspenseful, yet tender love story, Echoes
of Love
is a fantastic historical fiction novel. Gina Ardito is a fantastic
writer, and her novel will pull at your heartstrings, as well as
leave you breathless.
I honestly don’t know. If I believe you, someone whom I’ve known
all my life wants me dead. I have nowhere to turn and no one whom I
can trust. I am surrounded by enemies on all sides. Do you have any
idea how that makes me feel?”
I kill houseplants. There. Now you know one of my greatest shames. I’m not boasting. I just figure that if you’re reading this, you’re looking for more than how wonderful life is as a writer. You get enough of that elsewhere. Ditto for political rants, how to lose thirty pounds in a week, and creating gorgeous crafts with nothing more than twine and soup cans. My goal is to connect with you, dear reader, even if you’re not a writer, not a New Yorker, not a mother, not a female. We’re human (unless one of us is a spambot), and what we have in common is flaws. So here are a few more of mine:
I sing all the time. I sing songs most people don’t know–jingles from television, crazy stuff I used to listen to on Dr. Demento, Broadway and movie soundtracks, and I can even bum-bum-bum through instrumental music. I sing in the car. In the shower. While I’m grocery shopping. And I headbop while I sing. When I’m not singing, I talk to myself. Just ignore me and move on. You get used to it after a while.
I don’t eat my vegetables. Seriously. I only started eating salad about ten years ago, but I’d still rather have a cookie.
Given the option, I would live in a mall where I would never have to worry about freezing temperatures or too much sun. I’m extremely fair-skinned and could burn under a 60-watt light bulb.
I can’t sleep without background noise so the television’s on all night. If it’s too dark and too quiet, all I have are my thoughts. And even *I* don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.
Don’t ask me to Zumba, line dance, or march in the parade. I have absolutely no rhythm.
I color outside the lines. Not because I’m a rebel, but because I suck as an artist. My artistic ability is limited to being able to draw Snoopy sleeping on his doghouse. And I don’t even draw that well.
Regrets. I have more than a few.
My favorite activity is sleep, and I’m pretty good at it. I don’t clock a lot of hours, but I can powernap like a Persian cat and rejuvenate within ten minutes.
I consider shopping and dining out excellent therapy for anything wrong in my life.
My feet are always cold. Always. My husband of more than a quarter century claims it’s because I’m an alien sent to Earth to destroy him. (He might be right about that.)
Coming to my house for a visit? Unless you’ve given me plenty of advance notice, be prepared. My floor will not be vacuumed, there will be dishes in my sink, and I only make my bed when I change the sheets once a week (I’m climbing back into it ASAP. Why make it?) Housecleaning is not high on my priority list. Okay, to be totally honest, it’s not on the list at all.
I can resist anything…except ice cream.
Since this is our first date, I figure I’ve revealed enough secrets for now. But if you’ve read this bio and think I might be the author for you, pick up one of my books or stalk my website: www.ginaardito.com.
$25 Amazon
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

 

#Heroika Skirmishers – Beth Patterson and Her Character

Name: Beth W. Patterson

Give us a brief synopsis of your story. The continuing story of Thérèse Naquin (aka “Pichou,” or Creole for “wildcat”) is one of the eleven-year-old girl in the heart of rural Cajun Louisiana. Pichou mourns the loss of her mentor Mister Broussard but finds a contemporary in a boy her age who moves into the late man’s vacant house. The two quickly become fast friends, eagerly swapping lore and talents. Their happy camaraderie is soon disturbed by the tiny town’s newest threat, a legendary serial killer. Devoid of guns or blades, they must rely strictly on their wits, their quick young bodies, and a heart-stopping bluff that could cost them their lives.

Why did you choose that time period/group of people to write about? The magic and lore of southwest Louisiana was something I’d already experienced in my youth. It was one of the few settings that I felt I could truly make authentic. I began to feel my deepest appreciation for my native Cajun country around my teens, roughly the time when I began to dive deeper into reading fantasy and collecting folktales. A friend of mine and I would often skip school and go visit a lot of elderly iconic Cajun musicians, often recording them playing tunes and telling stories. I named my story after a song by the late, great DL Menard.

What research did you do for the story? I revisited the place that was the inspiration for the setting. I hadn’t spent much time in St. Landry Parish and Evangeline Parishes since maybe 1991. I got sunburned, bug bites, mud splashed up to the roof of my car, and a speeding ticket. In other words, I had a ball. A lot of scenes were set in real places I’d visited in my youth, such as the bar/feed store. I thought it would be a good idea to preserve that little Polaroid snapshot in my memories of a zeitgeist that has definitely changed since then.

What is your writing space like? It’s complete chaos at the moment. I have my own little office, but it’s crammed with musical instruments, piles of notes, journals, and music charts that I still either have to file or throw away. I’ve moved three times in the past three years (with a grand total of ten times over the past twelve years). But now I think finally I might be able to thrive in this new house. I still need to unpack most of my research books (my husband and I are currently using stacks of boxes for our makeshift live-streaming living room studio during the quarantine). But I have a shelf within my line of sight that contains some special items that help me step into a certain frame of mind: photos, candles, a rubber ducky given to me by my late friend Robert Asprin, a painting by my sister in law, a little pair of foo dogs, a tiny brass unicorn, a 3-D printed octopus that shoots the bird multiple times, and a handmade sparkly rainbow skull-spider that a friend sent me (as a thank you present for helping to keep him from going too stir crazy with my quarantine videos). All of these give me courage.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? I’m trying to be a better plotter, because I think that having a well thought out story arc does make for stronger structure. But some of my passages that people seem to find most memorable are my most spontaneous ideas. I was trying to have an actual formula for a story last night, with some necessary questions: What does my main character want? What obstacles are standing in the way? What are the main character flaws? How does the conflict resolve? Is the antagonist a good guy or a bad guy? And then two thousand words just came pouring out before I had a chance to set the framework, so who was I to stop that rare deluge? As we say in music, “I’ll fix it in the mix.”

Is being a writer ‘what you do’ or ‘what you are’? It’s more what I am, because I haven’t yet invested enough time and discipline for it to be what I do. Playing music has been my bread and butter for almost thirty years, so I’ve had to give that priority. For me being a writer is a state of mind. I’m constantly processing incoming information through a storyteller’s lens. Sometimes I’ll start daydreaming, and my husband will notice a look on my face and ask me, “Are you creating a scene again?”

What did you want to be when you grew up? My brother teases me about how when I was little I assembled a little axe out of popsicle sticks and went around whacking on tree trunks (apparently I wanted to be a “woodchopper”). I did attempt writing some stories before kindergarten, for I had taught myself to read and write, even before I knew which way some of my handwritten letters were supposed to face. When I was in the third grade, I saw an episode of Cosmos on TV that was about DNA, and went through a phase of wanting to be a biochemist. By the time I reached the sixth grade, I wanted to be a rock star. While I’m mostly glad that I stuck with being a self-employed musician, I’m glad that not all of my wishes came true, because I definitely couldn’t have handled fame.

Character Section

Name: Thérèse Naquin (aka “Pichou,” Creole patois for “wildcat”)

Tell us a bit about yourself. I’m eleven years old, the whole town thinks I’m fou-fou (crazy), but I’m gonna go to the big university in Lafayette someday and become a herpetologist. Either that or discover monsters and prove that they’re real, like a cryptozoologist. I’ve got one good friend, a boy my age I call Firing Pin. He’s smart like a fox and draws real good. And that’s all I need, me.

Tell us a bit about the society in which you live. We’re pretty far away from the big city. A lot of the old people are superstitious. Everyone is Catholic, but sometimes a little folk medicine never hurt anyone. Everyone on TV talks about Cajun cooking as something really special, but fancy restaurants never get it right. The best food you’ll ever eat is at someone’s maw-maw’s house.

Are you brave? I don’t know, me. There’s some scary stuff out in the world, but when you’re the only one who can stop it, what are you gonna do? I helped this town, but I was scared the whole time! Maybe someday I won’t be afraid anymore.

How do others see you? My Nonc (Uncle) Ulysse and Tante (Aunt) Rosalie think I’m too wild. They didn’t really like me too much when they were raising me. But I saved our town from a dragon, so I think they can forgive me a little bit.

Do you love anyone? Do you hate anyone? I loved the old man down the road from me, Mister Broussard. He taught me to play the fiddle, told me stories, and always had time for me. But he died, and then Firing Pin moved into his old house and became my friend. I don’t know if I love FP or not, but he’s fun to do things with, like when we make Burmese tiger traps or go looking for monsters. I don’t think I hate anyone. My aunt and uncle used to say mean things to me all the time, but I don’t hate them.

What do you REALLY think of your author? She’s okay. She kinda reminds me of myself. But she needs to go outside more. She hasn’t forgotten that monsters are real (although she thinks that monsters are just bad people), but she’s stopped believing in the good guys. I’m gonna try real hard to make sure that I don’t grow up to be too much like her.

What is your favourite thing? Animals, especially reptiles and amphibians.

Well, I killed a dragon that was destroying my town, and later I helped bring down a serial killer. That’s gotta count for something.

 

H2 Banner 1.1 Small

AUTHOR BIO (short)

Beth W. Patterson was a full-time musician for over two decades before diving into the world of writing, a process she describes as “fleeing the circus to join the zoo”. She is the author of the books Mongrels and Misfits, and The Wild Harmonic, and a contributing writer to over thirty anthologies.

Patterson has performed in nineteen countries, expanding her perspective as she goes. Her playing appears on over a hundred and seventy albums, soundtracks, videos, commercials, and voice-overs (including seven solo albums of her own).

She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband Josh Paxton, jazz pianist extraordinaire.

 

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#Heroika Skirmishers – A L Butcher and her Character #Historical Fantasy

Author section

Name A.L. Butcher

Give us a brief synopsis of your story A new religion sweeps the land on the point of a sword, and the old gods are none too happy. A mysterious plague fells lord and peasant alike, a woman on the margins of society knows a cure – but to seek it brings a risk of death and unleashes awful magic.

What is your usual genre? Fantasy/Fantasy erotica.

How do you define a hero? A selfless person – who will do what others won’t, someone, even at great risk to themselves.

Is being a writer ‘what you do’ or ‘what you are’? I’ll rephrase that as ‘being a storyteller’. Being a storyteller is what you are. If you don’t have that it can’t be what you do. Not everyone who tells stories writes them down. Not everyone who writes tells a story. Storytelling is as old as humanity – it helps to make sense of the world, to explain the unexplainable, to find a better life, and place for a while, to escape, to be brave, to be loved, to be noble. And to be wicked.

I think if you are a storyteller those tales, those adventures will find a way to be told – to your kids at bedtime, secret files no one will ever see on your computer, that hidden notebook, the distraction at meeting times.

Many people who do write down their stories will never publish them, or if so beyond their family and friends. There is a craft to writing – oral storytelling is probably more forgiving than the written word, but there are certain rules, of course. And that’s the ‘what you do’ bit – the learning of that.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A squirrel. When I was little I was obsessed with them (I still am to a degree). My first stories were about two squirrels called Patch and Silky, they had many adventures

Name three things you really love about writing and three things you don’t like.

3 things I love: I can create something from nothing. I am never alone. I can go anywhere.

3 things I hate: Too many characters wanting their stories told at once. Marketing books. Typos.

If you could invite anyone from history or literature to dinner who would you choose and why? Let me see…. Shakespeare, Terry Pratchett, Tolkien and Homer to provide the after-dinner stories; Mozart, Erik, the Phantom of the Opera and Freddy Mercury for the music; Tempus, King Arthur, Frodo Baggins, Boudicca for the anecdotes. We’d have a dish from each of their favourite foods. I dare say there would be a drink or two.

 

Character Section

Name: Moira

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am a herbalist, I hold some of the old knowledge – my father and brother were Guardians – protectors of the old religions – but I only barely knew my father and my brother his disappeared. The women of my line are what you would call witches. My land is overcome with the fierce new religion of Arun, and so I must hide what I am.

I live alone, my mother is gone and I have none who care except Mordicai, the Smith’s son, and Old Robin – the village recluse. Mordicai is set to marry another and Robin is frail and elderly. Soon I shall have no one. But the people here need me, at least when it suits them.

How do you come to be on this adventure? There is a plague on our town – much death and sickness. The new god, Arun, has done nothing to allay it, so someone must seek an answer or everyone will be taken.

Tell us a bit about the society in which you live. The Lord-Reeve is reasonable enough – he tries to keep the peace in a time or fear and uncertainty. He is the Duke-Regent’s man – and that too is an unsettled state of affairs. The Archduchess rules in the name of her daughter – the old Archduke’s only living heir – and there has never been a woman on the throne. The Duke Regent is a dragon-rider – not a nobleman and assists her in governing the land, but they are distant from us.

This new religion is brought with sword and fire and all must convert or die. The old ways allowed for many gods, many beliefs – and the magics and rituals which went with them.

It’s less than a decade since the end of the war, and the lands are still recovering.

I am female, of the old bloodlines and the old beliefs and so I must take care. I cannot appear to be what I really am – Arun’s priests despise my kind – they are afraid they may be wrong, I suppose.

Are you brave? I do what must be done when others will not. But I fear many things – the new god’s followers, the loss of knowledge, the sword and the flame.

If you could have three wishes what would they be? I wish for the plague to be gone, I wish to be allowed to live my life in peace and safety, I wish that people would get on with one another.

Do you think you make a difference in your world? I hope so.

 

AUTHOR BIO (short)

British-born A. L. Butcher is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as ‘evocative’. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.

Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror, including the Legacy of the Mask series. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.

She also curates speculative fiction themed book bundles on BundleRabbit – for the most part the speculative fiction Here Be Series

Awards: Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.

The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales won best fantasy for 2018 on NN Light Book Heaven.

Echoes of a Song – one of her Phantom tales – won best fantasy 2019.

Alex is also proud to be a writer for Perseid Press where her work features in Heroika: Dragon Eaters; and Lovers in Hell – part of the acclaimed Heroes in Hell series. http://www.theperseidpress.com/

 

Social Media links

Website http://www.libraryoferana.co.uk/books.html

Blog https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/about-a-l-butcher-fantasy-author-poet-author-promotion/

Amazon Author Page http://amzn.to/2hK33OM

Smashwords Author Page https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ALB123

Facebook Author Page https://www.facebook.com/LightBeyondtheStorm/

Indiebound Author Page https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=author%3AButcher%2C%20A.%20L.

Twitter http://bit.ly/Twi2hJZ3h9

Goodreads http://bit.ly/GR2iqokvK

Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-butcher-8342ab13b/

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.co.uk/abmonkey/

Books2Read newsletter sign up

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#Heroika: Skirmishers – Interviews – Sean Poage and His Characters #Meetanauthor

Name (Mandatory) Sean Poage

Give us a brief synopsis of your story – A Handful of Salt

At the dawn of the fourth century, BC, Cyrus the Younger hired an army of ten thousand Greek mercenaries to challenge his brother for the throne of the Persian Empire. His Greeks were victorious, but he was slain and the Greeks were stranded deep inside the Persian Empire without supplies. Their only way home was to fight their way north through the mountains of eastern Turkey to the Black Sea, as described through the eyes of one of their leaders, Xenophon.

It is considered one of the greatest feats of military history and has often been recounted and reimagined, but never through the eyes of their adversaries, the Persians, or the ancestral tribes of eastern Turkey. One event, in particular, is haunting and tragic. Today we struggle to understand the mind-set of ancient cultures, often making the mistake of seeing their world through the filter of our own values. This story is an attempt to understand a heroic perspective alien to our own.

  • Why did you choose that time period/group of people to write about?

I love ancient history and the Anabasis is fascinating, but there is not much left to say about it from the Greek side of the story. However, no one has done a piece from the point of view of the Anatolian tribes that the Greeks encountered as they struggled to get home. Why did these tribes continually attack the Greeks? Why did one village commit mass suicide when the Greeks came too close?

  • What research did you do for the story?

I always do a lot of research for my stories. The Anabasis, of course, is the primary text. I also had to determine the most likely route, which is still in dispute. Then I had determine the most likely location for the events of my story, determine the tribe that lived there, what they called themselves, how they related to their neighbours, to the Persians and so on. I love this stuff.

  • How would you define a Skirmisher?

A skirmisher is typically a lightly armed soldier who relies on speed and manoeuvrability to be effective in battle, rather than heavy armour and weapons. While the goal of heavy infantry is to come to close battle with the enemy and slog it out, skirmishers try to outmanoeuvre the enemy, hit and run, break up enemy formations, wear down the heavy soldiers and win in the long game.

  • What are the challenges in writing historical fiction/fantasy?

For me, it is getting each detail right. I can’t bear to bend history to my story. If I include it, it must be factual, or at least plausible to history.

  • What is your usual genre?

Historical fiction, so far, though I intend to do more in fantasy and scifi, eventually.

  • How do you define a hero?

To me, a hero is someone who freely and knowingly risks his or her own welfare for the benefit of another, without thought to any reward.

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

Originally an astronaut. I was certain I would be NASA’s first kid in space. Apparently, they didn’t have my correct address. I wanted to write stories from my teens, but not much came of it. Now I am finally indulging that dream.

Character Section

1) Name Gocha

2) Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a seasoned warrior, husband and farmer. My wife and I have shared a difficult life, full of sorrows as well as blessings. Our circumstances in life have fallen low, but we have a fine heifer, two asses, some sheep and goats. But no children, anymore.

3) How do you come to be on this adventure?

Invaders from a distant land threaten our homes, so I must do my duty to protect them, and try to impart my experience on our young warriors.

4) Tell us a bit about the society in which you live

We are an ancient people, attuned to the rugged mountains of our ancestors. We sing, dance, tend our farms and pastures and raise our children to respect the ancient ways. We have no towns larger than a few dwellings, but impenetrable strongholds on the mountainsides. We wage no wars on those who leave us be, but we fight unto death against any who threaten us. The Taochi Never Submit is our creed, and never have we been conquered.

5) Are you brave?

What is bravery? Is it the thoughtless lack of fear? I have known dreadful fear, but have never shrunk from my duty.

6) How do others see you?

I do not care.

7) Do you believe in a god?

Of course. They have little to do with us mortals, but our ancestors are with us, always. They watch over us, judge us, and if we are worthy, will welcome us to their company when this life ends.

8) Do you love anyone? Do you hate anyone?

I love my wife, Bedisa. She is wise, kind, and stronger in spirit than anyone I have ever known. I love my loyal friend, Temur. I love my daughter, who I may not name since she has become a handmaiden to the Wife of the Dead. Or perhaps the Wife, herself. I love my three sons, who have already joined our ancestors. I hate no one.

AUTHOR BIO (short)

Sean Poage, has had an exciting and varied life, as a laborer, soldier, police officer, investigator, computer geek and author. Travelling the world to see history up close is his passion.

These days he works in the tech world, writes when he can, and spends the rest of the time with his family, which usually means chores and home improvement projects, with occasional time for a motorcycle ride, scuba dive, or a hike in the beautiful Maine outdoors.

 

 

Heroika: Skirmishers

Conflict is a constant. When force on force is inevitable only the intrepid need come forth. Summon the Skirmishers to their eternal purpose, to face a foe who must be opposed at all cost. Gird yourself and join the brotherhood of ‘do or die.’ HEROIKA: SKIRMISHERS is an anthology of desperate struggles in far-flung time-scapes, the age-old smell of battle and death. SKIRMISHERS –Tales for the bold among you!

https://www.amazon.com/Heroika-Skirmishers-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B085N7XZLZ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heroika-Skirmishers-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B085N7XZLZ/

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!

 

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

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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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