#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

https://books2read.com/author/a-l-butcher/subscribe/1/97541/

 

 

 

 

#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

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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D-Day 75

#DDay75 #NeverForget
I was talking to an elderly ex-veteran at the British Legion Care Home my father resides it. He asked me what I thought of the commemorations planned for D-Day 75. Was it important to still mark these days, and why?
I responded that such landmark events should be remembered and praised by the younger generations – for without the courage of my new friend and his comrades we would probably not know or enjoy the freedom we do today. Europe was markedly changed as a result of World War 2 – maybe even the whole world. Imagine Europe if the likes of Hitler had won – tyranny, racism, hatred, oppression. It would have been Orwell’s nightmare.
It’s difficult for someone who has (fortunately) grown up in a liberal country, where for the most part people are free, and the government – despite its faults – could be SO much worse.
Distant though it is to us now – this incredible, courageous, miraculous battle should be enshrined in our history for all time.
Warrior panorama
***
75 years ago tens of thousands of troops, and months of planning strove to free Nazi-occupied France from the terrible jackboot of tyranny. In the largest seaborne invasion in history men, machines and miracles fought to bring us freedom, and bring an end to the Second World War. Many died, and those who survived were forever touched by their experiences. Not many of those who fought on those beaches are still with us – the veterans number barely a few hundred – and those who do remain are unlikely to see many more of these commemorations.
Freedom does not come easy, or cheaply. I think many of us alive today – my generation and the generation after me have little concept of what it was like in those terrible years. We take freedom as a given. Most of us (fortunately) have never seen military action, and those who continue to serve do so largely remote from our homeland – maintaining freedom for others.
To those brave men and women who took part in D-Day, and, indeed, those who serve and have served to bring freedom where there is none Thank You. You will not be, and should not be forgotten.
D-Day landings:

  • 156,000 allied troops landed in Normandy, across
  • beaches
  • 7,000 ships and landing craft involved and 10,000 vehicles
  • 4,400 from the combined allied forces died on the day
  • 4,000 – 9,000German casualties
  • Thousands of French civilians also died

Review – City of Sin: London and its Vices

Review – City of Sin: London and its Vices

https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Sin-London-its-Vices-ebook/dp/B003M69WY4/

 

From the first unfortunate shivering Roman slaves on the banks of the Thames two thousand years ago to modern vice this book covers the history of vice and the sex industry. Discussing the rise and fall of bawdy houses, the city’s attempts to regulate brothels and prostitution, the differing classes of sex workers throughout the time period, and how they were seen. There are comparisons of royal mistresses such as Nell Gwyn and the Countess of Castlemaine, to the sad, short and dangerous lives of street whores. And to cover the more modern cases – the Profumo affair and the repercussions thereof. When men (mostly) of power get their friskies beyond the marriage bed the women concerned can have influence, blackmail the men, and bring government and even monarchy into disrepute. But prostitution and adultery are hardly new.

Not all the accounts are tales of woe – some tell of successful women (mostly women), who left ‘the oldest profession in the world’ rich, and lived to old age; there are some accounts of women who voluntarily became courtesans – having more freedom than their married sisters (although less security). Of course, there were many (and some were young) forced into ‘the trade’ and who died in poverty, shame, riddled with disease and often took their own lives. Male brothels or ‘molly houses’ and homosexual encounters are discussed, with an interesting account of the Cleveland Street scandal and the trial of Oscar Wilder.

Overall the book is interesting and contains a varied set of accounts – but is a little flippant in places.

A useful summary of the times and lives of women (and men) of the street and houses of ‘ill-fame’ from the tragic to the darkly amusing. Not for the prudish!

 

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 – Green Men and White Swans – The Folklore of British Pub Names

3.5 Stars.

This book is a potted history and folklore of some of the names of British Pubs, past and present. Not every pub name is included – it depends on the origin of the name (and the ability to find out what it means).

Some of the names are odd, not obvious and many are reminiscent of attitudes long gone (Such as Quiet Woman – depicting a woman with no head, or wearing a scold’s bridle; or Nags Head – could also be sexist; Saracen’s Head or Black Boy – now viewed as racist.) In many cases the signs or names have been altered in our more enlightened times. Some of the pubs are old – they show which side a local landholder was on in the English Civil War, or whether they supported the Catholics or Protestants during the Reformation.

There are many mythical references – Unicorn, Green Man, Dragon, George and Dragon, Phoenix, etc. Not all in a locale directly related to that creature or hero – and some are named after ships, for example.

The snippets of local history and pride in that history are the most interesting aspect – and some of the references would be largely unknown outside a particular area.

A lot of research has been done for this book, and that shows.

The cons – there were a lot of formatting/typo errors, including a duplicate paragraph and the way certain aspects were laid out with specific topics interspersed did not work well as an ebook, as the formatting was all over the place.

Subject – 4 stars

Technical side – 3 stars.

 

2018 – roundup

2018 seems to have flown by. Isn’t it odd how individual days appear to last an age, but the year as a whole just zooms past?

Politics has lost what little mind it had – the US government – probably the less said about that the better as I’ll only start an argument. The UK government has been dominated by Brexit, leadership problems and everyone is thoroughly sick of it all. I will say this year there has been a revolving door both at the Whitehouse and the Houses of Parliament.  Jeez – grow a spine, some balls or get rid of the person who is the problem and do it quickly….

Reading-wise – I’ve read over 60 books from true crime to historical to mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. I am planning to read a bit more fiction next year, and pick up some new authors.

Writing-wise – not as productive as I hoped and I’m not going to bore you with excuses. Let’s focus on what I have done.

Lovers in Hell  What a fun universe to write for! Anything can happen – but it usually backfires in ironic, dastardly and hellish ways. (See interviews for Hell Week).

The Secret of Blossom Rise This was my first ghost story – written for the Here Be Ghosts bundle, and Boo V.

The Kitchen Imps won the NN Light Fantasy book of the year.

Bundles:

Here Be Dragons

Here Be Fairies

Here Be Ghosts

Here Be Monsters (no longer available)

Remembering Warriors (no longer available in 2019)

Spring Surprise (no longer available)

Summer Shimmer (no longer available)

Frisky February (no longer available)

There were also audio editions for The Watcher (a Jack the Ripper Tale)

And audio and print editions for the two current Legacy of the Mask Tales:

Tears and Crimson Velvet

Echoes of a Song

What will 2019 bring? That is a good question…

Hopefully more Kitchen Imps, working on book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm, Heroika 2, another Heroes in Hell (assuming I can get the damn story finished), and possibly the completion of at least one novella.

I’m also learning Photoshop (steep learning curve), and have completed a course on Copyright, GDPR, Ancient Egypt, and DSE.

I’ll be a better blogger too….