Drama in Montana’s Copper Mines- Milana Marsenich

Some people are water people, some are mountain people. Growing up in British Columbia, I’m a mountain guy, so I have a special place in my heart for the states and provinces that straddle the Rocky Mountains. These are also regions that don’t have a lot of  popular history written about them–too few people and not enough wars (Custer aside) for serious historians. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great stories to be told. One of the more fascinating and under-reported eras is the age of the Copper Barons in Montana. Enter Milana Marsenich and her novel, Copper Sky.

Milana Marsenich has an M.Ed. In Mental Health Counseling from Montana
State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of
Montana. She has previously published in Montana Quarterly, Big Sky
Journal, The Polishing Stone, The Moronic Ox, and Feminists Studies. She
has a short story included in the Montana Quarterly Book: Montana, Warts
and All: The Best From Our First Decade. Milana lives in Northwest
Montana where she enjoys hiking the wilderness trails with friends and
dogs. Copper Sky is her first novel.

What’s Copper Sky all about?

Set in the Copper Camp of Butte, Montana in 1917 Copper Sky tells the
story of two women with opposite lives. Kaly Shane, mired in
prostitution, struggles to find a safe home for her unborn child. Marika
Lailich, a Slavic Immigrant, dodges a pre-arranged marriage to become a
doctor. As their paths cross, and they become unlikely friends, neither
knows the family secret that holds them together. At its heart Copper
Sky is a mining city love tale: filled with fierce, loyal, disturbed
love, love that is ultimately a reconciling force in a community laced
in tragedy.

What is it about the story that attracted you? Why this tale?

I grew up in Butte and through the years I heard a lot about its
history. The Speculator Mine disaster in 1917 was one of the most
devastating mining accidents in the nation’s history. 168 men died
there. Not much had been written about it when I first began Copper Sky.
I wanted to honor the courage and resilience of the Butte people, and
especially how they came together to survive and heal their grief. I am
also fascinated with how the tragedies of Butte affected its people
through the generations.

My grandparents immigrated from Montenegro and I’d heard stories of “the
Old Country” all of my life. These stories inspried Marika’s character.
My grandparents had a pre-arranged marriage. While the actual story of
their arrangement is very simple, I wondered what else might have gone
into it. How did my grandparents get to “yes” once their parents
informed them of their pending marriage?  Also, many stories of Butte
include some reference to “the red-light district”. I wondered what it
was like for the women that “worked on the line”. What were the
experiences that moved a woman toward the dangers of prostitution?

Without giving away spoilers, what are your favorite scenes in the book?

I have to say that my favorite parts of the book are the four small
White Dog sections. They refer to another Butte accident: the 1895
Warehouse Fire. Unknown to the Butte fire department or the townspeople,
the warehouse stored dynamite. It was against the law to store dynamite
within the city limits. Most of the Butte fire department and many
spectators died when the dynamite exploded. The White Dog explores the
town and watches the events as they unfold. He follows the townspeople
and takes us through the town. From the beginning the White Dog shows
the nature and the good heart of the town.

Another favorite scene of mine is when Marika’s fiancé, Michael Jovich,
comes to dinner. She is trying to behave, but she is not happy about it.
Her father, uncharacteristically, pours rakija, plum brandy, for
everyone at the table. Marika gets a little drunk and talks more freely.
She asks her father to pour more plum brandy for her. He resists. She
really wants more plum brandy. “She hadn’t known she was so brilliant.”

Lord knows, we’ve all been there.  Where can people learn more about you and Copper Sky?

Open Books:

My website: https://www.milanamarsenich.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/milanamarsenich

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world.


The Inquisition in Mexico- Marcia Fine

If, like me, you tend to have issues with religion in general a, you don’t have to look much past the Spanish Inquisition for a pretty good historical reason. When we think of them (and, as Monty Python reminded us, “NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!”) we think of Renaissance and Reformation Europe. In fact, the Inquisition was particularly active in the New World: they were present in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. That leads us to this week’s interview with Arizona author Marcia Fine and her award-nominated novel,“Hidden Ones- a Veil of Mystery.”

AMarcia Fine has written seven novels, including THE BLIND EYE—A Sephardic Journey, historical fiction chosen by the state library of Arizona for ONEBOOKAZ 2015. PAPER CHILDREN—An Immigrant’s Legacy has been a finalist for three national prizes. PARIS LAMB, her sixth novel, deals with anti-Semitism in the 1950s. She has also written the only satirical series about Scottsdale.

Her novel, HIDDEN ONES released in 2017, examines conversos in Mexico during the Inquisition. It has won First Prizes in the categories of Historical Fiction and Multicultural as well as Honorable Mention from AZ Authors. Marcia has a BA from Florida State University and a Masters from Arizona State University.

In a nutshell, what’s the story of Hidden Ones?

HIDDEN ONES—A Veil of Memories is a true story about a grandmother arrested during the Inquisition in Mexico. She and her family must survive under harsh circumstances that take them into the Southwest Territories as they flee north. Who would turn in their abuela?

What is it about that time period you found so fascinating?

Clara Crespin is the matriarch of a large family of conversos, people who were forcibly converted to Catholicism. She is accused of Judaizing, which means she lights candles on the Sabbath, prepares foods in a special way and hides prayer books. Women were the keepers of the faith during the 17th century when the novel takes place and long before that because they taught the Law of Moses to their children. They are breaking the rules and it is punishable by death.

Celendaria, her granddaughter, feels the impact of her grandmother being imprisoned. The whole family is at risk. She is learning about their secretive lives as a mate is chosen for her. Franciso, a bail bondsman who brings prisoners from small town jails to the Inquisition Palace in Mexico City, causes consternation because he is not a scholar.

The book opens in 1649 with the aftermath of an auto-de-fé, known as An Act of Faith, a three day spectacle put on by the Church and civil authorities. It is well-documented that 40,000 people attended in Mexico City. They exhumed bodies and paraded them through town, marched the accused through the streets and burned people alive. The actual Inquisitor, Dr. Juan Saenz de Mañzoca, who presided over the auto-de-fé is a real person.

That paints a pretty dramatic picture. What was your favorite scene to write?

I’m very visual so I write in scenes. One of my favorites is when Celendaria, the granddaughter, learns a secret when she observes her friend Mariel at the mikvah, a ritual bath for cleansing that women share before the Sabbath. It is later reinforced when she spies on Mariel with a priest behind the confessional.

It’s important to mention that these people lived duplicitous lives. They were Jews inside their homes observing traditions and rituals from the past while they were Catholics who attended Mass when they went outside.

Where can people learn more about you and your other books?

On Amazon:

On Barnes and Noble:       

Website: www.marciafine.com   

On Facebook they can friend me at Marcia Fine Author. I also have a site, A Sephardic Journey that is of interest to people who have converso backgrounds. My other novels are addressed as: PAPER CHILDREN and PARIS LAMB. I am part of the Linked In community and share articles on that site.

Marcia Fine | Facebook


A Sephardic Journey – Home | Facebook



Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world.

Samurai Fantasy from J.N. de Bedout

One of my favorite subjects in historical films and books is the Samurai/Shogunate period in Japan.  While I can binge watch Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, and 7 Samurai over and over, there are precious few Western novels written about that time. When I came across this history/fantasy series, The Legend of Sithalkaan, I knew I had to talk to the author, J.N. de Bedout.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m from Colombia, so English, technically, is not my first language. I work developing medical software and have been doing that for over thirteen years now. My academic background is in engineering, but with a minor in history. History has always fascinated me, and I hope that my books showcase that. But, you’ll notice that there is no literary background. Nor do any of my family members have literary backgrounds; they are all engineers. But, I was always a good storyteller. I could make up stories during long road trips and keep everybody entertained. Teachers often told me I had a future in writing. But it would be decades before I took the fateful plunge into publishing. Having an exciting tale to tell helped, too.
The series, “The Legend of Sithalkaan”, originally started as a single book. But it was too long to publish as one. Fortunately, there were natural breaks in the story that allowed me to snap it into four separate books, though they are parts of one continuous tale. Ideas for a future series are already marinating, so the literary adventure will continue after book 4 comes out. I had a lot of fun forging the twists and defining the characters.
One of the best things about writing is a Colombian, writing in English, can tell a story set in Ancient Japan. As a Canadian, living in the US and writing about the Crusades in the Middle East, I see nothing odd about that. Your series has a fascinating premise, and I know it’s fantasy based on historical reality, but help me out. What’s it about?
The book re-imagines certain events that transpired during the Sengoku Jidai period of Japanese history, wrapping them in a conspiracy that explains the subsequent two-hundred years of Tokugawa peace as well as certain war crimes that were alleged during WWII. First and foremost, book 1, “The Legend of Sithalkaan”, spans two key battles: the attack and destruction of the Warrior Monk stronghold on Mt. Hiei and the attack on the Warrior Monk fortress at Nagashima. History records both battles as being led, and won, by Oda Nobunaga. But the re-imagined tale offers a different explanation for those two events. It also transplants a modern scourge, religious extremism, into a fictitious Warrior Monk sect and elevates them from the nuisance these groups were historically to an existential threat.
The tale follows a young, ambitious musketeer that is conscripted to guide three priests into the war-torn interior. They seek a rumored demonic relic on orders from the Vatican. During their journey, they encounter a resurgent fanatical sect that seeks to destroy the samurai order by unleashing dark powers concealed in that same relic. The far-reaching mythology surrounding the relic is introduced; its tentacles reach as far as Kaffa (on the Crimean Peninsula), Imperial China, the Mongolian steppes, and Japan. The warped and virulent tenets of the ancient and assumed-to-be-defunct fanatical, and heretical, faith are also introduced.
The second book, Tears of the Kensei, introduces new champions, deepens the mythology and expands the campaign, and the third book, Master of Heaven, concludes the main story arc with an epic clash to define the fate of Japan, the world, and the heavens. The fourth and final book in the series will be out late 2018 or early 2019. I can summarize the four books, in order, in this simplest of fashions: the legend, first contact, final showdown, and the revelation. On top of that, the tale is also one of self-discovery for the protagonist; his past is murky, and his journey will lead to an unexpected destiny by the end of the third book.
What is it about that time period that motivated you to write the stories?
The tale is set during the waning years of Sengoku Jidai period of Japanese history, (approximately 1460-1600 for us Westerners,  give or take) and as such, it is chaotic. Think of it as the equivalent of the Thirty Years War in Europe. When people imagine the samurai, they have an ideal of noble warriors following the Bushido. But in reality, the foundations of that discipline were often ignored during the Sengoku period; instead, it was refined and perfected into what is known today during the peaceful years of the later Tokugawa dynasty where warfare was near non-existent. Furthermore, if you read about Oda Nobunaga’s early struggles, you’ll find that much of his early conflicts were with rebellious Warrior Monk sects rather than other samurai clans. It’s also quite interesting that Oda Nobunaga, probably one of the most renowned samurai ever, was a pioneer in gun tactics.
For example, he was the first to invent the tactic of rotating fire. The period also gave us such notables as Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin, who clashed in numerous battles but only faced each other in battle once; during the 4th battle of Kawanakajima, Uesugi Kenshin burst into Takeda’s command tent but only had time for a single strike, which Takeda deflected with his war fan. Add to that the Portuguese arriving and injecting guns and Christianity into the mix. That confluence makes for a great setting for the books. Faiths collide. Technology transforms battlefields. Honor means little to all but a few stalwarts.
That same chaos allowed Oda Nobunaga’s successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to become de facto Shogun even though he served as a sandal bearer in his early career. And, it empowers the main protagonist, a simple commoner, to rise in rank and pursue his dreams of becoming a samurai.
Without giving away spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write?
It’s difficult to pick just one. The battle scenes in “The Legend of Sithalkaan” were certainly fun to write. The law of the gun versus the way of the sword. Samurai versus Warrior Monk. Sieges. Standoffs. Escapes. Topics also include the afterlife and immortality. There’s another scene where the protagonists learn of the ghastly practices of their new enemies. The scenes in the fortress of Futoge were interesting, too, borrowing from several European Black Death architectures. But I think the scene where they enter the labyrinth has to be my favorite. It’s a climactic moment in book 1 where the protagonists learn a terrible truth about the relic. It is dark and perilous and shrouded in mystery. Plus, they face a threat none of them anticipated even though it’s forewarned in the iconography on the central crypt. It also occurs at the pinnacle of a pitched battle, so much of the fighting leads up to this moment.
Inspiration for the use of the labyrinth, as well as the name of the fanatical clan of Warrior Monks originated with the Greek tale of the Minotaur. The symbolism of the labyrinth was appealing. Beyond the obvious benefits such an enigmatic structure offers, it helped to portray the long foresight of those who built it. Plus, its very existence ends up being exposed as a travesty born from poor coordination and ignorance.
To learn more about the series:
Amazon UK:
Amazon Series page:
Amazon UK Series page:
Amazon Author page:
Any reviews or comments are most appreciated.
Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world.