A New Short Story in a New Genre- The Forger of Cairo

I love the short story form, and the good folks at Storgy.com have seen fit to publish one of my new pieces, The Forger of Cairo (you can read it here. Please do- and support my friends in London, who seem strangely fond of me.)

When I write short stories, it’s usually as a form of exercise. It starts with a challenge: can I do X? With “On the End of Magick,” I tried to emulate the Victorian tone of “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.” With “The Last Good Cigar Day of the Year,” it was hoping to capture that one, small, moment of zen I get sitting on the deck with a good cigar. Whatever I learn winds up in my longer work.

So, what was I trying to do with this one? A couple of things. For one thing, I notice that the market for horror fiction is much bigger than for the smaller, historical pieces in which I usually indulge (although if you read it you’ll see I did a little of both. Old habits dying hard and all.) I am, after all, trying to find an audience and perhaps a stray buck or two.

The second reason is that the new novel I’m working on is NOT a Lucca book, but a strange little contemporary thing that has horror/action elements in it. Before I invest the next 6 months or so of my life in such an effort, I wanted to see if I could pull it off. I guess you’ll tell me (and I hope that you do. Tell a brother, would ya?) Not only that, but the McGuffin in this story, as well as Lemuel in The Clairtangentist, are part of the new work. It’s like I’m creating my own private Marvel Universe.

If you haven’t read the new book yet, what’s keeping you for corn’s sake?

So I hope you enjoy this story. If this is your introduction to my work, Please check out the other short stories on my site and others. More importantly, if you haven’t read my novels, particularly the newest one, Acre’s Orphans, what’s stopping you? They’re available in all formats on my Amazon Author Page (and the paperbacks are available in any bookstore that will order them for you.)

Don’t let the weasels get you down!

Europe After the Fall of Rome with Cynthia Ripley Miller

The time between the glory of the Roman Empire and about the year 1000 is often referred to as “The Dark Ages.” Historians can pick nits all they want about specific dates, but the fact remains there are about 500 or so years with big gaping holes in the historical record and we are just now learning about much of what took place then. There seems to be a boom in people filling in the gap with exciting adventure stories. One of those is the Chicago-based writer Cynthia Ripley Miller.

Cynthia, what’s your story?

I’m a history geek, ironically adventurous, and I have a weakness for the underdog (literally, I support Paralyzed American Veterans and Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that aims to rehabilitate prisoners by giving them puppies to train as service dogs for disabled veterans).

As a child, I daydreamed a lot. A devoted teacher taught me to read and then there was no stopping me. I‘ve devoured works across most genres, including religion, philosophy, psychology and self-improvement. I’ve traveled, worked and lived in different countries, and my adventurous predisposition includes a sprint across the Parthenon with a security guard on my heels, a stay with a Jamaican family in the Negril tropical jungle, and backpacking across Europe to Istanbul.

I live outside of Chicago in the US with my family, along with a sweet German Shepherd and a cute, but bossy, cat.

What’s your “Long-Hair Saga,” series about?

I’m currently writing a series called The Long-Hair Saga. A portion of my novel includes the Germanic people called the Franks. Their nobles were referred to as Long-Hairs and later they would begin the Merovingian Dynasty in France. There are two completed books.

The first is called On the Edge of Sunrise. This novel takes place in late ancient Rome AD 450, about 26 years before the actual collapse of the empire in the west.

My heroine is a young widow called Arria. She longs for a purpose and a challenge and is well versed in politics and diplomacy as any man. She’s called, by the Tuscan people, La Precipienda, ‘She who perceives.’ Arria has a reputation for having solved several local mysteries.

When Emperor Valentinian, determined to gain allies to help stop the Huns, bearing down on the empire, sends Arria to the Assembly of Warriors in Gaul, she must try to persuade the Franks to stand with Rome against Attila. On her way, she is abducted by barbarian raiders, but is saved by the Frank blue-eyed warrior, Garic.

Arria is alarmed by her instant and passionate attraction to Garic and is torn between duty and desire. Her arranged betrothal to the ambitious tribune, Drusus, her secret enlistment by Valentinian as a courier to Attila the Hun, and a mysterious riddle—threaten their love and propel them into adventure, intrigue, and Attila’s camp. Arria and Garic are rebels in a falling empire. They must find the strength to defy tradition and possess the love prophesied as their destiny.

Book 2 is called The Quest for the Crown of Thorns

Three years after the Roman victory over Attila the Hun at Catalaunum, (AD 454) Arria Felix and Garic the Frank are married and enjoying life on Garic’s farm in northern Gaul (France). Their happy life is interrupted when a cryptic message arrives from Arria’s father, the esteemed Senator Felix, calling them to Rome. At Arria’s insistence, but against Garic’s better judgment, they leave at once.

On their arrival at Villa Solis, they are confronted with a brutal murder and a dangerous mission. The fate of a profound and sacred object—Christ’s Crown of Thorns—rests in their hands. They must carry the holy relic to the safety of Constantinople, away from a corrupt emperor and old enemies determined to steal it for their own gain. But a greater force arises against them—a secret cult who will commit any atrocity to capture the Crown. All the while, the gruesome murder and the conspiracy behind it haunt Arria’s thoughts.  

Arria and Garic’s marital bonds are tested but forged as they partner together to fulfill one of history’s most challenging missions, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns.

I’m working on book 3, which will take Arria and Garic to ancient Jerusalem and another suspenseful adventure filled with mystery, murder and a most unusual mission.

Why that time period? What intrigued you about it?

My Italian roots (I’m a first generation Italian-American) and my time spent in Italy and teaching history propelled me toward ancient Rome. However, what really caught my interest was late ancient Rome, right before the fall of the western empire. This is a period when medieval influences are dawning in styles of dress, weapons, religion, and customs. It’s a twilight era, a time of upheaval, conflicts and a historical period ripe for story-telling.

As a novelist, my roots lean toward historical romance/ mystery & suspense. I really enjoyed the novel Outlander. It spurred me to write an adventure romance that included several genres—Romance, history, political intrigue, suspense and mystery.

I like the idea of strong characters and a heroine and hero supported by colorful characters that have smaller stories that help to create sub-plots. I love movies and books that bring me into secondary stories that enrich the overall arching theme and major plot. When a reader tells me they liked a particular supporting character, I feel good. I cannot write two main characters with one or two in the background. My muses won’t let me.

The dang muses are like that. What’s your favorite scene so far?

My favorite scene in the book is when my heroine, Arria, goes to the battlefield at Catalaunum (also known as Châlons and considered in the top10 bloodiest battles in history) looking for the hero, Garic—not sure if he’s alive or dead. This is the climax of the novel and when a major twist in the plot line happens and characters collide.

Where can we learn more?

My books are available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Kobo and more.

Readers can connect with me on:

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

Twitter: @CRipleyMiller  

My Website: http://cynthiaripleymiller.com 

Not to barge in on Cynthia’s interview, but Acre’s Orphans officially launched January 28th! You can order Paperbacks on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters. The e-book is Kindle only Please help me launch it successfully by buying now. And any time you read a book  like The Long-Hair Saga (or one of mine,) please leave an Amazon or Goodreads review. It’s like applause for  the author.

History and Fantasy for Kids with Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Stories were my gateway drug to travel, history and most of what I became curious about as an adult. Whether it was Classics Illustrated comics (yes, I was that nerdy) or Tom Swift books (yes, I’m that old) I always appreciated real history or science in with my fantastic stories. So when people ask me what their kids should be reading, I quote my mother and say, “I don’t care if it’s the back of the shampoo bottle as long as they read.”

That said, there’s a warm place in my heart for people who write histfic aimed at kids. Mix that with good fantasy and the little buggers will read. Our future depends on readers so… welcome Barbara Gaskell Denvil and her Bannister’s Muster kidlit series. Today we’re talking about the first book in the bunch, “Snap”.

Okay, Barbara, what’s your story?

I was born in England about 250 years ago, but spent most of my life on the move. I’ve adored living all over the place with many years in  England, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Australia – and a number of other years on a boat sailing the Mediterranean in all that wonderful sunshine. How is that for inspiration? Actually I started writing when I was about six years old, it just seemed the natural thing to do, but after some years of working for magazines and publishers, I got married and had three daughters. It’s since the girls have grown up that I decided to start writing full length novels and have started with historical mysteries – medieval history fascinates me and I’ve researched it for years. I also adore writing fantasy, and my writing list combines both. Most of those are exclusive to Amazon – and I have loved writing every single one. Editor’s note, I suspect some exaggeration here but never talk about a lady’s age.

What’s Snap about?

This is the first book in a new children’s series I’ve just recently finished. I loved the idea of mixing my own favourite genres, that’s history and fantasy, with the endless appeal of mystery. So BANNISTER’S MUSTER is the name of the series, and Book 1 is called SNAP. Nathan is whisked away from his very normal life and is thrown back into Medieval London. He makes friends there of a small band of beggars and orphans who steal in order to eat and sleep rough.  Just as he is getting used to such a life, the whole gang is tossed into a new world called Lashtang – and this really is fantasy. Nathan and his little sister Poppy plus all his friends have a series of amazing adventures combining modern London, medieval London, and the world of Lashtang. The history is absolutely accurate and I think it’s a great way for kids to learn history from fiction. There are six books in this series, and the last one has just been published. They are available on Audible as well.

Why that story? What intrigued you about it?

I often dream about medieval London, and sometimes wake up thinking that’s where I live. It really fascinates me. I was very young when I first saw the film of Shakespeare’s Richard III, and I was intrigued to know whether this monster from the past was ever really that bad – or not. Now  taking a 12 year old boy and his sister and friends of various ages time traveling through to a completely strange world of imagination has been such a pleasure for me to write. It should appeal to those of about 8 years old to 14 years old – though many adults love the whole series too. Nathan is a typical boy, and that’s how I want him to be. I love wondering what it would be like to move from modern life to medieval life and then on to a dangerous life in a fantasy world, and back to the trials of the past. Pretty scary, I imagine – but terribly exciting. And that’s exactly what the book presents.

Sounds like Nathan and Lucca would get along well. What’s your        favorite scene in the book?

Perhaps right at the beginning when Nathan is all curled up in his comfy modern bed, and out of the mist comes a huge hot air balloon with a strange looking man peering over. He’s a wizard, and he tells Nathan to wake up – we’re off for an adventure. Nathan thinks he’s dreaming, but no, it’s all real as he soon finds out. He climbs from his bed into the balloon’s basket, and then it tips and he falls. It’s a long way to fall but he arrives on his feet – back in the 15th Century. And that’s where it all starts. But he certainly hasn’t seen the last of the wizard. The amazement and confusion is extremely  realistic. I can just imagine how I’d feel in the same situation. I wish !!

Brewster the wizard is not a nice character, but he’s not all bad either. He suddenly wants to help, but then suddenly wants to spoil everything. It takes Nathan a long time to understand Brewster.

Where can people learn more about you and your books?

All my books are available on Amazon, and this series of children’s books are also available on Audible. How’s that for a goodnight story? Just fall asleep listening to the greatest adventure you can imagine.

BANNISTER’S MUSTER – BOOK 1 – SNAP has won many awards, such as B.R.A.G., Award, CHILL WITH A BOOK Award, DISCOVERING DIAMONDS AWARD, READER’S FAVOURITE AWARD., etc.. Also found on Goodreads and other well known sites.

Here are some other links:

Website: – https://bannistersmuster.com/

Facebook for the author – https://www.facebook.com/B.GaskellDenvil

https://www.facebook.com/Bannisters-Muster-1458577257506291/ – Facebook page for this book

Not to barge in on Barbara’s interview, but Acre’s Orphans officially launched January 28th! You can order Paperbacks on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters. The e-book is Kindle only Please help me launch it successfully by buying now. And any time you read a book  like Snap (or one of mine,) please leave an Amazon or Goodreads review. It’s like applause for  the author.

Award-Winning People are Talking About Acre’s Orphans

Acre’s Orphans has been less than a week, so it’s too early to tell if anyone is actually going to buy it. But they ARE reading it. I know, because I’ve received some very kind words about it from people who win awards and stuff. Many of these are from terrific writers who have read, and enjoyed, Lucca’s adventures. These are writers who I am proud will even talk to me, let alone enjoy my work. (I would write an entire blog post about Impostor Syndrome, but I’m probably not up to it.) That’s a joke. Kinda.

My writing friend Jeffrey Walker, author of the Sweet Wine of Youth series about the First World War, recently showcased me on his blog. (Read the interview here). His last book, Truly are the Free, just won an Indie Brag award for historical fiction as well as a short-list for the Goethe Award


Acre’s Orphans is another rollicking and gritty medieval romp for Wayne Turmel’s utterly incorrigible—yet grudgingly adorable—orphan-hero, Lucca Le Pou. A delightful read for any historical fiction devotee, Turmel manages to render up the decaying Kingdom of Jerusalem accessible, violent, and naughty enough to hook any YA reader, too. Who knew Hospitaller knights and leprous nuns could be so cool?

Apparently someone else is a fan of leprous nuns, because Bradley Harper, author of the Edgar-award winning A Knife In the Fog told me his favorite part was the battle with the bandits where (avoiding big spoilers) poor Sister Marie-Pilar saves the day. You never know what people are going to take from your work, but I kinda dug that scene as well. Brad’s first novel has been short-listed for a a freakin’ Edgar award as Best First Novel. Here’s his review:

“Acre’s Orphans is an enjoyable excursion back to the battle for the Holy Land, contested by none other than the fierce but honorable Salah-Din. Ten-year-old Lucca the Louse has his hands full avoiding Saracen soldiers, merciless bandits, and a spy loyal to neither side but hoping to profit from both. The tale is faithful to history and the diverse culture of the region which exists up to the current day. The characters are well-drawn and the stakes are high when the boy is entrusted with an important message from the captured city of Acre, intended for the remnants of the Christian nobility along the northern coast, four days travel away.  Accompanied by a giant Knight Hospitaller, a young Druze girl on the cusp of womanhood, and a leprous nun, Lucca must get his ragged party safely to Tyre, where an uncertain reception awaits them all.”

Another award-winner is Barbara Barnett. She’s an insanely smart person whose novel The Apothecary’s Curse was short-listed for the 2017 Stoker award. She was the first to tell me in documented form what she thought…

“A splendid adventure laced with new perils at every turn for the young hero at the heart of Turmel’s latest excellent foray into the heart of the Crusades.”

We don’t write for awards. We sure don’t write for the money, but we do write to be read. To have my words enjoyed by people all over the world, including those whose talent I respect is more than a little fun. Just thought I’d share.

If you haven’t ordered your copy of Acre’s Orphans, or haven’t read the first of Lucca’s adventures, they are available on Kindle or in Paperback wherever you get your fix.

And please, leave a review. It’s like applause for the author.