History, Fantasy, Mystery- why can’t you have it all? Barbara Barnett

As I’ve said before, what qualifies as historical fiction is open to debate. For some writers it’s slavish devotion to the facts. For others it’s a setting that opens up room for the thousand “what ifs?” that make a great story. In the case of Barbara Barnett it’s kind of all of the above. Her newest book, The Apothecary’s Curse checks the “all of the above” box.

Barbara Barnett
Barbara Barnett

So Barbara, is a busy, busy girl….

She is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine, 
(blogcritics.org) an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, She has published more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers, as well as essays and criticism. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the hit show. She is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA’s HalloWEEM convention (author’s note… Cool. Also, showoff!), where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as “The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture,” “The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Hidden History of Science Fiction,” and “Our Passion for Disaster (Movies).” This autumn, she will reprise her MENSA appearance with “The Conan Doyle Conundrum.” She is a member of SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association), and is current president of the Midwest Writers Association.

So give us the Readers Digest version, what’s the book about?

History meets fantasy meets science meets Arthur Conan Doyle.  The Apothecary’s Curse weaves Celtic mythology, the science of genetics, alchemy, life in early Victorian London, and the world of Arthur Conan Doyle into a historical fantasy-mystery, steeped in an apothecary’s cauldron.

The Apothecary’s Curse moves between early Victorian medical society (and the dregs of London’s worst neighborhoods) and a modern North Shore Chicago community, as a gentleman physician an enigmatic apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting an ancient book of healing that made them immortal centuries ago.

There’s a lot going on there, and purists might cringe a bit (screw’em). What inspired the story?

History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary's Curse.
History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary’s Curse.
I’ve always been fascinated by British history, especially where the lines between legend and reality blur. So many of the supernatural ballads of the British Isles seem to have the grain within them of real history, like the story of  Thomas the Rhymer, a real Scottish Laird and confederate of William Wallace who’d been (according to the legend) abducted by the queen of Elfland to be returned with the gift of prophecy and then some. I explored a few “what ifs” with the myth of the man, connecting him with the Tuatha de Danann—again a real people of the 12th Century, who were said to have magical healing powers, so much so that they became to the Irish, Celtic deities.
I brought into the early Victorian era another period that fascinates me; the story of Thomas’s descendent, a brilliant apothecary and the inheritor of Airmid’s (the Celtic goddess of healing) magnificent book. But use of the book, with its powerful medicine, has rendered my poor apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune with curse of immortality.  It is in Victorian London, in the squalid neighborhood of Smithfield Market that my apothecary meets gentleman physician Dr. Simon Bell (a relation of Joseph Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medical mentor), It is here that 19th Century British medicine as practiced by gentleman clashes with the practical, earthier medicine of the brilliant Erceldoune.
Without giving the game away, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

It takes place in Bedlam in 1842. Simon is seeking insight into his own mortality when he learns of a prisoner in the infamous asylum who, like him, seems to be indestructible (at least physically). Arranging to see this prisoner, who has for five years been tortured and has been the subject of medical experimentation by a proto-Mengele figure—a “mad” doctor, Simon discovers that it is Gaelan, who had supposedly been executed five years earlier at Newgate Prison for murder.

The reunion, fraught with tension and bad feelings is a pivotal moment in the novel. (I can’t say more than that without spoilers 🙂 )

Fair enough. Now that we’ve baited the hook, where can people find your work?

The Apothecary’s Curse will be available October 11 at most online and brick and Mortar bookstores. Here are the pre-order and information links. City Lit Books in Logan Square is hosting a launch party of the book on October 20. If readers are interested in receiving an invitation, they can email me at barbara.barnett@barbarabarnett.com

Website: barbarabarnett.com

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29236424-the-apothecary-s-curse

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Apothecarys-Curse-Barbara-Barnett/dp/1633882330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457895155&sr=8-1&keywords=apothecary%27s+curse

Twitter: Twitter.com/B_Barnett

Facebook: Facebook.com/BarbaraBarnettAuthor

The Crusades and the Envoy of Jerusalem- Helena P Schrader

Most of you know by now that I have a fascination with the Crusades. No surprise, then, that I look for fiction about that time period. That led me to Helena P Schrader’s book, Defender of Jersualem, and its sequel, Envoy of Jerusalem. While our books are very different (as, I suspect, are our feelings about the period in general) it’s an epic tale about an interesting character.

Helena P. Schrader earned a PhD in History with a ground-breaking biography of

Helena Schrader is the author of the "Jerusalem" series
Helena Schrader is the author of the “Jerusalem” series

the mastermind behind the coup attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944. She has published numerous works of non-fiction and fiction. As a novelist, she has focused on historical and biographical fiction. She is a career diplomat currently serving in Africa.

So your first book starts a few years before mine, and the new one ends after. What’s your series about?

“Defender of Jerusalem” and “Envoy of Jerusalem” are two parts of a biographical novel about Balian d’Ibelin. Some readers may remember that Balian was the hero of Ridley Scott’s film “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Indeed, it was the Hollywood film that sparked my interest in this particular period in history. After seeing the film (while working on a completely different project), I started wondering how much of it was true. A quick check revealed that Balian d’Ibelin was not only a historical person (who did some of the remarkable things portrayed in the film), but also that he (the historical Balian) was a more important historical figure than the film character made him out to be. My curiosity ignited, I did more research and was soon intrigued and captivated by the man, his age, society, and his contemporaries–such as his royal Byzantine wife, the Leper King, the near-pirate Reynald de Chatillon, Richard the Lionheart, and Saladin. While I follow the historical record and alter no known facts, the books go beyond those facts to give the reader insights into a whole cast of fascinating historical characters and a complex society at a critical moment in history.

The Second Crusade in particular was a bit of a mess. What is it about that period that fascinated you?

Balian lived in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the decade immediately before and after the devastating battle of Hattin. That was the battle in which the Muslims under the Kurdish leader Saladin virtually obliterated the Christian fighting forces in the Holy Land. This victory paved the way for the capture of Jerusalem and occupation of the rest of the kingdom, triggering the Third Crusade.  The Saracen leader Saladin – in contrast to what Hollywood would have you believe – was a devout Muslim, who had declared jihad against the crusader states and vowed to drive them into the sea.  He was opposed, not by fanatics ala “The Kingdom of Heaven,” but by ethnically diverse states with Christian – not a Muslim – majorities.  Furthermore, these states were highly urbanized, economically dynamic and characterized by a sophisticated legal system and flourishing culture.  Although almost obliterated after Hattin, these states recovered and re-established themselves to survive another hundred years.  Saladin failed to destroy them in part because of the strategic genius of Richard the Lionheart – but even more because of the tenacity, resilience and courage of the natives and lords of Jerusalem–led by Balian d’Ibelin.  Indeed, while the King of Jerusalem was taken captive and later marginalized and deposed, Balian fought his way off the field at Hattin, commanded the defense of Jerusalem, and ultimately negotiated the truce between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart.  He was referred to as “like a king” by Arab sources, and his descendants would marry royalty and be regents more than once.  This was an exceptional man who proved his worth both as a warrior and a diplomat. His story is relevant today because we again find ourselves confronting jihadists and so forced to define who we are, what our values are, and which of our values we can sacrifice for security and which we must be prepared to defend with our lives.  These books are as much about who we are today as about Balian d’Ibelin, the Leper King or Saladin.

What are your favorite parts of the story?

The first book in the series
The first book in the series

There are no spoilers in books based on history. Everyone knows the plot and the ending – or can find out – without reading the books. And there are so many great scenes in both books because history is so full of surprises and moments of great drama!  Balian arriving in Jerusalem unarmed on a safe-conduct from Saladin to remove his family–only to be tumultuously received by a population expecting him to take command the defense, is one such historical moment,  or the (true!) moment when Saladin’s banners are tossed down from the walls of Jerusalem just as Saladin says he won’t negotiate for a city he already holds. But if I have to choose one scene from “Defender of Jerusalem,” a scene that is based more on my exploration of historical events and personalities than the naked facts, it would be the moment after Balian leads a break-out at Hattin and crashes over the steep slope to the Sea of Galilee–only to realize that barely 3,000 men are with him and on the plateau behind him the king, the bulk of the army and the True Cross are being slaughtered or captured.  He realizes that the kingdom is lost, but 3,000 mostly wounded and desperate men are looking to him for leadership. He doesn’t have time to grieve; he has to keep leading. As for “Envoy of Jerusalem,” my favorite scenes are those in which two worlds clash—not Christian vs Muslim, but native of the Holy Land vs. crusader, i.e. the scenes in which Balian and Richard the Lionheart confront one another with incomprehension at first, but gradually with greater and greater respect and trust.

 

The story of Balian concludes with Envoy of Jerusalem
The story of Balian concludes with Envoy of Jerusalem

Interesting.  One of the things that I find interesting is the tension between those Franks who came from Europe on Crusade and those living and making their lives in “Outremont.” 

Defender of Jerusalem is available in paperback or ebook format on Amazon by clicking here.

 Envoy of Jerusalem will likewise be available for order in both formats from online or local retailers.

Find out more about the about the crusader states, Balian and his contemporaries at: http://defenderofjerusalem.com or follow my weekly essays on the same topics at:http://defendingcrusaderkingdom.blogspot.com

For more about Helena P. Schrader’s full range of books go to: http://helenapschrader.com

Tales of WW2 Italy from Pamela Allegretto

Sometimes you run across people who are just so darned talented in so many ways and has such a seemingly cool life it seems quite unfair to the rest of us mere mortals. Pamela Allegretto is one of these folks.

Pamela Allegretto is the polymath author of Bridge of Sighs and Dreams
Pamela Allegretto is the polymath author of Bridge of Sighs and Dreams

She was educated at L’Università per Gli Stranieri in Florence, Italy, lives in Connecticut and divides her time between writing, painting, and translating. In addition to the new historical novel: Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, Her published work includes dual-language poetry books, translations in Italian literary journals, articles in local newspapers and on-line websites, CD covers, and cartoons. Her original art is collected worldwide. If it wasn’t for her habit of sending emails in comic sans,   I wouldn’t believe she’s mortal.

I, on the other hand, managed to feed Byron, my cockatiel, without spilling any seeds on the rug this morning. Not in the same league at all.

In a nutshell, what’s the book about?
Nazi-occupied Rome sets the stage for Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, where the lives of two women collide in an arena of deception, greed, and sacrifice.   
While political cartoonist Angelina Rosini channels her creativity into the art of survival for herself and her daughter, Lidia Corsini quenches her greed by turning in Jews to the Nazis. Lidia’s spiral into immorality accelerates as swiftly as the Jewish population dwindles; and soon not even her husband, her son, nor Angelina is immune to her madness. 
What is it about that period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?
  While growing up, I always hated listening to jokes about the Italians going into World War 2 with their hands raised. This was not at all the case, and I wanted to point out the bravery of the Italian population during this horrific time. Although Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is fiction, It is based on real events. I felt compelled to write a war novel in which the women don’t play the role of wallpaper or objects of amusement to soldiers and politicians. The women in Bridge of Sighs and Dreams take center stage in a behind the lines battle between good and evil.
Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

Oh boy, asking an author what’s her favorite scene in a book is like asking a mother to name her favorite child. I suppose writing my antagonist, Lidia, affected me most. To think that such an immoral character lurked somewhere in my psyche was more than a little unsettling. And the idea that I actually enjoyed getting into her head and writing her odious words and deeds, well…

A tale of Italy during WW2
A tale of Italy during WW2
Where can people find you and your book?
 You can read more about my book at:  http://www.pamelaallegretto.com
 

Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is available for purchase in paperback and eBook at: AMAZON:

BARNES & NOBLE:

 

Acres’ Bastard- coming soon

Acre’s Bastard- Exciting new historical fiction from the best-selling author of

“The Count of the Sahara”

The Holy Land in 1187.

10 year old Lucca Nemo is an orphan on the streets of Acre, the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s most corrupt city. A simple prank goes horribly wrong, and catapults him into a terrifying world of spies, violence and political intrigue that ends in battle at the Horns of Hattin.

Author Wayne Turmel blends heart-pounding action, human drama and sly humor in this exciting tale set during the Second Crusade.

My friends and I were famous, if that’s the word, as The Lice. We were small, annoying, and constantly in someone’s hair. Berk was Turkish, Fadil and Murad were Syrian—supposedly converted Saracens—which is why they were allowed to live in town. They all had parents, or at least a mother, that they constantly disappointed.

Then there was me. Shorter and skinnier than my friends, and a year or so younger. My parentage, or at least what I knew of it, was written all over my brown, sharp face. At first glance I seemed purely Saracen; dark brown skin and a long beak of a nose, but my green eyes showed the other half of the tale. Depending on which story you believed, my mother was either a Syrian whore got with child by a Frankish Knight, or a pure, innocent Frank woman, dishonored by a pillaging Mussulman. The idea that my parents might have actually liked each other and wanted me never seemed to be part of the tale.

I preferred to think of my mother as a whore, giving me a claim to the ruling class by virtue of my father’s nobility, because of course he had to  be noble if he was really a knight. Whatever the truth, their union left me with the best—or worst, depending on who told the story—features of each.

Coming in the Fall of 2016 to Amazon.com

To receive a personalized publication announcement, leave us your email address by filling out the contact form by clicking this link

Julie Anderson and the Reconquista

You all know my motto: Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The rest of us are doomed too, but get to sit there smugly and say ‘told you so’. With that in mind, it’s easy to forget that the whole “clash of civilizations thing” isn’t new. Not by a long shot. That’s where Julie Anderson’s new book, “Reconquista,” comes in.

So what’s the Julie Anderson story?

I was born in the English midlands, spending much of my childhood in a semi-rural village, yet I have lived in South London with my husband and cats for most of my adult life. We enjoy the cultural life of the city and eating out with their friends, but we also have a home in Andalucia.Julie

After college I taught English Literature for five years then joined the British Civil Service. I had a fulfilling and successful career, but took early retirement to do what I had always wanted to do. Write.

I set up The Story Bazaar publishing imprint to publish my own writing and that of others. This year it is publishing books by several writers besides me, fiction and memoir. My first publication was ‘The Village; A Year in Twelve Tales’ my own first collection of short stories. My second ‘The Story Bazaar 2015’ was a compendium of articles, fiction and blog pieces from the web-site by myself and other regular contributors.  My new book is ‘Reconquista’, an adventure story and the first in the Al Andalus series.

I blog under the name ‘JulieJ’, at www.thestorybazaar.com . I report on cultural events and exhibitions in London, places and people of historical interest, life and events in southern Spain and writing and publishing.

This is a fascinating time period, and very relevant to today. What’s “Reconquista” about?

Reconquista’ is an adventure story set in 13th century Al Andalus ( Spain ) during the campaigns of the Christian north to re-conquer the rich southlands from the Moors. The book opens on 9th October 1264. Outside the walled city of Jerez an army waits the signal to attack. Within the city walls, for fourteen year old Nathan, his older cousin, Rebecca and their friend, Atta, events are about to change their lives forever. Their city is about to fall and everything they have always known will be questioned.

Across a war-torn Al Andalus King and Emir vie for supremacy and bandits and pirates roam land and sea in their wake. Our heroes set out on their own desperate journeys to find freedom and safety.  But, if they are to succeed, they must first face down their fears and decide what sort of people they want to be. In short, each of them has to grow up, but they have lots of adventures along the way.

So why does this story grab you? What is it about this period in time?

Julie's tale of Islam, Christianity and Spain is available on Kindle
Julie’s tale of Islam, Christianity and Spain is available on Kindle

The book began, ten or more years ago, as a serial story for my nephew and god-son. We have a home in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and my nephew was about to visit there for the first time. I wanted to engage him in the history and romance of the place, so I wrote an adventure story, delivering ‘episodes’ on a gradual basis. He’s nearly twenty two now and the story which I wrote for him has changed out of all recognition.

The period is an intriguing one and full of stories of real heroes, El Cid, for example, but the truth is often more interesting than the legend. So, even though the Reconquest is presented as a religious war, in fact, lots of towns and cities changed sides, depending on circumstances rather than religion. El Cid himself fought for Muslim cities as well as for the Christians and, sometimes, on his own account.  It was the time of ‘convivencia’ or people of different faiths living together in relative tolerance.  But there was a contrast between this attitude and the religious piety and zealotry also in evidence from various sets of ‘invaders’ not just the Christian north but also the Muslims from across the Straits of Hercules (Gibraltar).  Yet ordinary life went on. I wanted to write about ordinary young people, growing up in extra-ordinary times.

And the subject matter has become ever more relevant. Right now Europe is facing the largest migration of people since the Second World War, with refugees risking their lives to get here and putting strain on services and the social fabric when they do. People are fleeing from war and terrorism. The US also has a constant influx of people entering illegally from Latin America.  I hope that readers of my book might look with some understanding and compassion on the TV pictures of weeping and frightened people waiting at Europe’s borders once they have read ‘Reconquista’.

You have a very active Social Media life. How can people find you?

Besides my blog, they can reach me at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JJAnderson-512903848873983/?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jjstorybazaar

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13818437Julie_Anderson

Pinterest:     https://uk.pinterest.com/andersonjulie4/

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/andersonjuliej

Adieu Jim Harrison

Another of my favorite writers has gone to…. well probably not his reward. There aren’t a lot of rewards for spending most of your life cooking, hunting, fishing, writing and drinking. Seems kind of redundant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall and so much more has passed. Go read something of his. Hell of a way to spend a weekend.

You can read Esquire’s last interview with him here. It’s worth it.

Read Much Aztec History? – Ed Morawski

I’m always looking for stories I don’t know, in time periods or characters that aren’t familiar to me. Enter Ed Morawski’s book, Goddess of Grass. It tells the tale of the fateful meeting between the Spanish and Aztec kingdoms, through the prism of a young female interpreter. Don’t read that every day, do ya?

Ed Morawski has written numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. After

Ed Morawski lives and writes in Southern California
Ed Morawski lives and writes in Southern California

serving in the U.S. Air Force for 8 years, seeing action in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. to Edwards AFB and after his discharge began a career in security and law enforcement. He became an expert in physical and electronic security, alarms, and video surveillance. He resides in Southern California.

So tell us about Goddess of Grass…

Before there was America, before there was even Mexico, there were the Aztecs. Back in the 16th century, they were not called Aztecs, but known as the Mexica, a Nahua people who founded their metropolis capital city Tenochtitlan on a raised islet in Lake Texcoco. The Mexica came to dominate the other tribes of the land south of what would someday be North America and formed a vast and feared empire ruled by Montezuma, which probably consisted of a million or more subjects. While sophisticated and cultured, the Aztecs had a bloodthirsty dark side: they practiced human sacrifice on a scale never before known. These sacrifices consumed so many victims that the Aztecs waged war solely to obtain captives for their rituals.

In one of the most fateful events in history, Hernando Cortes arrived in that land we now know of as Mexico in 1519, the exact year an ancient Aztec prophecy predicted a god would return from the land of the rising sun. With less than 500 men and a few horses and cannon, Cortes conquered the Aztec empire in a blindingly short time. What was his secret weapon? A 17 year old native slave girl named Malinalli, who would come to be known as La Malinche. This teenage girl was given to Cortes as a gift to be his slave. But instead of accepting her fate, Malinalli used her own abilities to seize upon a unique advantage, thereby making herself indispensable to the Spanish Conquistadors. Goddess of Grass is the story of Malinalli, the unknown heroine who fought alongside professional soldiers, who negotiated with hostile native tribes, who stared down Emperor Montezuma, the most feared man in Mexico, and who bore as her child the first offspring of a Spaniard and native Indian: the first Mexican.

This story doesn’t seem a natural for someone with your background. What drove you to tell this story from such an unusual point of view?

I was inspired to write Goddess of Grass solely by Malinche. Here was a young teenage girl who instead of remaining a slave, turned her fortunes around to become the most powerful woman in Mexico for a period of time and literally changed the course of history. Unfortunately, though Spanish and native history records Malinche’s exploits, there is little known about her.

Goddess of Grass is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback
Goddess of Grass is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback

Without giving away the goods, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Probably my favorite scene is when La Malinche comes face to face with Emperor Montezuma and instead of looking down as the law commanded, she eyes him directly as she translates for Cortes. Montezuma is so unnerved by her actions and the prophecy, he willingly becomes a prisoner in his own palace.

Where can folks learn more about you and your book?

You can find me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1126615.Ed_Morawski

The book is on Amazon in Kindle and paperback 

 

Janet Squires and the Old West (Arizona Edition)

One of the most mythologized/lied about/ accurately reported periods in history is the opening of the American West. So much that’s true is fascinating and so much of what is “known” is uhhhhhhh utter nonsense. That said, it’s ripe for good historical fiction. That’s where Janet Squires comes in.

Janet Squires looking incredibly Western-ish.
Janet Squires looking incredibly Western-ish.

She began her career writing short stories and nonfiction articles for national periodicals. However, my work as a Library Media Specialist for a school district inspired me to shift by attention to children’s books. Her first picture book, The Gingerbread Cowboy, is the Arizona Governor’s 2007 first grade book. A special edition of 100,000 copies was printed and distributed to every first grade student in the state.

Since then she’s broadened her focus and now writes fiction and nonfiction for both children and adults, which brings us to her novel, “Desperate Straits”  She teaches writing workshops, volunteers for literacy events at libraries and schools, tend a large organic garden. In whatever time she has left, she likes to saddle up and ride, or hike with her dog.

Okay, so in a nutshell, what’s “Desperate Straits” about?

Irish immigrant Sarah Ryan’s hope for a new life in the Arizona Territory is shattered in an instant by gunfire. Suddenly, she has to rebuild an uncertain future with her orphaned nephew, Will, and take on the challenges of a cattle ranch. Just when order returns, veteran lawman, L.T. McAllister rides in. He’s a dangerous man determined to do what’s right regardless of the personal cost. L.T. believes himself ready for anything until he meets Sarah. Her ideas about the man he’s become soon pit his lifetime of duty against desire.

Desperate Straits is her first novel about the settling of Arizona
Desperate Straits is her first novel about the settling of Arizona

L.T.’s and Sarah’s loyalty to Will catapults them into a life for which neither one is prepared. When L.T. and Sarah stand between one man and his obsession with the Lost Adam’s Gold,  they trigger a firestorm of retaliation. Kidnapping and murder escalates into a battle for justice… and their lives.

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

The American frontier has always been a passion for me. I grew up listening to tales of how my Irish/Cherokee ancestors pioneered their way West as ranchers, miners, and lawmen. Later, research into my family history uncovered personal accounts of life in the eighteen hundreds — Kentucky during the civil war — wagon trains from Texas — lives that inspired me with examples of fortitude, courage, and humor. Frontier life is personal for me.

One of my fondest childhood memories is waking in a creaky old iron bed to the sound of my Dad chopping wood so Grandma could cook breakfast on the wood burning stove she used til the day she died. I’m a daughter of the West… it’s the place where I’m at home.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Oh, wow…this is a tough question. Certainly, one of my favorite events is Sarah’s arrival in the Arizona Territory from Ireland. She defends herself against a shotgun wielding ranch hand with nothing but a broom, teaches herself to ride astride, and confronts the challenge of befriending her newly orphaned nephew. Each trial speaks to Sarah’s strength of character, courage, quick wits, and sense of humor. A quick poll of some of the men who’ve read my book puts L.T.’s action scenes at the top of their favorites list.

Men, what’re you gonna do with them? Where can people learn more about you and your work?

People can learn more about me and my books through these Social Media Outlets —

Website: http://www.janetsquiresbooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janetsquiresbooks?ref=hl

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Janet-Squires/e/B001IGQIQK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1445792569&sr=8-1

Blog: All About the Books with Janet Squires: http://janetsquires.blogspot.com/

Twitter: Janet Squires Author@Janet Squires

I’m also on GoodReads and Riffle.

Smart Answer to a Silly Question: Chris Northern and “Why Rome?”

In a moment of snark in a previous post, I posed the question, “Why does it seem like every other historical fiction novel is set in ancient Rome?” (By the way, Rome is the new Middle Ages if the list of new books is any indication.) This is not terribly new in traditional “histfic”, but there are more and more fantasy books set in this time as well.  In a Goodreads discussion, author Chris Northern, author of the Price of Freedom/Freedom’s Fool series took me to task.

I asked him, using small words that even I could understand, to explain why that was. Here’s his answer. Enjoy.

I enjoy the mix of history and fantasy, but some people are uneasy with it. Why do you think they go together so well?

History and Fantasy are tied together by numerous silken threads. Fantasy develops naturally from history for the simple reason that a fantasy social and

Chris Northern explains the fascination with the Roman Empire
Chris Northern explains the fascination with the Roman Empire

political structure must be based on something, and picking a historical period is the simplest method available. The high medieval period has been the default choice for a good while, but it has become far more common to reach further afield geographically and temporally for a framework to define fantasy stories.

 

And we are kind of burned out on the pretend-medieval theme, I grant you.  So why Rome?

Rome is not one commonly used, but for me it was the most obvious choice. When I first settled to write The Last King’s Amulet, the first novel The Price of Freedom/Freedom’s Fool fantasy series, I desired a background where a central, magically powerful state expanded and contracted in cycles, more or less at the whims of a ruling class that were competing with each other as much or more than they were with other nations. I also had in mind a fantasy Falco, the protagonist of the murder mystery series by Lindsey Davis. The adoption of the Roman Republic seemed natural enough, and has defined the series ever since.
Ancient Rome burns bright in European and World History for more reasons than I can begin to address here, though I will make every effort to touch on as many as possible. To begin with, though little noted, is that it is one of the few cultures to so obviously encompass a complete cycle of political development and decay to its own self-destruction. Beginning as a Kingdom, transitioning into a Republic, Democracy and enduring a surprisingly long time as an Imperial Dictatorship as stubbornly maintained economic incompetence corroded the wealth of the empire to the point that the difference between the Barbarians and Rome itself was wafer thin when the latter swamped the former and the Dark Ages ensued.
The centralisation of power, the physical and social isolation of an increasingly centralised ruling class, the drift away from pragmatic response to economic and political problems… these are all things that led to the downfall of Rome as geopolitical power, and are all echoed in modern times, which I think is one of the reasons there has been a resurgence in interest in Rome. We see the decline of Rome going on around us on a daily basis – for Rome, read Washington, London, Brussels, concentrations of powerful individuals living in an echo chamber where voices of dissent are marginalised. No one told the Emperor Diocletion that his ‘great new idea’ of universal price fixing on all goods was a terrible idea because no one around him knew any better, all potential voices of dissent having been removed from the ruling society. We see that our own society, now more-or-less global, has its own systemic problems that will not be address, that cannot be addressed, because of the prevailing culture of advancement only of those who accept the ruling elite’s views.
So basically, it’s easy to make analogies…..
Much is made of the military might of Rome, the invulnerable Legions, with little reference to the fact that the Legions fought well in significant part because they were, as individuals, advantaged economically by the society they were fighting to protect and expand. When that advantage was no longer a factor – token coinage that had no value and a shattered economy that offered little in the way of goods to purchase – the soldiery ceased to be invested in winning battles. It is also little mentioned that one of the primary reasons the Republic and early Empire won wars even though they routinely lost battles, was because they always had enough wealth in reserve to raise more armies. War is never a cheap undertaking and if a nation simply does not have a robust economy that generates wealth, wars are less likely to be successfully prosecuted. Lost wars cause loss of territory, confidence and social cohesion, as well as cause further economic difficulties.
One title of the Freedoms Fool series
One title of the Freedoms Fool series

Still, Rome burns bright in history as one of the longest lasting empires, territories of economic and social stability, that the world has ever seen. Little wonder that it resurfaces in the collective psyche when our own times become increasing unstable. Perhaps we recognise the parallels and subconsciously fear Rome’s ultimate fate – a decent into barbarism and poverty that we know can persist for centuries. Not a cheery thought, but perhaps one worth a little more than a passing glance.

Thanks, I’m smarter now than when I started…… Where can people learn more?
The Price of Freedom (Freedom’s Fool) consists of four novels, to date: The Last King’s Amulet, The Key To The Grave, The Invisible Hand, and All the King’s Bastards.

The Count of the Sahara is FREE this week on Kindle

Hey all. The Count of the Sahara is available in both paperback and Kindle, but if you’re a Kindle reader–or know people who load up their Kindle for cheap

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now FREE  in Kindle format for the next week. Also available in paperback from Amazon or direct from the publisher.
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now FREE in Kindle format for the next week. Also available in paperback from Amazon or direct from the publisher.

(guilty!) please spread the word.

If you wonder why a publisher would give an ebook away, so was I. Then I looked at my sales ranking an hour after the announcement:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,837 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

I’m going to assume Erik and the folks at TheBookFolks.com know what they’re about. If you’ve read it and enjoyed it, please tell your friends, fellow readers and the world.