Booze, Bars and Battles with Morgan Wade

As much as historical novelists like to talk about the “reality” of their characters and times, I suspect there’s one area in which we don’t do the job we should–when it comes to the role booze plays in great events. It stands to reason that if rebellions start in Taverns (and there’s enough proof of that from almost every corner of the world) the key players weren’t exactly sober during those discussions. As a comedian friend of mine (I think it was Boyd Banks, but memory fades) used to say, “without booze and bad judgement, most of us wouldn’t be here.”  That leads us to Morgan Wade, and his novel “Bottle and Glass.”

After all, if you’re going to write about displaced soldiers, you’d better catch them in their natural habitat–the bars and taverns of Upper Canada in this case. The story also has an interesting development as a stage play, which is very cool.

Here’s the Morgan Wade story…

Morgan Wade’s debut novel, The Last Stoic, edited by Helen Humphreys, was released in June, 2011 by Hidden Brook Publishing and it made the 2012 ReLit Awards long list.  His short stories and poems have been published in Canadian literary journals and anthologies including The New Quarterly and The Nashwaak Review.

He adapted his second novel, Bottle and Glass, into an immersive, site-specific play that, in conjunction with Theatre Kingston, had a sold-out run during the 2016 Kingston WritersFest.  Audience members pursue the story through the streets and pubs of Kingston, drinking along with the characters and experiencing the city’s history like never before.  The production is set to be expanded and re-staged for a three week run in the summer of 2017.  When not writing, Morgan earns his keep as a software engineer.  When not busy writing or programming, he plays soccer or spends time with friends and family in beautiful Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Editor’s note: Kingston Ontario  contains a federal prison, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College. It’s safe to say that while it’s beautiful, but has its share of bad-ass bars and poor decisions influenced by booze.

In a nutshell, what’s the story of Bottle and Glass?

Bottle and Glass is a story of survival and escape told from the barstools of

Canadian author Morgan Wade

two dozen boisterous Kingston taverns at the close of the War of 1812.  The story focuses on Jeremy and Merit, two young fishermen from Porthleven, Cornwall pressed into service aboard a Royal Navy frigate. They are forced to leave their native England for Canada and eventually Kingston, where they are stationed as Royal Marines. They spend much of the novel attempting to escape and return home, but by the end, having attained their freedom, they are resolved to stay and make a new life.

Inns and taverns figured prominently in Upper Canada’s frontier life. In 1812, when Kingston had a population of 2250 plus 1500 soldiers, it could boast 78 taverns. Many of these, including “Old King’s Head” and “Mother Cook’s,” are mentioned in the newspapers and correspondence of the time. This novel is structured so that each chapter takes the title of a historic Kingston tavern and each tavern is featured in the chapter in some significant way. The novel’s title is taken from the infamous watering hole, “Violin, Bottle, and Glass.”

I notice a rise in Canadians writing about the Loyalist era. What is it about that time period that fascinates you?

Kingston, Ontario, is a city rich with history, especially relative to many other cities in a country as young as Canada.  When my wife and I moved here in 2001 we were struck by the historic architecture, national monuments, and wealth of other historical artifacts (e.g. Kingston is the final resting place of our first Prime Minister).  It was on a visit to Fort Henry, now a world heritage site, that I realized I wanted to write a historical fiction novel based on the Kingston of 200 years ago.  Standing behind the old rifle loopholes or in the underground escape tunnels, I imagined what it must have been like for a young, raw recruit, thousands of miles from home, stuck in this cold, damp, forbidding place.  I wanted to explore what a young man would have felt and experienced and to walk a mile in his shoes.  It would be a way of delving deeply into the stories all around us just waiting to be discovered.

I’d originally wanted to set my novel within the Fort.  I liked the idea of all the main characters in the book saying something like “it’s fine, don’t worry, they’ll never attack Fort Henry,” and then three quarters through the story the American forces would stage a huge attack.  It would be a big shock and I thought it would be interesting to see how the characters would deal with that.  But, as I dug deeper into the research, I realized that Fort Henry was never once attacked in its entire history, so that ended that.  Nevertheless, I’d done a good deal of research by this time.  In my research I was struck by how prevalent drinking was in this rough frontier town two hundred years ago.  I’d loved the names of all the old taverns I’d come across.  So, I decided to set the story in the town instead, winding itself in and out of the many, many inns and taverns of 1814 Kingston.

Do you have a favorite (or favourite, I’m still a Canuck at heart) scene?

There is a scene early on in the book that takes place at a so-called “work bee”.  I think many people have this conception of an old-fashioned work bee as a standard, sedate affair in which friends and family and neighbours come together to clear some land or erect a barn.  I did, at least.  I imagine fifty or more Mennonites coming together to put a structure up in one day.  These early tenant farmers in Upper Canada were living on the margins and barely eking out an existence from some formidable countryside.  It was a boon, if not a necessity, to get the help of neighbours and friends and to, one day, return the favour.  But, in my research, I discovered that the work bees didn’t always go so smoothly.  Often there was chaos and idleness.  It was an all day affair usually with a lot of drinking involved as a reward for hard work.  The “work bee” sometimes devolved into brawls as drunkenness increased and tempers frayed.

In Bottle and Glass, some of the main characters decide to host a work bee.  When men arrive from the Kingston taverns Badgley’s and Metcalf’s, Beach’s and Brown’s, thirsty and having nothing better to do, the work bee which had started out so well takes a turn.  What happens has serious repercussions for the rest of the novel.  I like how the bucolic scene of the work bee curdles over the span of the chapter and I hope that the reader feels, as the scene unfolds, the growing sense of menace from the interlopers and the increasing desperation of the hosts.  It turns the romantic idea of the work bee on its head!

Where can people learn more?

Bottle and Glass is available in both Kindle and Paperback form on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01N4ACN5V

For more information, please visit:  http://www.morganwade.ca

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

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26347330-bottle-and-glass

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/morgancwade

The English West Country with HE Bulstrode- or Someone Like That

As a writer, one of my neurotic drivers is the need to be appreciated for my work, so I confess that the idea of working under a pseudonym has never occurred to me. After all, how can I be slavishly admired if nobody knows who I am?

That said, a number of people I’ve interviewed here write under pen names. Some because of the controversial nature of their work (usually that means hot or transgressive sex), some because they are worried that their professional reputations might suffer if they published as themselves (people with university gigs to keep). Whatever the reason, all of this brings me (in a winding and completely self-absorbed way) to today’s interview with HE Bulstrode. At least that’s what he (and I’m only taking his word that he’s a he) calls himself when writing his tales of superstition, witchcraft and violence in the English West Country. Tales like his novella, The Cleft Owl.

So if hordes of slavish fans actually knowing who you are isn’t your deal, what’s the HE Bulstrode story?

The mysterious H E Bulstrode

My background is in academia, but I now find myself with time to indulge something that has long been denied me: writing creatively without the need to cite interminable references larded with copious footnotes. I have been fascinated by history since an early age, as well as the oddities of folklore and beliefs of times gone by, although the more I see and hear of the world these days, the more disabused I am of the illusion that certain irrational beliefs dwell in the past alone. (and all the choir said, AMEN!) I have written five other novellas and novelettes with an uncanny edge – all set in the English West Country, which is where I grew up – but ‘The Cleft Owl’ is my first piece that could properly be termed historical fiction, if the 1920s is discounted (in England, that’s just yesterday). I am currently working on a full-length novel – ‘Pendrummel: Gwen Gwinnel’s Return’ – which opens in 1670s Cornwall, and will be available in paperback as well as Kindle format.

For the record, the Historical Novel Society says HF is anything more than 30 years ago…. so my high school years qualify as history. Let that sink in. At any rate, what’s your novella about?

Superstition, credulity and deception in a seventeenth-century Devon village. It draws upon a peculiar and little known sequence of events that unfolded in the rural community of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, subsequent to the self-murder of one of their number. The figure of Robert Tooley, the local cunning man, looms large in the tale, for it is he that a family call upon to deal with the fallout arising from their neighbour’s suicide. This, however, proves to generate more problems than it solves.

Cunning man is a real job title? How do you get that gig?  At any rate, what is it about that time period that fascinates you so much?

I stumbled upon the person of Robert Tooley and his associated case whilst re-reading Keith Thomas’s ‘Religion and the Decline of Magic’ as background for my forthcoming novel ‘Pendrummel: Gwen Gwinnel’s Return.’ The sheer oddity of the events outlined – of the singular nature of the charms and rites employed by Tooley – was striking, as was the ease with which a number of the villagers willingly acquiesced with his instructions, at least for a time. This, moreover, all took place in an area of Devon – Dartmoor – which is steeped in dark folklore and legends, with the village having been associated with a visitation of Old Nick himself during the ‘Great Storm’ of October 1638. On this particular Sunday, the parishioners were gathered in the church, which proved to afford them but ill shelter, for a bolt of lightning sent a pinnacle toppling through its roof, and was shortly followed by a sphere of dancing light – ball lightning – which bounced and scorched its path about the interior, leaving four dead and more than sixty injured.

Other than the raw facts of the case itself, and a handful of names, few details remain relating to the historical episode that occurred some years after this traumatic event. These thus provided a kernel of truth around which a tale of the bizarre and the uncanny could be woven, with there being a distinct whiff of brimstone about the character of the village’s self-declared doctor. Coupled with the attraction of real historical personages named the Worshipful Sir William Bastard and the Reverend Tickle, how could I resist putting pen to paper (and finger to keyboard, come to that)? The events sketched by Thomas proved ideal for working up into a novella.

Magic and witchcraft are not uncommon themes in works of fiction, particularly in those set in the 17th century, but they normally focus upon female witches, so the opportunity to write about the misdeeds of a cunning man, rather than a female equivalent, appealed to me. As the novella is set in the 1680s, when a supernatural interpretation of the world was gradually ceding its place to a naturalistic one – at least amongst the educated classes – it also afforded the opportunity to inject a little ambiguity into the attitudes of some of the characters with respect to such matters: can Tooley truly work magic, or is he nothing more than an unscrupulous trickster?

For me, there is no more fascinating period of English history than the 17th century, owing to it having been a time of great social, political and intellectual ferment, and it is something of a puzzle to me, as to why it should be less popular with writers than the Tudor era, or the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Perhaps it has something to do with an aversion to massive periwigs. Whatever the case, I shall be revisiting this century later this year.

And we shall look forward to it. Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

That’s a tough one, especially when considering that this is a novella, and I don’t wish to give too much away, but the closing scene would be the logical one to cite. If, on the other hand, you should be looking for a moment that will make you flinch, you’ll appreciate a particular segment of ‘A prison of bended withies,’ in which Tooley makes preparations for the rite that he is shortly to perform. I’ll say no more than that. I hope that you enjoy it.

Where can people find you, your book, or your “bended withies?” 

The Cleft Owl: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WD2G219/ Also on Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06WD2G219/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/H.E.-Bulstrode/e/B01HT9OJ8I/

Blog: http://www.hebulstrode.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/H.E.Bulstrode/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15451543.H_E_Bulstrode

 

 

 

King Tut Had a Wife? J Lynn Else Tells the Tale

Other than mummies, (and that the toughest job there had to be a court reporter. Can you imagine trying to take notes in hieroglyphs?) what can you tell me about Ancient Egypt? The period is mysterious and odd to us, yet it is fascinating and dramatic. Midwest writer J Lynn Else takes a look at that era–and its most famous resident, King Tutankhamun in two books.

The latest, The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic is out now.

So what’s a nice girl from Minnesota doing writing about Egypt and the wives of Pharaohs? What’s your story?

As all great things should begin, my love of history started with a book.  My

J Lynn Else getting up close to her research.

uncle, who is an expert in maritime history, gifted me the book ““The Discovery of the Titanic: Exploring the Greatest of All Lost Ships” (which I still own).  The Titanic was all over the news at that time (late 1980s), and I began to take an interest in the time period.  Eventually, my love of history went further and further back in time.  Conversely, I was also a budding Star Trek: TNG nerd, so I wrote a lot of stories in which I could explore space, meet aliens, be a part of epic adventures.  It was so much more fun than being a tween with acne and braces.  I continued to write through high school and college (I even completed a script for X-File).  I’ve always been a huge lover of books.  Currently, I actively review for the Historical Novel Society and NetGalley.  I’m working on a third book now, which involves the legend of Avalon.  Besides reading and writing (and reading some more), I also keep busy with my husband, 2 kids (an 8th and a 5th grader), and 1 guinea pig.

This is your second book about that time period. What’s it about?

It is a time of change for ancient Egypt.  Pharaoh Akhenaten (who in modern times is probably best remembered as King Tut’s father) has declared that there is only one god to be worshipped throughout Egypt. He has also made a promise to his oldest daughter, Merytaten, that one day she will be his heir and the future pharaoh.  However, as pressures build up against this new religion, it falls upon Akhenaten’s wife, Nefertiti, and Merytaten to help their citizens and prevent insurrection.

In my novel, THE FORGOTTEN: HEIR OF THE HERETIC, Merytaten’s voice is used to vividly recount her dynamic life during some of ancient Egypt’s most turbulent years.  My book will appeal to fans of Michelle Moran, Jo Graham, and Pauline Gedge who also bring to the forefront women from antiquity who defied the constraints placed upon them for a greater good.  This is the second novel I have written.  Besides this, I have self-published THE FORGOTTEN: ATEN’S LAST QUEEN (ISBN-13: 9781483505343), which was awarded an Indie Editor’s Choice in 2016 by the Historical Novel Society

Why Egypt? What’s the fascination for you?

I really like reading about historical women who carved out new trails and touched their dreams despite the naysayers; those are stories I like to read and want to offer to my daughter when she gets older.  Ancient history has always been particularly fascinating to me, especially ancient Egypt. They are a society lasted for over 3000 years.  They never developed technology like phones or cars or computers, yet they thrived.  Modern society hasn’t even scratched that type of longevity.

After going to an exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum entitled “King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” I discovered that while much is known about King Tut, very little is left to us about his wife.  I wanted to know more about her.  The pictures left to us show that Tut and Ankhesenamun loved and supported each other.  There is very little art in ancient Egypt that shows this type of relationship publicly.  So my interest was piqued to research this woman who seemed “forgotten” by time (get it, my title? Ha, ha!).  Thus came book 1, THE FORGOTTEN: ATEN’S LAST QUEEN.  My latest book, THE FORGOTTEN: HEIR OF THE HERETIC is about Ankhesenamun’s oldest sister, Merytaten, who was definitely in the thick of things as Akhenaten established a whole new religion in a country founded in polytheism.

Without giving everything away, what’s your favorite scene?

First off, I think it’s well known that King Tut dies early in life.  No spoiler there.  As his funeral procession assembles itself for the walk to the tomb, Ankhesenamun is about to see Tutankhamun’s golden sarcophagus for the first time.  She’s feeling guilty about many things in their lives.  She’s scared and confused and is nervous as the sarcophagus is brought out from the royal barge.  But then she looks down at his gold-clad face.  Peace overcomes her.  She refocuses herself and realizes none of the mistakes of the past matter at that moment.  She promises to be there for her late husband in the last few moments she has to walk beside him.  It’s a moment when Ankhesenamun forgives herself and hopes that Tutankhamun will find peace of his own in the heavenly paradise.  There are things she has to let go of, but she can still be there for him as his soul takes its final journey.  It’s definitely a turning point for her character development.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

2 Upcoming History Talks and Book Signings

Now that Acre’s Bastard is out in the world, we have two events coming up. Please join us for some fun, conversation and a chance to get your hands on a signed copy of my latest novel.

Saturday, February 11, at 1 PM at the Museums at Lisle Station Park, I’ll be part of the Chicago Authors Series. Join us as we talk about “Putting the STORY in History- How writers turn history into great historical fiction.” I’ll also be selling and signing both my books, The Count of the Sahara and Acre’s Bastard.

Sunday, February 26th 12-4 PM at Barnes and Noble in Downtown Naperville, IL I’ll be talking writing and reading historical fiction, then signing copies of Acre’s Bastard. B and N is anxious to support local writers, so if you’re a fan of historical fiction, or are thinking about writing it yourself, come on down. Bring your questions and book recommendations for the others. There’ll be lots of Q and A, as well as a chance to help convince Barnes and Noble that supporting local authors is good business.

Chicago History and Mystery with Michelle Cox

One of the things I love about living in Chicago is the insane pride people take in the history of this city. Not just the big things; the fire, Capone, blues music, but the growth of the town from lonely fur outpost to whatever it is today (Carnage Central, Hub of the Midwest, the City that Works… pick one.)

Today’s author, Michelle Cox, writes romance mysteries set in Depression-era Chicago.

So, Michelle, what’s your deal?

Hi, Wayne!  I write the Henrietta and Inspector Clive series, the first installment of which, A Girl Like You, debuted last April.  Book two of the series, A Ring of Truth, is publishing in April.  Besides working on the manuscripts for the series (I’m currently toiling over book four!), I also write a weekly blog about Chicago’s forgotten residents, entitled “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” and another blog that pokes fun at the publishing industry called “How to Get Your Book Published in 7,000 Easy Steps – A Practical Guide,” both of which can be found on my website.  I live in the Chicago suburbs with my Liverpudlian husband and three kids.  Oh, yeah, and I have a BA in literature from Mundelein College in Chicago, if that matters to anyone!

I’ll swap you that for my Associates Degree from BCIT any day. What’s your series about?

A Girl Like You is the start of a historical fiction series, set during the Depression era in Chicago.  It’s a mystery, really, but there’s a pretty strong romance thread running through it, too.

Essentially it’s about a young woman, Henrietta Von Harmon, who has to provide for her mother and siblings when her father kills himself after losing his job due to the Depression.  The book starts off with her working as a 26-girl at the local tavern.  She’s not making enough, though, so she is persuaded by a friend to become a taxi-dancer at one of the big dance halls.

Not long after she starts there, however, the floor matron is murdered, and an investigation led by the aloof Detective Inspector Clive Howard begins.  Impressed by Henrietta’s beauty, Inspector Howard convinces her to go undercover for him as an usherette in a burlesque house, where he suspects the killer is lurking, all the while not realizing that Henrietta is much younger and more innocent than she pretends.

Henrietta quickly gets absorbed into the seediness of the place, meeting all sorts of strange characters, as she attempts to discover the secret behind the “white feather club,” which she believes is connected somehow to the murder and the disappearance of young women.  So that’s the mystery part.

Meanwhile there’s a little bit of comic relief in the character of Stanley Dubowski, the love-struck neighborhood boy who thinks of himself as Henrietta’s protector and continues to follow her around, annoyingly popping up at rather inconvenient moments.  Not only is he worried about Henrietta working at such a dangerous place, but he’s threatened by what he sees as a growing attraction between the Inspector and Henrietta.  And that’s, of course, where the romance part comes in, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

What’s your fascination with that time period in Chicago?

I’ve always been very drawn to the ‘30’s and ‘40’s—the music, the clothes, the cars, the Great Depression, the wars.  People lived through so much in such a short period of time and there’s so much there to write about – drama, intrigue, romance—you’ve got it all!

In the early 1990’s I found myself working at a nursing home on Chicago’s NW side, and I heard literally hundreds of these types of stories from that era.  So when I decided to write a book, I actually picked out one woman’s story, let’s call her Adeline, and used some of the details of her life to create the character of Henrietta.  There are many parts of the book, then, that are actually true:  Henrietta’s extreme beauty, all of the strange jobs she procures, the family history of the Von Harmons, the character of Stanley, and, believe it or not, the lesbian characters that befriend her at the burlesque house.

Of course, I had to fictionalize most of the book, including the murder mystery and all of the other characters, but it gave me a great foundation to start with.  Adeline was quite a character, and she used to follow me around the nursing home, telling me – frequently – that once upon a time, she had had “a man-stopping body and a personality to go with it!”  That’s classic!  So I tried very hard to capture that same spunky spirit and give it to Henrietta.

I know you love all your children equally, but do you have a favorite scene in the book?

There’s so much going on in Chapter 7.  We’ve got a little comedy with Stan roughly being escorted out of an abandoned apartment, the building suspense of the mystery as Henrietta and Clive discuss certain chilling aspects of the case, followed by an unexpected scene of domesticity as Clive sits quietly musing and watching Henrietta sew.  He takes the opportunity to ask her more about her sad story, and they both become a little more vulnerable.  This naturally lends itself then to a sort of sexual/romantic tension as they realize that they’re alone in an empty apartment without a chaperone.  Clive is obviously attracted to her, but it torments him, as he sees himself at thirty-five years of age as being much too old for this young girl of eighteen.  Henrietta, for her part, is also attracted to this older man, whom she possibly sees as a father figure, but doesn’t believe anyone so good as the inspector would ever be interested in “a girl like her.”

So as you can see, there’s lots of drama and intrigue and romance going on in this scene, and it’s deliciously fun to see what unfolds, not just in this chapter, but the whole book, if I do say so myself!

Anything you want to say to the giant throng of people reading this?

I hope you’ll check out the next book of the series, A Ring of Truth, due out in April!  It picks up right where the first book ends.  You can read more about it (including the whole first chapter!) on my website:  http://michellecoxauthor.com/

You can also connect with me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michellecoxwrites/ or Twitter: https://twitter.com/michellecox33

The Murder of Becket Spawns a Series- EM Powell

I came across today’s author when I was searching for an agent. I found a very good story teller named EM Powell, and really enjoyed her first book. (As for the agent, I’m still looking, and yes that’s an obvious cry for help.) Her novel, The Fifth Knight, began life as a serial but then became one of three novels. This is her story, about her story…. you know what I mean.

E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers THE FIFTH KNIGHT and THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT have been #1 Amazon bestsellers and a Bild bestseller in Germany. Book #3 in the series, THE LORD OF IRELAND, was released in 2016. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is also a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society. Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com.

What’s “The Fifth Knight” and the series about?

THE FIFTH KNIGHT is the first of my Fifth Knight series of medieval thrillers. It’s my take on the infamous brutal murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket on the altar of Canterbury Cathedral on December 29 1170. The history with which many people is familiar is that long-standing disputes between Becket and his king and one-time friend, Henry II, had reached a critical point. Henry is said to have exploded in one of his typical rages, ending with the words: “He has…shamed my realm; the grief goes to my heart, and no-one has avenged me!” Unfortunately, a group of knights who were listening took him at his word. They set off for Canterbury to avenge their king with fatal results. In my book, I add a fictional fifth knight, Sir Benedict Palmer, to the group. And the reason they go to Canterbury is not to avenge Henry, but because they know that Becket has hidden a young nun in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral. They need to find her and the secret she holds.

Tell me about writing the book as a serial story first, then turning it into a novel. How did that impact how you put it all together?

My fictional story must have appealed to some people as it has sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide. Yet it had an unusual route to publication. My publishers are Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint. THE FIFTH KNIGHT was first released in the US only as a Kindle Serial back in 2012. It was published in six episodes, with each episode being delivered to readers’ Kindles every two weeks. So I had to break the story up, making sure that each episode ended on a cliff-hanger and making sure that each one balanced out. Then would come the wait to see if readers liked the new instalment. As I say, it was unusual, to say the least!

Fortunately for me, readers loved it and it was released as a complete novel in 2013. I also followed it up with the next two Palmer books in the series. In THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT, Palmer is called back to find out who’s trying to kill Henry’s mistress, the Fair Rosamund. In the third, THE LORD OF IRELAND,  Palmer is sent by Henry to a warring Ireland with John, Henry’s youngest son and future Bad King John. No spoilers, but John being John, all does not go well. Neither of these two books were released as Kindle Serials. The Kindle Serial program has been discontinued but all the books that were released through it are still available as complete works.

What is it about that time period that intrigues you? I mean, I share your fascination but we’re not exactly  the majority…

I think that the medieval period is one of the most interesting, exciting and downright bizarre historical periods of all. It isn’t the most popular for readers of historical fiction, but I think people are missing out. What other period gives you banquets that serve peacocks, breath-taking illuminated manuscripts, gatherings with the Devil, leech collectors and chainmail?

Right? I mean frickin’ leech collectors!  But I digress. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

It’s no spoiler to say Becket’s murder. ‘Favorite’ isn’t maybe the right word but it was certainly the most challenging to write. We have eye-witness accounts from the time and it was truly horrible. Becket was utterly defenseless against the armed knights. Even though I had to write it in the context of a fictional story, I had to stay true to what we know to make it credible. I actually caught myself at one point wanting to rewrite it so he got away! But this book is speculative historical fiction, rather than true alternate history, so I had to do it. I can only hope that I gave Becket the proper respect to his memory and the terrible end he suffered.

How can people learn more about you and your exciting series?

Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/EMPowell-Author

Website: www.empowell.com

Blog: http://www.empowell.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/empowellauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/empowellauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583496.E_M_Powell

Acre’s Bastard is officially published….

And so it begins…

It’s January 17, 2016 so my newest historical fiction novel, Acre’s Bastard, is now available worldwide in paperback and ebook, wherever you buy such things.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Chapters

I’m very grateful for the help I’ve received in advance of the launch from Naperville Writers Group, my trusted beta readers, and those who have read advance copies and actually liked the darned thing.

This book isn’t an easy sell, so any help I can get is appreciated. If you’d like to help, I can think of a couple of things:

    • Tell your friends. Tweetfacelinkblog to your heart’s content.
    • Leave a review, even a luke-warm one, on your favorite book site. The number of reviews counts almost as much as the rating in this crazy online world run by our robot overlords. Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook pages… you know the drill
    • Give me feedback. This is the first of at least 2 “Lucca Le Pou” stories to come. I had a boss once who told me, “we always reserve the right to get smarter.”
    • Come on out to an event. So far, I’ve got two events scheduled. The official book launch is February 11th, 1 PM at the Museums at Lisle Station. I will also be doing a presentation in early march at Barnes and Noble in Naperville, exact date TBD. Come on out, bring some friends and have some fun.

I am very excited about the launch of this story, and hope it receives the same warm reception that Count of the Sahara got. Oh, and sells a few copies.

Thank you all. Here goes…..

Anglo Saxon Adventure with Annie Whitehead

When we think of the English, most of us-especially we colonials-have an image in mind. But the history of Britain goes back a long way, and it’s far from a straight road with an unbroken line of homogeneous residents (Brexit not withstanding.) Today’s author specializes in telling stories of the Angles and Saxons…. I introduce Annie Whitehead.

Annie came into my orbit when we took part in a round-table blog discussion with members of the Historical Novel Society. You can read it here. As you’ll see, she’s a total smartass, which mean we had to “meet,” at least virtually.

Okay, Lady. What’s your story?

I’m an historian (and a bit of a pedant – note that I didn’t say ‘a’ historian!) and a writer, mainly of Anglo-Saxon stories. I’m a nomad who genuinely can’t say where I’m ‘from’. I have two birth certificates, which I believe is quite rare. I’m vibrant, witty and smiley – when I’m tucked away behind the safety of my keyboard. In real life there’s less elegance and sophistication, which is perhaps no bad thing as I live in the English Lake District where I walk, a lot, and where it rains, a lot. History, writing and music are my passions, and I’m lucky to be able to indulge all three – the last of which involves my regularly making a fool of myself as I teach small children the art of music, singing, and what I like to call ‘leaping about’ – and yes, ‘leaping about’ is a technical term…

What are your books about?

Can I be greedy and tell you about both my books? (Editor’s note. I suspect it would be a fool’s mission to try and stop her, but carry on) I’ll be super-brief (unlike my books which are good and chunky):

To Be A Queen is the story of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of Alfred the Great. She came to be ruler of a country in all but name, fighting for that country against the Vikings, and, ultimately, her own brother.

Alvar the Kingmaker is the right-hand-man of King Edgar at a time when politics and intrigue at court make life difficult, and dangerous. His job brings power and wealth, but also heartbreak and sacrifice, especially when the king dies and the country is plunged into civil war. Then there’s the small matter of the queen, who loves him, and is accused of murder…

The Anglo-Saxon period is rather “niche-y”. Why that era?

I assume I’m amongst friends – i.e. history lovers. I won’t use the words nerd or geek, although I do apply both terms to myself – so I suppose I can dispense with explaining my love of history. But this particular period? It was brought alive for me by a very learned tutor of mine, with whom I’m still friends. Everyone has that one teacher, yes? The one who inspires? Well, Ann Williams was that teacher for me; she gave me the bug, and I’ve never shaken it off.

Specifically though, in the case of Alvar, it was a footnote in one of Ann’s published papers about Alvar (real name Aelfhere) concerning a widow who was deprived of her lands after his death. It’s the only mention of her, and no-one knows if she was his wife, his lover… and why did they leave no children? I was intrigued, so I set out to answer my own questions. With To Be A Queen it was simple: no-one had told the story of this remarkable woman, yes, woman, who had led an army and ruled a country. I had to put that right!

Any favorite (or favourite, since you’re so pedantic and British-y and all) scenes you can share?

Hmm, no spoilers huh? That rules out a couple of my favourite scenes… Okay, in that case: In ’Queen’ I had a lot of fun researching the flammable properties of flour (yes, really!) and enjoyed writing the scene in the mill when my characters also learn about those properties…

In ‘Alvar’, most of my favourites are spoilers; you know, those pivotal moments when lives are ended or changed, hearts are broken or mended, but there is one: it’s where Alvar finally gives vent to the rage that has been boiling for years. He fires off a load of expletives (I was keen to keep them pure Old English so no, not that four-letter word). I had a lot of fun, and he felt a whole lot better!

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

Besides my website, I have two blogs, Casting Light Upon the Shadow  and Time Traveler

My Amazon Author page is here

You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

The Odyssey From a Woman’s Viewpoint- Tamara Agha-Jaffar

I am a sucker for familiar stories told from an outsider’s point of view. A good example is the very familiar story of The Odyssey… as told by all the women Odysseus uhhhhh, encountered, on his long weird trip home. (To put it mildly, he was a player.)It’s a safe bet most of them weren’t exactly happy with the experience.

The coolest thing about doing these interviews is meeting (at least virtually) people with the most interesting  backgrounds. Such is the case with Tamara.

So what’s the Tamara Agha-Jaffar story?

I was born in Baghdad, Iraq. My parents moved to England when I was very young so I have little recollection of my country of birth. I was raised in England and then attended university in Lebanon where I obtained my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English Literature. I obtained my Ph.D. in English Literature from Washington State. My husband and I have lived in the U.S. for the last 40 years. We have two sons and two grandchildren.

I have been in academia all my professional life. I was a Professor of English for about 18 years. I introduced several new courses to the college curriculum, including Introduction to Women’s Studies, Women in Literature, and Women in Religion. I moved to the “dark side” of academia when I became an administrator. I was Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts for a few years and then the Vice President for Academic Affairs for several years before my retirement in July 2013.

The Carnegie Foundation honored me in 2004 by naming me Kansas Professor of the Year, and I received President Barack Obama’s Call to Service Award in 2010 for my volunteer work in the local shelter for battered women and in the school district.

I have been fascinated by mythology and ancient cultures for a number of years and have decided that when I grow up, I want to become an anthropologist and archaeologist rolled into one. I would love to get dirt under my fingernails by unearthing ancient artifacts and structures and learning more about the cultures that gave birth to them.

I know that feeling. When I wrote Count of the Sahara I wanted to be an archaeologist. Then I realized it involved two things I hate: shoveling and attention to detail. Oh well. Tell us about Unsung Odysseys…

It tells the story of Odysseus’ return from Troy through the voices of the women involved in his escapades. I thought it was time we heard the voices of women. Each female speaks directly to the reader in her own voice, describing her encounter with and feelings toward Odysseus.

The speakers are Anticleia, Penelope, Circe, Athena, Calypso, Nausicaa, and Eurycleia. The narrative progresses with each character picking up the thread where the previous character left off. Although these are mythological characters, they interact with each other on a human level and are easily relatable. Their gendered perspective is reflected in their dialogue and reaction to events.

That’s a cool take. What inspired your approach?

It’s the sort of situation where one thing naturally progressed into another.

My immersion in mythology and women’s role in ancient myths gave birth to my first book, Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth (McFarland 2002), a feminist interpretation of the classical Greek myth based on Homer’s Hymn to Demeter.

I followed this with my second book, Women and Goddesses in Myth and Sacred Text: An Anthology (Pearson 2005), a cross-cultural text for women in world religions and indigenous cultures.

When I finally had time to breathe after my retirement, I went back to the Demeter/Persephone myth and wrote my first novel, A Pomegranate and the Maiden. This is a re-telling of the myth through the voices of the characters involved in the story.

My love of the mythology and culture of the ancient world, especially the mythology of Mesopotamia, Sumer, Egypt, Classical Greece, and Rome continues unabated. I love to give voice to characters in myths, to put myself inside their skin and hear them express themselves. I believe ancient myths still have so much to say to us and write a blog on my website in which I interpret myths by teasing out their nuggets of wisdom.

My love of Homer also continues unabated. I have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey more times than I can recall. Of the two, I prefer the Odyssey because it doesn’t have quite so much blood and gore and because it gives greater prominence to women. So it was a natural progression for me to go from writing a novel based on Homer’s Hymn to Demeter to one based on his Odyssey.

Much of the analysis and discussion of the Odyssey focuses on the character of Odysseus and his adventures, so I thought it would be interesting to hear the voices of women since they could provide a gendered perspective on events absent from the original. I tried to get inside the skin of each woman, breathing life into her and articulating her thoughts and reactions. I had fun doing it. I hope my readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What’s your favorite scene?

I have a lot of “favorite” scenes in the novel, but if I had to pick one, it would be the scene where Calypso confronts Hermes when he informs her of Zeus’ command to release Odysseus from captivity. Calypso flips out. She yells, hisses, screeches, and throws things at Hermes in her anger. She lashes out at him and all the male gods, launching into a venomous tirade about gender discrimination and the patriarchal bastion that is the Greek pantheon. I had a lot of fun writing that scene.

You can find her book on Amazon, and more information about Tamara

On Amazon

On Goodreads

Or on her website, www.tamaraaghajaffar.com

Family Letters Inspire Civil War Drama: Greg Seeley

Lately, my email has been filled with authors who’ve written Civil War dramas (henceforth to be referred to as Civil War 1.0, because I’ve got a bad feeling about this.) I’m a bit ambivalent about the time period, maybe because I’m Canadian and don’t really empathize too much with the South on this one. (I’ve heard all the arguments. Bite me.) At any rate, many of the authors have deep family connections to the event. Such a writer is Greg Seeley, whose new novel, “Henry’s Pride,” is here for your consideration.

greg-seeleyGreg Seeley was raised on a farm north of Afton, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a major in history and received his Master’s degree from the University of Iowa. He is a retired certified public accountant and lives in Overland Park, Kansas with his wife Carolyn, a retired math teacher. Henry’s Pride is Greg’s first novel. He is also the author of
a book verse entitled The Horse Lawyer and other Poems.

So what’s Henry’s Pride all about?

Henry’s Pride is a wide-sweeping novel of the Civil War told from the perspective of two families, one from Minnesota and the other from Georgia. Henry Hancock is a Minnesota tenant farmer who reluctantly but dutifully goes to war to save the Union. Darius Morgan, the son of a Georgia plantation owner eagerly enlists in the Confederate army to save what he considers to be his rightful legacy. Other characters, whose stories are interwoven include Hamilton Stark, the cowardly yet vicious overseer from the Morgan plantation and Adam Kendrick, a gentle but dutiful southern soldier, who must keep his anti-slavery sentiments hidden. Meet also Joshua Gibbons, a Union chaplain and Hosea Billings the vindictive captain of guards at a Federal prison camp.

The story is told through the usual means of narrative and dialogue but also through numerous letters written back and forth between the characters expressing their loneliness, fear, pride, and other emotions associated with what the title character calls “the nation’s nasty business”. The story also portrays the devastating effect of war on soldiers and families alike – wounds both physical and mental as the characters deal with battle injuries and with what is now call PTSD. There is Jonas Hancock, Henry’s brother, who is injured and mustered out early in the war but continuously deals with haunting memories. There is Henry himself, tormented by reminders of what he has had to see and do. Henry’s Pride is a war novel that, in sense, is also an anti-war novel. Characters on both sides examine themselves and must decide whether or not their respective country’s objectives are worth the sacrifices they and thousands of others are called upon to make. Henry’s Pride is not about generals and military strategy or troop movements. It’s about ordinary soldiers and families each trying to find their way through the “madness” that is the Civil War.

What inspired the story? Where’d your passion for the topic come from?front-cover-thumbnail

My great-grandfather, Ira Seeley, served with an Iowa regiment in the Civil War. When I was still in elementary school, my grandmother would sometimes bring out letters he had written home, show them to me, and read me some of them. After college, I took the same letters and carefully typed a transcript of each one exactly as written.

Many years later, after I retired as a CPA, I thought about trying to reconstruct all of the unsaved letters that my great-grandmother might have written to her soldier husband and mesh them with the transcribed letters.  I soon determined the task to be nearly impossible given the time it would have taken for their letters to cross in the mail and the difficulty of determining which letters each would have received when writing to the other. At that point, I decided to write a novel of the period – a fictional account where I could weave into the story letters to and from my characters written in the style of the day.

What’s your favorite scene from the book?

I believe my favorite scene takes place after Henry Hancock has been mustered out of service and has returned home. The traumatized Henry, though of Methodist faith, seeks out a priest to take his confession and absolve him of the things he has had to do. The scene shows a certain depth of feeling shared even now by veterans of more recent wars. Though Henry was a hero of the Battle of Shiloh – even called ‘the Lion’ by his men, he is vulnerable. He is at the same time proud of his service to the country and guilt-ridden over the part he has played.

Where can people learn more about Henry’s Pride?

The book is available at Goodreads and as both an e-book and paperback edition at Amazon.com. For signed copies, contact me at Greg.Seeley@att.net.