Today I’m happy to welcome author Lisa Lieberman as she shares about her recent novel and its connection to her family history.
One of my writing teachers once said, in regard to plotting, “If you know everything that’s going to happen in advance, what’s the point of writing the story?” I’ve taken his advice to heart, playing fast and loose with outlines, giving the characters of my historical noir mystery series plenty of room to surprise me. Who knew that my lack of discipline would lead me to uncover a lost corner of my own family history?
Cara Walden was seventeen when she set off for London with her older brother Gray, a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, in All the Wrong Places, my series debut. By the time she got to the bottom of the unsolved mystery of her mother’s drowning in 1943, she’d seen Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, gone to Sicily on a film shoot, and attended Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier III in Monaco (where she ran into Cary Grant), ending up at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
The sequel, Burning Cold, is much darker. Cara and Gray venture into Budapest during the 1956 revolution in search of their half-brother Zoltán, the forgotten son of their father’s first marriage. They track him to Mád, a small town in the Tokaj wine region on Hungary’s eastern border—a place I chose simply because of the potential for wordplay. Then I learned the fate of Mád’s once-thriving Jewish community.
Some three hundred men, women, and children were locked in the town’s synagogue when the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, deprived of food and water for three days, then herded into cattle cars with the help of the Arrow Cross (Hungarian militia). Most perished in Auschwitz.
I visited Mád during a research trip to Hungary in 2015. The desecrated synagogue was only restored in 2004, a lonely memorial to the town’s murdered Jews. As I stood in the sanctuary, I was overwhelmed by sadness.
I set a scene in the ruined sanctuary toward the end of Burning Cold. Cara’s new husband plays the Kol Nidre, a Jewish prayer of mourning, on his violin.
Persecution, exile, and suffering were all woven into the ancient elegy, which penetrated where words could not go, reminding me of every loss I’d ever experienced. When the last note had faded away, Jakub bowed his head over the instrument. He had given us the precious gift of peace, momentary but healing all the same.
My father’s family emigrated to America from this corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the nineteenth century. How remarkable, that my characters’ wanderlust led me to my very own ancestors, allowing me to offer a small tribute to their memory.
Readers, Lisa has a question for you: Have any of you been surprised by what you’ve learned about your own family history?
ABOUT THE BOOK: Burning Cold
Budapest: 1956. Newlywed Cara Walden’s brother Zoltán has disappeared in the middle of the Hungarian revolution, harboring a deadly wartime secret. Will Cara or the Soviets find him first?
The noir film of Graham Greene’s The Third Man inspires Lisa Lieberman’s historical thriller. Burning Cold features a compelling female protagonist who comes to know her own strength in the course of her adventures.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Lieberman
Lisa Lieberman writes the Cara Walden series of historical mysteries based on old movies and featuring blacklisted Hollywood people in dangerous international locales. Her books hit the sweet spot between Casablanca and John Le Carré. Trained as a modern European historian, she has written extensively on the postwar era. She is Vice President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America.
Here is the link to my website: http://deathlessprose.com
Here is the link to my Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/LisaLiebermanAuthor/
Today I’m happy to welcome author Susan Storer Clark as she shares about her recent story.
“My mother said she was a nun. That may have been a lie.”
The “Monk Woman”—Historical Fact
A young pregnant woman named Maria Monk arrived in New York City in 1836. She soon created a national sensation by saying she was a nun, and that a priest was the father of her child. And she wrote a book about it. The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk described a nightmare world of sexual corruption in a convent in Montreal. She went on the lecture circuit in a nun’s habit, with her baby girl in her arms. Her story was discredited, and she disappeared from public view.
Who Was Her Daughter?
This novel is a fictional account of the life that baby girl. Vera is a resourceful and intelligent heroine who makes her way through the squalor of 1840s Manhattan, the bucolic countryside of Flatbush, and the riots and fires of 1850s Baltimore, and the excitement and corruption of Civil War Washington.
Bringing History Alive
The turbulent world of American cities before the Civil War fascinates me. It’s not the sanitized (and dull!) story we learned in school. Political disputes were often settled with fists and clubs. Prostitution was legal, and one of the few economic choices most women had. Gangs with names like the Plug Uglies and the Dead Rabbits ruled the streets in New York and Baltimore. Washington City was a half-built capital rising from the mud.
I loved meeting the cast of characters who walked through my mind and into the book. I hope you will, too.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
“My mother said she was a nun. That may have been a lie.”
So begins the eye-opening and entertaining tale of Vera St. John’s chaotic upbringing amid the turbulence of nineteenth-century urban America. Sometimes rollicking and sometimes terrifying, Vera’s story features a fascinating array of characters—from the troubled woman who bore her, to the charming Irishman she marries, to the African-American freedman struggling to rescue his wife from slavery, to the beautiful high-priced prostitute she befriends, to the washerwoman who stands by her in a quixotic quest.
From the squalid streets of 1840s New York to the devastation of post-Civil War Memphis, Vera threads her way through the powerful conflicts of American history to find where she belongs. Along the way, she discovers the nature of power and the true meaning of freedom.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Storer Clark:
Susan Storer Clark is a former broadcast journalist who wrote and reported for the Voice of America and for WRC-TV in Washington, DC. She holds degrees in history from Rhodes College and King’s College London. She blogs about history, historical fiction, and writing at www.historymuse.us, and is working on her second novel. Susan has written reviews and other articles for the Washington Independent Review of Books since its inception. She and her husband Rich live in the Seattle area, where they have renovated an old farmhouse, and where she plays bass guitar with the band Learning to Fly.
Today I’m happy to welcome author Gail Kittleson as she shares about her latest novel. Read through to the end to find out how to enter the giveaway for an ebook copy.
We honored World War II vets, living and dead, on June 6, the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day. It’s unbearable to think what would have happened if the United States had not joined the Allies… if D-Day had never occurred. Seeing ninety-plus year-olds with tears in their eyes and a tremor in their voices as they recalled their fallen buddies touched us all.
In light of all this, my latest novel, UNTIL THEN, honors one of the many support teams that cared for the wounded and dying. The Eleventh Evacuation Hospital followed the troops across North Africa, through Sicily, up the boot of Italy, northward through France and into Germany. Surgeons and nurses gave their all to save the lives of GIs.
Until Then focuses in on one American nurse, Dorothy Woebbeking from Waterloo, Iowa—that is her Army photo on the cover. She stands for thousands like her who sacrificed four or five years of their lives for the war effort, came home forever changed, yet still devoted to their work and their country.
A regular All-American girl, Dorothy longed to be of service. And she longed for romance and fun. Her attitude of taking life as it came and making the very most of every opportunity impressed me from the first. I love her willingness to take risks, her joie de vivre, and her ability to learn from her mistakes.
At the same time Dorothy served, people in London had been suffering under the Luftwaffe’s bombing for years. In 1943, an additional terrible civilian tragedy added insult to injury. This accident on the stairs of a tube station in a poor London borough gripped me when I learned of it. In addition to losing nearly 175 loved ones, these citizens were ordered to keep the tragedy secret, lest Hitler’s spies think they’d gained the upper hand.
Interweaving these two stories challenged me—that’s an understatement. But one thing about war: it divides nations and separates people from each other, but also has power to draw folks together in unique ways. I hope Dorothy’s story and the saga of a policeman tasked with enforcing the rule of silence in his neighborhood touch readers and increase understanding of the incredible challenges this era faced.
READERS, leave a comment to be entered in her giveaway for an ebook copy.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Until Then
March 3, 1943
Bethnal Green, London’s East End
Shortly after a quarter past eight, a siren split the air. Marian Williams lifted her sleeping daughter from her bed and darted down the stairs. Her mother and father-in-law, off on air warden duty, had left the front door unlocked.
She hugged her youngest child close. The blackout made the going difficult, but her husband’s instructions echoed in her brain: “Whatever you do, get down inside the station fast as you can.”
She hoped for a spot near the canteen, with access to milk. Uneven light shone over the paved steps. Then she tripped. Her knee hit the concrete, then something bashed her left side. Someone cried out. Another blow scraped her arm on the landing floor. Where was her baby? She attempted to get up, but an even heavier weight slammed her face down. A crushing burden descended, then all went black.
Riding in the backs of Army trucks across North Africa, throughout the Sicily campaign, up the boot of Italy, and northward through France into Germany, Dorothy Woebbeking served as a surgical nurse with the 11th Evacuation Hospital.
During World War II, US Army nurses worked and slept in tents through horrific weather, endured enemy fire, and even the disdain of their own superior officers, who believed women had no place in war. But Dorothy and her comrades persevered, and their skills and upbeat attitude made a huge difference in the lives of thousands of wounded soldiers.
Dorothy and Marian’s stories converge on a simple, hand stitched handkerchief.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Kittleson
Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband of forty-one years enjoy grandchildren, gardening, traveling and historical research. After instructing college writing and English as a Second Language, Gail wrote a memoir. Then the World War II bug big her . . . relentlessly! Seven novels later, she’s still hopelessly addicted to this riveting era. Her women’s fiction honors Greatest Generation characters who made a difference despite great odds.
Gail’s second love, teaching, has her facilitating workshops and retreats, where she cheers others in their creative efforts.
Today I’m happy to welcome author Cindy Regnier as she shares about her new release. Read through to the end to find out how you can enter her giveaway.
Though the market for historical fiction ebbs and flows, there’s still many who are partial to that particular genre. I’m one of them and so are you, faithful readers of HiStory Thru the Ages. While we may have that in common, we probably each have time frames we like to read about that are different. Is this a problem? For the writer, it can be.
Just because someone enjoys historical fiction, your World War II story may not interest them. Maybe they prefer Biblical fiction or Regency romances. See where I’m going with this? The field of readers automatically narrows once you pick a time frame. Again, I ask, is that a problem? Maybe.
I prefer to think of problems as opportunities. The greatest thing about a time period I didn’t live in is that there is so much to learn about it. With the internet, seemingly endless sources are available for historical reference. As a writer, I can tell you that the rabbit trails I often hop down on my way to researching a specific question can be far more interesting than what I had in mind in the first place, creating new story ideas. How fun is that?
But here is my word of caution. Writers, stay accurate to your time period. Readers, don’t assume the writer is right. Look it up. Verify. Note your sources so you can go back to it if need be. Here’s why this is so important.
As an avid reader of historical fiction, (the American 1880s and 1890s are my favorite time periods), I often run across references to meals I thought were wrong. Nowadays we call the noon meal lunch and the evening meal dinner. Not so, in the 1800s. Back then, dinner was at noon and supper was in the evening.
This became such a pet peeve of mine I might even quit reading a book if the meals were named incorrectly. Research told me how it should be. The dictionary of etymology confirmed it. (Great tool, by the way https://www.etymonline.com.) But there was one important factor I was overlooking. Just because I thought I knew the right name to call these meals didn’t mean everyone else did.
For instance, the modern day reader might become confused, wondering why these characters were eating the evening meal when the sun was high overhead or why children ate from dinner-pails during the ‘lunch hour’ at the old-time schoolhouse.
Bottom line, if your reader doesn’t understand it, all your historical accuracy doesn’t matter.
Writers, be accurate, it’s still important, but give the reader clues as to what you mean. Readers, if something doesn’t make sense, slip in a bookmark and look it up. You may learn something that will help you gain more enjoyment from the book. But don’t give the author the benefit of the doubt, either. Many of us writerly types tend to think we know things that we may not simply because we read them in someone else’s historical novel. Yeah, see how that chain of error can get started?
Do you have a pet peeve when reading historical fiction? I will give away a copy of Mail-Order Refuge to one commenter, your choice of paperback or ebook (For readers outside of the United States, e-books only.)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Rand Stratford isn’t looking for true love. He’d ridden that trail until his fiancée left him with a shattered heart. What he needs now is a wife to help him care for his orphan nieces. Desperate, he sends an advertisement to a Baltimore newspaper and hopes for the best.
Fleeing her former employer who would use her to further his unlawful acts, a newspaper advertisement reads like the perfect refuge to Carly Blair. The idea of escaping the city, the intrigue, and the danger to hide herself on a cattle ranch in Kansas is her best shot for freedom.
But its sanctuary comes with a price–a husband. While marrying a man she doesn’t know or love means sacrificing her dreams, it’s better than being caught by the law.
Or is it?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Scribbling in notebooks has been a habit of Cindy Regnier since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Born and raised in Kansas, she writes stories of historical Kansas, especially the Flint Hills area where she spent much of her childhood. Cindy is married to her husband of 36 years, has two grown sons, a son residing in heaven, a beautiful daughter-in-law, and a beautiful daughter-in-law-to-be.
A graduate of Kansas State University with a dual major in Agriculture and Business, Cindy works for her local school district as clerk of the board of education and is active in her church and community. Her experiences with the Flint Hills setting, her natural love for history, farming and animals, along with her interest in genealogical research give her the background and passion to write heart-fluttering historical romance.
Find me at:
June 2019 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Cross My Heart by Robin Lee Hatcher — Horse rescue farmer Ashley helps Ben start an equine therapy barn on his great-great grandfather’s farm. When they consider a relationship together, her bitter experience with her opioid addict brother reins in any hope for a future with Ben, who is five years in recovery from alcoholism. Ben knows that with God, all things are possible—but will Ashley find it within herself to give love a chance? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Risking Love by Toni Shiloh — Nikki lives with a perfect trifecta of noes. No guys. No dates. No way. After years of keeping men at bay, Nikki Gordon has it down to a science. No one, not even sweet, hunky Shorty Smalls can change her mind. Period. So if she’s got it all figured out, why does her heart sink to her toes when she sees Shorty with another woman? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)
Uncharted Destiny by Keely Brooke Keith — When Bailey sets out to rescue her lost friend in the Land’s dangerous mountain terrain, she discovers more about the Land—and herself—than she bargained for. (General from Edenbrooke Press)
Six Houses Down by Kari Rimbey — Two days after Sharon Webster’s distant husband returns for a surprise visit, their autistic son slips out of the house and is lost in historic Washington D. C. As they search for their boy, Sharon is forced to rely on the husband she believes no longer loves her. An elderly black couple down the street seems to understand her unspoken hurts. Has God sent them to help her find trust again? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)
In the Shadow of the King by Melissa Rosenberger — Beset by doubts and jealousy about prophecies spoken over her brother Yeshua, Hannah struggles to see the truth before her eyes until it is too late…or is it? (Historical from Carpenter’s Son Publishing)
This Healing Journey by Misty M. Beller — An adventure-seeking wilderness girl and an ex-cavalryman looking to settle down fall in love while caring for a wounded Indian child that shows up in his barn. Will their differences keep them apart or become their greatest strengths? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
Cameo Courtships by Susanne Dietze, Debra E. Marvin, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — In 1851, a special cameo is gifted by Queen Victoria to Letitia Newton, who though considered an old maid, meets the perfect gentleman minutes after donning. Told by the Queen the cameo is to be shared, Letitia gifts the “Victoria Cameo” to a woman in her family, hoping adventure and romance will follow each of its subsequent wearers. Adventure indeed follows two competing journalists, one of whom carries the cameo while looking to expose a smuggler, a trouser-wearing frontierswoman and a reverend who are on a mission to ransom the cameo from a manipulative brothel owner, two Pinkertons who are charged with the care of the cameo but must rely on one another when the cameo is once again stolen, and a young woman who doubts the cameo can help her when a handsome Scottish library administrator ruins her dream of overseeing the new Carnegie Library children’s department and keeps a social chasm between himself and her father. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Mail-Order Refuge by Cindy Regnier — Carly Blair from Baltimore buys a train ticket to Kansas where she will become the wife of a man she’s never met. She must leave Baltimore to escape the evil plans her ex-fiance has for using her artistic talents for a counterfeit operation. Rand Stafford, Kansas cattle rancher is looking after his two orphaned nieces, but knows they need a mother. He’s not interested in love since being left at the altar so he advertises for a mail-order bride, willing to do whatever it takes to give Mary Jo and Jenna a proper home and upbringing. Can Carly and Rand find love where they least expect it, or will the shadows of the past dash their hopes for the future? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky — Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans—but was that the truth? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])
Darkwater Truth by Robin Caroll — Adelaide Fountaine, general manager, is enthusiastically renovating parts of the Darkwater Inn. Her intentions come to a screeching halt when a skeleton is found behind a makeshift wall—an axe beside it. As Adelaide works alongside owner Dimitri Pampalon and Detective Beau Savoie, the two men who have been pursuing her heart, she learns the eerie death has tentacles that reach deep into the seedy past of both the Darkwater Inn and the evil underground of New Orleans. The past and the present collide as the stakes are upped—not only for Adelaide’s heart, but for her very life and her father’s life as well. The threats are deadly, the coils of evil are tightening around everyone involved, and they are more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)
Over the Line by Kelly Irvin — Gabriela’s brother is missing, he’s a suspect in a murder, and she’s in the cross hairs of a criminal organization. The only person who can help her is the one man she can’t trust. Will Gabby & Eli find her brother before it’s too late? (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Long Walk Home by DiAnn Mills — As an Arab Christian pilot for a relief organization, Paul Farid feels called to bring supplies to his war-torn countrymen in southern Sudan. But with constant attacks from Khartoum’s Islamic government, the villagers have plenty of reasons to distrust Paul, and he wonders if the risks he’s taking are really worth his mission. American doctor Larson Kerr started working with the Sudanese people out of a sense of duty and has grown to love them all, especially Rachel Alier, her young assistant. But despite the years she’s spent caring for them, her life feels unfulfilled. It’s a void noticed both by Paul and by Rachel’s older brother, Colonel Ben Alier of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. When Rachel is abducted, Paul, Ben, and Larson agree to set aside their differences to form an unlikely alliance and execute a daring rescue. Their faith and beliefs tested, each must find the strength to walk the path God has laid before them, to find their way home. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)
The Last Chaplain by Carl M. White — At the request of Pastor John Grant, the last chaplain of the United States Senate, Lisa Smithy embarks on the adventure of a lifetime: find a former Senate staff member and convince him to reveal to a DC reporter the plot that led to Dr. Grant’s removal and the discrediting of his best friend, a United States Senator. From the South, to the West, to the Midwest, evil men are desperate to stop her, and romance surprisingly finds her. Can she bring together the former Senate staffer who knows all and the Washington reporter who can tell all, while eluding the men who would end it all? (Romantic Suspense from Austin Brothers Publishers)
Today I’m happy to welcome author Pat Jeanne Davis as she shares history behind her book and an excerpt from When Valleys Bloom Again. Read through to the end to find out how you can enter her giveaway.
While conducting research for my novel, I came across fascinating information that added an element of depth to the story.
In the partial scenebelow from When Valleys Bloom Again, our soldier, Jim Wright, and other allied soldiers who stormed the Normandy beaches struggled through enemy lines. Thousands died instantly or were severely injured. Their recovery and rehabilitation was made possible with a new life saving medicine.
I discovered a connection between my hero’s hometown in West Chester, PA and the production of penicillin. The history of penicillin ranges from its discovery in 1928 by the Scot, Alexander Fleming, and its subsequent development in the 1930’s by British scientists Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain to a laboratory in Pennsylvania’s Chester County, “the mushroom capital of the world,” where it so happens our hero Jim lived and worked prior to being drafted by the US Army.
Granville Raymond Rettew, a Pennsylvania chemist and mycologist (expert in fungi), followed with interest the research carried out in Britain during the early 1940’s. The barrier to date was the difficulty of stabilizing the drug and producing it in sufficiently large quantities. Through his experiments Rettew demonstrated the antibiotic properties of ‘spawn’ extracted from the mushroom. Later, in collaboration with the American pharmaceutical industry he pioneered a method for the production of penicillin on a massive scale.
By D-Day millions of doses of the drug were made available for the treatment of Allied forces, saving many from infection, crippling injury, and death.
READERS, Pat has offered to give away one print copy of When Valleys Bloom Again to a commenter to commemorate this historical event. Leave a comment below to be entered.
About the Book:
When Valleys Bloom Again
Inspirational Historical Romance
As war approaches in 1939 Abby Stapleton’s safety is under threat. Her father, a British diplomat, insists she go back to America until the danger passes. Abby vows to return to her home in London—but where is home? With her family facing mortal danger so far away and feeling herself isolated, she finds it hard to pray or read the Bible. Did she leave God behind in war-torn London too? Abby becomes friendly with Jim, a gardener on her uncle’s estate.
Jim can’t get Abby out of his mind. Did she have a sweetheart in England? Was it foolish to think she’d consider him? He curses his poverty and the disgrace of his father’s desertion and drunkenness haunts him. Can he learn to believe in love for a lifetime and to hope for a happy marriage?
Abby couldn’t know the war would last a long time, nor that she would fall in love with Jim—soon to be drafted by the U.S. Army—or that she’d have to confront Henri, a rejected suitor, determined by his lies to ruin her reputation and destroy her faith in God’s providence. Will she discover the true meaning of home and find happiness with Jim?
PAT JEANNE DAVIS lives in Philadelphia, Pa with her British-born husband, John. They have two grown sons. She enjoys flower gardening, genealogy research and traveling with her husband. Pat has published essays, short stories and articles online and in print. She has a keen interest in mid-twentieth-century American and British history, particularly the period of World War II. Pat’s father-in-law served in the British Eighth Army during the war. When Valleys Bloom Again is her debut historical romance set in that era. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Pat loves to hear from her readers. Subscribe to her newsletter here http://www.patjeannedavis.com
When Valleys Bloom Again can be purchased here;
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/patjeannedavis
In remembrance of the Normandy Invasion that occurred 75 years ago today.
Excerpt from When Valleys Bloom Again
June 6, 1944
At 0730 on D-Day, Corporal James Wright burst from the navy transport. Top-heavy from the gear in his pack, he crashed head first into seven feet of icy cold water, two hundred yards offshore. In the high swells, his thrashing pushed him further down. His eyes smarted from the acrid mixture of sea salt and diesel fuel that gushed from ruptured fuel tanks. After groping in an eternity of terror, Jim’s helmet broke surface, and he felt sand beneath his boots. On the beach, he dropped onto his belly, ripped off the life jacket, and rushed forward.
In the cacophony about him, one trooper after another fell dead under the cannonade from the German revetments on the hills above. Shells from the Allied destroyers lying offshore whistled and slashed through the canopy of smoke and flame, exploding in concert, knocking him flat. Nearby a buddy from his squad writhed in pain, tangled in the jagged metal of a half-destroyed tank trap. As Jim got closer to him, the soldier raised two fingers and motioned for a cigarette. Dear Lord, have mercy. Jim didn’t carry any. It would have made no difference. There was nowhere to put it.
Resuming a crouched run, Jim headed for the crest of a hill. He pushed up the endless hill, dodging like a manic dancer. As flares burst overhead, lighting up the sloping terrain, Jim reached the barbed wire at the top. He pressed his body against the soft ground, making himself small. Prying up the wire with the snout of his rifle, he tried to slide under, but the barbs snagged his jacket, and he panicked. Months of training ought to have prepared him for this. After a few frantic gyrations, he freed himself and hurtled on through the incessant hail of fire. Others raced alongside him, a surging, shouting, lunatic mass intent on suicide.
He scurried through a low hedge and lay still, panting. The outline of a small building rose out of the battle smoke. He made for it, skittering across the field, bobbing and weaving to make himself an elusive target. On reaching the half-demolished structure, he dived over a mound of rubble. The roof was open to the sky, affording scant refuge. Jim flattened against a fragment of the outer wall, its old bricks held firm by ancient mortar, the handiwork of a long-dead farmer for whom these skies had threatened only rain. As the whine of ordnance from the Allied ships grew louder, the thud, thud, thud of German artillery responded in an endless barrage.
Here in the thick of it, Jim had no yardstick to measure success or failure. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. As a lad, this Bible verse had been impressed on him by his mother. He’d never really understood. What danger faced a young boy? Buddies of his, good men, Christian men, had been blown to smithereens in seconds. What kind of a promise that he, Jim Wright, would be kept safe? He could not believe this, and yet, somehow, he did take comfort from it, willing himself to accept that somewhere in the vast unknowable web of the universe such protection did exist. That there was, after all, a Higher Purpose, something that could make sense of this vulgar conflict that threatened him and the people he loved.
Today I’m happy to welcome author Janet P. Reedman as she shares about her new release.
In the Middle Ages, most royal daughters were expected to make marriage alliances to strengthen the kingdom. If they weren’t to be married, they were sent to join the church as a nun. Mary of Woodstock, daughter of Edward I, was the latter, being chosen at the age of six to accompany her grandmother, Eleanor of Provence, into the convent of St Mary’s in Amesbury, Wiltshire. It was an unusually young age to go into the cloister, and Mary’s mother, Queen Eleanor of Castile had not approved, but she gave in to her husband and mother-in-law’s wishes.
Mary had no real vocation to be a nun and it showed. Along with her grandmother, she lived in brand-new private quarters away from the other nuns, with pets, sumptuous beds and other luxuries—including a substantial regular income supplied by her father.
As she grew older, she also acquired a passion for travelling; with permission from the prioress of St Mary’s, she would process about the country just like the princess she was…although she didn’t forget all her religious duties, and did go on a few pilgrimages (with her friends) or inspected a few other nunneries in her office of ‘visitatrix.’ She was at court often and attended the weddings of her numerous sisters; whilst there, she enjoyed dicing and other types of gambling, and frequently had to have her debts paid off by the King.
She was quite close to her brother, who became the unfortunate Edward II, and attended his Coronation and the feast afterwards, which was something of a disaster. The food was cold and inedible, served late, and all the lords of the land were itching to lay hands on Edward’s favourite, the Gascon knight, Piers Gaveston, who had marched around Westminster Abbey wearing royal purple and pearls as if it was his Coronation and not Edward’s.
As Edward’s unfortunate reign progressed, Mary gradually began to spend more time in her convent. A book on the Plantagenet, with emphasis on her father was written by a monk called Nicholas Trevet; it was dedicated to Mary, and she probably commissioned it to be written. It is one of our most important sources on Edward I’s reign.
Mary died in 1332 at the age of approximately fifty-three and was buried in Amesbury. Unfortunately, the priory was completely levelled during the Reformation, with not one stone remaining above ground, so her tomb is now lost, along with that of her grandmother, Queen Eleanor. It is not impossible that one day her grave might be found if the landowner decides to excavate; in which case she would likely be re-interred with a proper memorial in the local abbey church or perhaps Salisbury Cathedral.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
J.P. Reedman was born in Canada but has lived in the U.K. for nearly 27years. Interests include folklore & anthropology, prehistoric archaeology (Neolithic/bronze age Europe; ritual, burial & material culture), as well as The Wars of the Roses and other medieval eras.
Reedman is the author a speculative archaeological fiction epic using a proto-King Arthur in the era of Stonehenge called THE STONEHENGE SAGA, a very successful novel about Richard III, ‘I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET’ and a series called MEDIEVAL BABES: TALES OF LITTLE-KNOWN LADIES, which deals with the lesser-known Queen and noblewomen of medieval England.
Today we welcome Jennifer Uhlarik for an author spotlight and a sneak peak of her book, Taming Petra. Read through to the end to find out how you can enter her giveaway.
• What is your “go to” routine that helps you get in the mood to write? Special beverage? Music? Etc.
My writing routine often looks like this: I grab my laptop from the coffee table and walk toward my writing room—the front bedroom of our home. My dog, Gracie, sees me heading that way and jumps up to race me to the room (she is my helper dog and loves to sit in the room while we work together on stories!). As I set my computer in place and make sure I have any books/research material I may need close at hand, Gracie checks the windows to be sure all is well outside. I typically sit down, then realize I don’t have anything to drink, so I get up, go back to the kitchen to grab water (usually with some Crystal Light Wild Strawberry mixed in it), and then head back to my room. Once closed inside, I’ll put on my headphones. I can’t listen to music and write—too distracting. So is the ambient noise of television or conversations going on outside my writing room. Long ago, I found a white noise app for my computer, and I use it to play the sounds of a rainstorm and thunder to drown out any sounds that break my focus. With the white noise going, I kick off my flip-flops, put my feet up on the footrest I’ve rigged under my desk, and drape a blanket over my lap. Usually at this point, I’ll take a glance at my emails, answer anything pressing, and then settle in to write. That entails a read-through of the previous scene, then hopefully plowing ahead with the next part of the story. Of course, if I’ve failed to close my email or mute my phone, then every beep of a notification distracts me until I remedy the problem, but eventually, I find my focus and slip into story mode.
• Tell us about your next book & when is it being published? Why do you write the kind of books you do?
My latest release is out TODAY! Cameo Courtships is a 4-in-1 novella collection from Barbour Publishing. It features stories from Susanne Dietze, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Debra E. Marvin, and me. The concept of the collection is that during a visit to the palace, a cameo brooch is given by Queen Victoria to a woman who, moments later, meets the man she ends up marrying. The cameo is then passed on to another family member, since Queen Victoria had instructed that one never owns a cameo, but rather acts as its custodian until it becomes clear it is time to pass it on to another. So each story in the collection shows where the cameo brooch is sent and the adventures each new family member has while acting as its custodian.
My particular story, Taming Petra, is about a tomboy named Petra who dresses in buckskin trousers and prefers to go by the name of Buckskin Pete. When her mother sends her the cameo, she promptly loses it to a nefarious brothel owner, and she must team up with the Colorado town’s new pastor to get it back.
I long ago fell in love with the western genre when I read my first Louis L’Amour western (see more of that story in my bio). I was a bit of a tomboy myself when I was a girl, so the genre fit my need for adventure and action, but it also spoke to my more feminine side with the chivalrous cowboys living by the Code of the West. To me, it was a perfect blend of everything. (And there were horses! LOL) I read so many westerns in my teen years that it became a natural avenue to follow in my writing.
• How has being published changed your life? If you aren’t published yet, how do you think being published will change your life?
Life is a LOT busier now that I’m published! It used to be that I could sit and write whenever and however I wanted (meaning—if I wanted to, I could work on three different stories at a time—or do no writing at all for months). But along with being published came deadlines and expectations. These days, I split my time between writing new stories, promoting the latest releases, writing blog posts for my group blog, Heroes, Heroines and History(www.hhhistory.com), critiquing for my writing partners, keeping up with social media and websites, and dreaming up new stories. So it’s become a bit of a crazy life.
That said, the really amazing part of being published is the connections to readers. Since I received my first contract in June 2014, and especially since my first full-length novel, Sand Creek Serenade, came out earlier this year, it’s been so awesome to meet readers across the world who have somehow been touched by my stories. Writing can be a solitary job—just you and your fictional characters, with very little interaction beyond that. Thanks to social media, I’m able to chat with various readers, learn about their lives, and begin to develop friendships that I never would have had if my stories were not out there for readers to see. Those wonderful connections are what it is really all about, and they make all the craziness worth it in the end!
• Question for Readers: Do you enjoy novella collections? Do you prefer the novellas to have a common thread running through them (such as the “Victoria Cameo” being handed down to various family members), or would you rather each novella stands on its own with only a loose theme to tie them to each other? Leave your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for a paperback copy of Cameo Courtships
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.
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1st Page of Taming Petra by Jennifer Uhlarik
Cambria Springs, Colorado Territory—late summer, 1875
“Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth!”
The gruff voice froze Pete’s tracks. People all around the crowded street stopped, and tension climbed. Was someone wishing to start a gunfight? If so, the voice wasn’t familiar, but such details were hardly important to those cocksure young bucks who fancied themselves gunfighters. They’d look for anyone with a bigger reputation than their own and call them out, all to garner fame.
In the last two years, the name of Buckskin Pete had become known about those parts—though not as a gunfighter.
Gripping the rifle in one hand, Pete blew out a breath and turned.
“I am.” A man of about eighteen stepped into the street from outside the Wells Fargo office. “Been lookin’ for you for a month.”
What on earth for? “State your business.”
“We got a couple packages for a Petra Jayne Breaux. That’s you, ain’t it?”
At the mention of her proper legal name, a chuckle rippled through the crowd, and folks along the street shifted anxious glances between her and the gent.
Heat and ire flashed through her. He’d exposed her true identity over packages? Just how had he figured it out, anyway? Only two other people in Cambria Springs knew her real name. Lucinda Braddock, the dime novelist who’d dubbed her Buckskin Pete after her successes at the Founders’ Day wood-chopping competition that started her rise to notoriety, and the town postmaster. Had one of them shared the information? Lu and her husband, Marshal Rion Braddock, were two of her few real friends in the area. She could trust Lu with that secret. Tamping down her unwelcome emotions, Pete stopped in front of the brash man.
“Petra. Pete. One and the same. Now what about those packages?”
The fella waved her toward the Wells Fargo office.
“Lemme get the door for you, Pete.” Tibby, a stately old gentleman despite his unkempt white mutton chops and threadbare clothes, stepped from the crowd to turn the knob. He pulled the door open and, with a flourish of his hand, bowed.
“Get out the way, old man,” the Wells Fargo fella barked.
She turned. “Shut your mouth. A proper gentleman opens doors for a lady.”
He gave her a contemptuous glance, eyes lingering on her buckskin trousers, then swept to the Colt Peacemaker and the Indian tomahawk on her belt, and finally stalled on her short-cropped hair. “You ain’t nothin’ close to a lady.”
Today I’m happy to welcome author Elizabeth Martina as she shares some insights into her novel research.
I write historical novels based on true stories. It is a niche genre and a popular one. The problem is that it takes much research to get all the background story you need for the book to have depth.
My story began as a question: How did a certain woman, Carmela Amato, die? I received multiple answers over the years. None of them were true. It took years (this was in ancient times, before the internet) of research, one city directory at a time, to find the answers. I contacted Hartford, Ct. Police, Hartford Courant newspaper and Connecticut State Library. I poured through coroner’s reports, newspaper articles and met a detective who was actually willing to help me. All of that gave me a bare bones answer.
The internet proved invaluable. I could then find out immigrations, living styles, names of children, and personal lives of the most peripheral of people. I even found out that some police officers in 1912 Hartford, Ct. had been on the New York Metropolitan baseball club. The one in the mid 1880s. A scene about baseball did not make the final cut into the book, but I may save it for another one. And I still have a list of family members for nearly one quarter of the Hartford police!
My knowledge of Italian food traditions ended up becoming a large factor in the story. That, I didn’t have to study. Use what you know.
Researching is fascinating, if you have that turn of mind. Otherwise, it can be drudgery. But, if you want to paint a picture of the world your readers are going to enter, you must give them accuracy and some details.
And the book:
It is Hartford, Connecticut, 1910. Italian immigrants are pouring into the U.S. by the thousands every year. They bring with them their own form of justice from the Old World.
How far can one man and his family go to get their own share of the American Dream…. without losing everything?
This story is taken from the headlines of the Hartford Courant. The names are real. The dates are real. Read it and decide if the decisions made were wise or foolish.
Purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=The+Ragman+Murders&ref=nb_sb_noss
Elizabeth is a historian, genealogist and gardener. She is from upstate New York but has traveled extensively in the States, Canada, Western Europe and Japan. Settling down in the mountains of New York, she is happily married and the proud mom of a Bernese Mountain dog, Hansel, and two adult humans.
As a historian, Elizabeth has learned that some of the more unlikely stories are the true ones. There is no need to come up with a plot when dealing with her stories. They write themselves. As a genealogist, she writes up stories of the families for those whose ancesters she has traced.
In her first published book, “The Ragman Murders”, Elizabeth follows the tracks of an Italian immigrant family from their poor roots in southern Italy to Hartford, Ct. where revenge and threats from gangs destroy the integrity of a family.
She is planning a sequel to that book, titled “The Bronze Box”, but is also working on a series called “Virginia Legacy”, describing a family who immigrated to the colonies, almost at the beginning.
Today I’m happy to welcome author Rose Allen McCauley as she shares some of the history behind her latest story.
I used to read a lot of Christian historical writers until I joined ACFW and discovered a whole world of Christian contemporary authors. Now I read both and write both! The story Hidden Courage in The Courageous Brides Collection was in my first historical collection for Barbour Publishing, and it was a fun set to do with several friends.
My story was pre-civil war and was set in the house my son and his wife and children now live in which was built pre-civil war on the main thoroughfare in Cynthiana, KY. It is only a few blocks from one of the civil war battles in that town which went back and forth between the North and South. In fact, the cemetery has a unique ring of monuments near the entryway containing both Confederate and Union graves. Here is what the cemetery has posted on its site:
During the Civil war, Harrison County was politically evenly split. Over 800 men from the county served in each the Confederate and Union armies. In 1869, the committee felt that any inscriptions engraved on the monument, so soon after the war, would cause undue animosity in the community. Thus, it was not until 1902 that the monument was inscribed with the following:
Erected May 27, 1869
By the Cynthiana Confederate Memorial Association
In Memory Of The Confederate Dead
Who Fell In Defense Of Constitutional Liberty
On Fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead
“Their names shall never be forgot
While fame her records keep
And Glory guards the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps”
That much is documented, now I want to tell you a couple of the undocumented stories told by relatives of people who knew others who lived in my son’s house which is over one hundred years ago! One is that when my son’s mother and father-in-law remodeled the house, they tore out a wall and found a small room in the stone basement large enough to hold a couple of slaves for a short while, giving credence to a rumor that it may have been a station on the Underground Railroad.
Another was told to us by my husband and daughter’s high school English teacher who is still living and remembers a lady who was a Confederate widow who told her Mother (grandmother?) who was still living near the end of the Civil War. She asked one of the Confederate officers to please not burn the Peck house as one of her friends lived there and they were “good people”, so thanks to her request, a beautiful old house is still standing with its original carvings for another family to enjoy today!
These are the kinds of details that make writing historical fiction so interesting, especially when it is based on bits of history that you can glean.
And the blurb for the whole collection:
Ride into adventures alongside nine determined women of yesteryear whose acts of compassion and bravery attract male attention. Marcy helps displaced Indians. Emmy tends wounds at Fort Snelling. Ronnie stows away on a cattle drive. Daisy disguises herself as a Pony Express rider. Elinor becomes an abolitionist. Mae tames wild horses. Hannah gets help for accident victims. Lucy’s curiosity unnerves criminals. Kate nurses soldiers on the battlefield. Will real dangers douse the sparks of love?
Rose Allen McCauley has been writing since she retired from teaching school and joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She is thrilled for this to be her third collection with Barbour and her seventh published work. She and her spouse just celebrated their golden anniversary with their three children and their spouses and now six grandchildren! She loves to hear from her readers.