Tag Archives: historical fiction

BREATHE. BREATHE. News and Sale!

Hi readers,

I hope you all have had a FABULOUSLY divine Christmas or Holiday Season and are looking forward to ringing in the New Year in style. Besides working and managing my children’s busy schedules, my family and I have been able to spend some time together finally too. I plan to hang out with Tim and the kids over the New Year holiday eating, watching movies, and playing games. Beyond that, I’m busy making a TON of goals for 2018 from all things personal to business to writing. I’m demanding a lot of myself in many areas.

One of the best parts of 2017 was publishing my poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. via Unnerving. I am beyond thrilled and grateful at the reception it’s received. It’s part biographical and trauma-based poetry seeped in real life, half supernatural and folkloric in nature, and then the short stories are a mix of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and domestic revenge, to put it as succinctly as possible. However, there is so much for everyone in this collection whether you’re a contemporary reader, a historical reader, a horror or suspense reader, or just a reader who likes to feel deeply. I’ll be writing a longer year-end wrap-up later, but for now….

I just wanted to let readers know that as a thank you for this fine two months that BREATHE. BREATHE. has had, the publisher Unnerving, has put it on SALE for just .99 cents until Dec. 31!! I’d be honored if you’d give it a try. Maybe you have an Amazon gift card to spend and can buy it for your kindle or share the news with a friend. Very soon, if not already, the print version should go on sale as well from $14 to $9!

With an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars, you can find it on sale on Amazon HERE.

Breathe Sale Un

I’d appreciate your support in a purchase or sharing with a friend or on social media. Feel free to use the graphic below if you’d like. THANK YOU. Your support means everything to me right now. We’ve had a rough year, and this…well, it just makes more hopeful.

As always, look forward to your thoughts on my writing, and don’t forget, authors thrive on the reviews you can leave, no matter how short and sweet.

Always in friendship,

Erin

 

About BREATHE. BREATHE.

BreatheBreatheBreathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

 

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.” – Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!” —Sue Harrison, internationally bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy) “Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.” —Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching “Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.” —Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

“I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale. I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.” –  Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.” -W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio Photo.jpgErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently a writer, a journalist, a publicist, and an editor among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor for authors, publishers, and others. She also handles marketing and PR for Sinister Grin Press, where she is also an editor. Her third pursuit is writing her own works for publication. She volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. Oh, and she bakes, because you can’t do any of that without cookies.

Erin is a co-host with her Marketing Morsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving, is her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry. She is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called Hardened Hearts, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe. is also featured in the My Favorite Story anthology of the Project Entertainment Network, which published also in December of 2017.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

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Review: Lilli de Jong is Story of a Courageous Mother

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Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

READ AN EXCERPT.

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Review

I’ll just tell you upfront to please read this book if you love historical fiction books that make you feel as if you are living yourself in that time and place. It’s so wonderfully well-written and drew me in page by page in a very insistent manner. I could almost feel as if I were living with and among the characters. I was shocked, horrified, tear-stricken, yet I felt proud of the protagonist as well and became full of admiration by the time I reached the end.

Lilli de Jong, is the story of a fictional woman, though it could be the story of so many women. The limits put on women during this time period by society, and men, was so tragic. This book not only brings it to light, but it reminds us it was actually worse than any of us could have ever thought. It also is petrifying as we watch the state of society inching along today and the growth of some of the feelings that men (and women) have towards women, especially in accordance with their reproductive or motherhood rights and the amount of shaming that still occurs of those who get pregnant out of wedlock. Lilli de Jong is almost like a more modern telling of the Scarlet Letter, as the character of Lilli certainly was scorned  with a similar, though intangible, mark for no other reason than having a baby when not married to the father.

What I loved about this book was obviously Janet’s character development, first and foremost. For a debut novel, this was a tremendous feat. Her pacing and dialogue was spot on and moved the story along quickly. Yet, the research hours poured into this book was also clear, and as a reader, I learned so very much of the time period, the societal and government rules, as well as through her descriptions, learned of the surroundings, which allowed me to be immersed further into the story.

The story of Lilli is such an important one. Janet truly has set the bar high for herself should she endeavor to write further novels, but I also hope she does, as I can’t wait to read more of her writing. She tells a story in a very meaningful way, creating even sad subjects into delightful reading. I shed a tear to two reading this, as well as balled my fists in anger a time or two, and feel compelled to hope that this book could also be used a learning tool for many who wish to change culture and continue to go forward with progress for women’s rights, but also of course, it’s important for others to read as well so that they can understand through the emotion and trials of Lilli just how important forgiveness can be as well as helping hands. Further, I suppose, redemption as well, and that things such as this are not only the fault of the woman, but the men too. I was so tired of judgement, even more than I already am, after reading this book.

This is the story of a woman’s courage, strength, and fortitude. It’s the story of a mother, all mothers, and their undying and unwavering love for their children. Love knows know boundaries between mother and a child and a true mother will go lengths to defend and support her children. I will carry this story around inside myself for a long while, just as all women carry the stories of those who came before us. This book should go on required reading lists.

I must applaud the author for her willingness to write this book and show the errors of our ways during this time period. Her observations from research, her ability to put herself in the shoes of another (her character – but more so, any real people who dealt with this), not having experienced this herself, are absolutely commendable. I can tell she is a very empathetic, in-tune, connective type of person. Those people make the best writers and preserve for prosperity the stories of others unlike most writers can do.

I should note after reading that I felt a kinship to the character of Lilli as well, due to her heritage and Quaker origin. Though my ancestors weren’t Quaker as far as I know, great-grandparents of mine (maybe 8 or 9 x) on my mother’s side did hail from the same area the character lived in at the start of the book, Germantown, which was a quarter in Pennsylvania. Having done my own cultural and historical research on the family for personal knowledge and my own historical writing, I could feel a sense of place when reading about her. It was very interesting and I loved this added personal touch for me.

Lilli de Jong is an outstanding debut flush with detail and movement that I would highly recommend to all readers of historical fiction or those interested in women’s rights. It’s an enjoyable read with a courageous character that I hope, for humanity’s sake, all of us can see some tiny part of ourselves in.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest critique.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell’s

Praise for Lilli de Jong

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

03_Janet Benton.jpgAuthor Janet Benton, Biography

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/REPTM/lilli-de-jong

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Book Blast: Traitor’s Knot is for Historical Fiction Fans

Traitor’s Knot
by Cryssa Bazos

Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Endeavor Press
eBook; 394 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story.” – Elizabeth St. John, author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife

Traitor’s Knot is available in eBook from Amazon

Author Cryssa Bazos, Bio –

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She blogs about English history and storytelling at her blog, the 17th Century Enthusiast, and is an editor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog site.

Cryssa’s debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press.

For more information visit Cryssa’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Interview: A Talk with Author Teresa Neumann About Her 70s Hippie Fiction!

best-oregon-pinot-noir-v2.pngToday, I’m hosting the lovely Teresa Neumann straight from Oregon for an interview! A conossieur of wine (check out the beautiful Oregon wine country above), her heart is also much with the Italian culture and lifestyle. When I think of her, I think of this – fun times with friends and family enjoying food and wine. She’s a great person and talented writer. She’s also not new to this blog, as I’d reviewed her Italian historical fiction books year ago, but it’s been a little while and she has since written a new book, A Year in the Company of Freaks. This novel was a bit of a departure from her other books, which we discuss in the interview below so you’ll want to keep reading.

“Freaks” is a novel that showcases life of those growing up in the 60s and 70s in California. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book like this, and it certainly was an eye-opening adventure for me as I don’t delve into this time period too much. What drew me in so much when I started reading the book early last year was the way their dialogue made me laugh. Her easy writing style will have you turning pages when you don’t even mean to keep reading and the characters will become so real that you swear they exist. I would never have thought I’d connect to the characters, but I did and found myself pulling for them and wishing they weren’t so misunderstood.

A Year Freaks

Though I don’t have experience coming-of-age in the way they did, the themes and struggles they had in all getting along together, and needing to learn and grow with and from each other, certainly fits within the framework of what needs to happen more in today’s society. It was fun contemporary fiction, but with strong messages, all wrapped up with descriptive and emotional prose. Though learning to live with others is a theme prevalent in the book, and judgment between hippies and rednecks, there is also love, frienship, redemption, and self-reflection. I’m really glad I stepped out of my box in reading this one!

Now, let’s talk about the book more with Teresa….and it’s her birthday, so please help me to wish her a very happy one!! : -)

Teresa

Welcome Teresa! I’m so glad you’re stopping by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It was my pleasure to read A Year In the Company of Freaks, your new book out last year – and an entertaining one at that! I’m glad we finally caught up to talk about it and what else is new in your life.

Come in and sit down. I feel like we should take part in your “live life” motto and drink wine in the afternoon. You tell me what’s the best – your favorite – and I’ll snap my fingers to make it so! Let me know what’s good to go with it too. I really have to learn my wines better someday soon!

Teresa: Thanks for inviting me, Erin! Ah, wine. My favorite wines are reds – cabs and merlots, though I love a great Oregon pinot noir too. They not only taste great but they’re healthy as well. In fact, after my gastronomical sojourns in Italy with my husband’s families, it’s hard for me to eat meat without a little wine as it is so good for digestion 😉

Erin: I’m not much of a wine drinker, but always wanted to try more of it for the experience. Let me pour us some. Now, let’s settle in on the front porch and talk awhile.

As I noted, A Year in the Company of Freaks was out last year.  What were some of the successes and challenges in the last couple years of writing and publishing it? How do you feel about it all now?

Teresa: I actually wrote a condensed version of “Freaks” about 12 years ago after my children and their friends began needling my husband and I about what it was like to live during the 60’s and 70’s. It wasn’t until after Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table were published that I chose to make it my next project and began the editing process. The title of the book always grabbed people’s attention, and since there were so few historical books out for the time period of the 60s and 70s, I just decided it was time to go with it. The successes and challenges of writing, for me, are one and the same: bringing a book to publication. I never realized what a truly mammoth effort goes into the process—writing, editing, re-writing, editing, decision-making on titles, front covers, back covers, synopses, etc. And that’s not even the marketing aspect of publishing a book, which is – true confession — my least favorite part of being an author. I just hate having to get the word out about my new books. That’s why you’re so incredibly appreciated, Erin! 

Erin: It is the hard part for many and so time consuming. Thank you! This book is a departure from your other novels that take place in history and overseas, Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table respectfully, and takes us to Northern California to the 1970s and the dawn of the laid back lifestyle. However, one stream that runs through them all is the familial relationships you bring to life between family and friends. How do you create such vivid characters and connections?

Teresa: You’re correct that my third book is a departure from my first two books, which are mostly set in Italy, although my main character in “Freaks” is an Italian-American and wine – or, at least vineyards – play a small role at the end of the book: I’m still committed to a nod in my books to my beloved Italians.

Family is – and always has been – an absolute joy and priority in my life. I believe the older one gets, the clearer it becomes that all the other trappings of life fade in comparison. I also tend to be an apt people watcher and am fascinated by relationships – especially the interaction between age groups. My mother-in-law once told me that she and her husband decided against moving to a retirement community in Arizona because the absence of younger people and children made it feel “sterile” and unnatural. The truth of her observation has always resonated with me on a literary level. What would the Wizard of Oz be like without Auntie Em, the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man? Perhaps it’s that philosophy that affects my writing style?

Erin: That’s an amazing observation and so true!

I think part of this book had an element of your own life decades ago? What spurred it and how much of your own experiences did you put into it?

Teresa: Very observant, Erin! In the early 70’s, before I was married, I moved to northern California with 5 other financially broke, free-spirited girlfriends from Iowa. I had never seen an ocean before; had never been to the west coast, or any coast for that matter. Marin County at the time was the “it” place to be, so we found a four-bedroom house to rent in Novato and lived there for nearly two years before going our own ways.

I got a job as a secretary in a mail-order “head shop” on a houseboat in Sausalito, adopting the name “Marsha Mellow” as a pseudonym to protect my identity from all the prisoners around the country who bought our drug paraphernalia. Only one or two of my roommates were smart enough to own cars, so the rest of us – myself included – hitchhiked everywhere we went, day or night: work, rock-concerts, parties, etc.

In hindsight, of course, it was insane, but the craziest part of it was that I had considered myself a full-fledged hippy before moving to California: I talked the talk, smoked the pot, dropped the acid, dated rock stars, loved the music, and everything else that went with the label in those days. And yet, hippies in California were so hard core and so far beyond anything I’d experienced in the Midwest that I began to feel somewhat like an alien on another planet.

My family and educational background (I was raised in a Catholic home and private Catholic schools) kicked into gear and, quite honestly, saved me from some pretty terrifying incidents. For example, several local guys tried pressuring us girls to attend a huge, “private” weekend party up in the redwood forests near Trinity County.  When I found out that hundreds of people would be there, that everyone was expected to drop acid, and it was not clothing optional (no clothing allowed) I got a “check” in my mind and declined. I was the only one of my friends who did. Peer pressure is always tough and I felt like an idiot at the time, but I couldn’t get past my own issues with personal safety and privacy. Although I don’t judge others, by nature I’m modest about public nudity, especially in a large group setting with strangers.

Anyway, one of my friends overdosed that weekend. She came back absolutely wrecked. Not only did she OD, I suspect she was raped, although none of my other friends would say that’s what happened. They all refused to talk about it. That friend, a shell of what she’d been just days before, immediately moved back to Iowa to live with her parents. Whenever that weekend was brought up thereafter, my roommates faces reflected a certain pain that I could only guess stemmed from their own negative personal experiences at that party. Dodging that bullet – and the price of staying home alone that weekend – taught me a lot about withstanding peer pressure when my gut says “no.”

All that to say, Erin: yes, I did live in northern California in the 70’s. But contrary to the one-dimensional view that too many authors of that era have portrayed (that it was the best of times; all peace, love, flowers, and fabulous free love, and oh, how we miss it) I wanted to balance it with another reality – the reality that I and so many others experienced during that time. A reality based not solely on nostalgia, but also crafted as a cautionary tale with all the regrets and warnings that come from living a real life. I mean, my friend who overdosed at that party wasn’t my only friend during that decade to be lost to drugs, or preventable diseases, or suicide, or …

Erin: Wow, that’s SO impactful Teresa! I’m so glad you tell that side of it. Besides all you’ve stated, as opposed to taking something of historical record as in your historical fiction books, what made you decide to try something new?

Teresa: Great question! I’ve always appreciated authors who’ve experimented with various genres in their writing: Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Anne Rice, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Elizabeth Grudge. As an author who isn’t getting any younger, I’m discovering the luxury of not caring so much about conventional wisdom in publishing. I suppose “Freaks” was my break-out-of-the-mold experiment; my transitional work into trying other genres. Why not?

Erin: Your heart shined through in the writing and it was emotional yet humorous, just like life. Did the plot come easy to you? Which character did enjoy writing about the most and why?

Teresa: Ketch – the albino biker from Texas — was my favorite, just because I used to know someone from Texas much like him and he was hoot. I also enjoyed fleshing out the sheriff and his wife; Otis and Pearlie Skinner. I do love precious old folks. I suppose, subliminally, writing about them makes me feel close to my own grandparents whom I adored 😉 Sid was harder for me, simply because as a woman it takes extra effort to get inside a man’s head and portray him fairly. Mika was probably the most difficult to write. There were elements in her character that many in society would, no doubt, be quick to judge and hate. But that’s the whole point. There would be no challenge to bias, no social dilemma, no need to soul-search if there weren’t opposites at play.

As for characters in general, I love breaking stereotypes both in writing and in real life. Here’s the thing about stereotypes: they exist for a reason. When enough people from any certain group begin to display common traits, stereotypes are born. In the 60’s there were two major social stereotypes: hippies and rednecks. Whether old or young, regardless of race, sex or religion, you were either one or the other. Hippies had long hair, wore bell-bottom jeans and sandals, experimented with drugs, promoted peace at any cost, listened to heavy, psychedelic rock and loathed the establishment. Those who didn’t fit into those categories were considered rednecks. When you really think about it, it was ridiculous.

Is it any different today in our polarized world with liberals and conservatives? In fact, it was today’s political and social climate that compelled me to publish “Freaks.” I think there’s an immensely valuable lesson to be learned from reading about strangers of different stripes living together under certain constraints for a year. It is one of the major underlying themes throughout the book. We CAN live together. We can even love each other despite our differences – and even because of our differences.

Oh, and you asked about plots. Plotting, for me, is always easy at first, until I actually start putting it on paper and then all the little details I missed during the first go around start rearing their ugly little heads. That’s when the real work begins.

Erin: You may have touched on this already, but in this book you dealt with some issues of prejudice, redemption, and such. How difficult were those to write about? Do you hope these themes help readers to identify within their own lives or were they just plot points to create drama and intrigue?

Teresa: I certainly hope readers will identify with the pitfalls and futility of prejudice in “Freaks.” Quite honestly, it’s so much a part of the human condition that I think prejudice is something everyone, including myself, has to work at their entire lives. As for redemption – YES! I’m an extremely positive person and all about gaining victory over every challenge. I can’t imagine life without redemption. It would be hell. Prejudice and redemption aren’t plot points; they’re the fabric of our lives, of history, of universal reality.

Erin: So true, Teresa. Well said. It’s mentioned about A Year in the Company of Freaks that it is a coming-of-age classic that “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.” To a slightly younger reader, what was that attitude and mood of the times? What was it like? Does this book display well life in the 70s in California?

Teresa: Having lived in northern California in the 70’s, I naturally feel that “Freaks’ accurately portrays life there during that time — through my perspective. I could have been more graphic. I could have delved into the darker aspects of things I saw and experienced while there, but that wasn’t the point of my story. As a writer, I have to constantly discipline myself to avoid rabbit trails that detract from the simple, core message of my story line. The core message of “Freaks” wasn’t to show just how crazy, or decadent, or dangerous, or fun, or wild life was during that time, although those elements definitely are addressed. It was to follow the character arc of a guy born in the 50’s who came of age during the 60’s and may, or may not, make it through the 70’s without going to prison, thus altering the entire course of his life. That arc includes the arcs of the other disparate characters he is forced to live with.

One of the minor subplots in the book is the price one pays for conformity vs. the price one pays for rebellion. Whether fiction or non-fiction, any literature that doesn’t address the downside of the counter-culture movement in the 60’s isn’t being intellectually or historically honest. Today smoking, and growing, pot has become more main stream. But during the era of “A Year in the Company of Freaks” doing so was a serious criminal offense, punishable by stiff prison sentences. Without an advocate or a criminal justice system that turned a blind eye to it, drug dealers and marijuana growers faced enormous risks.  The film “Blow” starring Johnny Depp is a good case in point.

Erin: You have the SUMMER BOOKS theme at the top of your website: “Summer reading is a delicious pastime.” Do you like writing your books in the summer and reading over the winter or the other way around? Summer is reading for you too, or just your readers? What books do you like to read and where?

Teresa: The title Always Summer Books is borne out of my addiction to reading. As a young girl I spent my entire summers reading non-stop. My mother claims that before I could walk I would spend hours just looking at and leafing through telephone books. I hated it when September rolled around because – although I loved academics – it interfered with my personal reading. Thus, Always Summer Books–never stop reading, no matter the season of the year or season of your life. I suppose I am the ultimate literary nerd. I’d rather curl up with a good book than watch a mediocre movie any day.

Let me just say it’s tough writing in the summertime!! I do much better in the winter.

Erin: I TOTALLY agree! What are you writing next?

Teresa: I’m almost finished with a screenplay – an adaptation of a classic — that I’m very, very excited about. I’ve also started a children’s book, though it’s becoming far more of a challenge than I ever imagined it would be. Who would have ever thought that writing for children could be so complicated! Is it because they take everything at such face value that nothing, no little trick of the literary hand, gets past them?

Erin: I can agree with you there on the children’s books. I have a set of them I’ve been trying to write for years and they seem to be the hardest of all my work.

I know you love to travel at least once a year, if not more. What are some of the favorite places you’ve been to and things you like to do?

Teresa: Though my father was a farmer’s boy at his core, he was also an avid traveler and passed his passion on to all of his children. He would have loved to travel overseas, but was never able to in his lifetime. I’m so thankful and blessed to have been able to see a wee bit more of the world. My fascination with other lands and cultures sometimes even supersedes my love of books! Nearly all our trips are family vacations and with a growing family on a specific budget it is no small feat to accomplish, but so worth the effort. They’re unforgettable experiences that we all hang our memory hats on.

Italy holds a special place in my heart because of my husband’s family in Tuscany. It’s more than a beautiful country abounding in great food, gorgeous people, and incredible history. It’s a place that feels like home because the Bertozzi and Sigali family there embrace us in a way that is impossible not to love. As a mother, when I realized my children’s DNA was connected so strongly to a certain country, I think I instinctively wanted to nurture it in them. I’m half-Irish, so Ireland holds a similar attraction for me. We went there for the first time last year and I was constantly overcome with the giddy sensation of: “I feel so at home here! These are my people!” It’s just inexplicable. Again, the genetic link with a place and its people is stronger, I think, than most of us imagine and it’s hard to grasp until you go back to your roots and experience it.

We have dear friends in England, France and Germany as well. Currently, my daughter is an au pair in Paris, so we just recently returned from there. I love, love Paris. It is truly one of kind. London, too – England is simply amazing.

But it’s a big world out there. So much more to see and so little time (and money) to see it all in one life. Asia, Africa, and so many other places beckon.

Erin: I completely agree, Teresa! I have some Irish in me too and my dad really connects with that part of him. It’s why he named me Erin, since it means Ireland! As for me, I was born in England and though my parents are American, I totally feel that England is partially my home. I’d love to travel the world too. Thanks so much for stopping by Teresa! Please come back anytime. Now let’s sit and sip wine, talk travel some more, and enjoy the beautiful day – summer is here!

Teresa: Thank YOU, Erin — anytime! And if you’re ever in Oregon, give me a call. Summer, indeed, is almost here and a glass of cold Rosé is calling me!

Erin: Thanks so much, Teresa, I certainly will. One day I hope to see all of that side of the country!

A Year FreaksA Year In the Company of Freaks, Synopsis –
All’s Well House (December 11, 2015)

It’s 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion.

When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents’ farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A “disarmingly appealing” tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.”

Purchase on Amazon

Praise for A Year In the Company of Freaks –

“Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review

Teresa Neumann, Biography –

Teresa Neumann and her musician husband live in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley with their three children. As well as being an author, reporter, and journalist, Teresa loves to fiddle on her violin and live “la dolce vita” in  Italy whenever she can talk her family into it. Visit Teresa at her website or on Facebook Page called Always Summer Books.

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Book Blast and Sale: Hakon Haraldsson and his quest in Viking Age Norway

Raven’s Feast

by Eric Schumacher

Publication Date: May 1, 2017
Creativia
eBook & Paperback

Series: Hakon’s Saga, Book 2
Genre: Fiction/Historical

 

 

Raven’s Feast is the sequel to God’s Hammer, the true story of Hakon Haraldsson and his quest to win and keep the High Seat of Viking Age Norway.

It is 935 A.D. and Hakon Haraldsson has just wrested the High Seat of the North from his ruthless brother, Erik Bloodaxe. Now, he must fight to keep it.

The land-hungry Danes are pressing from the south to test Hakon before he can solidify his rule. In the east, the Uplanders are making their own plans to seize the throne. It does not help that Hakon is committed to his dream of Christianizing his people – a dream his countrymen do not share and will fight to resist.

As his enemies move in and his realm begins to crumble, Hakon and his band of oath-sworn warriors must make a stand in Raven’s Feast, the riveting sequel to God’s Hammer.

“At its core, Raven’s Feast is more than a story about a young king holding firm to the power he has won in Viking Norway,” said Eric Schumacher, author of Raven’s Feast. “It is the story of a young man holding true to one’s self and convictions in the face of extreme challenges — something to which, I hope, many people can relate.”

Order your copy today on Amazon!

To celebrate the launch, the prequel, God’s Hammer, will be available free-of-charge on Amazon in the US, UK and Canada from May 2-6, 2017.

Praise for God’s Hammer (Hakon’s Saga, Book 1)

“Eric Schumacher has created the most evocative tale in his stunning novel — God’s Hammer. This book completely drew me in. The research that has gone into God’s Hammer has to be commended, and it is incredibly rich in historical detail. It was as if I was looking through a window into the past as I read the pages of this remarkable story. Hakon’s portrayal is both realistic and believable. Schumacher has obviously researched the life of Hakon in great detail, and this certainly came through in the writing. Schumacher brought Hakon back to life. Well Done!” – Mary Yarde, the author of The Du Lac Chronicles

“Author Eric Schumacher put together a rousing story of warfare, religious strife and tested friendships.” – Mercedes Rochelle, author of Godwine Kingmaker and The Sons of Godwine

About the Author

Eric Schumacher was born in Los Angeles in 1968 and currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA with his wife, two children and dog. He is the author of two historical fiction novels, God’s Hammer and its sequel, Raven’s Feast. Both tell the story of the first Christian king of Viking Norway, Hakon Haraldsson, and his struggles to gain and hold the High Seat of his realm.

More information on Eric and his Hakon Sagas can be found on his website. You can also connect with Eric on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and AuthorsDB.

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Review – Under the Approaching Dark Anna Belfrage

Under the Approaching Dark

Under the Approaching Dark, Review –

As anyone who has faithfully read my site over the years knows, Anna is a frequent name here as she’s one of my most loved historical fiction authors. I fell in love with her time slip series, The Graham Saga, and now, her four book series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is already publishing its third book, Under the Approaching Dark. I can hardly believe it. I didn’t think Anna could woo my reader’s brain as much with this second series, but she certainly has, and I am happy to say I even liked this third book the very best of this series.

This series takes place in 14th century England and features the couple of Adam de Guirande and his wife Kit as they are placed amid the drama of King Edward II, Queen Isabella, Roger Mortimer, and Hugh Despenser – all interesting real historical characters. As we are introduced to Adam and Kit, I realize Anna has a huge feat in front of her – to research and present the historical characters in an accurate way with her own spin that will create excitement for the reader, while also creating Adam, Kit, and a whole host of other characters that will launch off the page at you and tell you they are most certainly real. And Anna will tell you the same too. I know, I know, Anna – they talk to you, maybe even yell at you, to get their story out.

I digress a little, but my point is that Anna is such a great writer she does it all with ease. She creates likeable, and not likable, characters that you grow to love, and hate, in a way that makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the 14th century and know them personally. They cease to exist as characters and  truly become people. This is the most important thing in a story teller, for without the best characterization, a story can run very flat even if highly researched or developed. Anna is never dry and always entertaining in her dialogue and humor of the characters. I especially enjoy her female characters, and really feel more in love with Kit by this third book, even though she tries to give the male the lead of the story. Maybe she does that to boost his ego, but it doesn’t take long to read between the lines of who actually prods the men’s decision-making, for good or bad.

Particularly in the third book, her opening scene is so emotional, which is something I see Anna has worked on developing. It was a touching moment, even in its brevity before she was back to humor, but enough to make me have a pang of sorrow for Adam. Though it is on the first couple pages, I don’t want to give a spoiler if you’ve not read the second book. In fact, a lot happened in the second book to lead into the third, and so I highly recommend you do read this series in order for full enjoyment. Big things occurred to shift the dynamics within King Edward II’s realm, and to Adam and Kit as well, and this has carried over into more treachery, rebellion, hard decisions, intrigue, and loss in this third book. However, there is still a good amount of love, sacrifice, redemption, and hope weaved throughout the tale as well.

Anna’s decriptive prowress has always been on point, but honestly, it keeps getting better. She knows exactly how to describe things to put us in the moment, and her amount of research detail peppered throughout the book is not only relevant, accurate, authentic to the story, but worded with just the right verbiage.

Kit’s character waned under Adam’s stronger one for me for awhile. I love a strong, yet emotionally adept man, but in this book Kit’s strength during what was happening, and her own personal struggle – I don’t want to spoil – was down right Oscar worthy in the best way. Her intelligence has always shined through, but now her tenacity was more profound. And as Edward III takes on a new role of growth in this novel and into the next, I see how much she’s shown the reader just how a young monarch might grow up to be in his circumstances as well. To me, this growth, shows even more the penmanship of Anna as she challenges herself with each story before the series heads to its climax.

As always, Anna is a master carver of words and plot in order to bring you a drama rich in history, resistance, tragedy, tension, love, and survival. I couldn’t put Under the Approaching Dark down and I’m more than ready for the fourth book in The King’s Greatest Enemy series. Highly recommended for long days or nights when you can get caught up without fear of interuptions.

P.S. Any author in need of writing dialogue assistance MUST read Anna Belfrage. She’s a master at dialogue. And hilarious too!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I’ve written.

Under the Approaching DarkUnder the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: April 28, 2017
Matador
eBook & Paperback; 424 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

“The writing is impeccable. The story has everything. Under the Approaching Dark is just perfect in every sense” – Sharon Bennett Connolly, History The Interesting Bits

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography –

03_Anna BelfrageAnna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below:
Direct Link: https://gleam.io/2f2eV/under-the-appraoching-dark

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Thank you!

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See more reviews, interviews, and articles durng the tour! 

Hashtags: #UndertheApproachingDarkBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Medieval #BlogTour #Giveaway

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @abelfragauthor

 

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Women in History: She-Wolf of the 13th Century? Isabella of France

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #4 today. March is Women in History month and so I’m featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it will extend way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the article as I schedule or post them.

Today, one of my favorite historical fiction and time slip authors, Anna Belfrage, takes the stage, or probably more likely her character, Isabella, does. Anna is such a great writer and consistenly makes me laugh so hard I’ll spit out my drink. Oh to travel to Sweden and laugh with her. But enough of that…today she is talking about Isabella of France, a she-wolf who put up with a lot from the men in her life, so we head off to the 14th century!

Isabella w Prince Edward doing homage to Charles IV

Isabella with Edward paying homage to Charles IV

Isabella of France – a milksop or a she-wolf?

By Anna Belfrage, historical fiction author

In my series The King’s Greatest Enemy, Isabella of France plays a major role. As per her highness, she is the protagonist, but as the author I can assure you she isn’t, albeit that she is one of the central characters, together with her son, Prince Edward, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Isabella, however, is not defined by the men in her life. This is a medieval woman who grabbed hold of her destiny and forged a new future for herself – not something she necessarily wanted to do, but life can be a bummer even if you’re a highborn lady. Ask Isabella: she’d agree.

Just to give you some background, Isabella was born in 1295, the only surviving daughter of Philippe IV of France, a.k.a. Le Bel, the handsome. Philippe may have been pretty on the outside, but the rest of him was not quite as pleasing. This was a ruthless king who, among other things, crushed the Templar order and had many, many Templar knights burned for heresy. Why? Because Philippe resented the Templars’ influence over the pope – and desired their wealth.

Where daddy was tough as nails, Isabella’s mother seems to have been of a softer disposition. Jeanne of Navarre and Philippe had a happy marriage and I assume he was devastated when she died in 1305. Little Isabella now only had one parent. She also, since some years back, had a betrothed. Once she was considered old enough, Isabella was destined to wed English King Edward I’s heir, yet another Edward. By the time the marriage took place, in early 1308, Isabella’s husband was the king – and about twice her age, which probably explains why initially Edward treated Isabella kindly but with little interest.

Isabella w her daddy her hubby & her brothers

Isabella with her dad and other family

Things happened that caused Edward to turn to his wife for comfort. Besides, Isabella was now old enough to bed, and as all medieval kings, Edward was fully aware of his duty to sire an heir, no matter if his preferences lay elsewhere. As an aside, there is plenty of evidence Edward preferred the company of his male friends to that of women, but that in itself does not mean he was indulging in homosexual relationships. And if he was, he was still more than capable of impregnating Isabella. Whether he did so while closing his eyes and thinking of England we don’t know. We’ll never know.

Anyway, if we fast-forward some twelve years or so, we find Isabella and Edward living in an England torn apart by the king’s obvious infatuation with Hugh Despenser, the latest royal favourite. Despenser was greedy and the king was more than happy to give him what he wanted. (Them, actually: there was a Hugh senior and a Hugh junior. It was junior who was Edward’s preferred companion and potential lover, but senior was no slouch when it came to the coveting department, and Edward was as happy to shower Hugh senior with gifts as he was to indulge Hugh junior). Problem was, sometimes the Despensers wanted stuff that belonged to others. Sometimes, they rapaciously cheated widows and orphans out of what rightfully belonged to them. Sometimes, they even wanted land that belonged to the king’s younger brothers. And what they wanted they got, causing the rest of the English barons to grumble. Loudly.

In 1321, Isabella was no longer a child but a poised and well-educated young woman. She was Queen Consort and probably expected to – or wanted to – exert some influence over her husband. I imagine she disliked being pushed aside by Hugh. I guess she resented that it was Hugh, not Isabella, who shared the king’s confidences. Also, Isabella had others to think of, primarily her eldest son, the future Edward III, and she did not like what was happening in an England where Despenser ruled the roost. Things went from bad to worse in 1322 when a triumphant Edward II defeated his rebel barons. Roger Mortimer was thrown into the Tower, the king’s rebellious cousin Thomas of Lancaster was summarily executed, and all, as per Edward II, was well in the world.

Except it wasn’t. Despenser and Edward unleashed what is called The Tyranny, a period of four years when the king and his favourite rode roughshod over England and its barons, determined to stamp out any opposition. Thing is, if you crowd too many hungry dogs into corners, chances are they’ll start fighting back, and when Mortimer engineered his escape from the Tower in August of 1323, the downtrodden barons gained a leader who had every intention of bringing Despenser down.

Now, for the king and Despenser to have Mortimer as an implacable enemy was bad enough. They made things substantially worse for themselves when they went after Isabella, first by depriving her of her dower income – the king needed the income to fight the French, he claimed, but Isabella’s dower rights were part of the extensive marriage contracts and he had no right to confiscate them – secondly by exiling several of her household officers on the pretext that they were French and therefore potential traitors. Ahem. Isabella was French – was she also considered a potential traitor?

Whatever her feelings, Isabella was smart enough to conceal her simmering anger, which is how she ended up sent to France to negotiate a peace treaty. She did so (I guess it wasn’t too hard work: after all, she was treating with her brother, Charles IV) but the finalised treaty called for Edward to come to France and do homage to Charles IV. Edward refused – mainly because things at home were getting sticky, and Despenser was worried that the moment Edward left the country, the disgruntled barons would come after him.

In view of her husband’s refusal, Isabella convinced her brother to suggest Edward send his eldest son and heir to perform the homage in his stead. I suspect this was all part of a carefully thought out plan: once Isabella had her son with her, she could act with impunity, declaring that whatever she was doing she was doing on behalf of the poor oppressed English people and her young, handsome son.

After some consideration, Edward agreed to send his son. This is not to say he didn’t have concerns, but up to this point in her life, Isabella had always been a dutiful wife. She’d given her husband four children, she’d even accepted the confiscation of her income, so Edward had no reason to suspect she was about to turn the tables on him. After all, Isabella was a woman, and women were the weaker vessel – everyone knew that. Well, except for Isabella and a rather large handful of other colourful medieval women.

Prince Edward came to France. He did not return home. Roger Mortimer suddenly popped by to visit with the French king. Or was it to meet Isabella? Whatever the case, he did meet her, and as of that moment, those two spent all their time together, planning just how to invade England, with Prince Edward as their figurehead.

Those of you who know your history know the invasion in 1326 was a major success, and come early 1327, Hugh Despenser was dead, Edward II had been forced to abdicate, and Isabella (and Mortimer) were the effective rulers of England, her son being too young to do much ruling on his own.

Isabella besieging Bristol

Isabella besieging Bristol

All of the above indicates Isabella was a forceful person, and yet there are various depictions of the events that paint her as some sort of victim, dominated by the dark and brooding Roger Mortimer. As per these versions, poor little Isabella was manipulated by Mortimer, so enthralled to him she went along with whatever he proposed, be it executing Hugh Despenser gruesomely or (as some say) ordering the murder of her husband. (And no, I don’t think Edward II was murdered. I remain in two minds as to if he died at all in 1327 – not for this post to discuss). What the proponents of this depiction of Isabella conveniently forget is that she was born a princess of France. She’d been raised to become a strong consort, she was used to deference, and while she might have found Mortimer hot, she was also fully aware of the fact that she was born a royal, he was a mere baron.  No way was she going to let him lead her by the nose! As I believe Mortimer was a pretty smart guy, I don’t think he even tried…

The other depiction of Isabella is that of a “she-wolf.” Her behaviour was not normal for a good woman of the times, so some sort of derogatory epithet had to be attached to her, and what better than to label her as a potentially half-crazed beast. A woman to rebel against her own husband, what sort of monster was she, hey? A woman to ride at the head of her own army (Mortimer wisely rode some paces behind the queen and the prince, even if he probably did all the actual commanding), who had ever heard of that before? Unnatural behaviour, that’s what it was!

Obviously, Isabella was no half-crazed beast. She was an ambitious and intelligent woman who deeply resented being shunted aside by an avaricious favourite. She was a mother who worried her husband’s and his favourite’s behaviour jeopardised her son’s patrimony. She was a wife who’d had it with her husband’s high-handedness. In the very capable Roger Mortimer, she found the perfect instrument to help her achieve her goals. I guess it didn’t hurt that she liked the baron for other reasons as well.

**************************************

03_Annna_Belfrage 2015Anna Belfrage, Biography –

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. Instead, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015.

Her new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be published in April of 2017 – and yes, Isabella plays a major role!

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Anna can be found on her website, on Facebook and on her blog. Or on twitter and Amazon.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

AMAZON: http://t.co/dto2WzdTJQ

Link The Graham Saga: http://myBook.to/TGS

Link The King’s Greatest Enemy: http://myBook.to/TKGE

Facebook Kings Greatest Enemy Series Banner

Thanks for following along with the series!

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Review: The Enemies of Versailles Sweeps You Away

Today I have a review of Sally Christie’s The Enemies of Versailles, Book Three in her Mistresses of Versailles series. I love historical fiction based on French history. The more drama and intrigue, the better. Throw in the French Revolution and I start humming music from Les Miserables. Keep scrolling for my review and watch later this month for a guest article from Sally in my Women in History Month series.

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Review –

I love the descriptive writing of historical author Sally Christie! I missed out on reading book one in her Mistresses of Versailles series, but once I read book two last year I was hooked. You can see my past review of The Rivals of Versailles (book two) HERE. I really believe you can read each one as a stand alone, but it’s a great series to read together as well.

Yesterday, March 21, 2017, the third book in her lush French fiction series published. The Enemies of Versailles continued on a tradition of “being seeped in reading” for me last weekend, the sentences so smooth and delicate, yet filled with emotion and substance, that I breezed through it in no time. I needed swept away to another place, no matter how unconventional, for a short time and the novel certiainly gave me that escape. This is a hallmark of quality writing, the type of such I aspire to acheiving.

I love how Sally focuses her novel around protagonists that are female and fiesty, hustling in rags to decadent gowns sometimes to forward their life. The Enemies of Versailles sees Jeanne Becu go from back streets to the palace in eighteenth century France – a France not far from a Revolution.

Sally makes her female characters shine. If you didn’t think you could fall any more in love with the next mistress of the King, you do. Another steals your heart in a way that plausibly you don’t even think should happen. Somehow she endears us as readers to these women by giving them strong, vibrant personalities under a surface innocent-like quality. Sally created Jeanne in a manner in which she blazens up the page with her light-heartedness. It’s apparent Jeanne gave Louis XV a new sense of normalcy to readers that is genuinely lost otherwise, and especially after book two in my opinion, and she remains true to herself even as the people surrounding her at court are nothing less than monsters. However, the intrigue that the book displays as we see the drama unfold creates a desire to turn pages quickly.

Madame du Barry is the focus of the book, but this time around, Sally does juxtapose chapters between her and Adelaide, the daughter of King Louise XV. I suppose that Adelaide is the villan in that she persecutes du Barry in her mind as well as outwardly. We see a poor woman’s rise to court paralled with a woman who has known luxury throughout her life. We see the extravagent nature of this time, spiraling in increasing fashion out of control, and why it led to the horrific revolution. We even get to see Marie Antoinette in this book, and I was thrilled, as she’s one of my favorite historical people to read about. The reasons for the uprising, even though we all know them, are made evident in this novel, and we see the desecration of the royal family. However, this happens all the while as we still focus on the emotions and action of the female characters at the heart of the story.

In the spirit of author Juliet Grey/Leslie Carroll, Sally Christie has brought readers an excellent series of historical fiction sprinkled with beautiful sentences and scenes ripe with descriptions so as if you are living right there in the moment. The Enemies of Versailles is the best of the three. I can’t wait to see what else she writes in the future. I’ll be one of the first in line. Highly recommended!

02_The Enemies of VersaillesThe Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Atria Books
eBook & Paperback; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles, Book Three

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo

Praise for The Sisters of Versailles

“Such an extraordinary tale makes for compelling reading and, as the lead book in a planned trilogy, will draw in readers who are interested in royal lives before the French Revolution….historical fiction fans, unfamiliar with the history of the Nesle sisters, will be intrigued.” (Library Journal)

“Sally Christie’s The Sisters of Versailles is an intriguing romp through Louis XV’s France. Filled with lush backdrops, rich detail, and colorful characters, fans of historical fiction will enjoy this glimpse into the lost golden era of the French monarchy.” (Allison Pataki, author of THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS )

“A stunning breadth of period detail, offered in a fresh, contemporary voice.” (Juliet Grey, author of the acclaimed Marie Antoinette trilogy )

“Tantalizing descriptions and cliff-hangers will leave the reader rapidly turning the pages in anticipation… A wickedly delightful read.” (New York Daily News)

03_Sally Christie_AuthorSally Christie, Biography

Sally Christie is the author of The Sisters of VersaillesThe Rivals of Versailles, and The Enemies of Versailles. She was born in England and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three different languages. She spent most of her career working in international development and currently lives in Toronto.

Visit SallyChristieAuthor.com to find out more about Sally and the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy.

You can also find her on FacebookGoodreads, and Amazon.

Giveaway!!!

Five copies of The Enemies of Versailles are up for grabs during the blog tour! To enter, please see the Gleam form below:

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/ZjDGW/enemies-of-versailles

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Daughter of a Thousand Years Gave Me My Thought-Provoking Viking Fix!

Out today (Feb. 21, 2017) is Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella! Check out the synopsis below and then stay to read my release day review! I really enjoyed this book!

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Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Lake Union Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 442 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Medieval Romance

Greenland, AD 1000

More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband.

New Hampshire, 2016

Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.

In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight.

I loved Amalia’s former Helen of Sparta series and you’ll find reviews for those books and an inteview with Amalia on my site already. However, when I heard Amalia would be publishing a book featuring one of my top favorite topics, and I’m not shy about this one – VIKINGS – I was all in! I have to say that in looking forward to it so much when I actually found time to squeeze in reading it, I was captivated.

Amalia writes Daughter of a Thousand Years in dual time periods and with two female protagonists. Emma is in the modern age of 2016, the daughter of a politician and a Catholic, and Freydis, living a thousand years earlier, is a pagan, a Thor worshipper, and the daughter of the infamous Eric the Red.

I am not the type of editoral reviewer that rehashes plots, but in this book, Amalia explores religions of the different time periods and how the women, and their family structures, dealt with them. Emma has always been interested in Viking history, but as her family expects (in most ways) perfection, Emma finally finds the courage to be true to herself when she wishes to explore the pagan religion of Thor. As Catholics, of course, her parents aren’t pleased, so she’s brave to stand up for herself. Meanwhile, a thousand years earlier, Freydis struggles to stay true to her own pagan religion and family as the wave of Christianity and converstions begins in society. Of course, we’ve read or seen these themes before…well, I have since I seek out books like this out of interest, and of course, we’ve seen this juxtaposition in history between Viking pagans and English Christianity as the Vikings began their exploring (which is viewable even on the show “Vikings,” but for some reason, it’s not getting old yet. There are still stories to be told that speak to the bravery and courage of those who believe in their own spiritual depths, as well as those who choose to align with another. Isn’t this even a common theme in society today, that people need to understand each other, and religions, to make peace with each other? I think the dual storylines really showed the fact that this issue is still strong today.

I also thought that Amalia did a wonderful job of featuring two strong and fiesty women that have many similarities even if they lived so far removed. Of course, the history section was a favorite, as it’s my first love, and she has superb historical writing. There was more background and research, and as times were tougher, I think it only served that Freydis would be a bit more animated and have more to fight through in an actual action sort of way. But I thought she wrote Emma just as well for our time period, and growing up in the now, is quite different than then! She was strong in forging her own way, even if countries and treasures and survival didn’t depend on it. Possibly her family felt their careers depended on it, but really that is nothing to what they endured so long ago. Emma showed great fortitude in becoming her own original person and not fitting the mold, which does still take bravery, especially when it means stading up to one’s parents.

As always, Amalia’s writing is beautiful and captivating. Her dialogue and character development, which her books show she always has worked hard on, continue to improve. We can see the locations, feel the characters emotions, and cheer them on in our own ways. As I mentioned her settings and descriptions are wonderful to read. I do believe the historical lean that Amalia puts on her books, as opposed to strictly historical romance, make books like Daughter of a Thousand Years stand out.

If you like to be swept away in a good historical fiction read, and like memorable reads with strong female characters, this is a good book for you to dive into eyes first. Pick this up as one of your highlights of th first half of 2017. Fans of “Vikings” should like the themes in this book and get a more unique look at women of that time period. Contemporary readers may even find their foray into historical fiction. Highly recommend – I give it 4 stars in hopes that she keeps challenging her prose.

Purchase –

Amazon

About Amalia Carosella –

03_Amalia Carosella Author (1).jpgAmalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog at www.amaliacarosella.com.

She also writes myth-steeped fantasy and paranormal romance under the name Amalia Dillin. Learn more about her other works at www.amaliadillin.com.

You can connect with Amalia Carosella on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and Google+. Sign up for her newsletter, The Amaliad, for news and updates.

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Interview: Julie K. Rose Talks about Writing, Research, Tunisian Cake, and More!

I’m pleased today to have Julie K. Rose drop by for tea and cookies (and bringing a cake recipe by too that sounds lovely) and to talk about her newest book, Dido’s Crown, as well her life and writing! I hope you enjoy our conversation. If you missed my exciting review of Dido’s Crown earlier this week, you can see it HERE. It’s a wonderful story, set in 1935, of a woman caught up in espionage in Tunisia!

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Hi Julie! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so excited about your newest fictional endeavor, Dido’s Crown. As I prepare our seats and refreshment, tell me, what’s behind that name?

Julie: Hi! I’m so excited to be back. You always have the best refreshments, and conversation! In terms of the name, it’s tied to an important plot point in the book, so I don’t want to say too much. That said, it ties nicely to Tunisia – Dido was the founder and first queen of Carthage, modern-day Tunis. And I like the suggestion of Dido’s complicated and melancholy story.

Erin: Yay!! Yes, it does. 🙂 We will let them all find out by reading the book! How exciting has this been for you to release another book? It’s so hot here in Ohio – I mean it’s not autumn weather at all that we are used this time of year. We will be wearing swimsuits for Halloween. And with a serial killer being arrested here it’s been a bit stressful. So I’m up for relaxing in my comfy library chairs with you while we talk about Dido’s Crown. And I’m thinking mojitos today – they are my favorite. We can do mint and other assorted flavors…..blueberry…cherry…. You’ve packed for a weekend stay right?

Julie: Of course I did! Sitting together, chatting about books sounds just like the antidote to the world that I need this week.This world is completely nuts, so art is more important than ever. It helps us remember how to be human, you know? I’d actually love a cup of hot, sweet mint tea if you don’t mind. Puts me in a North Africa kind of mood.

Erin: Okay, mint tea is one of my faves for Fall and Winter and since the air conditioning is on late for this time of year I’ll make some and it won’t make me too hot. My ex-husband was from Egypt and hot tea was a must drink (or Turkish coffee). We can save the mojitos for another day since you’ll be staying awhile. I’ve baked up some spice cookies in the Dutch tradition though! I suppose that is not very North African.. They just sound good today and I think you’ll like them. They smell like Fall or Christmas and I’m anticipating those seasons. I’ll pour the tea and we’ll get started! Oh –I always ask you to share a recipe when you come too! Do you have one you’d like to share on this trip? May I can make that for us for later.

Julie:  Oooh spice cookies are the BEST.

I do have a recipe! This is for Tunisian Orange and Almond cake. Tunisia is a country of real contrast, and the northern climes are home to vineyards and orchards – very similar to the climate here in the Bay Area. Orange cake plays an important role right in the first chapter of Dido’s Crown.

This is adapted from Reza Mahammad’s recipe, found here: http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/tunisian-orange-almond-cake.html

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Ingredients

  • 1 cupsuperfine sugar (not powdered)
  • ¾ cup ground almond
  • ¼ cup panko crumbs, slightly stale breadcrumbs or cake crumb
  • Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed oranges
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 4 eggs
  • For the syrup:
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • ½ tbsp orange blossom water
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  1. Line and grease an 8″ spring-form cake tin.
  2. Mix together the sugar, almonds, panko crumbs, both zests and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and the oil.
  4. Pour onto the almond mixture and mix.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place into a cold oven. (At this point make the syrup)
  6. Turn on to 355°F and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a plate.
  8. While the cake is warm, pierce it all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and pour on some of the syrup.
  9. Keep spooning over more syrup every now and then until it’s all been absorbed.

For the syrup:

  1. Make the syrup by adding all the ingredients except the orange blossom water into a saucepan. Bring gently to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar whilst allowing the liquid to thicken to a syrupy consistency.
  2. Add the orange blossom water and remove the spices which can be used to decorate the cake.
  3. Set aside till cake ready. To serve, dust with icing sugar and serve on a cake stand with Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche and summer berries.

Erin: Yum!! Yes I’ll definitely make that for us for tomorrow! Thanks for sharing that!

Dido’s Crown is a 1930s novel of intrigue that you describe as being inspired by Indiana Jones and John Le Carré. Two of my favorite things! Plus The Thin Man! I was thrilled when I found out your wrote a story about a woman who takes on a mystery during the political international landscape of 1935! Where did you come up with this idea?

Julie: I’m not sure if I can pinpoint how and where I came up with the concept. I knew I wanted to set a book in Tunisia; I’ve always been fascinated by North Africa, and Tunisia has an amazing history. So I knew I would set at least some of the book there. The plot itself definitely took more time and evolved over the years that I wrote it. It was initially going to be focused on Tom and Will and their time just before WWI, and at that point, the British Secret Service angle hadn’t appeared – it was initially about these two scholars at Oxford. I wish I could remember the moment that Mary showed up, because she of course changed everything.

Erin: Your novel travels around the globe with Mary. How did you research the locations during these time periods and bring them with such vivid description to the page?

Julie:Modern travel guidebooks were actually incredibly useful as a starting point, as I’ve not yet had the chance to visit Tunisia. YouTube was also great – lots of videos of modern Tunisia helped me understand the lay of the land. YouTube was also surprisingly helpful in terms of films of Tunisia at the time. And of course, the normal research you’d expect – contemporary and scholarly sources.

Erin: What background research on the history of this time period did you do and how factual is the foundation your fictional story rest upon?

Julie: Ahhhhh research! The 1930s was a really interesting time for Tunisia, politically speaking, so there was a lot of great scholarly research to tap into. As a matter of fact, I’ve posted a bibliography at my website with a small set of the books and articles I consulted. In terms of the 1930s, there were quite a few great resources, including The Thirties by Juliet Gardiner. The research on the British Secret Intelligence Service was a load of fun, and I particularly loved The Secret History of MI6 by Keith Jeffery.

The foundational information is factual – the SIS, the different stations, the influence of the Deuxième Bureau in colonial life, the Tunisian independence movement, etc. The origin story I created for numbers stations, while based on research into espionage techniques and what we know of numbers station history (which is very little), is pure fiction.

Erin: How did you learn to pace your novel in order to keep the action moving but yet also create your characters with dimension and depth?

Julie: Well, I hope I accomplished that…and if I did, I’m not quite sure how! To be very honest, this book was a bear for me to write. I had to devise ways to keep myself on track, not only with chronologies but also with motivations both at a macro (Secret Intelligence Service) level and a micro level (individual characters). Ultimately the action is accomplished by character, so those personalities and desires were the primary focus.

Erin: Talk about your cover a little bit and the thought behind it?

Julie: I was initially interested in using a painting called Olga by David Jagger (1935), because the subject is so very much like the Mary in my mind.

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Olga by David Jagger / Submitted by Julie K. Rose

Unfortunately, I couldn’t obtain the rights for the painting, and I think in the end, it worked out better. I did a search at Bridgeman Art for “photograph” and “1935” and found the gorgeous photo I ended up using, which is held by a museum in New Zealand. I love the look of the woman – she feels self-contained, a little wistful, and a little mysterious. My brother had the genius idea of overlaying the map of Tunis, which gives the cover an interesting weathered look from afar, and a second layer of mystery when you see it up close.

Erin: The cover is amazing!! And your brother had a great idea. How long have you been working on the novel? What kind of steps do you put into the process?

Julie: I started working on the novel in 2011, when I was blocked in the midst of trying to finish my last book, Oleanna. That book was published in 2012 and I picked at Dido’s Crown for a bit, but then went through a period of depression and didn’t come back to the book again until the summer of 2015. The steps are pretty much the same as most writers: a very rough first draft, set it aside and percolate on it for a bit, do another draft, lather, rinse, repeat.

Erin: What did you find out about yourself through the process of writing Dido’s Crown?

Julie: I learned that droughts end, dark times pass, and the creative spark will still be there when you come back to it. It’s a very reassuring thing.

Erin: What did you learn about your writing and your process from the publication of Oleanna in 2012 to the your current release?

Julie:I learned to finally not just embrace the rewriting process, but actually enjoy it. I also learned to respect my creative rhythms more. And I knew this, but it was an important reminder: good critique partners and editors are worth their weight in gold.

Erin: You’ll always an inspiration to me, Julie. I really enjoy your motivational YouTube videos. Can you talk about why you prompted to do those, how they help you, and how you hope they help others? Will you keep doing them?

Julie: Oh my goodness, thank you! There are a couple of motivations behind the videos. The first is that I really wanted to try something that scared me. I had taken a public speaking training at work, in which everything we did was filmed. It was both scary and eye opening, and it gave me confidence. But presenting to a group of your colleagues is one thing; filming a video and posting it where any random stranger could see it was initially terrifying. Who the hell am I to take up space? Who the hell am I to have a voice? But there’s something that feels revolutionary and empowering about being seen, as a middle-aged woman, you know? And once I started doing the videos, I found I enjoyed the hell out of them. I like the whole process – writing the script, setting up the shot, filming, editing, etc.

As to the content: I feel like I just recovered my own creativity last year, and realized what a precious and important thing it is. This year has been absolutely insane, on a cultural and political front, and art and creativity are an important bulwark against the horror. I know it can be hard for people, especially women, to embrace their creativity and give themselves permission to do art and be creative. But it’s more important than ever.

I will definitely continue to do videos; I’m kind of addicted now. I may add to the Courage & Creativity series, and I have ideas for other series that could be a lot of fun.

Erin: I look forward to more videos. They truly help me!

What is the best snack you can eat when working your “second job” of writing, editing, promo, etc.? I want to see what’s in your secret snack drawer….

Julie: Oh gosh. I used to have a terrible bubble gum habit, which I’ve finally broken myself of. I don’t snack when I write, because I’m usually writing first thing in the morning before my day job, so if it’s anything, it’s some oatmeal or toast. But I always need to have something to drink – coffee (with sugar-free peppermint syrup!) or hot tea.

Erin: You must be a morning person! I find so many writers tell me they don’t snack when writing. I feel all I do is type five words – snack – type five words -snack. haha!

What do you think you want to write in the future? Do you have any plans or thoughts for topics?

Julie: I’m working on my next book now. It’s set in my home town of San José in 1906, right at the time of the great earthquake. The history of the Santa Clara Valley (now known as the Silicon Valley) is fascinating, and little known outside California, so I’m hoping to shed some light there.

Erin: If you could write a book about a woman in history, who would it be? If you could have 5 critique partners for the book, who would they be?

Julie:This is so tough. I love stories about regular folks, so I’d love to write something about what it was like to live through the troubles in Northumbria in the 6th and 7th centuries. If pressed to write about a famous woman, my first instinct is Boudicca, though I’d love to write someday about Princess Kristina of Norway. She was married to Philip of Castile in 1258, only to die four years later at the age of 28. She had wished a church honoring St. Olav be built, and her wish was finally granted 750 years later in Covarrubias in 2011.

Erin: Yes, now you must write of Princess Kristina!  Okay – a fun question. Your favorite coffee mug is….?

Julie: Is it sad that I have more than one? The “Please do not annoy the writer” mug is from a friend and is both funny and true. The Sons of Heptarchy Northumbria mug is via the British History Podcast and references the sons of Ida, the king of Bernicia. It makes me laugh every time I look at it. And the Good Mythical Morning mug is from my favorite morning show. 

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Erin: So cool! I love to see people’s coffee/tea mugs. Give good insight!

If people dedicated a weekend to your book and wanted to throw in a movie to make the event complete, what would they watch? Feel free to give more than one suggestion.

Julie: Oh gosh! Well, pop some popcorn and settle in. Of course, I’d start with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Did you know the scenes that are set in Cairo were actually filmed in Tunis? Beyond that connection, it’s just a great adventure and I love the action, and of course Harrison Ford. I’d follow it up with The Thin Man (1934) with Myrna Loy and William Powell. The dialog is to die for, and it’s a great Hollywood version of the mid-1930s. Finally, if you’re still awake, definitely watch Design for Living (1933). Though based on Noël Coward’s 1932 play, it diverged quite a bit and I think it’s delightful. Plus: Gary Cooper and Frederic March. Come on.

Erin: It’s always a joy to have you on my site, dear friend. As always, I wish you the best of luck with your newest book. I’m so happy and excited for you! Cheers to another cup of hot tea (and mojitos tomorrow) – stay awhile and chat.

Julie: It is always such a pleasure to sit with you, my dear! Thank you always for your support and friendship, you’re such a delight! And yes, let’s keep chatting. These cookies are delicious!

02_dido%27s-crownDido’s Crown by Julie K. Rose

Publication Date: September 29, 2016
Paperback; 340 Pages
ISBN13: 9781365316333

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

Set in Tunisia and France in 1935, Dido’s Crown is a taut literary-historical adventure influenced by Indiana Jones, The Thin Man, and John le Carré.

Mary Wilson MacPherson has always been adept at putting the past behind her: her father’s death, her sister’s disappearance, and her complicated relationship with childhood friends Tom and Will. But that all changes when, traveling to North Africa on business for her husband, Mary meets a handsome French-Tunisian trader who holds a mysterious package her husband has purchased — a package which has drawn the interest not only of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, but the Nazis as well.

When Tom and Will arrive in Tunisia, Mary suddenly finds herself on a race across the mesmerizing and ever-changing landscapes of the country, to the shores of southern France, and all across the wide blue Mediterranean. Despite her best efforts at distancing herself from her husband’s world, Mary has become embroiled in a mystery that could threaten not only Tunisian and British security in the dangerous political landscape of 1935, but Mary’s beliefs about her past and the security of her own future.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

03_julie-k-roseAuthor Julie K. Rose, Biography

A member of the Historical Novel Society and former reviewer for the Historical Novels Review, Julie lives in the Bay Area with her husband and rescue cats, and loves reading, following the San Francisco Giants, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.

Her historical adventure novel, Dido’s Crown, has released in September 2016.

Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is her second novel. The Pilgrim Glass, a finalist in the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom competition and semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was published in 2010.

For more information, please visit Julie K. Rose’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

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