He’s a rejected immortal. But can this magical blacksmith fight against fate and overcome the darkness of his past?
Hephaestus fears he’ll never be accepted. Cast down from Olympus and raised by a powerful sea witch, he sets out on a quest to discover his unknown father’s true identity. But he struggles to be taken seriously by the other gods who only want him for his ingenious inventions.
Convinced that solving his paternity will help him earn the love he seeks, the god of fire traps his mother and refuses to free her until she reveals a name. But when he uncovers a terrifying truth, he finds himself with more enemies than allies amongst the wrathful Olympians.
Can Hephaestus unlock buried secrets and prove himself worthy?
God of Fire is an imaginative standalone historical fantasy. If you like forgotten legends, fantastic beasts, and dark tales punctuated with humour, then you’ll adore Helen Steadman’s fascinating expedition into mythology.
Buy God of Fire to unravel the mysteries of ancient Greece today!
Recommended for fans of Mythos, Song of Achilles, Circe and Pandora’s Jar.
Dr Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the seventeenth-century Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf was inspired by the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, who defected from Solingen, Germany in 1687. Helen’s fourth novel will be published on 13 September 2022. This is God of Fire, a Greek myth retelling about Hephaestus, possibly the least well-known of the Olympians. Helen is now working on her fifth novel.
Despite the Newcastle witch trials being one of the largest mass executions of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.
The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who defected from Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material, and she published her findings in the Northern History journal.
A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.
Eighteen-year-old Alden du Lac ruled the tiny kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night. He’s to be executed come daybreak—should he survive that long.
When Alden notices the shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear.
Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin—a marriage that ended in blood and guilt—and she would give anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy.
Mary Anne Yarde is a multi-award winning and bestselling author of Historical Fiction, as well as an award-winning blogger. She studied History at Cardiff University and went on to study Equine Science at Warwickshire College.
Mary Anne is a passionate advocate for quality Historical Fiction and founded The Coffee Pot Book Club in 2015 and became a professional Editorial Reviewer in 2016.
Mary Anne’s award-winning series, The Du Lac Chronicles, is set a generation after the fall of King Arthur. The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Britain and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed
Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.
A collection of stories featuring favourite characters from Visions of Zarua and ‘Silent Sea Chronicles’, plus a glimpse into the new series, ‘Starlight Prophecy’.
With an assassin picking off wizards one-by-one, Kalesh visits Cassima, a former student, hoping to persuade her to re-join the Royal Wizards and use their protection to keep her family safe.
Kalesh’s newest charge, Paddren, has strange visions which link to a past event known only to a select few. The knowledge hidden in Paddren’s visions is invaluable so Kalesh must guard the boy at any cost.
Can Kalesh keep his students off the assassin’s radar long enough for his order to stop the killer?
Garrick the Protector
Fifteen-year-old Garrick is helping at his uncle’s farm when his cousin’s illegal use of magic threatens the family’s safety.
Mara is in immediate danger from the Assembly who deem all magic as a threat. The only safe place for her is the Turrak Mountains where exiled mystics have found sanctuary alongside the island’s Sentinel.
Can Garrick get Mara to safety before the Assembly catch up with them?
Conscripted to fight off raiders, Calder finds the months of bloody battle unleash a sixth sense buried inside him.
Finally released from duty, he travels home and encounters a mysterious woman who insists his life is destined to serve a higher purpose. Calder rejects her claims, wanting only to return to a simple existence with his wife.
But can Calder pick up his old life when the powers within him have been stirred? And why does he feel such misgivings about his return?
All three stories give readers a tantalising glimpse into the fantasy worlds created by Suzanne Rogerson.
I’ve really enjoyed this short story collection by Suzanne Rogerson.
All of the snippets of stories are well written, and certainly very intriguing. I will certainly be checking out the full stories on Amazon.
If you enjoy fantasy with a touch of magic, and some really intriguing storylines, I would highly recommend this collection of short stories. These are certainly ‘my sort’ of fantasy stories, so if you’ve read my Dragon of Unison stories, you’ll know what that means, and if you haven’t, then I’m going to say that these stories hint at books and trilogies filled with magic, and not too much graphic violence, and with a cast of strong characters, both male and female. I recommend you check out these short stories to see what you’re going to get. I’m really pleased that I did:)
Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her husband, two children and a crazy cocker spaniel.
Her writing journey began at the age of twelve when she completed her first novel. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave Suzanne the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.
Now an author of four novels including the Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy and her debut, Visions of Zarua, Suzanne hopes the dreaded ‘W’ word will never rear its ugly head again!
She loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.
Suzanne collects books, is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles and old ruins whilst being immersed in the past. She likes to combine her love of nature and photography on family walks, but most of all she loves to escape with a great film, binge watch TV shows, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.
The green world overwhelms all of Yaz’s expectations. Everything seems different but some things remain the same: her old enemies are still bent on her destruction.
The Corridor abounds with plenty and unsuspected danger. To stand a chance against the eyeless priest, Eular, and the god-like city-mind, Seus, Yaz will need to learn fast and make new friends.
The Convent of Sweet Mercy, like the Corridor itself, is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz needs the nuns’ help – but first they want to execute her.
The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those labouring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centres on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough.
THE GIRL AND THE MOON is the third and final volume in The Book of Ice trilogy.
Never once, in all the books I’ve read, has he finished a trilogy the way I wanted him to do so. He is infuriatingly consistent with this, and still, I hope, each and every time, to have the answers to all I want to know. And now, with the end of the Book of the Ice, I find myself not only without the ending I ‘thought’ I was going to get, but much, much worse, feeling as though I need to go back and read ALL the books again to unpick the ‘threads’ and perhaps find the answers I want for myself. Grrrr.
To me, this means Mark Lawrence remains at the top of his game, and while I might find it all very frustrating, that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the books, and the universe(s)? he’s created.
A fine end to another great trilogy, and one I took my time with because, quite frankly, I didn’t want it to end, not in the end:)
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.
Follow Mark here – and just to say, if you’re not yet sure, his Patreon is fab, and a great way to keep up to date with all he’s doing. And he’s not shy with his book giveaways either. Twitter.
Today, David Fitz-Gerald is going to share with me the process he went through to write Waking Up Lost.
Brainstorming Waking Up Lost
The idea for Waking Up Lost came from a brainstorming process. It’s kind of like planting a row of seeds in the garden. They don’t all germinate. Some get pulled out to leave room for the ones that have a better chance of surviving. As they grow, a lot of weeds have to be pulled.
I don’t recall the premise for Waking Up Lost coming in a single, cataclysmic inspirational moment, but rather as a wondrous evolution. I made a list of supernatural, paranormal, and otherworldly premises, then after eliminating other possibilities, selected this one. I thought it would be fun for readers to imagine what they would do if they found themselves transported to some perilous place.
I like to write fiction that is grounded in history and soars with the spirits. I use that phrase like a mission statement. My Adirondack Spirit Series is an epic, multi-generational family saga. Each book stands alone. What they have in common are ancestry, the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, surviving in nature, and supernatural tendencies that just seem to run in the family. The common ancestry includes the Native American people that inhabited New York state before colonization.
When I finished writing She Sees Ghosts, I thought about what should follow that book, featuring an empathic medium named, Mehitable, set in 1799-1816. As that book ended, the recently widowed mother of a toddler was expecting a second child. What supernatural tendencies should her children possess? That’s where my brainstorming list came in.
Waking Up Lost is the story of a young man raised by a single mother in a newly formed woodland town in 1833. One morning, he wakes up miles from home at an isolated lake where his mother once met his father. A few nights later, he is transported in his sleep to the bedroom of the meanest man in town’s daughter. Another night, Noah awakens in a storm on the peak of a mountain. Just when Noah thinks that he has found a solution to his problem, he awakens on a depraved scow, and its captain forces him to lead mules along the banks of the Erie Canal. Will he find a way to break free from captivity and escape the horrible plans the captain has for him at the end of their journey?
Caught in a Trance, set in 1849, is the story of Noah’s brother, Moses. He has the ability to blast through the air, from one location to another, and yet nobody notices when he does so, even when it happens right before their eyes. Moses also discovers that he can hypnotize people. What happens when Moses becomes addicted to hypnosis and mesmerizes himself? I hope to publish this story in the summer of 2022.
Some ideas are so good, it is hard not to return to them. It is tempting to imagine more adventures for Noah. Maybe I should make a list of different places I’d like to jettison him off to and see if he can make his way home, yet again.
Or maybe I’ll go in a completely different direction. I wonder whether I’ll pull anything else from that list of ideas.
I’d like to think I could just work on one thing at a time, but these little book babies all seem to have their own needs. One needs to be planned, another needs to be written, a third requires editing, this one is setting off to find its way in the world, and the ones that came before still require attention now and then. But I think my favorite part is planning and plotting new stories to develop.
So, I’ll keep brainstorming and see what else I can come up with. Thank you for your interest in Waking Up Lost!
Thank you so much for sharing and good luck with all your writing plans.
Here’s the blurb:
Traveling without warning. Nights lost to supernatural journeys. Is one young man fated to wander far from safety?
New York State, 1833. Noah Munch longs to fit in. Living with a mother who communes with ghosts and a brother with a knack for heroics, the seventeen-year-old wishes he were fearless enough to discover an extraordinary purpose of his own. But when he mysteriously awakens in the bedroom of the two beautiful daughters of the meanest man in town, he realizes his odd sleepwalking ability could potentially be deadly.
Convinced that leaving civilization is the only way to keep himself and others safe, Noah pursues his dream of becoming a mountain man and slips away into the primeval woods. But after a strong summer storm devastates his camp, the troubled lad finds his mystical wanderings have only just begun.
Can Noah find his place before he’s destroyed by a ruthless world?
Waking Up Lost is the immersive fourth book in the Adirondack Spirit Series of historical fiction. If you like coming-of-age adventures, magical realism, and stories of life on the American frontier, then you’ll love David Fitz-Gerald’s compelling chronicle.
David Fitz-Gerald writes fiction that is grounded in history and soars with the spirits. Dave enjoys getting lost in the settings he imagines and spending time with the characters he creates. Writing historical fiction is like making paintings of the past. He loves to weave fact and fiction together, stirring in action, adventure, romance, and a heavy dose of the supernatural with the hope of transporting the reader to another time and place. He is an Adirondack 46-er, which means he has hiked all of the highest peaks in New York State, so it should not be surprising when Dave attempts to glorify hikers as swashbuckling superheroes in his writing.
Today, I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Jeanna Louise Skinner’s new book The Book Boyfriend.
Emmy turned on her heel and headed back to the counter. She didn’t enjoy being rude to him, but it was better this way. So why were her eyes threatening tears again? There had to be a scientific answer to explain how easily her emotions ran to crying these days. It was fast becoming her default setting. A natural phenomenon, like forecasting weather. Cloudy with a chance of waterworks.
But that wasn’t quite true. The words of her inner voice rang out again, loud and clear:
Why can’t you let go? What are you so afraid of?
Almost every instance lately when she’d been on the verge of tears, something inside had compelled her to hold them back, to not give in, and trying to understand why made her head hurt.
Casting the net of her mind wide, she fished in her thoughts for distractions. What had they been talking about before all this? Yes, Jonathan’s curse. She tried to remember the words, but random phrases leapt out at her. Despite everything she’d just promised to herself, she tugged the pencil and notepad she’d dug out earlier closer to her. Jonathan had retreated to Maggie’s armchair, the stack of books now a wall between them. A literary no man’s land. Maybe she’d overreacted a little? She ought at least try a peacekeeping mission.
Clearing her throat, she called his name, her voice low and hesitant. “Jonathan?”
He looked up. His face was a closed book.
“Can you repeat it for me – your curse, I mean?”. The pencil twirled between her fingers until she made herself stop, resting it on the counter. Why was she so jittery?
He still didn’t reply, only studied her, as if he was battling with himself to acquiesce or tell her where to go. She wouldn’t completely blame him if he chose the latter.
“Please,” she added.
As Emmy watched, Jonathan closed his eyes, rubbing both hands over his face before opening them again. The battle was won, it seemed, but it didn’t feel like victory.
“Of course,” he breathed, smiling widely, as if she was his favourite person in the world and Emmy’s breath caught in her throat. An urgency she didn’t understand swept through her. The only thing that mattered was breaking his curse and a tiny alarm inside her head warned her that she’d already lost the war. There really was no point trying to resist him, but even as she acknowledged the warning signs, she pushed them away again. She wasn’t quite ready to capitulate just yet.
For a few moments, the only sounds within the little shop were Jonathan’s baritone, the scratching of Emmy’s pencil against paper as he dictated the curse, the ubiquitous ticking from the clock, and the rhythmic patterns of their breathing. Even the mice seemed to have stopped their incessant scurrying inside the walls to listen. When he was finished, Emmy began reciting the curse to herself in a whisper.
“Bound by word
Bound by paper
A life captive
Bound in flesh
Bound in blood
Bound to book”
Here’s the blurb:
Let us find solace in the quiet…”
Emmeline always dreamed of being an author, finding comfort in words and between the pages of her beloved romance novels, but a mental health diagnosis leaves her blocked and unable to write. Then she inherits a crumbling, second-hand bookshop from a mysterious old friend and Emmy discovers that magic is real and maybe her fantasies about the heroes in her favourite historical romances aren’t so far-fetched after all.
A handsome stranger–wielding a sword as dangerous as his Tudor past–appears in Emmy’s bookshop asking for help. Together they must race against time itself to lift the curse imprisoning him in an ancient book. But when growing threats to her safety are proved real and not another symptom of her illness, Emmy must learn to trust her own voice again. Can she find the words to save Jonathan and her shop before tragedy strikes on the fateful final page?
Romance-addict Emmy may be, but this damsel is about to kick distress into the Ever After.
Mental health issues, panic attacks, grief, references to abuse, references to cheating, character taking medication, references to therapy, references to suicide, references to section, references to body image references, misogyny.
Jeanna Louise Skinner writes romance with a sprinkling of magic. The Book Boyfriend is her debut novel and she is currently working on a prequel. She has ADHD and CRPS, a rare neuro-inflammatory disorder, and she is passionate about writing about people underrepresented in Romance, especially those with disabilities and chronic health conditions. She’s also the co-creator of UKRomChat, a much-lauded, Romance-centric live Twitter chat. She lives in Devon with her husband, their two children and a cat who sounds like a goat.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Marian L Thorpe to the blog with a guest post about her new book, Empire’s Heir.
Your book, Empire’s Heir is the sixth book in a series of historical fantasy books. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories and why they decide to that research in a fantasy setting (although, admittedly, much of historical fiction could be termed fantasy).
Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring the historical elements of your historical fantasy to life?
Research, history, and fantasy…a mix I first encountered in Puck of Pook’s Hill (Rudyard Kipling) as a child, followed by The Lord of the Rings, which I read for the first time when I was eleven. Like many fantasy writers (if what I write is fantasy, which is a subject of some debate in some readers’ minds, as my books have no magic) I have created a world based on ours, where the fantasy elements are the societal structures.
I wanted to explore several societal issues: the effects of a sudden change in expectations of women away from traditional roles; what a non-heteronormative society might look like, and, in the overarching theme of the series, the tensions between individual and community responsibility and belief. One of the roles of speculative fiction, I believe, is to present problems and challenges in a setting that is removed from reality, making them more accessible (or acceptable) to some readers. So I chose an early medieval setting, simply because the post-Roman/early medieval history of Britain has been an interest and a hobby since my teens, evolving from an original focus on Arthurian legend.
Which meant the first two books needed almost no direct research; the information was there in my brain and simply coalesced on the page as I wrote. One of the advantages of historical fantasy of my sort is that only concepts are needed; ideas can be tweaked and modified. For example, the Ti’acha, the residential schools of Linrathe, the country north of the Wall that is the site of most of the action of Empire’s Hostage, are based on the religious schools of early-medieval history and are supported by their own lands and by landholders in much the same way.
But as my main character Lena’s world expanded geographically, I began to need more than what was already in my head. So I began to take courses, some full university credits, some short courses. I read a lot of journal articles and books, about the Great Heathen Army, about Rome, about the flora and fauna of the Pannonian Plain and what winters are like in the Alps. I look for details that add to the verisimilitude of my world: all birds, all mammals, belong where I have them. Crops grown are true to the time and place (I once spent several hours researching the growing days needed for barley – and the correct type for the period – in northern Scotland. The internet is a wonder.) And I borrow, unashamedly: battles are difficult for me, so the final battle of the first trilogy, at the end of Empire’s Exile, is almost entirely the Battle of Maldon, as described in the 10th C poem. The outcome may be different, but the elements of the poem are there.
I integrate history by asking a question: what’s the historical fact? Now, how can I use that in the context of my world? The basic premise of Empire’s Heir comes from the bride shows of Byzantium in the 8th and 9th century, although there is little else Byzantine about my world. Even in characters, I borrow a bit from history, although never directly. My main character Cillian, while he is wholly himself, has aspects of both Alcuin of York and St. Columba – and the philosopher he looks to for guidance and solace is based entirely on Marcus Aurelius. My research blends into my story (I hope) in the same way threads are brought into the weaving of a complex tapestry: not to stand out, but to create a cohesive, believable whole where all the elements work together to make the picture.
I strive, too, to create a sense of place; stories take place within a landscape and setting, and its feel matters. I’ve been able to do most of that from personal experience, but knowing Empire’s Heir would take place mostly in my Rome analogue, the city of Casil, I went to Rome for a quick three-day research trip last year (just before the pandemic hit) with a personal guide who, at my request, focused on the aspects of the ancient city I needed.
Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?
There isn’t one book I rely on: in the earlier books, Robin Fleming’s Britain after Rome was invaluable, as was Neil Oliver’s Vikings, and,for forming a sense of the psychological geography of my world, East Anglia and its North Sea World in the Middle Ages, edited by David Bates and Robert E Liddiard. And now, as I move towards the next book(s) in the series, here’s a photo of my research pile!
Thank you so much for sharing. I recognise a few of those books on your research pile:) Good luck with the new book.
Here’s the blurb:
Some games are played for mortal stakes.
Gwenna, heir to Ésparias, is summoned by the Empress of Casil to compete for the hand of her son. Offered power and influence far beyond what her own small land can give her, Gwenna’s strategy seems clear – except she loves someone else.
Nineteen years earlier, the Empress outplayed Cillian in diplomacy and intrigue. Alone, his only living daughter has little chance to counter the Empress’s experience and skill. Aging and torn by grief and worry, Cillian insists on accompanying Gwenna to Casil.
Risking a charge of treason, faced with a choice he does not want to make, Cillian must convince Gwenna her future is more important than his – while Gwenna plans her moves to keep her father safe. Both are playing a dangerous game. Which one will concede – or sacrifice?
Essays, poetry, short stories, peer-reviewed scientific papers, curriculum documents, technical guides, grant applications, press releases – if it has words, it’s likely Marian L Thorpe has written it, somewhere along the line. But nothing has given her more satisfaction than her novels. Combining her love of landscape and history, set in a world reminiscent of Europe after the decline of Rome, her books arise from a lifetime of reading and walking and wondering ‘what if?’ Pre-pandemic, Marian divided her time between Canada and the UK, and hopes she may again, but until then, she resides in a small, very bookish, city in Canada, with her husband Brian and Pye-Cat.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Thaddeus Thomas to the blog to talk about his new book, Steampunk Cleopatra, a historical fantasy.
Your book, Steampunk Cleopatra sounds like a wonderful combination of history and fantasy. I usually ask authors to tell me about their research process because as a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories. But I think your book might be a little different. So, a few questions instead.
Was it the history or the lost science that attracted you to this story? Can you explain why?
I was attracted to the Library of Alexandria, and everything began there. Outside of deciding to focus the book on Cleopatra, the next greatest influence was Hero of Alexander who invented the world’s first steam engine in the first century CE. The draw was the enigmas of history, and the lost science of Egypt was a potential solution.
How did you create your ‘world?’ What aspects of the past were important for you to keep, and which were you happy to discard?
I never intentionally discarded history. The idea that I was writing fantasy gave me the courage to tackle the subject, but I intended to tell as historically accurate a story as possible, in one sense. If that’s all the book was, then the gaps in our knowledge would be filled with the most probable truths. I’ve simple filled many of those gaps with wonder.
The book covers many years and a lot of territory, from Egypt to Rome, Cyprus, Jerusalem, and Kush. Of my own life, I spent two years researching and writing Steampunk Cleopatra and had just come off of three years on Detective, 26 AD, which helped immensely with the Jerusalem sections.
I enjoy a good steampunk novel, although most I’ve read are set in an alternative Victorian period. What challenges were there for you in using Egypt as your setting? (if you did use Egypt).
In the beginning of the book, I focus on a mostly grounded, historical Alexandria, although the spotlight is often cast on the surprising inventions of the time. For example, their hours were not constant in length. There were twelve daylight hours, no matter how short or how long the day. They invented water clocks that automatically counted out the hours in beautiful, artistic ways while remaining accurate, no matter the time of the year. That historical concern made the move into expanding the technology my greatest challenge.
For the steampunk aspect, think of stories like the movie National Treasure, but what if finding the hidden treasure was only half the story? If we have access to this great technology, how do we use it? Does it benefit the marginalized people who made it possible in the first place or does it become simply another tool of oppression? Is it the secret to taking over the world or is it the key to your downfall? These are some of the questions the book tackles.
I do not use fantasy to change the course of history but to fantastically explain aspects of it and through that, examine our nature, our failure, and our hope.
Was there anything you discovered during your research that made you change elements of your story, or which you found amazing?
There are so many moments of real-life scientific wonder that worked their way in, but the Ptolemaic political drama was the driving force. Of that, the largest single impact was Ptolemy’s slaughter of the hundred delegates sent by Berenice to speak before the Roman Senate. Much of this was new information to me, as the book focuses on the early years of Cleopatra, ending with Julius Caesar and the Alexandrian Civil War. When you study her life, that’s usually where you begin.
Did you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?
Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff got me started, but that’s not to say she made things easy for me. The years I focus on, she glossed over, and for that time period, she had a way of mentioning facts out of historical context. It worked for the opening picture she was drawing for her work, but I had much to unravel in those early days. I did a great deal of reading, and with so much focus on Egypt, I needed both a break for my eyes and an introduction to Roman history. For that, I have to mention the YouTube channel Historia Civilis. It gave me the context I needed as a foundation and was entertaining.
Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you had a fantastic, if complex, time unravelling the history and the facts. Good luck with Steampunk Cleopatra.
Here’s the blurb:
Amani, a companion of Cleopatra, seeks to rediscover Egypt’s suppressed science and history. She is the beloved of her princess become queen, but that may not be enough to overcome the system they’ve inherited. If she fails, her country and Cleopatra, both, could fall. History meets fantasy, and together, they create something new. Experience an intelligent thriller about star-crossed lovers and an ancient science that might have been.
Thaddeus Thomas lives on the Mississippi River with his wife and three cats. Steampunk Cleopatra is his first novel, but he has a short story collection available at his website, ThaddeusThomas.com. There he also runs a book club where readers can receive indie book reviews and recommendation. His second book—Detective, 26 AD—releases July 9thand follows Doubting Thomas as he is conscripted to be an investigator for Pontius Pilate.
Today I’m delighted to welcome Nancy Northcott to the blog with a post about the research she undertook to write The Steel Rose.
Your book, The Steel Rose, is set in not one, but two historical time periods. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories.
Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life?
Hi, MJ, and thanks for having me!
My research process starts with reading general histories of the relevant period, then narrows to the issues and conditions I intend to use in the story. I rely primarily on books but sometimes consult websites. When I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the era, I refine the story to eliminate any misconceptions. Then I start writing. As I write, questions often arise. I keep a list and check those every week or two.
I knew this book would be primarily set during the Napoleonic Wars, mostly in England. I’ve read quite a few books set during that period, but reading about it is very different from writing about it. This was a time of social codes that seem very elaborate to me, and I didn’t feel well versed in those rules.
I read several books about England during this era, including Jenny Uglow’s In These Times, which is about life in Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, and Roy & Lesley Adkins’s Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England. I looked at several sourcebooks on Regency social activities and manners. Because they weren’t always consistent, I consulted two authors who’ve each written numerous Regency romances. They very generously answered my many questions and cleared up some inconsistencies. I did cut down on some of the requisite bowing and curtseying in the interests of moving the story along.
Characters need clothes, of course, and I’ve been interested in historical costume most of my life. I always like playing in a new era. The Art of Dress by Jane Ashelford and Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion by Hilary Davidson were particularly useful for this book.
The action in The Steel Rose climaxes at the Battle of Waterloo. As you’re probably aware, there have been enough books written about that battle to fill a library, possibly with double or even triple shelving! I read enough to feel that I had a general sense of what happened. There seems to be some dispute about what actually was decisive in the battle’s final hour. I went with the option that best fit my story and gave a nod to the Prussians, who drew off Napoleon’s reserves at a critical time. They inspired the hero and heroine’s actions toward the end of the battle.
I also read Stephen Coote’s Napoleon and the Hundred Days, which focuses on the period between his escape from Elba and his defeat at Waterloo. Coote’s book and a similar one had a lot of useful information on conditions in France and the reactions to his return. Coote also included information about Napoleon’s time on Elba.
I consulted a number of books and a few websites about the different military units at Waterloo and their uniforms. There are people devoted to the customs of English Regency society, historical reenactors and others who pore over accounts of Waterloo, and people who immerse themselves in both. I wanted to do everything I could to get this right.
I’ve never been to Waterloo, but I did find commemorative art in the subway (passage under the street, for my fellow Americans) at Hyde Park Corner, the Tube stop for the Duke of Wellington’s residence, Apsley House.
The second era that comes into play is the late medieval period, which we see briefly via the heroine’s seer vision. The trilogy follows the descendants of a wizard who unwittingly helped murder Edward IV’s sons, who’re known as the Princes in the Tower. He didn’t realize the agents he helped sneak into the Tower would murder the boys on the orders of his liege lord. Horrified by what he’d done, he threw himself on the mercy of the boys’ uncle, King Richard III. The king told him not to say anything until given leave, but King Richard met his fate at Bosworth Field before ever telling the wizard to reveal the truth.
The Tudors who came after Richard III blamed him for the boys’ deaths and anything else they could. Speaking up while they ruled would’ve been considered treason. The wizard would’ve been executed and his information suppressed. So he cursed the heirs of his line to not rest in life or death until they cleared the king’s name. After death, their souls are trapped in a wraith-filled shadowland between the worlds of the living and the dead.
In each book of the trilogy, that generation’s heirs seeks the information that will lift the curse and release their kinsmen’s souls.
This is Middleham Castle, sometime home of Richard, Duke of Gloucester:
I’ve been reading about Richard III and the Wars of the Roses most of my adult life, so I was already pretty familiar with that part of the story and the period. One of my unpublished novels is set during the late 1400s.
One of the women from that era, Lady Eleanor Butler, appears in The Steel Rose. Edward IV clandestinely married her before he wed Elizabeth Woodville, who became his queen. Lady Eleanor was still alive when Edward and Elizabeth wed, which meant this later marriage was bigamous. After his death, his prior marriage to Eleanor was revealed. His union with Elizabeth was declared invalid and their children deemed bastards. They were thus ineligible to inherit the throne. Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester, was the next male heir and became king.
That’s a long road to get around to saying I didn’t know a lot about Lady Eleanor and so did some research on her. I found only one book about her, Eleanor The Secret Queen by the late Dr. John Ashdown Hill, MBE, who was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Richard III Society in addition to other groups.
Not to toss a cat among the pigeons, but I’ve come to believe Edward IV’s sons outlived their uncle. The Tower was not only a prison but a royal residence. If those boys had disappeared overnight, there would’ve been people to attest to that, people the Tudors would’ve trotted out on public display, which didn’t happen. Matthew Lewis’s The Survival of the Princes in the Tower is an excellent look at the various theories about their fates. He presents the evidence for each, notes the strengths and weaknesses of each theory, and lets readers draw their own conclusions. He also has published an excellent biography of Richard III, Richard III: Loyalty Bids Me.
This, of course, is the Tower of London, where so many of my characters’ troubles started!
A third historical era also figures in the book, again in the heroine’s visions, but discussing it would spoil part of the mystery for readers. I’ll just say I did some brief research in books and checked some aspects online.
As readers may have gathered from looking at the photos in this blog, all of which I took, I like to walk the ground where the story takes place, to stand in the places the characters do. Topography changes over time, of course, and landmarks disappear. Still, being in those settings helps me imagine what they would’ve been like during the story’s period with people moving through them. Sometimes those visits give me ideas, and sometimes they just make me feel closer to the characters.
Walking the ground isn’t always possible, of course. Travel is expensive and more complicated than it used to be. There are places I plan to use for books that I may never see. Books and travel websites can be satisfactory substitutes as sources.
Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?
I don’t mind sharing at all, but there isn’t really one book I turn to. What I keep close depends on what I’m writing. I’ve found books by Osprey Publishing invaluable sources for military uniforms and equipment of different eras. They’re written for military history buffs, so they include wonderful detail and color plate illustrations. www.ospreypublishing.com.
For The Steel Rose, I kept The Waterloo Companion by Mark Adkin, Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815, Volume 2, by John Hussey, Waterloo: Battle of Three Armies by Lord Chalfont, and the Osprey series on Waterloo handy. I was lucky to have most of this research done before the public health crisis shut down interlibrary loan.
The new series I’m starting is set in the world of the Boar King’s Honor trilogy. The first book ties into The Herald of Day, which is set during the reign of Charles II. Much of the action in this new book takes place at Whitehall Palace, so I kept Whitehall Palace: The Official Illustrated History by Simon Thurley by the computer with the Restoration era reconstruction bookmarked. I also relied heavily on Liza Picard’s Restoration London.
I frequently turn to a National Trust book I’ve had for years, The Art of Dining: A History of Cooking & Eating by Sara Paston-Williams. It covers food preparation and dining from the medieval to the Edwardian periods. I’m not a foodie, so food isn’t a huge part of any book I write. The characters have to eat sometimes, though, and I want to feed them appropriate food.
As you can see, my main sources vary by the project. It’s fun to look at so many.
Thank you again for having me, MJ! I’ve enjoyed this.
Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating research. It is good to visit the places you’re writing about. Good luck with the new book. (All photographs are the property of Nancy Northcott.)
Here’s the blurb:
A wizard’s misplaced trust
A king wrongly blamed for murder
A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name
Book 2: The Steel Rose
Amelia Mainwaring, a magically Gifted seer, is desperate to rescue the souls of her dead father and brother, who are trapped in a shadowy, wraith-filled land between life and death as the latest victims of their family curse. Lifting the curse requires clearing the name of King Richard III, who was wrongly accused of his nephews’ murder because of a mistake made by Amelia’s ancestor.
In London to seek help from a wizard scholar, Julian Winfield, Amelia has disturbing visions that warn of Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba and renewed war in Europe. A magical artifact fuels growing French support for Bonaparte. Can Amelia and Julian recover the artifact and deprive him of its power in time to avert the coming battles?
Their quest takes them from the crowded ballrooms of the London Season to the bloody field of Waterloo, demanding all of their courage, guile, and magical skill. Can they recover the artifact and stop Bonaparte? Or will all their hopes, along with Amanda’s father and brother, be doomed as a battle-weary Europe is once again engulfed in the flames of war?
The Steel Rose is the second book in the time-traveling, history-spanning fantasy series The Boar King’s Honor, from Nancy Northcott (Outcast Station, The Herald of Day).
This novel is available to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.
Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance. She combines the emotion and high stakes, and sometimes the magic, she loves in the books she writes.
She has written freelance articles and taught at the college level. Her most popular course was on science fiction, fantasy, and society. She has also given presentations on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III to university classes studying Shakespeare’s play about Richard III. Reviewers have described her books as melding fantasy, romance, and suspense. Library Journal gave her debut novel, Renegade, a starred review, calling it “genre fiction at its best.”
In addition to the historical fantasy Boar King’s Honor trilogy, Nancy writes the Light Mage Wars paranormal romances, the Arachnid Files romantic suspense novellas, and the Lethal Webs romantic spy adventures. With Jeanne Adams, she cowrites the Outcast Station science fiction mysteries.
Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.
‘Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been these past ten years. But in a small, isolated monastery in the west of England, a young boy is suddenly plucked from his simple existence by the ageing warrior, Gawain. It seems he must come to terms with his legacy and fate as the son of the most celebrated yet most infamous of Arthur’s warriors: Lancelot. For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son – the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive.’
I’ve just reread the review I wrote for Lancelot nearly two years ago, and even I’m blushing about how effusive I was about it!
Camelot begins in much the same way. The lead character is a young man, about to take his vows to become a monk on the tor at Glastonbury when his world completely changes. The depiction of life on the tor is wonderfully evoked, and even if the author could have just written ‘bird’ ‘tree’ and ‘flower’ I’m sure many will appreciate the attention to detail. (I’ve never been ‘at one’ with nature).
The story starts quite slowly, drawing you back into the world of post-Roman/pre-Anglo-Saxon Britain with deft skill and then the story truly begins to take shape, secrets are revealed, and the ties to the previous book begin to be revealed.
I truly don’t want to give too much of the story away, but the ‘quest’, for that is what it becomes, takes readers from Cornwall to Anglesey and then further, the fear of what is to come in the future a palpable threat and even though we all know what’s going to happen, in the end (outside the scope of the book) I couldn’t help but hope that it would all be very, very different. The characters demand it from the reader.
And the end, is once more, where I have some small complaints about the story. It’s not that it doesn’t do what I want it to do, it’s just that the ending seems wrong for the story, but then, perhaps, it was always going to because that is the legend of Arthur.
But before that ending, the legends of Arthur and his knights are beautifully evoked, and I think a particular strength is the depiction of King Constantine, a bit part character, but immensely powerful and the very embodiment of a land falling to chaos all around him, and yet not prepared to give way and accept what seems to be the inevitable.
This book, once more, has its flaws, some scenes seem unnecessary, and others are skipped over too quickly, but it feels so true to the legends. There’s so much that’s only half-seen, hinted at but never actually known.
A welcome return to Giles Kristian’s ‘world’ first created in Lancelot, and, I think the author notes at the end of the novel explain a great deal. Now, give me the story of Arthur and his knights at the height of their prowess (please!).
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.
Camelot is now available in paperback (Sorry I missed this on the 24th)