Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Hidden Masterpiece by Heidi Eljarbo

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Heidi Eljarbo to the blog with a post about her new historical mystery and her research process.

I believe anyone who writes historical fiction can tell you they spend almost more time on research than on the actual writing. But the thing is, if you love history and tales from days gone by, and you choose to write stories about it, you will enjoy the learning process. The research journey can be fun and enlightening, sometimes surprising and sad, but always interesting.

Historical fiction brings the past to life and transports readers to another time and place. In order to do that I believe it’s important to think about the five senses when researching a scene. The reader expects to be swept into another world and seamlessly see, hear, feel, taste, and even touch things in that scene, as if they are there…as if they are part of the story.

In Hidden Masterpiece, I write dual timelines. The main part of the book takes place in 1944 during WWII. The other part that’s woven into the main story goes back to 1639. Two different time periods. Two different women. But these two protagonists—although three hundred years apart— are connected through their love of art.

I’m glad I love history so much, because even if this is a novel with twice the amount of research, I cherish the process and everything I learn. My hope is that the readers will enjoy learning, too.

I’ve read that British author Ken Follett spends a year researching before he types a single word. One year!

I don’t know how much time I spend on research before I start writing, but I collect notes and thoughts, write down fun sentences I hear when watching period dramas, and have a good overall idea about the time period beforehand. But then, after I begin writing, I am continually researching details along the way.

I taught a class about research for historical fiction at the SMIAH conference in August this year. Before teaching, I had done a survey among readers of the genre to see what they expect, how important historical fiction research is when they read a novel, and what the pitfalls are. Readers of this genre have strong opinions on the subject. Many answered how historical facts sparked their interest, they wanted to learn more, and they followed up by doing their own research. A common answer was also that research is essential, and they don’t like inaccuracies, anachronism, or too much unnecessary descriptions.

So, what’s my research process? I need more time and space to give a complete answer, but I have some favorites. Articles, history books, older book with authentic descriptions, time witnesses, paintings, photographs, letters, journals, memoirs, visit places, and museums. The list goes on and on. 

I had a history of clothing class in college. It was a favorite of mine. And still today, my books about clothes through the ages are always on the table when I research and write my novels.

The last thing I’d like to mention is an Author’s Note. If I have played with historical facts or twist the details to suit the purpose of the novel, you may find an explanation in an Author’s Note at the end of the book. It’s also a place to elaborate a certain happening or the life of a real person in the story.

Thank you for having me on your blog today, MJ Porter. I can truly say, I enjoyed researching Hidden Masterpiece.

Thank you for so much for sharing your research with me. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

In this riveting third book in the Soli Hansen Mysteries series, a woman’s courage to follow her conviction during a horrible war leads her to the portrait of a young Jewish heiress painted three centuries earlier.

Norway 1944. Art historian Soli Hansen has gone undercover to rescue masterpieces and keep them from falling into the hands of Nazi thieves. Working with a small resistance group led by her best friend Heddy, Soli will stop at nothing to thwart the efforts of the invaders of their scenic country. Trust and loyalty mean everything when working against a merciless enemy.

Riddles and clues lead the way to a mysterious work of art. It’s a race against time, but Soli and her network refuse to give up. However, when news arrives that her sweetheart Nikolai is missing in action, she strives to concentrate on the demanding quest.

From the streets of Oslo to the snow-covered mountains and medieval churches of Nume Valley, Soli takes risks larger than her courage, trying to preserve and hide precious art. But she must decide if it’s all worth losing the man she loves.

Antwerp 1639. Fabiola Ruber’s daughter, Annarosa, wants to honor her mother’s last wish and have her portrait done by a master artist who specializes in the art of chiaroscuro. Her uncle writes to an accomplished painter in Amsterdam and commissions him to paint his beloved niece.

Struggling with religious and social persecution, the Jewish Ruber family uproots once again and travels northward. On the way, they will sojourn in Amsterdam for Annarosa’s sitting in the master painter’s studio. But will they make it there? None of them can foresee the danger of such a journey.

This novel is available to read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription. 

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Meet the Author

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.

Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Hidden Masterpiece blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on The Lords of the Wind by C J Adrien audiobook tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome C J Adrien to the blog with a post about the historical research he undertook for hi his new audiobook, The Lords of the Wind.

Your book, The Lords of the Wind, sounds absolutely fascinating, and is set in a time period I love to research. 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? 

I, too, am a historian first and writer second. My latest series, The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, was inspired by research I conducted for both my undergraduate and graduate studies. I conducted most of my research in an academic setting, and have had the privilege to work with a couple of historical associations in France where my novels take place. It helps that my paternal family live on the island that is the setting for my novels, and I spent a significant amount of my youth there. 

My roots on the island are what inspired the focus of my academic research. Beginning at an early age, I took an interest in history, particularly in the medieval period. In college, I majored in history, studied medieval Europe and Japan, and worked for two years on Ancient Russia. In my studies of the Rus, the people who lent their name to the modern-day country of Russia, I happened upon the intrinsically fascinating world of the Vikings. During a trip to visit family in France, my grandparents asked what I was studying at school. When I told them I had begun to research the Viking Age, they casually informed me that our family was partly descended from Norwegians from that time. Initially, I was skeptical. They directed me to my great aunt Nadette. She was a school teacher and put together a genealogy of the family’s history from the 1600s. While impressive, this was in no way indicative of Viking heritage. Yet, she argued that there were no significant migrations, exoduses, or major population movements between the Viking settlement (it is thought they colonized the region, though evidence for it remains dubious) and the earliest record of the name Adrien. Thus, she argued, it is likely we are descended in part from the Vikings.

I was still not entirely convinced, so I decided to research the subject myself. The issue gripped me. The idea that Vikings, legendarily fearsome warriors who are often little more than a footnote in the history books, had visited and perhaps colonized the island of Noirmoutier where I had spent nearly every summer of my life was an exciting prospect. Back at school, I continued my studies and became more and more interested in the Vikings as a historical subject. In 2009, I put together a research proposal for a doctoral program specifically regarding the history of the Vikings in Noirmoutier, which was tentatively accepted by my university to begin a doctoral program. Due to budget shortfalls from the Great Recession, the university cut the humanities department by 40%, including my program.

For the next few years I worked as a school teacher at the secondary level and returned to France every year to visit my family. As luck would have it, my grandfather served as the president of the local historical association, Les Amis de Noirmoutier, who opened up all of their resources to me to conduct my research. Initially, I had thought to write a history book, but on the recommendation of one of the association’s members (a dual p.h.D. in France and the U.S.), I decided to keep my research to myself until enrolling in another doctoral program. In the interim, they published some of my research to start to build interest in the subject, and I wrote a series of novels with a real historical figure as its protagonist. 

My research has turned a few heads in different places. The core argument of my thesis garnered the attention of a production company who make historical series for the History Channel, Discovery, and National Geographic. We had good momentum with the idea, but the Covid pandemic put a halt to the whole project. You can see the reel for the show on my website cjadrien.com. 

Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating research with me. Good luck with the new book and you phD.

Here’s the blurb

Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master’s longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire.

A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normannorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

“The Lords of the Wind” by C.J. Adrien is a gold medal winner in the 2020 Reader’s Favorite annual international book award.contest.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence

Praise

“If you want to sit down with an extremely well-researched tale involving heroic battles, first loves, and the making of a legend, this book is for you.”

The Historical Novel Society

This series is available on #KindleUnlimited 

The Lords of the Wind (Book 1)

In the Shadow of the Beast (Book 2)

The Kings of the Sea (Book 3)

Meet the author

C.J. Adrien is a bestselling and award-winning author of Viking historical fiction novels with a passion for Viking history. His Saga of Hasting the Avenger series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell. He is also a published historian on the subject of Vikings, with articles featured in historical journals such as LAssociationdes Amis de Noirmoutier, in France. His novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), conferences on Viking history in France, among others. 

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Lords of the Wind blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Book Boyfriend by Jeanna Louise Skinner

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?

Nothing. 

Everything.

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 forever

Bound in flesh

Bound in blood

Gaol eternal

Bound to book”

Intrigued?

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.

Trigger warnings:

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.

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Meet the author

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. 

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Book Boyfriend blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Empire’s Heir by Marian L Thorpe

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?

Trigger Warnings:

Death, rape. 

Available on Kindle Unlimited.

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Meet the author

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.

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Welcome to today’s stop on the Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash by Tammy Pasterick blog tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Tammy Pasterick to the blog with a post about her new book, Veil of Smoke and Ash.

Researching Pittsburgh’s Golden Age of Steel

Writing a novel is never easy, but historical fiction presents its own set of challenges. While all authors strive to make their books entertaining and thought-provoking, historical novelists must also focus on accuracy. The worlds they create should be well-researched and detailed, and the characters should sound like people who actually live during medieval times, colonial times, or in 1910s Pittsburgh, as is the case in my novel, Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash. Transporting readers to the past is a daunting process, and I relied on a wide variety of resources to bring Pittsburgh’s golden age of steel to life. 

My book started out as a genealogy project, so my research began on Ancestry.com. In the spring of 2012, I couldn’t find my mom’s recipe for stuffed cabbages—a favorite dish in my Slovak family—so I turned to Google for some alternatives. I ended up on several Slovak and Hungarian cultural websites as well as a few genealogy sites. I then joined Ancestry.com on a whim and began a months-long search for information about my great-grandparents, who immigrated to America at the turn of the twentieth century. 

I found so many fascinating documents on Ancestry.com and quickly became addicted to the site. I located the ship manifesto for my Slovak great-grandparents who traveled to Ellis Island from Austria-Hungary in 1905 as well as a World War II draft registration card for my Lithuanian great-grandfather who was in his early fifties at the time he signed it. I was in awe of his bravery, as his advanced age exempted him from the draft. These discoveries led to a fascinating conversation with my ninety-year-old grandmother, who rarely spoke of her childhood. I asked her several questions about her family and her in-laws, and she responded in the most unexpected way. She presented me with a scrapbook and a shoebox of old family photos.

I’m not sure why Grandma Pearl had never shown me these treasures until the final months of her life, but I am grateful nonetheless. She opened up to me that day about her childhood and showed me pictures of her Lithuanian parents as well as her Slovak in-laws. She explained that they immigrated to America at the turn of the twentieth century to work in the steel mills of Pittsburgh. She shared as many details as she could about their immigrant experience, but I wanted to know more. My curiosity inspired me to turn my genealogy project into a novel. 

While the characters in my novel are fictional, the world they live in is not. My conversation with Grandma Pearl sparked my imagination and gave me a starting point, but I still had much to learn. I read several books about Pennsylvania’s steel and coal mining industries in the early twentieth century such as The Shadow of the Mills: Working-Class Families in Pittsburgh, 1870-1907 by S.J. Kleinberg and Growing Up in Coal Country by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. I also read The Steel Workers by John A. Fitch, which was part of The Pittsburgh Survey, a sociological study conducted from 1907-1908, which chronicled the living conditions of immigrant families. These books provided insight into the daily routines of immigrants as well as the risks they faced in the mills and mines. 

In order to better understand the hazardous work steelworkers and coal miners performed in the 1910s and 1920s, I watched silent films on YouTube. Still curious, I visited the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum in Tarentum, Pennsylvania with my father, who shared memories of his thirty years of coal mining with me. I’ll never forget what it was like to stumble through cool, dark tunnels 160 feet below ground and feel the jagged walls of exposed coal beneath my fingertips.   

 Lisa A. Alzo’s books, Slovak Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh’s Immigrants, contain so many incredible photographs and gave me a deeper understanding of Slovak culture and customs. They even helped me pick out authentic names for my Slovak and Polish characters. The Social Security Administration’s website was also a great source for character names, as it tracks the popularity of baby names as far back as the 1880s. 

As for the mental illness and mysterious medical condition featured in my book, I obtained most of my facts from various medical websites suggested by Google. I relied on information from webmd.com, mayoclinic.org, psychiatry.org, and several other sites focusing on women’s health. The Internet and Google make writing historical fiction so much easier than I imagine it was just a few decades ago. The answers to my questions are usually only a few keystrokes away, and the only challenge is determining the reliability of sources. Google is also particularly useful for tracking word usage over time. I learned very quickly that it would not be appropriate for my young character, Sofie, to go to the “movies” with her “boyfriend.” She would instead see a film at the “nickelodeon” with her “sweetheart.” 

Historical fiction is definitely challenging to write, but I enjoy the research just as much as the writing. I never know where an Internet rabbit hole will lead and whether it will spark an unexpected plot twist. My modest genealogy project was not supposed to take on a life of its own and become a novel, but I am happy that it did. My deep dive into Pittsburgh’s golden age of steel revealed many fascinating facts about my family’s history, but it also taught me about the labor movement, social inequality, anti-immigration sentiment, and mental illness at the turn of the twentieth century. I am a much smarter and more empathetic person as a result of writing this novel, and I can’t wait to find out what the next one will teach me. 

Thank you so much for sharing such a fascinating insight into your new book. Good luck with it.

Here’s the blurb

It’s Pittsburgh, 1910—the golden age of steel in the land of opportunity. Eastern European immigrants Janos and Karina Kovac should be prospering, but their American dream is fading faster than the colors on the sun-drenched flag of their adopted country. Janos is exhausted from a decade of twelve-hour shifts, seven days per week, at the local mill. Karina, meanwhile, thinks she has found an escape from their run-down ethnic neighborhood in the modern home of a mill manager—until she discovers she is expected to perform the duties of both housekeeper and mistress. Though she resents her employer’s advances, they are more tolerable than being groped by drunks at the town’s boarding house.

When Janos witnesses a gruesome accident at his furnace on the same day Karina learns she will lose her job, the Kovac family begins to unravel. Janos learns there are people at the mill who pose a greater risk to his life than the work itself, while Karina—panicked by the thought of returning to work at the boarding house—becomes unhinged and wreaks a path of destruction so wide that her children are swept up in the storm. In the aftermath, Janos must rebuild his shattered family—with the help of an unlikely ally.

Impeccably researched and deeply human, Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash delivers a timeless message about mental illness while paying tribute to the sacrifices America’s immigrant ancestors made.

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Meet the author

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Tammy Pasterick grew up in a family of steelworkers, coal miners, and Eastern European immigrants. She began her career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board and later worked as a paralegal and German teacher. She holds degrees in labor and industrial relations from Penn State University and German language and literature from the University of Delaware. She currently lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with her husband, two children, and chocolate Labrador retriever.

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Check out the other stops on the Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m delighted to host Liz Harris’ Darjeeling Inheritance Blog Tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Liz Harris to the blog with a fascinating post about her new book, Darjeeling Inheritance.

Your book, the Darjeeling Inheritance, which sounds fantastic, is set during the 1930s in India. 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 the historical landscape to life?

I’ve always believed that if a novel is set in the past, and in a foreign location, the events in the past, and the nature of that location, should be organic in the novel. To ignore the history and nature of an area would result in the setting being no more than a mere backdrop to a story that could have been located anywhere and at any time.

So before I start writing, and before I’ve determined all of the characters who’ll be in my novel, I find out everything I can about my chosen area – its past and its present, every aspect of its geography, the lives of those who live there, their mores and how they’d view the world, and also any difficulties with which they’d have to contend.

My focus in Darjeeling Inheritance was on tea production, and on the plantation owners who lived in India during the British Raj, the period between 1858 and 1947, and also on the people who worked for them, and on those whose job it was to go out on the terraces between March and November and pluck two leaves and a terminal bud.

Books are always my first port of call – bookshops and libraries are an invaluable source of information and help – and as always, the local library was an excellent source of material when writing Darjeeling Inheritance. I’m very lucky in that I live in Oxfordshire, where the libraries are excellent, and also that I can get easily to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

The resource to which I go after books is the internet. And I also try to make contact with people in the area, such as librarians or curators, if there’s anything I need to know but am struggling to find out. 

There’s no greater inspiration, or resource, than going to the location in which one is setting a novel, and if I can go there, I do. Just over two years ago, I booked to go to Darjeeling in October, after the monsoon. Unfortunately, that trip was to prove impossible. Two months before I was due to leave for Darjeeling, the Foreign Office advised against travelling there owing to trouble between the Nepali and Bengali. The issues are now resolved, but at that time, all the tea gardens and most of the hotels were closed.

Forced to rethink my plans, I decided to go instead to the famous tea plantations in Munnar, Kerala, and to the tea factory there, and I booked a flight for the following February. October would have been a good month for a trip to Darjeeling, but it would have been too rainy a month for Kerala. My visit was wonderful, and it gave me the first-hand experience I wanted.   

A tea plantation near Munnar, India

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it?

The following are my ‘go’ to books/resources. I’m making them plural as I have three staples without which I wouldn’t be comfortable writing, and I have these on the piano behind me, no matter the period or location of the work in progress.

Firstly, The Chambers Dictionary. I’m a keen Scrabble player and this is the Scrabble dictionary, so it’s the one I’ve used for years. I infinitely prefer looking up a word in a dictionary than seeking it on the internet.

The second is Roget’s Thesaurus. Repetition is the enemy of writers, and with Roget’s Thesaurus to hand, in which just about every word has a synonym for each of its meanings, an author always has a range of alternative words and phrases from which to choose. 

Finally, I have Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, compiled by Jonathon Green. I’d hate my characters to speak in anachronistic terms, and I don’t want to jar my readers out of the text by using an idiom in my narrative that’s more appropriate for the twenty-first century than the nineteenth or twentieth. By checking the origin and first use of the vocabulary I choose, I do my best to avoid that happening. 

The three books upon which I rely

Those are my staples, but then there are the books for each specific novel. I was lucky with Darjeeling Inheritance in that much has been written by those who lived in India in the 1920s and 1930s, and especially by those who grew up there, and I was spoilt for choice. I drew on information from a very large number of books, including several novels by M.M. Kaye and her biography, and Women of the Raj, by Margaret MacMillan.

There is one other book that I must mention that’s specific to Darjeeling Inheritance. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Darjeeling: A History of the World’s Greatest Tea, by Jeff Koehler. This was the first of the books that I bought, and it was at my side throughout my writing of the novel.

Finally, and it’s not exactly a resource, I don’t think I could write if I didn’t have a cup of coffee beside me. Yes, coffee, not tea! I’m saying this very quietly, but I don’t actually like tea!!

Jeff Koehler’s book, flanked by a cup of, dare I say it – coffee!

Many thanks, MJ, for inviting me to talk to you about my research process. I’ve very much enjoyed doing so.

Thank you for such a fascinating post. Good luck with the new book, and enjoy your cup of coffee!

Here’s the blurb:

Darjeeling, 1930

After eleven years in school in England, Charlotte Lawrence returns to Sundar, the tea plantation owned by her family, and finds an empty house. She learns that her beloved father died a couple of days earlier and that he left her his estate. She learns also that it was his wish that she marry Andrew McAllister, the good-looking younger son from a neighbouring plantation. 

Unwilling to commit to a wedding for which she doesn’t feel ready, Charlotte pleads with Dan Fitzgerald, the assistant manager of Sundar, to teach her how to run the plantation while she gets to know Andrew. Although reluctant as he knew that a woman would never be accepted as manager by the local merchants and workers, Dan agrees.

Charlotte’s chaperone on the journey from England, Ada Eastman, who during the long voyage, has become a friend, has journeyed to Darjeeling to marry Harry Banning, the owner of a neighbouring tea garden.

When Ada marries Harry, she’s determined to be a loyal and faithful wife. And to be a good friend to Charlotte. And nothing, but nothing, was going to stand in the way of that.

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Meet the Author

Born in London, Liz Harris graduated from university with a Law degree, and then moved to California, where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.

Six years later, she returned to London and completed a degree in English, after which she taught secondary school pupils, first in Berkshire, and then in Cheshire.

In addition to the ten novels she’s had published, she’s had several short stories in anthologies and magazines. 

Liz now lives in Oxfordshire. An active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society, her interests are travel, the theatre, reading and cryptic crosswords. To find out more about Liz, visit her website at: www.lizharrisauthor.com

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Darjeeling Inheritance blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Over The Hedge by Paulette Mahurin

Here’s the blurb

During one of the darkest times in history, at the height of the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1943, members of the Dutch resistance began a mission to rescue Jewish children from the deportation center in Amsterdam. Heading the mission were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, principal of a Christian college. As Nazis rounded up Jewish families at gunpoint, the three discreetly moved children from the deportation center to the daycare across the street and over the backyard hedge to the college next door. From the college, the children were transported to live with Dutch families. Working against irate orders from Hitler to rid the Netherlands of all Jews and increasing Nazi hostilities on the Resistance, the trio worked tirelessly to overcome barriers. Ingenious plans were implemented to remove children’s names from the registry of captured Jews. To sneak them out of the college undetected past guards patrolling the deportation center. To meld them in with their new families to avoid detection. Based on actual events, Over the Hedge is the story of how against escalating Nazi brutality when millions of Jews were disposed of in camps, Walter Süskind, Henriëtte Pimentel, and Johan van Hulst worked heroically with the Dutch resistance to save Jewish children. But it is not just a story of their courageous endeavors. It is a story of the resilience of the human spirit. Of friendship and selfless love. The love that continues on in the hearts of over six hundred Dutch Jewish children.

This novel is available to read on #KindleUnlimited

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Meet the Author

Paulette Mahurin is an international bestselling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science. 

Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the bestseller lists for literary fiction and historical fiction on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K. and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, was released in 2017 to rave reviews. Her sixth book, A Different Kind of Angel, was released in the summer of 2018 also to rave reviews. Her last four books: Irma’s Endgame, The Old Gilt Clock, Where Irises Never Grow, and Over the Hedge all made it to bestselling lists on Amazon. Her new release, Over the Hedge, was #1 in Hot New Release Amazon U.K. it’s second day out. 

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Over The Hedge Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

It’s release day for The Last Shield

Today sees the release of The Last Shield, book 6, yes 6, in the Ninth Century Series.

Coelwulf and his fiercely loyal band of warriors must once more battle for Mercia.

Here’s the blurb:

Book 6 in the action-packed, bloody and brutal series about Coelwulf, Mercia’s forgotten ninth-century king.

Summoned back to Worcester by Bishop Wærferth, Coelwulf discovers that an old enemy has resurfaced on the border with the Welsh, but this time, an enemy demanding help.

Aware he can’t leave Mercia, Coelwulf must split his force, determined that his old enemy is more helpful as his ally.

But beset by an unexpected force of Raiders inside Mercia, Coelwulf and his small band of warriors find themselves trapped by winter storms, as well as Raiders who don’t yet know of Jarl Halfdan’s death and still hunger for Coelwulf’s blood.

Coelwulf faces his most difficult struggle of all as he fights for the future of his beloved Mercian kingdom, his warriors, old and new, at his side.

I hope you enjoy The Last Shield. I’ll keep you updated with news of the next release in the series when I know.

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Down Salem Way by Meredith Allard

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Meredith Allard to the blog with a post about the historical research she undertook to write her book Down Salem Way.

I’ve been reading, editing, and writing historical fiction for many years. As a matter of fact, I’ve even written a book about how to write historical fiction called Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction. Thank you to M.J. for allowing me space on the blog today to share my thoughts on one of my favorite subjects.

The way I research historical fiction has changed a lot over the years. When I first started writing historical fiction, I would check as many books as I could carry out of the library, take meticulous notes, color code my notes with highlighters (blue for food, pink for fashion, etc.), return those books and check out another pile, and so on until I felt I had enough knowledge to begin drafting my story. Sometimes it was months worth of research before I started writing anything. Once I started writing I knew exactly where to look in my notebook for what I needed. If I was writing a dinner scene, I could find my notes about food. Notes I referred to often, such as important dates or events that I kept mentioning, were written on index cards, also color-coded, for easier access.

I no longer complete my research before I start writing. As a fellow writer friend said to me, feeling like you have to do all of your research before you start writing slows down your process to the point where your story doesn’t get written. These days I do some preliminary research by reading generally around my topic, perhaps taking a few notes, just enough to keep things clear in my head, and then I begin the prewriting process. Usually, through the process of brainstorming, prewriting, and drafting my story, I recognize what specific bits of historical information I’ll need and then I’ll search for those bits. That’s when my note taking begins in earnest. I create digital folders to organize my notes, citations, and annotations, and I still keep categories of information together (food, clothing, political climate, and so on).  

One trick I learned from a history class I took years ago is to think about the historical world I’m creating through the acronym GRAPES. 

Geography—How does the climate and landscape affect the people who live there?

Religion—How does the society’s belief system and traditions affect the people who live there? 

Achievements—What are the achievements of this society—good and bad? 

Politics—What is the power structure in this society?

Economics—How are goods and resources used in this society?

Social Structure—How does this society organize people into classes? Who ends up in which class and why?

I love to travel to the place I’m writing about as well. I always get a lot of good ideas for my story from my travels. As I work to weave the information I learned into my story, one thing I keep in mind is that I want to carry my readers into my world by touching their senses. What do readers see, hear, taste, touch, and smell? Often it’s the smaller details, what people wore, what they ate, the houses they lived in, that brings historical fiction alive since these are details we can relate to, even if what we eat and drink and where we live is different today. 

Some dependable online research sources I’ve used over the years are Project Gutenberg, the Library of Congress, the Victorian WebV&A, and JSTORThe History Quill has a list of 50+ research sites for writers of historical fiction. I also love to go to the library to see what books I can find, and I’ve found that librarians are more than happy to help if I can’t find what I’m looking for. 

I love learning about history, so researching historical fiction is actually fun for me.

Thank you so much for sharing your post with us. Research can indeed be a rabbit hole from which you can’t return:)

Here’s the blurb;

How would you deal with the madness of the Salem witch hunts?

In 1690, James Wentworth arrives in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his father, John, hoping to continue the success of John’s mercantile business. While in Salem, James falls in love with Elizabeth Jones, a farmer’s daughter. Though they are virtually strangers when they marry, the love between James and Elizabeth grows quickly into a passion that will transcend time.

But something evil lurks down Salem way. Soon many in Salem, town and village, are accused of practicing witchcraft and sending their shapes to harm others. Despite the madness surrounding them, James and Elizabeth are determined to continue the peaceful, loving life they have created together. Will their love for one another carry them through the most difficult challenge of all?

Buy Links:

Down Salem Way:

Her Dear and Loving Husband

Her Loving Husband’s Curse

Her Loving Husband’s Return

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Meet the Author

Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling paranormal historical Loving Husband Trilogy. Her sweet Victorian romance, When It Rained at Hembry Castle, was named a best historical novel by IndieReader. Her nonfiction book, Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction, was named a #1 New Release in Authorship and Creativity Self-Help by Amazon. When she isn’t writing she’s teaching writing, and she has taught writing to students ages five to 75. She loves books, cats, and coffee, though not always in that order. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit Meredith online at http://www.meredithallard.com.

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Don’t forget to stop by the other sites on the Down Salem Way blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club.

The Custard Corpses is now available as an audiobook

I’m really pleased to be able to share with you that the audio version of The Custard Corpses is now available from Audible and Amazon, and can be read as part of an Audible membership subscription. If you don’t have one yet, you can sign up here, or it is available to purchase without a subscription

Matt Coles has produced a fantastic narration for Mason, O’Rourke, Smythe and Hamish. I hope you enjoy it. There’s a sample below the cover image.

Here’s the blurb:

A delicious 1940s mystery.

Birmingham, England, 1943.

While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

But, the chance discovery of another victim, with worrying parallels, sets Mason, and his constable, O’Rourke, on a journey that will take them back over twenty-five years, the chance to finally solve the case, while all around them the uncertainty of war continues, impossible to ignore.

And don’t forget, it’s also available as an ebook, paperback and hardback from Amazon.