Today, I’m welcoming Raid of the Wolves by Donovan Cook to the blog

Here’s the blurb:

The only thing that kept him going were the voices of his ancestors, screaming for blood…

Ulf and his shield brothers are sent on a raid against an old enemy — Francia, a mighty kingdom to the south, now ravaged by civil war. During the perilous sea voyage, Ulf can only focus on one thing. He demands closure: to find the man who slaughtered his family — Griml.

A hidden enemy stalks Ulf and his warriors through Francia, striking mercilessly when they least expect it. Soon the hunters become the hunted. The Norse warriors must make the ultimate choice between defying the king or angering the gods. Both could end in fury.

But there is another threat lurking in the shadows. One that Ulf could never anticipate.

Ulf is not the only one who wants vengeance.

Buy Links:

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Meet Donovan Cook

Even as a young child, Donovan loved reading stories about Vikings and other medieval warriors fighting to defend their homeland or raiding in distant lands. He would often be found running around outside with nothing other than a wooden sword and his imagination. 

Now older, he spends his time writing about them. His novels come from his fascination with the Viking world and Norse Mythology and he hopes that you will enjoy exploring this world as much as he did writing about it.

Born in South Africa but raised in England, Donovan currently lives in Moscow, Russia with his wife and their French Bulldog, where he works as an English tutor. When he is not teaching or writing, he can be found reading, watching rugby, or working on DIY projects. Being born in South Africa, he is a massive Springboks fan and never misses a match.

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

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Kerry Chaput and her new book, Daughter of the King, to the blog

Today, Kerry Chaput, joins me on the blog to talk about her new book, Daughter of the King.

My first introduction to the story of the Filles du Roi (Daughters of the King) was while researching my husband’s French-Canadian ancestry. The Catholic records from Quebec are astounding. Detailed family trees, documents from the early settlers, and suggestions for further resources are just a few of the things I found. I discovered dozens of little fleur-de-lis symbols in his family tree and came to find out that these were the women responsible for populating what was then called New France.

I searched everything I could find on the Daughters of the King, early Quebec, the Protestant/Catholic struggle, and life in Seventeenth Century France. Videos of clothing from the area were especially helpful, as I didn’t know what a coiffe or a stay was. I scoured college bookstores and University libraries for books on King Louis XIV and French Canada. 

My favorite tool for this project was Google maps in street view. It allowed me to simulate walking through La Rochelle and Old Town Quebec. This helped me write action scenes and zoom in on details on the buildings, giving me the feeling of wandering the cobblestone paths.

I also recommend organizations devoted to your subject matter. The Fille du Roi societies keep lists of the women with dates and biographies. Various Huguenot societies provided helpful details of life and beliefs of the French Protestants. Not only is their data accurate, but they tend to provide a more intimate look into the lives of who you are researching. Big sites like online encyclopedias give more general overviews, but it’s the small details that make a story come to life. 

It’s easy to get swept up in the research, but the fun for me is putting that knowledge to work in your story. I continued to mix drafting and revising with online research. I’m a revision writer, so it gives me the freedom to pursue a storyline or plot idea first, sharpening the details later. I find it very helpful to write in layers, adding and trimming in multiple drafts. It’s tempting to spend three hours researching something like shoes or how candles were made, but you have to stop yourself from research paralysis and just write.

The benefit of writing historical fiction is how beautifully plot unfolds for you. History is full of fascinating and almost unbelievable stories. When you follow the research, sometimes it feels as if your story writes itself. It always amazes me that when you’re patient, little gifts land in your laptop. Sometimes exactly what you’re looking for comes up in an obscure memoir or interview. It’s hard not to see the magic in that. It feels like you are so connected to your story that history comes alive to show you what comes next.  

I think the key to writing historical fiction is finding the theme that bonds people today with those from another time and place. It’s difficult to choose a story purely because it’s interesting. You must have a deep connection to it. It needs to speak to you on an emotional level. I think Daughter of the King tugged at me because it is such an incredible story. Orphans, recruited from their dire circumstances and given power, money, and protection. Three hundred and fifty years ago, and these women interviewed potential spouses to choose their preferred husbands! It was so unexpected that it gave me chills. And knowing that my daughters are descended from over three dozen of these women made the story that much more important to me. 

I think this is why we read about people in history — to discover that humans are not that different from each other. Regardless of time or place, we all fight similar struggles. 

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

Here’s the blurb

La Rochelle France, 1661. Fierce Protestant Isabelle is desperate to escape persecution by the Catholic King. Isabelle is tortured and harassed, her people forced to convert to the religion that rules the land. She risks her life by helping her fellow Protestants, which is forbidden by the powers of France. She accepts her fate — until she meets a handsome Catholic soldier who makes her question everything.

She fights off an attack by a nobleman, and the only way to save herself is to flee to the colony of Canada as a Daughter of the King. She can have money, protection and a new life — if she adopts the religion she’s spent a lifetime fighting. She must leave her homeland and the promises of her past. In the wild land of Canada, Isabelle finds that her search for love and faith has just begun. 

Based on the incredible true story of the French orphans who settled Canada, Daughter of the King is a sweeping tale of one young woman’s fight for true freedom. Kerry Chaput brings the past to life, expertly weaving a gripping saga with vivid historical details. Jump back in time on a thrilling adventure with an unforgettable heroine.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, sexual assault

Read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

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Meet the Author

Born in California wine country, Kerry Chaput began writing shortly after earning her Doctorate degree. Her love of storytelling began with a food blog and developed over the years to writing historical fiction novels. Raised by a teacher of US history, she has always been fascinated by tales from our past and is forever intrigued by the untold stories of brave women. She lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon with her husband, two daughters, and two rescue pups. She can often be found on hiking trails or in coffee shops. 

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

I’m delighted to welcome Rosemary Griggs to the blog with a post about her new book, A Woman of Noble Wit

Your book, A Woman of Noble Wit , sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

For example, my current book started off after watching an old Pathe TV show about making motorbikes and sidecars and has ended up as a 1940s mystery involving an unidentified body!

Retirement can be a wonderful thing.  If you’re lucky, as I am, it can set you free and give you time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Since I retired I’ve been able to indulge a lifelong passion for history and I’ve also been dusting off some long-neglected dressmaking skills. I started to research and make sixteenth century clothing to wear as a volunteer at a local National Trust property. That was where I first met Katherine Champernowne, the subject of my novel.  I now bring this remarkable Devon woman to life for audiences all over the county and use her clothes to open up conversations about how people like her lived.  As I learned how to make her clothes I found it wasn’t enough to just look all right on the outside. I wanted to construct my costumes as accurately as possible, layer by layer,  so that I could feel what it was like to dress as she did — to walk in her shoes.  

Rosemary in costume

In the same way, I wanted to understand what it felt like to live through those times as an educated well-born woman far from the Royal Court.  We hear a lot about the lives of King Henry and his Queens, but little about the largely unrecorded, unnoticed women, who stood behind other famous men who changed the course of history. I thought Katherine’s story deserved to be told. That germ of an idea would eventually turn into my novel. 

I read every book I could find on the lives of women in sixteenth century England.  I researched Katherine’s family and Devon’s Tudor history.  I spent many happy hours poring over old documents in the archives.  I visited the places she knew. I read biographies of her famous sons, amongst them Sir Humphrey Gilbert and, of course, Sir Walter Raleigh.

Picture from Wikimedia commons

Sir Walter was a prodigious writer.  His letters, books and poems reveal a lot about his character. His deeds as Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, as a soldier, sea captain, poet and more, are well recorded. There are even descriptions of him written by his contemporaries.  For Katherine herself and for some of the other people in her life there is much less to go on.

In 1538 Thomas Cromwell was behind a new law that required priests to keep a record of baptisms, marriages and burials.  One of his better ideas, I think.  But key events in Katherine’s early life fell well before the new system started. Record keeping was patchy at first and many registers have been lost or damaged, So tracking down the most  basic details of her life — the exact date of her birth, and of her two marriages —was very difficult.  We do know that she was laid to rest beside her second husband. In a letter Sir Walter wrote to his wife before his execution he said he wanted to be buried beside his parents “in Exeter church”.  It’s believed that Katherine Raleigh died in 1594, shortly after she made her will. But the page that would have recorded her burial is missing from the register of St Mary Major’s in Exeter, though Walter Raleigh senior’s burial is listed there in February 1580/1581. Nor can we read her will as it was originally written.  It was lost in a second world war bombing raid on Exeter in 1942 when the City Library, the repository of over a million documents and books, was completely destroyed.  Only due to the diligence of a nineteenth century scholar do we have a transcript of her last wishes.   We do, however, have an account of her courageous vigil in the prison cells beneath Exeter Castle with protestant martyr Agnes Prest. It was published during Katherine’s lifetime in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which says that Katherine Raleigh was “a woman of noble wit and godly ways.” That gave me my title. 

At first I thought I would write a fully sourced academic biography,  but I found that there were many gaps to fill, many areas of doubt.  Scholars even remain divided about the exact dates of birth of her boys.  My research fixes the birthday of only her eldest Gilbert son, John, with certainty, confirmed in his father’s Inquisition Post Mortem.   For her other children the dates remain uncertain.  Even the number of children she bore is open to question. For example, there may have been a second Gilbert daughter named Elizabeth, others may have died in infancy unrecorded.

I pieced together as much as I could from what was recorded about Katherine’s brothers, sisters, parents and other relatives, some of whom  had close connections to the Court. I recently published a blog post setting out the research that has convinced me that the other Katherine Champernowne, the one  who was known as Kat, later married John Ashley, and was governess to the young princess Elizabeth, was Katherine Raleigh’s sister. 

Photo of Kat Ashley from Wikimedia Commons

Another sister, Joan wife of Sir Anthony Denny, served several of King Henry’s Queens and is recorded as a close friend of Katryn Parr.  The careers of Katherine’s Carew cousins Sir George, who went down in the Mary Rose, and Sir Peter, feature often in  the record.   

Beyond that I started to look for clues from which I could develop plausible explanations for the missing pieces in the jigsaw of Katherine Raleigh’s life.  The personalities of people who played their part in her story started to emerge of their own volition.  I started to put flesh upon the bones of the bare skeleton the historical record had left me.   I felt I was really getting to know Katherine and her world. The more I discovered, the more I wanted to bring her to life; to explore how she might have become the woman who inspired her sons to follow their dreams.  So, my story of Katherine’s life started to evolve and take shape, a story that also did justice to the exciting events that gripped Devon in those turbulent years. Where I have found facts are backed up by reliable source documents I have respected them.  But I have sought to weave those facts together with fiction to create a believable and compelling story of one woman’s life in a changing world. 

Wow, thank you so much for sharing. That’s a fantastic story. Thank you so much for sharing your reasons for writing your new book. I think your Tudor dress is fantastic.

Here’s the blurb:

Few women of her time lived to see their name in print. But Katherine was no ordinary woman. She was Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother. This is her story.

Set against the turbulent background of a Devon rocked by the religious and social changes that shaped Tudor England; a Devon of privateers and pirates; a Devon riven by rebellions and plots, A Woman of Noble Wit tells how Katherine became the woman who would inspire her famous sons to follow their dreams. It is Tudor history seen though a woman’s eyes.

As the daughter of a gentry family with close connections to the glittering court of King Henry VIII, Katherine’s duty is clear. She must put aside her dreams and accept the husband chosen for her. Still a girl, she starts a new life at Greenway Court, overlooking the River Dart, relieved that her husband is not the ageing monster of her nightmares. She settles into the life of a dutiful wife and mother until a chance shipboard encounter with a handsome privateer, turns her world upside down.…..

Years later a courageous act will set Katherine’s name in print and her youngest son will fly high.

Trigger Warnings: Rape.

Buy Links:

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Meet the Author

Rosemary Griggs is a retired Whitehall Senior Civil Servant with a lifelong passion for history. She is now a speaker on Devon’s sixteenth century history and costume. She leads heritage tours at Dartington Hall, has made regular costumed appearances at National Trust houses and helps local museums bring history to life.

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Don’t forget to check out the other sops on the A Woman of Noble Wit blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on The Girl from Portofino by Siobhan Daiko blog tour

Your book, The Girl from Portofino , sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest on your blog. I’m thrilled to be here.

When I’d finished writing “The Girl from Venice”, I knew I wanted to write another book about a girl from the Italian Resistance. So, I started researching the areas in Italy where the Resistance was strongest and came across the bands of partisans in the northern Apennines. 

PASQUILIO, MONTIGNOSO / ITALY – JANUARY 2 2020 : American soldiers fight at the front climbing the steep green wild mountains of the Apuan Alps along the Gothic Line in camouflage uniform in the steep

I needed a well-known place in which to set the story and hit upon the idea of Portofino. I had no idea before researching what happened there during the war and cried out a resounding ‘yes’ when I discovered that it had been occupied by the German Navy as a headquarters for their coastal defences, the SS incarcerated and tortured political prisoners in a tower on the isthmus, the inhabitants of the village were forced to relocate when concrete sea defences were built, and the quaysides were mined for fear of aquatic landings. Portofino, known today as a mecca for wealthy tourists, became a target for Allied bombing after the Nazis built anti-aircraft and anti-naval batteries on the headland and the portofinesi lived in fear for their lives.

Portofino, italy, panoramic view

The series features girls from the Italian resistance. Gina, my heroine, is the daughter of a fisherman who joins the partisans to fight the Nazi-fascists in the mountains of the hinterland, leaving her twin sister, Adele, behind. When I wrote the outline of the book, I knew that Gina would read Adele’s diary, left behind during the war, and that Adele worked for the Germans. There is a secret which is revealed towards the end of the book. When I started writing, the characters of the twins leapt off the page and the more I wrote, the more the theme of the love between the two sisters developed.

Portofino, Genova, Liguria/Italy – December 9 2016: a view of Portofino at sunset

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

Here’s the blurb:

In 1970 Gina Bianchi returns to Portofino to attend her father’s funeral, accompanied by her troubled twenty-four-year-old daughter, Hope. There, Gina is beset by vivid memories of World War 2, a time when she fought with the Italian Resistance and her twin sister, Adele, worked for the Germans. 

In her childhood bedroom, Gina reads Adele’s diary, left behind during the war. As Gina learns the devastating truth about her sister, she’s compelled to face the harsh brutality of her own past. Will she finally lay her demons to rest, or will they end up destroying her and the family she loves?

A hauntingly epic read that will sweep you away to the beauty of the Italian Riviera and the rugged mountains of its hinterland. The Girl from Portofino” is a story about heart-wrenching loss and uplifting courage, love, loyalty, and secrets untold.

Trigger Warnings:

The brutality of war, death, war crimes against women.

Buy Links:

Available on KindleUnlimited.

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Meet the Author

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and two rescued cats. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time, when she isn’t writing, enjoying her life near Venice. 

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

1066 Turned Upside Down is on the blog today – a collection of alt historical fiction stories about that fateful year

Today I’m featuring an excerpt from 1066 Turned Upside Down by author and Anglo-Saxon historian Annie Whitehead

A MATTER OF TRUST

by Annie Whitehead

Wearing the crown is one thing, but if Harold were to rule with any security and authority, he needed the support of the northern earls. At some point between his coronation and April 16th, he travelled north to try to secure that support. It has often been said of Earl Morcar that he ‘owed’ his earldom to Harold, who had endorsed him after his brother Tostig had been ousted. The Earldom of Mercia had once been a separate kingdom, and nationalist fervour had often caused problems for the kings of Wessex. Mercia had strong links with the neighbouring Welsh, and Edwin’s family had been close allies of Gruffudd of Gwynedd, whose death was engineered by Harold. Edwin and Morcar’s grandfather had been a political rival of Harold’s father, and the Godwin family had caused their father, Aelfgar, to be removed first from an earldom in East Anglia and then, briefly, from Mercia. These two families had ‘history.’

Late February – York

The message, when it arrived, had been simple. Edward dead, Harold is king. Come north. Riding to answer his brother’s call, Edwin had his grandmother’s words still ringing in his ears. ‘Our time has come, now. It is time to make Mercia great again.’ 

His gloves offered protection from the chilly air, a remnant of the winter that was slow to depart, but now he took them off, feeling the reins pressing into his palms while he stared at the leather embossing on his pommel. He had thought for a long time before setting out and was not convinced, even now, that he had done the right thing. They rode through the southern gateway of the erstwhile Viking kingdom of York, where the base of the stone watchtower was strewn with flowers, and had to slow their pace to avoid the press of people, brought out by the late winter sunshine and the presence of the King. The Godwins. Harold Godwinson was standing outside the Earl’s hall, with members of the northern nobility, among them Edwin’s brother, Morcar, the present Earl of Northumbria. Edwin dismounted and handed his reins to a waiting horse-thegn.

His younger brother came running to him, grinning wide enough to split his face. The afternoon sun shone on his hair. It had already left its mark on his face, where a band of fresh red covered his nose and the upper part of his cheeks. Despite the chill, he was in his undershirt. There was a slash in the sleeve; even today, Morcar had been in the yard, practising his sword skills. Edwin had not seen Morcar for some months, but Morcar wasted no time on such greetings. 

‘Edwin, you must agree to Harold’s kingship. Tostig was earl, and we threw him out. And when Tostig tried to take Northumbria back, Harold did nothing to help him. Think on it, he chose me as earl, over his own brother.’

Edwin sniffed. It wasn’t much of a compliment. It was no ill reflection on Morcar, but Harold had simply chosen his only available option, as a condemned man might choose life instead of the gallows. 

As if hearing his thoughts, Harold Godwinson moved away from the steps of Morcar’s great hall. Moustaches neatly trimmed, carmine tunic blowing in the breeze, he descended with his unmistakeable swagger towards the newly arrived nobles, but Edwin could detect the doubt: the tilt of the head, the slump of his shoulders when the nobles he walked past refused to bow, instead folding their arms across their chests.

Harold stepped toward the Mercians, giving a slight wave of the hand held at hip level, an involuntary betrayal of his thoughts; that the opinions of those on the steps mattered less than those of the men he was approaching.

What happens next? Does the Earl of Mercia accept Harold’s friendship? Find out in 1066 Turned Upside Down

Thank you so much for sharing an excerpt from your story. It’s good to see The Earl of Mercia featured.

Intrigued?

Here’s the blurb:

Have you ever wondered what might have happened if William the Conqueror had been beaten at Hastings in 1066? Or if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge? Or if Edward the Confessor had died with an heir ready to take his crown? If so – here is the perfect set of short stories for you.

1066 Turned Upside Down explores a variety of ways in which that momentous year could have played out very differently.

Written by nine well-known authors the stories will take you on a journey through the speculative ‘what ifs?’ of England’s most famous year in history.

READERS’ COMMENTS

“1066 Turned Upside Down is the exemplar for how analytical counterfactual history should be done, combining the best elements of fiction and non-fiction to create an immensely impressive achievement.”

“As a collection, the quality of the writing is exceptional and the variety of possible outcomes presented is truly fascinating.”

“The collection is assembled in such a way that between the ‘alternatives’ are the related facts as they happened, as far as historians and archaeologists know – which still leaves room for these experienced writers’ imaginations.

“A book I will read and re-read. I heartily recommend it”

“The real joy of a collection of stories like this is, of course, that you are likely to be introduced to writers you may not have come across before.”

Buy Links:

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Meet the Authors

1066 Turned Upside Down is a collection of eleven alternative history short stories of a ‘what if’ nature imagined by nine well-known successful authors:

JOANNA COURTNEY Ever since Joanna sat up in her cot with a book, she’d wanted to be a writer and cut her publication teeth on short stories and serials for the women’s magazines before signing to PanMacmillan in 2014 for her three-book series The Queens of the Conquest about the wives of the men fighting to be King of England in 1066. Her second series, written for Piatkus is Shakespeare’s Queens exploring the real history of three of the bard’s greatest female characters – Lady Macbeth, Ophelia and Cordelia.

Joanna’s fascination with historical writing is in finding the similarities between us and them –with an especial goal to provide a female take on some of the greatest stories we think we know. www.joannacourtney.com

ALISON MORTON writes the award-winning alternative fiction Roma Nova thriller series featuring tough, but compassionate heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical, adventure and thriller fiction. A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women. She has recently branched out into a contemporary crime setting with Double Identity, the first of a planned series. 

www.alison-morton.com/

ANNA BELFRAGE Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy set in 14th century England. Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. His Castilian Hawk – returning to medieval times and her most recent release, The Whirlpools of Time, a time travel romance set against the backdrop of brewing rebellion in the Scottish highlands. Anna has won several awards including various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards. www.annabelfrage.com

ANNIE WHITEHEAD is an historian and prize-winning author. Her main interest in history is the period formerly known as the ‘Dark Ages’. Her first novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Aethelflaed (daughter of Alfred the Great), who came to be known as the Lady of the Mercians. Alvar the Kingmaker, tells the story of Aelfhere of Mercia, a nobleman in the time of King Edgar. Cometh the Hour goes further back in time to the seventh century, to tell the story of Penda, the last pagan king of Mercia. Annie has twice been a prizewinner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing competition, she won first prize for nonfiction in the new Writing Magazine Poetry and Prose competition, and was the inaugural winner of the HWA (Historical Writers’ Association)/Dorothy Dunnett Society Short Story Competition and is now a judge for that same competition.

Annie has had two nonfiction books published. Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom (Amberley Books) has been an Amazon #1 Bestseller. Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England was published by Pen & Sword Books in 2020.

www.anniewhiteheadauthor.co.uk

CAROL McGRATH is the author of The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy. Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and was published in 2020. The Damask Rose about Eleanor of Castile was published in 2021. The Stone Rose, Isabella of France, follows in 2022. Carol has also written Historical Non-Fiction for Pen & Sword.

www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk

ELIZA REDGOLD is an author and ‘romantic academic’. Her bestselling historical fiction includes her Ladies of Legend trilogy, starting with Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva released internationally by St Martin’s Press, New York. Her historical romances are published by Harlequin Historical, London (Harper Collins). They include Playing the Duke’s Mistress, Enticing Benedict Cole, The Scandalous Suffragette and The Master’s New Governess. They have been translated into multiple languages including Italian, Polish, Czech, Danish and Swedish, and are available internationally.

www.elizaredgold.com

G.K. HOLLOWAY After graduating from Coventry University with an honours degree in history and politics, he worked in education in and around Bristol, England, where he now lives. After reading a biography about Harold Godwinson, he studied the late Anglo-Saxon era in detail. When he had enough material to weave together facts and fiction he produced his novel. 1066 What Fates Impose, a story of family feuds, court intrigues, assassinations, plotting and scheming, loyalty and love, all ingredients in an epic struggle for the English crown. www.gkholloway.co.uk

HELEN HOLLICK moved from London in 2013 and now lives on a thirteen-acre farm in North Devon, England. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science fiction and fantasy, and then discovered the wonder of historical fiction. Published since 1994 with her Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, followed by her 1066 era duo. She became a USA Today bestseller with her story of Queen Emma: The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK), and its companion novel, Harold the King (titled I Am the Chosen King in the U.S.A). She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, a series of pirate-based nautical adventures with a touch of fantasy. Commissioned by Amberley Press she wrote a non-fiction book about pirates in fact, fantasy and fiction and a non-fiction book about smugglers, published by Pen and Sword.

Recently she has ventured into the ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Mysteries, the first of which is A Mirror Murder. She runs Discovering Diamonds, an independent online review site for Historical Fiction, primarily aimed at showcasing Indie writers.

She occasionally gets time to write. www.helenhollick.net

RICHARD DEE was a Master Mariner and ship’s pilot, now living in Brixham, South Devon.  His novels include Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures, as well as the exploits of Andorra Pett, a reluctant amateur detective. www.richarddeescifi.co.uk

Connect with the authors of 1066 Turned Upside Down

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the 1066 Turned Upside Down blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, Meredith Allard is talking about her new festive book, Christmas at Hembry Castle

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Meredith Allard to the blog with a fascinating post about her new, festive book, Christmas at Hembry Castle.

There’s a joke I’ve seen on Pinterest, a cartoon of a writer watching TV. The character says, “I’m researching!” to the cynical-looking people standing nearby. For those of us who write fiction, we know that watching TV or movies, listening to music, or going for walks really is research because all of it becomes part of the writing process. Writers, especially fiction writers, need their imagination fueled regularly, and it’s the little things we do, such as stealing an hour here or there to watch a favorite TV show or listen to our favorite music, that help to fill the creative well so that we have a brain full of ideas when we sit down to write.

When it comes time to write, especially if I’m writing an historical story, I try to immerse myself in the time period as much as possible. If I feel as if I’ve traveled back in time, then it’s easier for me to carry my readers along with me on the journey. Here are some of the places I found inspiration while writing my Victorian story Christmas at Hembry Castle. I wrote Christmas at Hembry Castle with the deliberate intention of putting my own spin on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which made the task more challenging, but it was a challenge I relished because I adore Dickens and especially A Christmas Carol. In fact, Edward Ellis, one of the main characters, is based on a young Dickens. Here are some of the resources I used for Christmas at Hembry Castle

Books

Nonfiction:

 Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant by Jeremy Musson

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool

How To Be a Victorian: A Dusk-to-Dawn Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman (one of my new favorite historians—she lives what she studies)

The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London and Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England From 1811-1901 by Kristine Hughes

To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace

Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey” by Margaret Powell

The Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette by Thomas E. Hill

Fiction:

When reading novels, I look for books written during the era I’m writing about as well as novels written about the era. Other times I’ll find inspiration in a novel that isn’t necessarily set in that time but there’s something about the story that provides some ideas.

The Buccaneers and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Snobs by Julian Fellowes

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Television and Film

For me, TV and film are the same as fiction—some of what I watch is set in the era, some is not, but all stir my imagination in one way or another.

 Downton Abbey 

Upstairs, Downstairs

The miniseries of The Buccaneers

North and South

Lark Rise to Candleford

Cranford

A Christmas Carol (the animated version, as well as the one with Patrick Stewart and my personal favorite—A Muppets Christmas Carol)

Music

Since my Victorian story is set in the 1870s, people were dancing to waltzes and polkas. Strauss and Chopin were favorite composers, which works well for me since I love to listen to classical music. And of course, many of our favorite Christmas carols that we sing today were quite popular during the Victorian era such as “Silent Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

Pinterest

I adore Pinterest. For me, Pinterest isn’t social media as much as something I do for fun because I love it so much. When I needed to describe the sitting room at Hembry Castle or if I needed an idea of what a Victorian sitting room decorated for Christmas might look like, I simply needed to go onto my research board, find the pin for the photograph I wanted to use as inspiration, and describe what I saw. If you’re writing your novel on Scrivener, you can import those photos directly into your novel file so they’re readily available when you need them. 

Wow, it sounds like you had great fun writing your new book. Good luck with it, and have a lovely Christmas:)

Here’s the blurb:

You are cordially invited to Christmas at Hembry Castle.

An unlikely earl struggles with his new place. A young couple’s love is tested. What is a meddling ghost to do?

In the tradition of A Christmas Carol, travel back to Victorian England and enjoy a lighthearted, festive holiday celebration.

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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 latest book, Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction, was named a #1 new release in Authorship and Creativity Self-Help on 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 www.meredithallard.com.

Connect with the author

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Mystery of Murder by Helen Hollick

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Helen Hollick to the blog with a post about her new 1970s murder mystery, A Mystery of Murder.

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog – I think my Coffee Pot Book Club tour for A Mystery Of Murder has gone well so far!

So, what is the hardest thing about writing a cozy mystery series? They are usually short, novella length stories (between 40 – 70 thousand words) with an amateur sleuth protagonist (often female) and a ‘light-hearted’ feel to them. They should not contain anything too explicit for language, sex or situations – and must be an enjoyable read of course. (Even though there’s a murder involved, not necessarily an ‘enjoyable’ topic!) I won’t say ‘easy-peasy’ to all that but as I was having fun writing the first in the Jan Christopher Mysteries (A Mirror Murder) and this second instalment, A Mystery Of Murder,  everything fell nicely into place.

The difficult bits were ensuring the period detail was correct.

The series is set in the 1970s, which is when I worked in a north London public library as a fairly shy, latter-end teenager. And I was amazed to realise how much I had forgotten about the early ’70s – either that, or I was more naïve than I realised back then! I remember the three-day week here in England, caused by strikes which then led to scheduled power cuts, but I don’t remember evenings without TV or using candles to light the house. Mind you, we only had one black and white TV back then, no additional sets in the bedroom or kitchen. Only one phone as well – a landline mobile, cell phones were only a gadget on Star Trek. MacDonald’s was still a novelty, package holiday trips were only just becoming popular, and my monthly wage was about £100. £25 a week. That doesn’t sound much now, but back then, I felt rich.

South Chingford Library Photo © A Morton

I‘m finding that I have to be as diligent researching my facts for this series as I am with my ‘serious’ historical fiction or for my nautical Sea Witch pirate adventures. Get the facts wrong and there’s bound to be at least one reader who spots it. 

I did make one blooper in A Mirror Murder, but I’ve let it be, as the person who mentioned the error also said ‘I doubt anyone else will know, I only do because I worked for the company.’ Flash floor cleaner. The original cleaner that is. I put ‘lavender’ as the aroma. Apparently they only had pine in 1971. Who’d have thought!

Taw Valley

I like putting a few little titbits of information in these books as a sideline of flavour for the period, or just for interest. For this second episode, for instance, do you know where the term ‘bonfire’ comes from? Or why you see so many daffodils in the hedgerows in the Devon and Cornwall countryside? No? Well, I’m going to be mean – you’ll have to read (and enjoy, I hope) the book to find out the answers!

So it only goes to show that memory is not always a reliable research tool. Where to go for ‘fact checking’ though? I was lucky enough to track down a few people who remembered enough to at last set me on the right path. I needed to know when our nearest railway station became ‘unmanned’ and a ‘request’ stop, (yes, today you have to request the train to stop at Umberleigh.) I browsed the internet, found some 1960s footage of the station, from there, contacted a lovely chap whose father used to be the station master. Then my chimney sweep happened to be a local policeman in the 1970s, and several people in my village recalled various bits of information. Off to the library for any books that had photographs of Barnstaple and South Molton (two North Devon towns).  I’ll be chatting to our next-door farmer soon for background information for my planned book four of the series – while haymaking this summer he happened to mention that he bought a new tractor in 1969 (information duly squirrelled away for possible use…!) 

Google for ‘1970s’ and lots of things pop up, but I specifically looked for fashion, kitchens, living rooms, and furniture. A lot of it was very ‘modern’ back then (very old fashioned now!) and much of it was plastic or vinyl. Bright colours, too, especially orange, which was something my cover designer, Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org researched. 1970s popular colours. Hence the orange on the cover.

Flared trousers, fake fur hats. Plastic handbags… Thank goodness for the internet! 

If anyone has any specific memories of everyday life in the 1970s I’d love to hear from you! I can be contacted on author@helenhollick.net.

Thank you so much for sharing. Yes, I think memory can be a bit hazy sometimes, but it can also bring the delightful little details. My Dad was keen to inform me about the payment ‘shoots’ in the 1940s, whereby there was no til on the shop floor. Who knew? Good luck with the new book. I do like a good mystery.

Here’s the blurb:

‘Had I known what was to happen soon after we arrived at Mr and Mrs Walker’s lovely old West Country house, my apprehension about spending Christmas in Devon would have dwindled to nothing.’

Library Assistant Jan Christopher is to spend Christmas with her boyfriend, DS Laurie Walker and his family, but when a murder is discovered, followed by a not very accidental accident, the traditional Christmas spirit is somewhat marred… 

What happened to Laurie’s ex-girlfriend? Where is the vicar’s wife? Who took those old photographs? And will the farmer up the lane ever mend those broken fences? 

Set in 1971, this is the second Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery. Join her (and an owl and a teddy bear) in Devon for a Christmas to remember. 

Will the discovery of a murder spoil Christmas for Jan Christopher and her boyfriend DS Laurie Walker – or will it bring them closer together?

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Meet the author

Helen Hollick and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farm house through being a ‘victim’ on BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show. The thirteen-acre property was the first one she was shown – and it was love at first sight. She enjoys her new rural life, and has a variety of animals on the farm, including Exmoor ponies and her daughter’s string of show jumpers.

First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Despite being impaired by the visual disorder of Glaucoma, she is also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with the Jan Christopher Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working for thirteen years as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She also runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction, a news and events blog for her village and the Community Shop, assists as ‘secretary for the day’ at her daughter’s regular showjumping shows – and occasionally gets time to write…

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Castilian Pomegranate by Anna Belfrage

Today, I’m excited to welcome Anna Belfrage to the blog with a post about her new book The Castilian Pomegranate.

Getting things right – or how a historical fiction writer sorts out her facts

When I set out to write a novel, I usually already have a sequence of real events I want to use as anchors to my story. The reason why The Castilian Pomegranate ended up set in present-day Spain was because I had somewhat fallen in love with medieval Spanish history, and in particular with one rather amazing lady, Maria Alfonso de Meneses, better known as Maria de Molina. 

So what did I know about Maria de Molina? Well, I had heard of her since childhood, this wise queen who would somehow rise over the losses that dotted her life to lead Castile through extremely difficult times. She lost her husband young, stood as regent to her very young son, had to deal with the rebellion of her former brother-in-law, somehow managed to raise her son to adulthood only to have him die far too young and leave her—yet again—as regent to a boy king, her grandson. 

But to properly flesh her out, I needed to know more, and while I am quite happy to use Wikipedia as a starting point—it always makes me roll my eyes when people dismiss everything on Wiki as being incorrect—I went looking elsewhere. I found a series of talks about medieval Spain on YouTube—and as I speak Spanish the selection was quite large—and spent several happy hours listening my way through them. My conclusion? This was a very complicated time for Castile. 

Reconquista battles

Several years of successful Reconquista had expanded the realm every which way, and to help administer it, the Castilian court used the well-educated Jews, while at the same time tensions between Christians and Jews were slowly growing. Things would explode one day in the late 14th century when the Christian of Sevilla more or less murdered every single Jew they could find, but in the period I am writing about, hostilities were not at that point. 

Likewise, with the Reconquista came a growing Muslim population now under Christian control. These Mudéjares were usually accorded the right to practise Islam, but were also viewed with some suspicion by the Christians who were probably more worried about the tide turning and having the Moors reclaim ther recently reconquered land than about the issue of faith as such. 

To get a feeling for what life might have been like I read books about Moorish Spain, I dug out essays about “la Convivencia” –the period after the reconquest when Muslims, Christians and Jews had to somehow rub along. Once again, internet proved my friend, with a lot of interesting stuff available through various sites like Google Scholar or Academia.edu 

I’ve also spent some time browsing  Real Academia de Historia – an excellent site if you know what you’re looking for! 

When writing a book set in a specific period, I like getting a feel for the cultural context: what songs did they sing, what stories did they tell? I am fortunate in that I have an excellent guide into medieval Spain in Ramón Menéndez Pidal, one of those old-school intellectuals that had a keen interest in almost anything. One of the subjects he had a passionate relationship to was the medieval Spanish literature, the so called cantares de gesta and their roots in the legends and songs of Visigoth Spain. Let’s just say it was a sheer joy to sink back into books I have not revisited since I studied Spanish at university. All that reading had a side effect as I just had to write a post about one of those old legends and have another post almost ready to go. 

One of the things I always spend a lot of time on is flora and fauna—I will never forget Bernard Cornwell telling a full auditorium at an HNS Conference how a fan had contacted him to tell him there were no snowdrops in the UK in the period he was writing about – except, it turns out there probably was 😊 In The Castilian Pomegranate I had to do some serious editing when I realised that the oranges grown in Spain at that time were bitter oranges, the type you used for essences and oils, the dried peels use as spice, while the fruit itself was much too bitter to eat. There went my scene with my heroine closing her eyes with pleasure as she tasted her first ever orange…

Ultimately, when writing about an era so far back in time, the facts offer little but a skeleton on which to build my story. It is the delicious gaps in between that tickle my imagination, where I have to make assumption based on what little I do know when shaping my characters and their reactions to the world around them. That, dear reader, is where the “fiction” in historical fiction comes into play, while all that research helps ground the narrative in a historical setting that I—like most historical fiction authors—do my best to breathe careful life into. 

Thank you so much for sharing your research. Good luck with the new book. (I am always wary of mentioning rabbits as some people say there were brought to the UK by the Romans, and others by the Normans – so, no rabbits in my Saxon England).

Here’s the blurb:

An enraged and grieving queen commands them to retrieve her exquisite jewel and abandon their foundling brat overseas—or never return.

Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor, have been temporarily exiled. Officially, they are to travel to the courts of Aragon and Castile as emissaries of Queen Eleanor of England. Unofficially, the queen demands two things: that they abandon Lionel, their foster son, in foreign lands and that they bring back a precious jewel – the Castilian Pomegranate.

Noor would rather chop off a foot than leave Lionel in a foreign land—especially as he’s been entrusted to her by his dead father, the last true prince of Wales. And as to the jewel, stealing it would mean immediate execution. . . 

Spain in 1285 is a complicated place. France has launched a crusade against Aragon and soon enough Robert is embroiled in the conflict, standing side by side with their Aragonese hosts. 

Once in Castile, it is the fearsome Moors that must be fought, with Robert facing weeks separated from his young wife, a wife who is enthralled by the Castilian court—and a particular Castilian gallant. 

Jealousy, betrayal and a thirst for revenge plunge Noor and Robert into life-threatening danger. 

Will they emerge unscathed or will savage but beautiful Castile leave them permanently scarred and damaged?  

Trigger Warnings:

Sexual content, violence

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Meet the author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.  

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. 

The Castilian Pomegranate is the second in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, a world of intrigue and back-stabbing.

Her most recent release prior to The Castilian Pomegranate is The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode! 

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

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Welcome to today’s stop on the Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury by Kinley Bryan blog tour

Today, I’m welcoming Kinley Bryan to the blog with a post about the research she undertook for her new book, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury.

Researching the Great Lakes Storm of 1913

When I began the research for my novel, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury, there were two things I knew for certain. First, the story would take place almost entirely during the Great Lakes Storm of 1913. This monstrous storm lasted four days, sank dozens of steel freighters, and took the lives of more than 250 sailors. It was a once-a-century weather catastrophe and yet most people have never heard of it. I knew about it only through stories of my great-grandparents, sailors on the Great Lakes who went ashore for good in 1913 after surviving the storm. 

The second thing I knew for certain was that I would use multiple point-of-view characters. I had a vague idea that two characters would encounter the storm aboard ships, and one would be on land, at the water’s edge. With these two certainties in mind, my plan was to research until I was so full of ideas that I couldn’t wait to sit down and start writing.

My research began with White Hurricane by David G. Brown. This book focused on the storm, and included firsthand accounts and contemporary newspaper reports. While the characters in my story are fictional, the situations they encounter are not. This book helped me understand the specific dangers lake freighter crews faced as they battled 35-foot waves, hurricane-force winds, and whiteout blizzard conditions—as well as their strategies for mitigating those dangers. Brown’s book was also critical to my understanding of the course and chronology of the storm, as was the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration, which had published a day-by-day analysis of the storm for its centennial.

Because much of the story takes place aboard lake freighters, I needed a primer on early twentieth-century Great Lakes commercial shipping. For this, I read Sailing into History: Great Lakes Bulk Carriers of the Twentieth Century and the Crews Who Sailed Them by Frank Boles. One of my main characters is a passenger rather than a sailor, so I also needed a passenger’s perspective of these great ships. A helpful resource was James Oliver Curwood’s The Great Lakes: The Vessels that Plough Them, Their Owners, Their Sailors, and Their Cargoes: Together with a Brief History of Our Inland Seas, which was published in 1909.

At one point in my writing, I couldn’t finish a scene because I didn’t know how sailors would have cleared ice from the pilothouse windows. In all the books I’d read, including Great Lakes fiction from the time period, this hadn’t been explained. But it was important to the scene, so I reached out to several historians. I was delighted to learn the answer from maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse, who also happened to be the author of one of my sources. Stonehouse’s Wreck Ashore taught me all about the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which operated throughout the Great Lakes and along the Atlantic Coast from the mid-1800s until 1915, when it merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard. 

In writing scenes about Agnes, who lives at the water’s edge, I drew on my own experiences. For years I lived in a cottage on Lake Erie, and was absolutely enamored of it. I’m now in a different part of the country, but in writing my novel I recalled my memories of the lake and referred to my old journal entries.

Finally, to get the little details right—what prices were in 1913, what people wore, what they ate—my sources included old issues of The Ladies’ Home Journal, many of which are available online. I also found a book published in 1914, Things Mother Used to Make by Lydia Maria Gurney. This collection of “old-time” recipes and household hints gave me wonderful insight into daily life of the period.

Of course, most of what I learned from my research didn’t make it into the novel. I once spent an entire afternoon learning how a triple-expansion steam engine worked. Mercifully for readers, those details never made it into the story.

That’s fantastic – a shame you couldn’t squeeze it in somewhere. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

Three sisters. Two Great Lakes. One furious storm.

Based on actual events…

It’s 1913 and Great Lakes galley cook Sunny Colvin has her hands full feeding a freighter crew seven days a week, nine months a year. She also has a dream—to open a restaurant back home—but knows she’d never convince her husband, the steward, to leave the seafaring life he loves.


In Sunny’s Lake Huron hometown, her sister Agnes Inby mourns her husband, a U.S. Life-Saving Serviceman who died in an accident she believes she could have prevented. Burdened with regret and longing for more than her job at the dry goods store, she looks for comfort in a secret infatuation.

Two hundred miles away in Cleveland, youngest sister Cordelia Blythe has pinned her hopes for adventure on her marriage to a lake freighter captain. Finding herself alone and restless in her new town, she joins him on the season’s last trip up the lakes.


On November 8, 1913, a deadly storm descends on the Great Lakes, bringing hurricane-force winds, whiteout blizzard conditions, and mountainous thirty-five-foot waves that last for days. Amidst the chaos, the women are offered a glimpse of the clarity they seek, if only they dare to perceive it. 

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Meet the Author

Kinley Bryan is an Ohio native who counts numerous Great Lakes captains among her ancestors. Her great-grandfather Walter Stalker was captain of the four-masted schooner Golden Age, the largest sailing vessel in the world when it launched in 1883. Kinley’s love for the inland seas swelled during the years she spent in an old cottage on Lake Erie. She now lives with her husband and children on the Atlantic Coast, where she prefers not to lose sight of the shore. Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury is her first novel.

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Rebel’s Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Cryssa Bazos to the blog with a post about her new book, Rebel’s Knot.

Your book, Rebel’s Knot, is set during the seventeenth century in Ireland, a period I know very little about. 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? 

Thank you for having me on your blog! Research can be an obsession. While only a small percentage ends up in the final copy, all those hours of research still colour between the lines.

I usually research in three major waves. The first is at the early stage before I write anything. I read historical non-fiction to give me an understanding of the era and subject. This is a general survey to determine where my story will sit within the history, and I look for signposts where I can lay my foundation.

When I feel that I have a good understanding, I start writing. I’m eager to get a taste for the characters and the story. By the time I hit the end of the first act, I often realize I need far more information about the setting and everyday details than I have. This leads me to my second wave of research, where I gather a hundred historical details that will be boiled down to only a few that stay in the text. I search out first-hand contemporary accounts, in letters or diaries, and try to get a sense of the world that my characters inhabit. This is where the characters lift off the page for me, and I can walk around in their shoes and understand what’s important in their life.

The last wave of research is my way of getting out of the dreaded middle slump. At this stage, the characters are walking around aimlessly, waiting for the events that will sweep them to the end. This is the rabbit hole stage of the process. Some might call it procrastination, and while it appears to be, what I’m actually doing is searching for inspiration from history. Where I often find the gold is in the footnotes. The list of goods stolen from a captured ship, for example, can be the lynchpin of a new subplot.

Research – Depositphotos Licence #33252823

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 have several favourite online resources. British History Online (https://www.british-history.ac.uk) is one welcome rabbit hole, and it’s easy to get seriously lost going through the transcribed content they have in there. British Civil Wars Project (http://bcw-project.org) is a great resource for anything to do with the War of the Three Kingdoms. I often pop in when I want to check on a date or a fact, and they have sections organized for Scotland and Ireland. I also love the articles available on JSTOR, and will usually head there to get more in-depth understanding on a topic.

When I was researching Rebel’s Knot, I relied on God’s Executioner by Micheál Ó Siochrú. It’s an insightful and balanced view of the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland, including the events leading up to it. My copy is now dogeared and marked up.

One of the historical figures that I feature in Rebel’s Knot is Edmund O’Dwyer, Commander-in-Chief of the Irish forces in Tipperary and Waterford. He’s mentioned only several times in the historical record and yet he played an important role in the defence of Tipperary. There’s very little known about him. I managed to find an old history of the O’Dwyers called The O’Dwyers of Kilnamanagh by Sir Michael O’Dwyer (1933), which not only compiled the scant information on Edmund O’Dwyer, but gave more information on his family and heritage.

Another major source of information was A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, from 1641 to 1652 by Sir John Thomas Gilbert. This was a compilation of letters, diary entries and the record of the treaties in one volume. While the English Parliamentarians wrote most of the accounts, the information was still invaluable. I learned about the range of the English forces in Tipperary, and their favourable perspective on commanders such as O’Dwyer spoke volumes about his character.

I also tracked down a first-hand account of an English bookseller travelling through Ireland in the latter seventeenth-century called Teague Land or A Merry Ramble to the Wild Irish (1698) by John Dunton. It’s rare to find contemporary accounts of common people, so this was quite the find that the traveller captured his experiences with his Irish hosts. He seemed to be a bit of a foodie, because he left detailed information about what they offered him to eat and how they prepared his meals.

There were a myriad of other sources and old maps that I found helpful (let’s not get started on the maps), but the above resources were the material I kept returning to throughout writing my novel.

I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to chat about research! It’s a topic near to my heart.

Cryssa

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

Here’s the blurb

Ireland 1652: In the desperate, final days of the English invasion of Ireland . . .

A fey young woman, Áine Callaghan, is the sole survivor of an attack by English marauders. When Irish soldier Niall O’Coneill discovers his own kin slaughtered in the same massacre, he vows to hunt down the men responsible. He takes Áine under his protection and together they reach the safety of an encampment held by the Irish forces in Tipperary. 

Hardly a safe haven, the camp is rife with danger and intrigue. Áine is a stranger with the old stories stirring on her tongue and rumours follow her everywhere. The English cut off support to the brigade, and a traitor undermines the Irish cause, turning Niall from hunter to hunted. 

When someone from Áine’s past arrives, her secrets boil to the surface—and she must slay her demons once and for all.

As the web of violence and treachery grows, Áine and Niall find solace in each other’s arms—but can their love survive long-buried secrets and the darkness of vengeance?

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, references to sexual/physical abuse.

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Meet the Author

Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. A forthcoming third book in the standalone series, Rebel’s Knot, was published November 2021.

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