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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hug a Medievalist Day

I found out from the wonderful Joyce DiPastena that today is Hug a Medievalist Day! Second annual! This only goes to show that Facebook has failed, because apparently it started there, and I've never heard of it before.

Among medieval people, of course, I would hug Alfonso X el Sabio. I would hug him in the precise moment in the late 1260's when scholars think he was hit in the face. The injury resulted in a long and painful decline and death at age 62. Yes, Alfonso, I would take the "bullet" for you!

Medievalists (explained here) are extremely huggable. If they were here, I guess I would start with Joseph Snow and go on to my most medieval authors, Moonyeen Blakey (The Assassin's Wife, available soon!) and Kim Rendfeld (The Cross and the Dragon, available this summer).

And of course, I'm a medievalist, so I welcome hugs!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Post: Prehistorical Fiction Author Kathleen Flanagan Rollins

Please welcome author Kathleen Flanagan Rollins to Famous Writer. I reviewed her novel, Misfits & Heroes: West from Africa on Monday. Coming from a historical perspective as I do, I asked her to tell us how she came to write a prehistoric adventure novel, and this is her thorough, informative, and passionate reply:

I’m fascinated by very ancient history.  I wonder about those people – what they did and felt, how much of what mattered to them is exactly the same today and how much was so radically different that I couldn’t begin to understand it.

I suppose my interest began when a college friend and I were hiking in Canyonlands National Park. We ran out of water, so we split up (a really stupid thing to do) to look for water in potholes. In my wandering I came across a series of handprints on a rock face, negative prints actually, since the color was blown out over each hand. They were shocking, not just because they were ancient but because they were timeless. I’d seen school banners full of prints just like these, left by people who pledged not to drink and drive on prom night or who supported the football team. So who had left their mark on this rock? No one lived in the area: the water table had dropped sixty feet hundreds of years before, leaving the land too dry to support much of anything. There weren’t even any mosquitoes. But people had once stood on the very spot I stood on. I put my hand on the rock under the prints and a thrill ran through me, right up to my scalp.

The moment was absorbed into the general impressions of the trip until I saw petroglyphs in the area: combinations of recognizable figures (people and animals) and mysterious symbols, all carved into rock. I felt people were talking to me in a language I couldn’t understand. So I started studying rock art, then ancient peoples of the southwest, then ancient cultures all over the US, then south into Mexico, then farther south into Central America, then farther yet into South America. Along the way, I visited famous and not so famous sites in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. If you’re going to be hooked on something for several decades, you might as well do it up right.

I have to admit I was momentarily taken with the Eric von Danikken (Chariots of the Gods and other books) theories of extra-terrestrial influence in the great sites like the Nazca Lines and Machu Picchu. However, the more I learned, the more I came to see all of this as the work of humans. Brilliant, amazing humans who lived a long time ago.

What if our fundamental perception of civilization as a flight of stairs is incorrect? What if it’s actually a roller-coaster instead, with periods of great insight and invention followed by dips into anarchy and chaos? What if we’re not the folks at the top of the stairs, we’re only on a different hill of the coaster? This theory of expansion and calamity is common in creation stories worldwide, including the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Popul Vuh. Jared Diamond discusses it at length in Collapse.

What if your history books’ version of Western Hemisphere history is incomplete? Many of us were taught that everyone got to the Americas by walking across the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska, during the Ice Age. What if that was only one route of many? The oldest human remains in the Western Hemisphere have been found in South America. Did they walk all the way from Alaska to Chile and then die?

It’s far more likely that people came to the Western Hemisphere from many directions, just as they do today. If you have a globe handy, take a look at Alaska and then South America. It’s quite a hike to get from one to the other, especially with glaciers covering a lot of the northern section. And yet, West Africa is quite close. A young woman recently rowed (yes, rowed) from West Africa to South America in 47 days – solo. The prevailing winds helped. It’s possible that our ancient ancestors did too. They went across the sea to Australia at least 60,000 years ago.

Here’s another piece of the puzzle. The civilization generally recognized as the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, the Olmec, left massive basalt sculptures astounding in scale and craftsmanship. They were so big that later people were afraid of them and buried them when they couldn’t figure out how to destroy them. The larger one pictured, from an Olmec site in southern Mexico called LaVenta, is about eight feet tall. The other one is somewhat smaller, but you can see the scale from the person next to it.

There are others, each one apparently the portrait of a different individual. You can find them easily by putting “Olmec heads” in your search engine.

If you put these pieces together, you have some sense of why I began my series of adventure novels about ancient explorers with a group coming across the ocean from West Africa to what is now southern Mexico. It’s called Misfits and Heroes: West from Africa.

I wanted the main characters to be complicated individuals, not the over-simplified heroes that history books give us. They are misfits, escapees from troubles in their past that prevent them from going home, so they head off into the unknown. They become heroes when they take up the challenges thrown down in front of them.

The story is set in 12,000 BC, which has caused several readers to question whether they could be talking and planning and otherwise acting like modern humans. My answer is absolutely yes.

As long as 80,000 years ago, people in northern and southern Africa were mixing red ochre compounds in abalone shells, working heated stone for better tools, hunting big game, decorating shells, burying their dead with jewelry and fine tools, and traveling great distances. In order to do these things, they needed a sophisticated language, a sense of cooperation for the common good, and a concept of an afterlife. We’ve grossly misrepresented these people as grunting fools.

So what’s next?

The second novel in the series, my WIP, concerns a group of explorers coming east across the Pacific from what is now Indonesia. The third follows a group from what is now Basque country in northern Spain. Eventually, they all meet (at least that’s the plan) with rather complicated results.

About Kathleen Flanagan Rollins

After spending over thirty years teaching composition and literature at a community college, as well as doing freelance work, I retired and devoted my energy to my own complicated, often frustrating projects. It’s been an amazing experience.

My blog started out as a way to give readers additional material, but it has since morphed into a discussion of all things ancient and their echoes in the present. Stop by for information on hamsa charms, sandroings, Clovis points, San rock art, shamanistic half-death, decorated ostrich shells, and other interesting topics!

Misfits and Heroes: West from Africa is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other vendors.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Misfits & Heroes: West From Africa

Don't let the cover fool you:
it's not a Western.
This novel has an agenda: the author wants to correct any lingering notions that ancient humans were primitive in any way or incapable of complex thought. Though the story takes place in 12,000 BCE, the characters in Misfits & Heroes have intricate societies, elaborate artwork and a full range of baser instincts and noble emotions.

Throughout the surprisingly fast-paced plot, the reader comes across nuggets of wisdom recognizable as the origins of several different schools of thought that have lasted to the present day. I strongly sympathized with Asha and Naaba, but even minor characters have realistic psychological characteristics, and motives we might not understand are fully explained in the context of this nascent society, though never in a patronizing way.

Everything in the book is believable because of the masterful descriptions of the way the humans interact with the natural world, something that seems kind of foreign today. The idea that ancient people might have made it to South America from Africa is fascinating in itself, and the author manages to throw in weddings, wars, hunting, and artistic creation to make each step long the journey just as interesting for its own sake.

I'm a fan of historical fiction, and this prehistorical book would be right at home with the most vivid books about better-documented times.

Please join me here on Wednesday for a fascinating guest post by the author, Kathleen Flanagan Rollins.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

SSS: Quick Healers

This is the bird Suero takes with him everywhere. Imagine sitting across the breakfast table from this guy!

We're still with doña Lambra at that breakfast, following last week's post.

* * *

She slid her gaze to Gonzalo’s face and saw that he had healed much more quickly than Ruy Blásquez. Five faint reddish spots were the only reminder of the cut that had made him lose so much blood. Doña Sancha sat next to doña Lambra and looked up at her eagerly. Lambra seized the goblet back from Gonzalo and took another swig.
“Ruy Blásquez must abandon me to my fate. Don’t you leave me, too, dear sister,” she said.

* * *

I think some scheming is taking place...

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving comments! I appreciate it sooooooo much and will return the favor.

Charmaine Gordon, I always enjoy your snippets, but I just can't comment on your blog. Sorry!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Goodreads Giveaways!

I have two exciting giveaways on Goodreads right now! They both end on April 27, so get your names in the hat! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dusk Before Dawn by Jessica Knauss

Dusk Before Dawn

by Jessica Knauss

Giveaway ends April 27, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sail to Italy and Sail from Italy by Jessica Knauss

Sail to Italy and Sail from Italy

by Jessica Knauss

Giveaway ends April 27, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Magical Realism

The genre "magical realism" is is mystery to a lot of readers. While some would lump it in with fantasy, I studied it in an academic context and most of the magical realism I've come across really belongs with literature.

In magical realism as I understand and write it, the reader enters a world very similar to our own -- either contemporary or historical -- but with at least one element that is impossible, unlikely, or undiscovered as yet in our world, and which is accepted as everyday truth with no explanation needed within the world of the story.

A lot of readers are really piqued by the aspect of "no explanation" of the unusual elements, but that's the part I love best! For me, real life is pretty darn inexplicable at times, and I love writing that embraces that.

Popular authors of magical realism include Isabel Allende, Alice Hoffman, and many others (largely Latin American). Have you read any magical realism? Did you love it, or did it frustrate you?

My best example of magical realism is my story "Middle Awash in Talent." It's told with the wry humor of an extraordinarily self-centered and unreliable narrator whose sister is "talented," which is to say, she has magical healing powers and the ability to move objects using only her mind (telekinesis). The talents are rare, but are a well-known element of the world in which the story takes place. They have a history of government control, etc, which never has to be fully explained, only hinted at.

I first excerpted "Middle Awash in Talent" a year ago for Six Sentence Sunday. The narrator meets her love interest for the first time in this longer excerpt. Another excerpt, which I have indeed changed substantially since I posted, is here. Mainly you get the tone and narrator's voice from these segments, but I hope you enjoy them! I've finished the first (long) part of this story, and I hope to share it with you in full very soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Greatest Film of All Time

Great movies on an unusual weather day in Arizona

It's been 25 years since The Princess Bride came out in theatres, and luckily for people of discerning taste, it occasionally shows up in theatres again. I saw it when it first came out, and I was at just the right age to be deeply impressed. I wonder how my life would be different if the movie hadn't made it to the screen exactly at that moment. Would I have latched on to something else? Or drifted through a sad, jaded life?

Is there any piece of media -- book or movie -- that has influenced your life so strongly that you will never forget it?

The Princess Bride has influenced my reading choices, my writing style, and my life choices ever since. I read the book ten times in the year I was fourteen and took the whole thing deadly seriously. I now appreciate the humor and plain silliness on display especially in the masterful comedic performances of the actors in the movie. Because of this story, I value silliness (as well as princesses and Spaniards) much more than anyone even really should.

My husband and I went to see the showing at our art house cinema this weekend. The outside of the building didn't impress me, but walking inside was just like the old-time theatres in the small towns where I grew up. The posters everywhere, the fliers of coming events, the community feel and the smell of popcorn! The front row of the auditorium was red leather couches, so of course we sat there, moving pillows around freely and getting as comfortable as at home. Then the show started, and it was on what looked like an original, unrestored, nitrate print, with blotches and the occasional glitch in scene change.

Thank you, Loft Cinema, for making me feel like I was back in 1987! It was even better than the original release, because I had my true love at my side. Bliss, bliss.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SSS: Desire for the Enemy part 2

We're still in doña Lambra's head. These lines follow directly from last week's.

* * *

That young, sinuous arm pushing the flap open did not belong to her husband. Her eyes snapped open. They alit on Suero, sitting across from his mother, with that ever-present goshawk perched on his specially padded shoulder. He handed bits of bread up to its sharp beak. She wondered at his audacity to carry the bird with him after what it had done to her husband’s face. The count should have had it killed. 

* * *

Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate your comments more than I can say. I will definitely return the visit!

Check out all the great sentences at

Friday, March 16, 2012

More from the Tucson Festival of Books

Last year, my first in Arizona, I was terribly nervous about participating in the Tucson Festival of Books because I'm shy, and not having a clear idea of what exactly is going to happen is the most disturbing part of any experience in which I interact with people. This year, I undeniably had some of the same nerves, but not to the same degree. I knew it was going to be fun, possibly the best experience of the year, and also my dear husband decided to come and hang out with me for an hour or so before my volunteer shift started. He doesn't comprehend social anxiety, so it's hard to experience it while he's telling me it simply doesn't exist! He was very proud of me when he witnessed my first volunteer interactions, which involved directing some festival-goers to a place I was very familiar with.

My described duties as a volunteer included escorting an author to the place where she was giving her talk and then to her book signing. I was fortunate to escort Bonnie Marson, author of Sleeping with Schubert, a delightful book about the genius in all of us. She gave an inspiring talk about the joys of writing fiction, in the process telling us that her popular novel is only the second thing she's ever written and that when she was sitting with her New York editor, she could hardly believe it was really happening. The book is soon to be made into a movie, so the stars have really aligned for Marson, but I think she fully appreciates her luck. This story had been in a drawer for years because she didn't think she could tell it within the space of a short story. She finally began to work on it again when a friend told her, "Just write it until it's finished." What a wonderful way to think of taking a big project one step at a time.

Setting up the booth.
The publisher I work for, Fireship Press, got a really sweet booth on a corner and near the culinary tent. Most festival-goers were surprised to see that we are local and amazed by the breadth of subjects we've published books on. We did attract quite a few comments in pirate-speak. It would take me a few more days to really settle into a retail environment, but I was able to sell a discounted copy of Geronimo's autobiography to an interested customer. I was thrilled to sell a couple of copies of Tree/House and one of Dusk Before Dawn. Unfortunately, I was always away when those sales happened. One customer came in and showed interest in Tree/House when I was there, but I think my presence was too much pressure or something. I gave away quite a few of the cards I posted on Monday and a few bookmarks, and it felt exciting and nerve-wracking every time. I hope to reach a few more readers I wouldn't have otherwise.

My big star-struck moment came when I snuck off to see Lydia Millet's presentation. I purchased her latest novel, Ghost Lights, before the event and I'm thrilled to see it's a continuation of the story she began in How The Dead Dream. In that book, the writing is so good, and the events so devastating, that I wasn't surprised that the title of her panel was "Heartbreaking Journeys." The other author on the panel was Naomi Bernaron, who's written Running the Rift, a novel about the genocide in Rwanda. The moderator wanted both authors to talk about social justice, but, as Millet pointed out, her protagonist in How The Dead Dream is the causer of social injustice, if anything. It started out a little unevenly, but once the audience got to ask questions, both authors were equally fascinating as they spoke about their craft in self-deprecating terms such as "I'm a liar," and "I'm lazy." Millet considers herself lazy because writing is such a pleasure to her, it's not really work to pound away at the keyboard for hours a day. I feel the same! I was also astonished to find out that Millet lives in Arizona. So I took away those similarities between her and me, coincidental as they are, and felt exhilarated by them. An audience member asked Millet whether she felt bad about doing such terrible things to her characters. She responded in the negative because not only are the characters not real people, but conflict is also necessary to storytelling. I'm keeping both of those points in mind as I continue with my Seven Noble Knights of Lara, in which unspeakably awful things happen in the name of revenge.

I also got to see some writers pals of mine from The Writer's Studio and my writers' group. Other highlights from the festival included the literary circus and numerous musical events, Lil Orbits donuts, and overhearing a kid telling his mom, "I didn't know books could be so much fun!" And that's what it's all about, folks. Sure, it's exhilarating to be in the presence of so many books and so many (more than 100,000) people who love books, but getting the word out that reading is fun is the most important mission of the festival. Any profits that come from the festival go back into literacy programs in the Tucson area. So much fun for such a good cause!
Gepetto operates on Pinocchio to turn him into a real boy at the Literary Circus.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan

The Red Book was hard for me to get into because it starts with the least sympathetic character, then proceeds to introduce a number of characters it's nearly impossible to keep track of, hopping in and out of all their heads like an especially psychologically perceptive housefly. By the tenth page, I had decided that, in spite of my interest in Ivy League culture and love of Boston, I was not the right audience for this book. But I'm not a reader who gives up easily, and I found that by the middle of the book, when we start to see some of the more meaningful revelations, I was well-trained in jumping between the characters' perspectives, and by the end, the technique actually worked in the story's favor. Not a Harvard alum, I've never read a "red book," so was skeptical as to whether the personal essays were realistic, but they served as convenient character guides when I just couldn't figure out who was who otherwise.

I haven't read any of the author's other books, but she does have some clout coming in, and by the time I was three-quarters of the way through, I had decided she had enough psychological depth to carry off what she was trying to do. I ended up really enjoying the way she takes each character and implies big themes about that character's stage in life. I never did sympathize with that first character, Addison. However, her story arc included a really terrible husband who was echoed lightly in one of the others, and both husbands left the picture. That contributed to the satisfying sense that in spite of all the things that have gone so terribly, everybody's going to be just fine. 

This book about Harvard alums will astonish with the incredible range of life experience it manages to pack in, and give book clubs in particular a lot to talk about.

The Red Book will be released in April from Hyperion Voice.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Tucson Festival of Books

What an exhausting and wonderful weekend it was! Perhaps you saw some of the proceedings on C-SPAN's Book TV this weekend? While those sessions are always informative and often fascinating, they don't really give a good idea of the festival as a whole.

I volunteered as an author escort on Saturday and helped out at the Fireship booth on Sunday. In the first capacity, I got to meet Bonnie Marson, enchanting author of a book soon to come out as a movie, Sleeping with Schubert. I sold a few books of my own at  the Fireship booth, and had a starstruck moment with author Lydia Millet, whose most recent book is Ghost Lights and who, it turns out, lives locally. Who knew!?

I hope to say much more about this, the greatest event in all of Arizona, by Friday. Work has really piled up for me, so wish me luck.

I gave out these cards at the festival. What do you think?
Front side
Back side

Sunday, March 11, 2012

SSS: Desire for the Enemy

It's a big Sunday!

Daylight Savings is taking place all over the world -- but not where I live, this crazy land, Arizona. (We really don't have any use for it, I understand now, the second time I've gone through this process here.)

The Tucson Festival of Books is in its second day! Come one, come all! Don't miss it! I'll be sure to blog about it as soon as I recover.

And of course, it's Six Sentence Sunday! Thanks for stopping by. These lines don't follow on directly after last week's. In the interim, we've discovered that the husbands are going to survey the lands with the Count, leaving Sancha and Lambra to fend for themselves. Together, the aunt, the sister-in-law, and the nephews go to the inn to get some breakfast.

* * * 

The innkeeper and his wife served day-old white bread, olive oil, and wine they poured out of a skin into two wooden goblets. Lambra took a sip and set her goblet down, only for Gonzalo González to reach across her for it, thoroughly bumping his tempered steel arm against hers.
“Excuse me, Aunt.”
           How had he managed to sit down by her? Doña Lambra closed her eyes to shut out the anger, but in the dark she saw herself naked, in the bridal tent, alone. Who was coming through the door to quench her desire? 

* * *

Hmm. I fear I may be giving away a bit too much about Lambra's mental state here... I really appreciate all your comments. Due to the Book Festival, I probably won't get to visit any sites today, but I'll visit you all at the crack of dawn on Monday. All the great sentences are at

Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't Miss This from Spain and a Special Thanks to Lexcade

This week I got a notice in my email about a new book. This happens with increasing frequency as my blog gets more traffic, but this time I took notice because the book is by two Spanish writers and hasn't quite been translated into English yet. Called La estrella (The Star), it's the biggest and best YA book from Spain in 2011. Take a look at the website and trailer and read the first chapter (in a kind of stilted English) here. It looks like the Spanish Hunger Games -- not to say that it isn't original in itself and well deserving of a good translation. If you feel motivated, petition to expedite the English translation right there on the website.

Secondly but no less important, Lexcade awarded me a Liebster award on March 6. Check her out here. I'm flattered that she thinks I deserve some love, but I do feel the need to specify that I am not a romance writer. (If I were, I might get a lot more love in the form of sales, but that's just a guess!) I write medieval historical fiction that takes love and romance as a plot point just the same as the rest of human experience, but I definitely have no special affinity or specialty in the romance arena. Real life is another matter entirely. ;) I also write literary fiction, tending toward magical realism, a genre that confuses most people. I hope to soon have a moment to describe, in a simple and memorable way, exactly what I mean by it.


This weekend is the biggest of the year for Arizona book lovers! The Tucson Festival of Books is here!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Author Prue Phillipson Chats about the Joys of History

Today is the official release of Prue Phillipson's Hearts Restored from Knox Robinson. The author has stopped by to talk about how her love of history comes out in her writing.

JK: Welcome, Prue Phillipson. Hearts Restored seems unusual to me specifically because it is set during the Restoration. Could we start by talking about why you choose to write about the 1600's?

Prue Phillipson: I am fascinated by all periods of British history but of recent years I have become particularly interested in the seventeenth century. In Vengeance Thwarted, published in June 2011, I showed the effect on ordinary people’s lives of the Scottish invasion of 1640 and then the Civil War. In the sequel, Hearts Restored, just published and reviewed yesterday on this blog, the restoration of Charles II brought a period of hope and expectation of peace and prosperity. Unfortunately this was soon marred by reverses in the naval war with the Dutch and the dreadful plague and fire in London. The amazing resilience of the human spirit shines through it all and I reflect this in the lives of my characters.

JK: I really appreciated the way you humanized history in Hearts Restored. Is Vengeance Thwarted similar?

PP: These two novels, which will later form part of a trilogy, can be read as distinct stories but they follow the lives of the same family, the Hordens of Horden Hallorden  in Northumberland and cover between them the years 1640 -1665, taking the reader also to North Yorkshire and London.

I love to delve into the different mind-set of a past age, and that’s a modern expression – ‘mind-set’. Past ages would have no concept of its meaning, but it is there in patterns of thought, customs, and unquestioned values, many of which are strange to twenty-first century minds, like the attitudes toward women and what’s expected of them!

JK: How do you find out what past mind-sets were like? 

PP: When I research a period I try to read widely from writers of the day to explore their attitudes and the pattern of their day-to-day living, their work, their pleasures, the whole context of their life. What I gain is an understanding of their beliefs and prejudices but also a realisation that in their relations with others they have similar joys and sorrows to our own and human nature is really the same the world over.

Of course there were wider regional difference then because travel was much slower and there were no ubiquitous media like radio, television, the Internet, Facebook, etc, etc. But what is surprising is how much communication there was and how widely people did travel despite the difficulties. Families were always writing letters but no letter could be carried faster than the pace of a horse or a sailing boat. As a writer of historical novels it is important to remember this and not expect people in remote parts of the country to hear the news instantaneously as we can today.

Besides reading the diaries of people like Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn and the letters of families like the Verneys I also study reputable modern historians, like Antonia Fraser, J.P.Kenyon, Jenny Uglow on the Stuart monarchs, and John Bedford for his marvellous account of the Great Fire of London. I feel I can trust the accuracy of those who have spent years accessing all available sources. I do use the Internet too but one must check the origins of articles and sometimes be wary of facts posted there. I have found variations in little details – like the names of ships lost in a particular battle which I described in Hearts Restored. I found the right answer in Pepys’ Diary.

JK: So many disasters! What were the good things that happened during this time? 

PP: Despite so much political turmoil, the seventeenth century saw huge advances in trade all over the world, in science and medicine, agriculture, house-building and eventually in greater tolerance in matters of religion. Meticulous records were kept of contracts, loan transactions, possessions, wills, law suits and a great deal of litigation went on. Merchants had vast ledgers where they traced every commodity they dealt with on land transport and sea voyages to remote destinations. This was particularly important because of the many hazards faced, as the London merchant Clifford Horden finds in Hearts Restored. To escape the plague his wife persuades him to go into the country and leave his deputy to manage the business. Not only does he mismanage it, but Dutch ships sink the merchant’s vessels and we see how easy it was to make and lose fortunes rapidly in that period.

JK: How does the story of the Hordens continue?

PP: The third novel, Rebels Repentant, continues the tale of the Northumberland Hordens up to 1689. That is in the hands of the publisher now and who knows, I may not be able to say goodbye to many of my characters who go through all three books. I can almost see myself taking the Hordens into the eighteenth century which is also a very enthralling period of history.

JK: Have you ever written about the 1700's?

PP: My publisher has another manuscript of mine, Heir Apparent, set in the eighteenth century during the seven years’ war. It tells of a Yorkshire castle and the visiting architect who brings his London-bred daughter with him when he comes to work on a new wing. This leads to romantic turmoil with the young heir! But that is another story, possibly coming out later this year.

JK: Have you always been a historian? Is that what drew you to writing?

PP: Creating characters and seeing how they behave in the situations I put them in is an intensely fascinating process. I have written several novels and a volume of short stories about modern life, available on Amazon, but I find myself more intrigued now with the historical setting for my characters. They can rebel against the mores of their day but not implausibly. There is a limit to how far they can behave outside their time and that is a challenge I enjoy.

I sometimes wonder if it is because I am eighty-three that I am getting more fascinated by history. Perhaps I am more in tune with the English of those days from the Tudors onward than I am with the twenty-first century and its language of new technology. I’ll leave my readers to decide! I do consult an etymological dictionary to be as authentic as possible in dialogue and descriptions of places and people. I wouldn’t claim never to employ a word that was not in general use at the time but I try, and I also avoid ultra-modern turns of phrase which would jar from seventeenth century lips. On the other hand one does not want to sound too archaic. Fortunately English from the King James Bible onwards has not changed so drastically that it is incomprehensible to the modern ear.

My main aim in writing is to tell a fast-moving story involving deep passions and to depict characters who will live in readers’ minds after they have laid down the novel at the end. If I have succeeded with Hearts Restored I am very happy.

JK: As my readers already know, I think you have succeeded in that very well. Congratulations and thank you for being here today. 

Hearts Restored is now available from all the finest book retailers. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hearts Restored by Prue Phillipson

It's not often I've seen a book of popular fiction set during the Restoration (England in the 1660's), although I know it was another amazing time of world-changing events, so I was curious to read Hearts Restored by Prue Phillipson. Historical events become important in the lives of the characters in this book, but they aren't dragged along by them. They make decisions with free will, appropriate to the context, and I was happy to bear witness.

The book is structured much like a romantic comedy movie. We meet a cast of very likable characters who, although they are all related in some distant way, come from diverse backgrounds. Meek Eunice has been raised in a harsh Puritan household, the French cousins defend their Catholicism against the onslaught of English varieties of worship, and Daniel comes from a welcoming, harmonious family in the North of England I couldn't help but wish was mine. I especially enjoyed the atmosphere created by Daniel's mother. The frank and open love she bears for her husband and son make her memorably sympathetic.

Daniel narrowly escapes marriage to one of the French cousins, attends Cambridge, and witnesses the horrors of war when he enlists in the royal navy. Eunice must pass through her own life-threatening situations, which I found the most interesting in the book, before reuniting with Daniel. The end of the book is heartfelt and well deserved. While I was reading, I did not realize that this is the second book in a series, it stands alone so well. It's exciting to know there is already another book with some of these characters and at least one more to come.

Overall, Hearts Restored is an enjoyable, light read, especially recommended for readers who want clean romance and to pick up a little history of the 1600's.

Hearts Restored will be released by Knox Robinson Publishing tomorrow, March 8.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

SSS: Self-Control

Not to give too much away, but this is what Lambra would like to do to Gonzalo. 

I had my writing group this week, so I'm really geared up to share The Seven Noble Knights of Lara with all of you. Thanks so much for all the comments over these weeks. I visit everyone whose site I can find!

These lines follow on right after last week's.

* * *

She resolved never to accept the González family as her own. She would regain control of her situation, even if it meant deception. “I accept your apologies and the Count of Castile has arranged for there to be no disputes on either side. You have nothing to worry about from me.” Justa, Gotina, the other maids, and Little Page had come up to stand beside her. She felt comforted to have as many people with her as her sister-in-law. 

* * *

These lines look a little flat right now, but in the context I thought they worked really well -- what do you think? Lambra is all about quiet composure here. The rage is all under the surface... for now.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Check out the other great sentences here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Astreya III, The Wanderer's Curse, Out Now!

Yes, the final book in the trilogy is here!

All three books are the perfect mix of unpredictable adventure, edge-of-your-seat suspense, lovable characters, sea lore, and just a touch of magic.

The final book in any series bears the heavy weight of expectations, but Hamilton brings it all to an end that makes sense both logically and emotionally and is better than anyone else could have dreamed up. In this book, we get a glimpse of Matris and learn that a town ruled by women may not be the paradise described. Astreya must race back to the place of his birth in order to prevent the summary slaughter of the Village's inhabitants. Lindey and Astreya learn to deal with the past and plan for the future, and Astreya finally claims his rightful inheritance.

Start with Book I: The Voyage South and follow all the adventures. The landscapes, sailing prowess, and characters will stay with you long after you close the book.