Friday, December 31, 2010

The Unfortunate Adam Newton

It was not Adam Newton's day.  He must have wondered, when he heard that he would be the next messenger to Robert the Bruce, what he had done to anger the clerics above him. 

The previous messengers, sent by the cardinals Luke and Jocelin, probably in early September 1317, had been pleasantly but firmly sent packing by Bruce and his barons.  While Bruce camped near the town of Berwick, preparing to besiege it and take it back from the English, they had arrived with a letter addressed to Robert Bruce governing Scotland.  Bruce smilingly told them that there were many men in his realm by the name of Robert Bruce, some of whom were indeed involved in governing the realm.  He himself, was Robert Bruce King of Scots, he told them, and would gladly accept a letter addressed to himself as such, so as to be sure he wasn't opening another man's mail.

Bruce was a man known for his mercy.  Yet he was also quite capable of being firm when the occasion warranted.  The English town of Hartlepool, for instance, felt Bruce's wrath, watching from the safety of their boats at sea as James Douglas sacked their town, rather than allow them to pay for peace, as Bruce allowed so many other English towns.  Different reasons are put forth as to why Hartlepool was treated so harshly, but ultimately, what mattered to Adam Newton was the lesson of Hartlepool: Bruce was not a man with whom to tangle.  And Adam must certainly have known of his predecessors and Bruce's gentle warning to them: 

"Had you presumed to present letters with such an address to any other sovereign Prince, you might perhaps have been answered in a harsher style. But I reverence you as the messengers of the Holy See.”

It is easy to believe that the unfortunate Adam Newton hoped Bruce would continue to have reverence for messengers of the Holy See.  Adam was the guardian of the Friars Minorite at Berwick, held by the English since Edward I's infamous sacking and murdering of its inhabitants in 1296.  He would have been well aware of the background of his mission. Edward II, having failed militarily to deal with Bruce and the Scots, yet unwillingly to accede to Bruce's very mild terms for peace, called in the big guns: Holy Mother Church. 

Pope John XXII issued a bull demanding a two year truce.  Lacking facebook or e-mail in 1317, the Pope entrusted the delivery of this message, along with personal, sealed messages, to Edward and Bruce, the respective kings of England and Scotland.  Arriving in England, the cardinals Jocelin and Luke, sent two nuncios to do their work.  One was the bishop of Corbeil, and the other was a priest named Aumori.  In a side story that must have added to Adam Newton's fears, the two nuncios traveled north with Lewis de Beaumont, the Bishop-elect of Durham, and were, on the course of their journey, attacked by bandits who allowed them to continue to Scotland (after taking their money of course), but took the bishop-elect hostage.

The bishop of Corbeil and Father Aumori made their way to Bruce probably in early September of 1317.  He was at the time preparing for his latest siege on Berwick.  He listened respectfully as they read the open letters, but refused to open the letter improperly addressed to Robert Bruce governing Scotland.

The cardinals, being told of the nuncios' failure, corralled Adam Newton into the second attempt. 

Father Newton, anticipating a less than warm welcome, left his Very Important Papers at Berwick for safe-keeping before heading off in search of Bruce.  It was the middle of December when he found the king of Scots camping in the woods of Old Cambus, some twelve miles from Berwick, in the thick of building siege equipment.  Lord Alexander Seton, seneschal of the king, granted Newton safe-conduct, and the man made the 24 mile round trip trek back to Berwick for those papers, and back to Old Cambus to deliver them to Bruce.

I can guarantee that a 24 mile journey in Scotland in December was not a pleasant one.  On his return to Old Cambus, Seton informed him he would not be admitted to the king's presence, but that he must hand over the papers to be taken to Bruce for his inspection.

Bruce's patience, by this time, had been strained.  He repeated, with less tolerance than on the previous attempt, one infers from reports, his stance that he would not accept communication which withheld his royal title, and that, furthermore, he would take Berwick back for Scotland.

Adam Newton, being either a man of courage and duty, or completely foolhardy, determined to deliver his message, anyway, and publicly announced the Pope's two-year truce between England and Scotland, to the gathered barons and spectators.  Tytler's History of Scotland tells us the result:

...his pro­clamation was treated with such open marks of insolence and contempt, that he began to tremble for the safety of his person, and earnestly implored them to permit him to pass forward into Scotland to the presence of those prelates with whom he was com­manded to confer, or, at least, to have a safe-conduct back again to Berwick.

Bruce sent Father Newton away, refusing to give him safe conduct papers for his return trip.  One can imagine how Father Newton might have felt, traveling through what was essentially enemy territory, with the displeasure of the king at his back.

So it is not surprising, given both Bruce's displeasure and his merciful nature, that Father Newton was accosted by four bandits, stripped of his documents, and, according to some sources, all his clothing, but left essentially unhurt and allowed to go his way.  (And we'll hope that in December he found himself clothes rather quickly!)

Newton later sent a letter to the two cardinals stating: "It is rumoured that the Lord Robert and his accomplices, who instigated this out­rage, are now in possession of the letters intrusted to me."

No doubt they were.


  • February 19 and 26: I'll be reading on the Vehicle of Expression, part of the Art Shanty Project
  • February 25, 2017: I will co-host Food Freedom on AM 950 with Laura Hedlund and Karen Olson Johnson.  Guests: Michael Agnew, craft beer expert and Ross Fishman on Russian literature.  We'll taste Russian beer: listen to the whole program from last month.

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If you liked this article, you might also like
The King and the Carter's Son: Who is Who?
The Black Douglas and the Hobby Horse
or other posts under the MEDIEVAL HISTORY label


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Paul Clayton: Research and Roanoke Island

It is my pleasure and honor today to welcome Paul Clayton, author of multiple novels, to talk about researching historical fiction, and particularly about the fascinating story of Roanoke Island and the disappearing colonists.  Also, today is the last day to follow or leave a comment on this blog, or like my facebook author page, each of which is an entry for the gift card drawing.

And now, from Paul:

I’ve always been interested in history and was destined to write historical fiction. I know this because when I was faced with having to write an essay about automobile safety back in the third grade, I wrote about the cavemen (you can’t get more historical than that)--something about a guy named Blorg, who drops his donut, and as he’s chasing it down the street, gets this idea for a wheel, which leads to a cart, which-- .

Yeah, the more I think about it, I’m fascinated by, and addicted to, what was.

Take ruins, for instance. When we were nine, ten, and eleven-year old boys, back in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we’d go on long bike rides. This was back in the day when parents let their pre-teen boys ‘go out and play’ and they wouldn’t show up until nine or twelve hours later at dinner time. We must have covered fifteen or more miles on those rides. And we’d ‘discover’ things. Back then in the late fifties, the government had taken over a large swath of land using eminent domain, for the construction of a new interstate, Highway 95. We didn’t know that, of course. All we knew was that if we took a certain route, we came upon this strange, dead zone where all the houses and buildings had been mysteriously abandoned, many with the furnishings still inside. There was even an old airfield and ‘Flying Club.’ We broke in and pounded on the old broken upright piano, and sat at the bar, playing cowboy western with the mugs and glasses we found there.

Moving along, I grew up, got through high school, got drafted, and was sent to Vietnam in 1968. That experience propelled me further toward a writing career. There were so many strange things, frightening and wonderful, that I encountered, that I felt like I had to write it all down. I remember one long patrol deep into a jungle valley where we came upon some ancient ruins. (There was an ancient civilization that straddled what is now Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It was recently mapped from space using infrared satellites.) We saw gates and steps, columns with faded carvings of symbols and scenes, all riddled and broken up by bamboo and vines. We couldn’t hang around to explore, but my Lieutenant, who must have been a history buff too, tied a sixty or so pound vase he found to his rucksack and hiked it back up to our mountaintop firebase. By the way, that Vietnam tour became the subject of the first book I wrote (but not the first I managed to get published). Interestingly, my Vietnam book (Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam), when it was finally published in hardcover by St. Martin’s Press, probably qualified as ‘historical fiction,’ although I based it on my own tour of duty.

The writing of my Nam novel led to my second book, Calling Crow, a historical about the clash between the coastal Muskogee Indians of the Southeast and Spanish conquistadors and slavers. The kernel of it came to me during a walk along the beach on Amelia Island in northern Georgia while on a business trip. I had already visited a few local museums and libraries during my off time. And prior to that I had read a book that theorized that during the first encounters between the two groups, the natives might possibly have been stricken into a state of paralysis by the extreme ‘power imbalance.’

As I walked the beach I imagined my character, Calling Crow, a member of that simpler, mostly stone age culture, spotting a huge sailing ship. He watches as a boat is put out and makes its way to the beach. The shiny-skinned (armor-wearing) gods (?) disembark. There’s a friendly wave to approach. Going closer, my character notes the long, beautiful sticks some of the gods carry. They are part wooden and partly shiny, reflecting sunlight like a fish’s silvery sides, and they are decorated with carved scenes (go online and look at the pictures of the harquebuses from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; some are works of art). One of the gods lowers the stick. There’s a little click of sound as the ‘match’ strikes the firing pan, flashing the powder, exploding the charge, and the ‘thunder’ stick erupts, spitting out lightning and black smoke.

When I write a book, I strive to get all the details as period-correct as possible. I study period paintings, listen to period music played on period instruments. I read actual accounts by those involved. I prefer to use print books rather than getting my information online because what’s been published has usually been fact checked by the publishers. Since a lot of what I write about takes place on the east coast, I’ve had to buy a lot of books that were not available in area (The SF Bay Area) libraries and bookstores. Sometimes I go to historical parks and re-enactments (I went to the Renaissance Faire to get the details for a joust that was featured in Calling Crow.) I go to museums and, if allowed, love to hold period artifacts in my own hands. I went to the UK in 1999 with my family to visit my wife’s relatives. When I had a free day, I took the train to the museum and asked to see John White’s work. I felt myself transported as I looked down at these wonderful paintings and sketches. John White was a naturalist painter in the sense that he worked with naturalist, Thomas Harriot. White had been hired By Walter Raleigh as a ‘recording artist’ for two previous expeditions to Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island before he was named Governor for the third. While in England I’ve also spent many hours visiting The Tower and its museum, and I’ve also visited the Mary Rose on two occasions.

And, of course, if I can, I’ll go to the site of the story. In the case of Roanoke, I regret to say that I have not yet set foot on the island. However, I have camped on the hot, humid, tick-infested barrier islands of the Assateague Island National Seashore, just a hundred and fifty miles north, and I’ve marched the sandy savannahs and the fly and mosquito infested swamps of Fort Bragg, about a hundred and fifty miles to the southeast, as a young man in Basic Training. So, I think I’ve had enough experiences with neighboring terrains to ‘imagine’ myself and my characters on that island for the book I would title, White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

It was Karen Ordahl Kupperman’s The Lost Colony that cemented my interest in doing a book on the subject. I loved the fact that we just don’t know what happened to those people. We can theorize, based on supposition and anecdotal evidence. But there is no record. There is a somewhat official North Carolina drama on the subject, The Lost Colony, by Paul Green, which I’ve never seen, and there are several novels on the colony which I have never read. I do not want my ‘take’ on what happened to be colored by someone else’s. Anyway, the more I looked into the Roanoke story, the more intrigued I was. I especially liked the possibility of basing half of the plot on the historical record (White’s attempts in England to secure ships and rescue the colonists and his loved ones, specifically his daughter, Eleanor and his granddaughter, Virginia Dare, the first English child (that we know about) born in the New World). I spent about four to six months doing the initial research for the book. Then I put all my notes and my books with yellow post-its ™ aside and start writing. (You can always use place-savers in your draft and come back to it later to fill in the exact details.) It took me about a year to write that first draft.

I want to come back to Virginia Dare, the first English child (that we know about) born in the new World. I parenthetically state, ‘that we know about,’ to make a point. More than likely, she was the first. However, it is possible that she wasn’t. English traders sailed the eastern coast of the New World looking to trade with the Indians and Spanish settlements. English merchant ships sometimes carried female passengers, sometimes the Captain’s wife and children. And English ships left port never to return. We know the fate of some of them (the Sea Venture, chronicled in Hobson Woodward’s A Brave Vessel), but not all. So it is possible that Virginia Dare was not the first. I make a point of this because I’ve run into some folks who evidently believe one can only write historicals about ‘actual’ events, using only ‘real’ people. Anything else is, I guess, cheating, and not quite cricket.

Imagine one of these grouchy individuals pouring over the lists of passengers on the Titanic in some library or museum. He runs his finger down a column of names, comes to the end, slams the ledger closed, jumps to his feet and says loudly, “I knew it! There was no Jack and Rose!” Heads pop up to see who is responsible for this outburst, but he is already racing down the steps and out the door, mentally composing a fiery letter to director James Cameron about the fraud he’s perpetrated on the millions of people who’ve already watched and enjoyed his movie.

This is why I use a mix of historical and composite characters in my novels. I am not a historian, nor do I have a staff of researchers. I am primarily a story teller. And when I use a historical figure, I try to put their thoughts and actions into the proper historical context and not in our modern one. I try to be realistic, loading into the world I’ve recreated the ‘software’ of the day, i.e., the beliefs (religious and cultural) and biases. This is a tricky thing to pull off. Make your world too realistic and it may be unapproachable or too painful for the modern reader, especially minorities and women; make it too fanciful and ‘PC’ and it will turn off the realists. So this is where the writer must bring all his or her craft, intelligence, and research to bear. Hopefully he or she will come up with just the right mix to bring it all to life.

The novel I’m currently working on is not historical and this gives me a little break as far as research is concerned. When I get a little time off, I usually spend it traveling around Northern California’s Gold Rush country or the Reno NV area. I often see old ranches, farm houses, and mining shacks flattened by time and weather, with only a stone fireplace remaining. I want to pull over at every one of them and inspect the old hearth stones, touch the rusting iron grates and machinery, to imagine who lived here and what their lives were like. Maybe I will. And maybe my next historical will be set out here in the west.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll take a look at one of my books.


About the author:

Paul Clayton has written a three book series on the clash of the coastal Muskogee people and the colonial invaders-- Calling Crow, Flight of the Crow, and Calling Crow Nation. His last book, about his experience as a draftee infantryman in Vietnam, Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam, was a 2001 Frankfurt eBook Award finalist. His latest novel, White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, was a finalist at the International Book Awards.

Read more about Paul and his books at his amazon author page.

About White Seed:

The Lost Colony of Roanoke comes roaring back to life as Governor White pleads for ships in England, his colonists slowly starve, English soldiers mutiny, and Irish serving girl, Maggie, and Manteo, the Croatoan, fall in love.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sandra Edwards: Incredible Dreams

Please welcome today Sandra Edwards, an award-winning author of contemporary, time travel, and romance fiction.  Today, we're talking about time travel.  Just for fun, there's a poll on the right sidebar: if you get a time travel machine under the Christmas tree, when would you go?  Sandra's character, Izzy, travels to the mid-20th Century.  Read on for Sandra's thoughts on writing and time travel.  Where would you go?

· Welcome, Sandra.  When did you start writing, and why?

I actually started writing when I was about 13 after receiving an English assignment to write a short story. When all my classmates stories were half a page (at most, with very large handwriting) and mine was in excess of five pages, I knew I was on to something.

· What is your favorite part of writing? What comes most easily to you? Characters, plot, setting, themes?

I love many aspects of the writing process, but when the seeds of a new idea spark to life inside my head is kind of special. Creating characters comes easiest for me. A solid plot to stick them in takes a bit more effort.

· What do you find most difficult?

The revision process. Titles. And oftentimes, character names.

· Where do you get your story ideas from?

Everywhere. Everything I hear and see sparks a “what if” moment for my muse. Music is very inspirational, too.

· Incredible Dreams centers around Izzy Miller, a ghost whisperer who, in the course of exorcising the spirit of a dead military man, finds a way back to his time. What gave you the idea for Incredible Dreams?

A combination of my fascination with ghost stories, time travel and the 1940s.

· Did the book start with the concept of time travel, or did that evolve as you wrote?

Yes, I knew time travel would play a factor from the get-go, as someone would need to “go back in time” to save a life.

· Could the story have been written without time travel?

No, not this story. Maybe another story, but not this one.

· What method does Izzy use to move through time?

Her dreams.

· Did you do any research on actual scientific theories, or did you read other fiction involving time travel in order to write Incredible Dreams?

I’ve read a lot of time travels, but they weren’t a factor in the creation of Incredible Dreams. This is one of those rare instances where a title came to me almost immediately and it brought the time travel method with it.

I have another project that I’m working on that I have done quite a bit of scientific research on the theories of Quantum Physics to develop the time travel method I’ll use for the series.

· Why do you think time travel is so fascinating to readers and authors alike? Is there a way that time travel serves something in story lines that couldn't be accomplished any other way? (For instance, time travel stories involve adapting to other cultures and are invariably fish out of water stories. We don't need to go to a different century to address those themes.) But are there themes or issues that can only be addressed by going to a different time?

Time travels might be a fish out of water tale (I’ve never looked at it like that, but you’re right), but for me the fascination has more to do with the fantasy element that characters who travel through time are able to do something that we (the readers) are told is impossible.

· What are some of your favorite time travel novels?

The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Out of Time by Monique Martin

· Tell us about some of your other novels.

Crazy For You is a rags to riches tale set against the backdrop of the 80s, movie stars and rock-n-roll. Broken Wings (book one in the Soul Searchers series) is the story of a con-artist who's been hired to locate a buried treasure and finds more than she bargains for.

· What are you currently working on?

I’m wrapping up book two in the Soul Searchers series titled Vegas, Baby. The story picks up where Broken Wings left off.

Thanks for being here today, Sandra!

More about Sandra:

Incredible Dreams is the story of a modern-day ghost whisperer who travels through time to save the life of a WWII fighter pilot and ends up jeopardizing her own existence. Izzy Miller prefers to call herself a spiritual therapist because she thinks it makes her sound more professional than plain old ghost-whisperer. She expects her latest project to be quick and easy because exorcising military personnel is pretty routine. But there's nothing easy or routine about Captain Jack Baker-he's a rather forgetful spirit and somewhat mischievous. And even though he's intrigued by the US Government's latest attempt to remove him from the only place he can ever remember being...he has no intentions of going anywhere. Plans to exorcise Jack are quickly sidelined when Izzy discovers a portal into the past inside her dreams and sets out to change his fate. Trouble is...when she gets back there, she can't remember anything but her name. She still sees ghosts, but is far less accepting of her gift. And, to make matters worse, a demonic force pretending to be the forgetful heroine's sister has her own plans-to steal Izzy's soul.

Sandra is an award-winning author of romance. She has eclectic tastes, penning tales in a variety of genres such as paranormal (mostly time travel and reincarnation), contemporary and suspense. She lives in the U.S. (west coast) with her husband, two kids, four dogs and one very temperamental feline. Sandra's books often push the envelope and step outside the boundaries of conventional romance. For more info on Sandra's books, visit her website at

To enter the Christmas gift card give-away, follow this blog, click like on my facebook page, or leave a comment.  Each one counts as an entry.  The drawing is December 23.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Time Travel is Boring? Um, I Don’t Think So.

When I was asked if I’d like to write about time travel for The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy, my first thought was, “Heck, yeah! I love time travel stories. I can’t wait to write about this!”

And then I sat down to write. And every line and passage that hit the page shouted at me. And the word those lines shouted at me over…and over…and over was…boring.

Boring? Really?

Yep. Boring.

For reasons I still can’t explain, the passion I have for time travel was somehow sucked right out of me. Maybe it was the commitment I made to Laura, or the (more than generous) timeline I had agreed to meet. Perhaps I was having a bad week and didn’t feel like writing. More than likely, I was just being a lazy bum who didn’t feel up to the task at hand. Honestly, I don’t know what it was. But I knew it could not be the topic itself.

Time travel, baby!

Everyone knows time travel stories are awesome. And I’m not talking about your regular old, vanilla-type awesome, either. Time travel stories are the bomb! They rock! Everyone loves a good one, and rarely does anyone hate a bad one. Heck, even Back to the Future 3 had its fans.

So there I was struggling with what to write, and confused over why I couldn’t write about such an awesome subject like time travel...and that’s when it hit me. All I had to do was write about how great time travel stories are. Everyone knows that the possibilities for time travel stories are endless. A writer is bound only by the limits of his or her imagination.

Anyone can write a time travel story. It’s true. I know because I’ve written them. Getting started is easy. Just ask yourself one question:

“Should I travel back in history, or forward to the future?”

Once you’ve decided on that, the game is on. You can break free from your leash and let your wildest imagination rule the world. Ask yourself simple questions and begin answering them. How far back or forward should you go? What’s it going to be like when you get there? What will you do when you arrive? Take a walk, run, or sprint around the track of your imagination. And before you know it–
–the year is 1863. You’re standing in a field listening to Abraham Lincoln deliver a speech. You’re surrounded by thousands, but no one except you knows that his words – the words he is speaking right this moment – will become known as the Gettysburg Address. Of all those thousands who surround you, including Lincoln himself, only you know for sure how the Civil War will end and how the President will die.

Once you’re there in 1863, just keep asking yourself questions and providing interesting answers. When you do that, the story – no, not just the story, but the world – is under your control. The world and the characters that make up your version of 1863 are yours to take wherever you want them to go. History will meander down whatever paths you want it to meander. You can kill Lincoln off early or save him from Booth’s bullet. You can change history! Hey, that’s power right there! You own the world! You get to decide what happens next because you are the writer and the characters belong to you. Even the President! You get to decide what happens on the world stage and…

…um, sorry. Got a little out of control for a minute there.

Anyway, you get the idea. Whatever happens in your 1863 is completely within your hands. Your next thought might be, “I need to get my butt back to my own time before I screw something up here in the past.” Or you might ask yourself, “How can I keep this poor sucker from going to see that crappy play in Ford’s Theater two years from now?” Either way, you take the story where you want it to go. You imagine it, you shape it, you feed it and let it grow. Pretty cool, huh?

In my novel, Peace Warrior, my protagonist, Grant, is a professional soldier who is killed in action sometime in the mid-21st century. He is “awakened” six hundred years later through the science of cryogenics. By bringing Grant back to life so far into the future, I was able to paint my own vision of what Earth might look like in the future. Since just about anything can happen after six hundred years, I had a blank canvas with which to work. That kind of literary freedom can be a blast. I filled my canvas with a teeming population of Peace-loving humans who had abolished war and banned all forms of violence. On the surface, it sounds like a paradise, right? No more wars, murders, rapes. But consider what might happen when an alien race, a race that has no inclination toward Peace, shows up and says, “Hey, we like what you guys have here. Hand it over or die.” That’s the world that Grant wakes up to, and the reason he’s brought back by science. The world needs help defending itself, and who better to do that than an ancient warrior?

Writing interesting time travel fiction can be a blast. When done well, readers suck it up, swallow it down, and ask for more. If you are considering writing a time travel story, start by asking yourself those initial questions: Back in time or forward? How far? What’s it like there? Once you get the ball rolling, the story will often take on a life of its own. Once it does, my advice is to let your freak flag fly and allow your imagination to run feral. Enjoy the process and have fun with it.

It should never be boring.

About Peace Warrior:

It’s the mid-21st century when Sergeant First Class Grant Justice is killed during an ambush on an enemy tank column.

Six hundred years later, his body is retrieved from the frozen, arctic lake where he perished. Re-animated by a team of scientists, Grant awakens to a civilization that has abolished war. A civilization that has outlawed violence and cherishes Peace above all else. A civilization that has been enslaved by an alien race called the Minith.

Grant is humankind’s final hope against the alien menace. He must be…the Peace Warrior.

About the author:
 Steven L. Hawk spent six years as a Military Intelligence Specialist with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division before joining the ranks of corporate America. He has a B.S. in Business Management from Western Governor's University and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). Steve currently resides in Boise, Idaho with his wife, Juanita. Together, they have a blended family of five sons.

For another Christmas deal on books:

Patricia Rockwell has dropped the price on Sounds of Murder on kindle to only 99 cents! 

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It helps us continue to do what we do!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Live Interview Tonight and Lots of Christmas Giveaways!

Please stop by Stacey Cochran's radio show and blog, Book Chatter.  I will be on tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time for a live interview.  The live IM chat is open for questions!  (Do I really have nine children? Are any of them twins? Where do I find the time to write? Is Blue Bells of Scotland fiction or is it based on my real experiences? Now's the chance to ask!)

Thanks, Stacey, for the opportunity!

Don't forget to click follow, leave a comment, or click like on my facebook page to be entered in the Eve of Christmas Eve gift card drawing.  Each follow, like, and comment (per post) is one entry.

If you love giveaways, try some more at these sites:


Prize details: Signed paperback copies of my books, kindle editions of my and other authors' ebooks (this is only available to customers because I'll be using the kindle gift facility and it's not up and running on yet), and an Amazon gift card worth $50/£30.

And here are some more:

Saffina Desforges is giving away free e-copies of Sugar and Spice.  Details are at her site.

J. Dean is offering buy one get one free, from now to December 31.  Buy The Summoning of Clade Josso at Smashwords and get a coupon for a free copy of The Summoning of Old Velt. 

Thea Atkinson has added a Rate Me feature, in which you can vote on blurbs for the chance to win free e-books.

For a fun contest, check out Claudia Lefeve's, running until December 26: the chance to be written in as a character in her upcoming book!  Find details at her site.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Blog Hop

If you're new to blogging, join the linky list, and check out some other new bloggers.

What do I like best about online book blogging?

As a reader, I like author interviews and getting insights into other authors' process and ideas. As a blogger, I have most enjoyed 'meeting' other authors and chatting with them about our shared love of writing and creating worlds and characters, and being introduced to a wide variety of new books.

Since I don't seem to be able to figure out the linky system quite yet, join the New Blog Hop at Lazy Girl Reads and have fun checking out some other new booking blogs!

My giveaway for an gift card goes from now until December 23.  Follow this blog, click like on my facebook page (link on right), or leave comments to enter!  Don't forget to leave an e-mail where I can contact you if you win! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weaving Magic!

In my ongoing series on time travel in fiction, Ian Weaver, is dropping by from England to talk about his time travel mystery/ thriller.  This post is the first in my Amazon Christmas gift card giveaway.  See the end of the post for details!

Ian was born in 1960 in Louth, Lincolnshire (UK) and although he had no thoughts about being an author, he did read a lot from an early age; mainly Enid Blyton - Brere Rabbit stuff. His father was Royal Air Force and Ian followed his lead - except he went into the Royal Navy. He was an Observer flying in Sea Kings doing Anti Submarine and Search and Rescue. Both roles play a part in his book Time and Again. He transferred to the RAF in 1989, as a Navigator flying the Tornado F3. In 1996, a midair collision left Ian with a broken neck, fractured skull, brain damage, smashed shoulder, 6 broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He has recovered quite well considering!

Ian says of his leap from flying for the Royal Navy to writing:

I started writing about 1993, as a way of learning word processing.  It was meant as a short story revolving around his experiences in the RN and done just for fun. Funnily enough (or maybe not that funny) my 'hero' (based on me I suppose) had a flying accident in a helicopter and received similar injuries. That was penned some 3 years before my own accident! During my years of rehab the story evolved into a 127,000 word novel. I have completed a sequel which is in the final editing stage with my publisher, and I'm currently working on the final book of the trilogy.

TIME TRAVEL: I didn't set out to include time travel - it just happened. In a way the book reflects a little on 'Life on Mars' (Don't know if you've seen it) but was written years before it appeared on British TV. Time travel is now central to the trilogy.

It starts as the hero co-existing in two worlds; one in which he is comatose in hospital and the other as a WW2 fighter Pilot. The idea evolves and grows through the sequel (real world and Antarctica ), and the third (real world and WW1 1917, Western Front). In book two I 'discuss' the possibilities of time travel, and my research has led me to some interesting finds. It has been proved that (at quantum levels at least) matter can exist in two places at once. The scientist that proved this went on to say that if it could be reproduced with human candidates, it would lead to either immortality....or instant death. I rather think the latter!

Time switching and maintaining time lines are something that, a) is critical, and b) is what I have found most difficult to achieve. Having said that, with plenty of reading, rereading, editing, rewriting and rereading it is not un-achievable. I run two timelines at any one point and one of the things I'm most proud of is that they are "...seamlessly interwoven" (see review on Amazon).

The reason I find it difficult is that my accident left me with a seriously bad short term memory. To achieve believable results I keep copious notes and timelines that I can refer to as I progress. The third book is especially difficult as there are visits and revisits to all three time periods covered in the trilogy; plenty of scope for getting it wrong!!!!

Time and Again


Lieutenant Tony ‘Harry’ Harrison was an Observer in the Fleet Air Arm flying Sea King helicopters on patrol in the Northern Atlantic.

Lieutenant Charles Bradshaw was a WWII ace pilot flying the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat from the USS Enterprise in the Pacific.

They couldn’t possibly know each other, yet somehow one would influence the life of the other and vica versa.

The consequences will be shocking affecting the lives of those close to both men.

Unravelling the mystery falls to Harry’s girlfriend, Laura, who must fight grief and turmoil if she is to keep her sanity and find the man she loves.
TIME AND AGAIN is the first action novel from Ian Weaver, a budding author who will take you on a rollercoaster ride through war, love, despair and happiness.

To enter the giveaway:
  • Leave a comment on this or any post from now until Christmas.  You must include an e-mail so I can contact you.  Each comment is one entry (one comment per post counts.)
  • Become a follower of this blog (one entry).
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  • Follow me at networked blogs (see right sidebar; one entry).
I will do a random drawing from among all commenters, followers, and likers about 9 p.m. December 23.  Prize is a $10 gift card to

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Night Writers Out and About

The Night Writers have had two book signings in the last couple of weeks.  We were at Borders Books on November 19, and at Maple Grove Arts Center on December 4.  Lyn Miller LaCoursiere, author of the Lindy Lewis series, will have another signing this coming Sunday, December 12, at the Maple Grove Arts Center from 2 to 5 p.m. for her new release, Suddenly Summer. 

The Night Writers will also be speaking and signing books Tuesday, January 25, at 1 p.m. at Plymouth Creek Center in Plymouth, MN.  Call the Plymouth Creek Center at (763) 509-5280 or stop by 14800 34th Avenue North in Plymouth to register.  Coming next spring, we will be holding a writing seminar at the Maple Grove Arts Center.

Lyn Miller LaCoursiere

Santa and Mrs. Claus browse Green Stamps to Hot Pants with Genny Zak Kieley

Looks like someone is getting Blue Bells of Scotland for Christmas!

Judd and Laura provide music.

Ross Tarry at Borders

Lyn Miller LaCoursiere and Judy Granahan

Laura Vosika

John Stanton

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vestal Virgin by Suzanne Tyrpak

About seven years ago (before my divorce, when I had some expendable income) I traveled to Rome with a group of writers. I fell in love with Italy, Rome in particular. A travel book I read contained a short blurb about vestal virgins; it mentioned they were sworn to thirty years of chastity and, if that vow were broken, they would be entombed alive. Ooooh, I thought, there’s a story!

My interest was further piqued when, on a tour of the Coliseum, a guide pointed out the seats designated to the vestal virgins. I found it interesting that, at a time when most women couldn’t read, the six priestesses of Vesta were educated—in fact they were in charge of all of Rome’s legal documents. Unlike most women, they were permitted private property and dealt with legal issues, making them extremely powerful.

On my return from Rome, I began researching in earnest. And, as I researched, the story developed. I needed a time frame, and I decided the great fire of A.D. 64 would provide a dramatic backdrop. And I needed a villain. Nero, the Roman Emperor, fit the bill—through research, mostly extensive reading, I discovered Nero had raped at least one vestal virgin. The only record of her is the family name, Rubria. That was perfect—gave me lots of leeway.

A book I found added a new dimension to the story, The Faith and the Power—the inspiring story of the first Christians and how they survived the madness of Rome, by James D. Snyder. When I learned Paul of Tarsus had been in Rome during the year I’d chosen to write about, my story really came together. I read a number of books about Paul; the picture I got tended to be “larger than life,” and it took me quite a while to “get” him as a character—a real, live, human-being.

Another indispensable book I used was History of the Vestal Virgins of Rome, published in 1934 by T. Cato Worsfold. This book offers valuable information about the vestals’ daily life, their clothing, and their duties. Very little has been written about them. In my search for information I wrote to Colleen McCullough, and she was kind enough to write back. She gave me the name of an out-of-print book that I’ve used a lot, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, by H.H. Scullard. I have shelves of books I use for research. One of my favorites is Deadly Doses: a writer’s guide to poisons. I also have a lot of books about herbs and natural medicines—and I’ve found great site online for researching herbs and poisons. This may sound a bit strange, but I love using the Eyewitness Books—extremely well-researched picture books designed for children. I have one called Ancient Rome, and I also have one about weapons. I like having the visuals right in front of me.

After writing my first draft, I decided I needed to get back to Rome, for the tastes, the smells, the lighting. I work for an airline, which allows me to travel inexpensively. In Rome I met with a scholar, who specialized in the year A.D. 63-A.D. 64, and he gave me an in-depth private tour of the Forum Romanum. He showed me where Nero’s palace had been before the fire, which really helped me visualize the setting for my story.

I’m originally from New York, so while visiting my family, of course I stopped off at the Metropolitan Art Museum and hung out in the Roman area. While doing research, I like to find things to make my experience tactile. That includes finding recipes from the time period and, if they aren’t too weird, preparing them. But I’m not about to attempt a dish using a hundred flamingo tongues or a swan stuffed with sea cucumbers—for that I’ll just use my imagination!

About Vestal Virgin:

Vestal Virgin—suspense set in Rome at the time of Nero, will be published on Kindle and Barnes & Nobel in mid-December. The introductory price for the novel will be .99 cents, just through January 1st, after that it will be $2.99.

Elissa Rubria Honoria is a Vestal Virgin--priestess of the sacred flame, a visionary, and one of the most powerful women in the Roman Empire. But when the emperor, Nero, brutally executes her brother, Elissa's world begins to crumble. Vestals are sacrosanct, sworn to chastity on penalty of death, but Nero holds himself above the laws of men and calls himself a god. He pursues Elissa, engaging her in a deadly game of wits and sexuality. Or is Elissa really the pursuer? Determined to seek to revenge, she stumbles on dark secrets and affiliates herself with a strange religious sect call Christians, jeopardizing her life and the future of the Roman Empire.

Warning: due to the setting and the times, the book includes several scenes involving deviant sex—suggestive rather than graphic—and not more than a few paragraphs.


Suzanne Tyrpak’s short story Downhill was first published in Arts Perspective Magazine. Rock Bottom is published in the Mota 9: Addiction anthology, available on Kindle. Her short story Ghost Plane (not included in the Dating My Vibrator collection) was published by CrimeSpree Magazine. Venus Faded appears in the anthology Pronto! Writings from Rome (Triple Tree Publishing, 2002) along with notable authors including: Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Engstrom, Terry Brooks and John Saul. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers awarded her first prize in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, and Maui Writers awarded her third prize in the Rupert Hughes writing competition. Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction) , a collection of nine short stories about dating, divorce, desperation (all that good stuff) is available on Kindle for .99 cents. J.A. Konrath calls it, “Pure comedic brilliance.”

Visit Suzanne's blog, Who’s Imagining All This?