Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! From the land of Alice in Wonderland’s cat… er, I mean Cheshire, England! 🙂 Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome V.L. McBeath!

Where do you live and write from?

I live in Cheshire, a county in the north west of England, UK,

Why do you write? / When did you start writing?

It was never my intention to be an author. I only started writing about ten years ago as a result of researching my family history. During the process, I unearthed a number of revelations about the lives of my ancestors, which made me think they had quite a story to tell. I argued with myself for months as to whether I could write their lives as a family saga but eventually decided to give it a go. I told myself that if it was no good, I wouldn’t share it with anyone.

It took about five years before I realised I hadn’t done too bad a job and so decided to work towards publishing it. I put the first main book out in March 2017 and the final part of the series in July 2018. After spending so much time writing, I found I actually quite enjoyed it, and so decided to carry on.

What genre(s) do you write?

The first series (The Ambition & Destiny Series) is a historical family saga, set in Victorian-era England. I also have a series of historical murder mystery books (Eliza Thomson Investigates).

What does your writing routine consist of?

Most of my writing takes place in the evening. I spend most mornings at the gym, and once I get home I tend to work on the publishing and marketing side of the business. I also have a non-writing consultancy business that takes up varying amounts of time.

Of an evening, I usually give myself an hour to be sociable with my husband (LOL) and watch a bit of TV, before disappearing back to my office to spend 2-3 hours getting some writing done.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

Obviously for the first series, all the inspiration came from my family history. The fictional elements that were worked into the story were based on my best guesses as to what might have happened between the real-life events.

For the murder mystery series, my amateur sleuth Eliza Thomson was inspired by two characters in The Ambition & Destiny Series. One was Harriet. She was a fabulous character to write about but as a woman who longed for an education and a place in what was obviously a man’s world, she had a very difficult life. In contrast, another character, Charlotte had a wealthy, dotting father and wanted for nothing that money could buy. Eliza was ‘born’ when I wondered what Harriet would be like if she’d had the same opportunities as Charlotte.

As for the murders, I suppose some of my inspiration comes from people who have annoyed me over the years!

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

Definitely a planner, although with The Ambition & Destiny Series, not so much as I first thought. My original outline spread the story over nineteen chapters, and I expected to produce a short novella. In reality, the story ended up as a five-book series, with something like 400 chapters!

For the Eliza Thomson Investigates series, I have to plot everything quite meticulously to make sure I plant the right clues and red herrings as I go along and make sure Eliza can work out who the killer is at the end.

In terms of speed, that depends on the book. The historical fiction ones take longer as there is a lot more background research to do to ensure historical accuracy. Once the books of either series are plotted, however, I can now get the words written quite quickly.

Tell us about your latest book

I’ve been fortunate that The Ambition & Destiny Series has done a lot better than I initially expected, leading many readers to ask if there would be more books in the series.

As far as the main storyline is concerned, that ended in 1910 and won’t be extended. I have had a couple of ideas for spin off books though and I’m about to release a new book based on the lives of my great x4 grandparents.

Set in 1808, The Young Widow is a standalone story that can be read either before or after the rest of the series. It is currently available for preorder at a special introductory price and will be published on 27th January. In addition, as with the rest of the series, it will be available in Kindle Unlimited.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?


As I was contemplating publishing my first series, I wrote a whole blog post on why I wasn’t even going to bother going down the traditional publishing route. Everything I’ve learned since hasn’t changed my mind.

In short, it’s about control. Being based on my family history, The Ambition & Destiny Series was special to me and I didn’t want to hand it over to anyone who might want to change it.

In addition, traditional publishers now do very little that authors aren’t expected do for themselves anyway. If I have to get my work edited before I submit, build up a marketing plan and have social media followers before a traditional publisher will consider me, I might as well do it myself and keep all the royalties.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

Yes, I’m still working on the Eliza Thomson Investigates series and the fifth book in the series is also available for preorder, although it won’t be released until May 2020.

I also hope to start researching another spin off book in The Ambition & Destiny Series.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

You can’t edit a blank page.

When you’re working on a first draft, just get the words down. It doesn’t matter if they’re not exactly right, if you repeat yourself, or if there are still gaps. That’s what editing is for and where the ‘magic’ happens. So my philosophy is to get the words down first and worry about them later.

I always do several rounds of self-editing before I send it to my professional editor and the difference between the final version and the first draft is incredible.

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Happiness is…


Ah, that shelved historical novel… although I’m sure Kaylyn and Bran do the same with Robert when in London in the 1160 (so about 20 years before the historical novel)! 😉

Sunday Surprise

And it’s a guest! Remember I said about the Author of the Month? Well, here she is! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Laurel A. Rockfeller! 😀

Where do you live and write from?

Perhaps stereotypically, I am a wandering artist. I was born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA where I received my bachelor of arts from the University of Nebraska in stage/film writing via integrated studies, psychology, and history. From there I’ve wandered all over United States. I presently and very temporarily live in western Pennsylvania which I hope to leave in coming months.

By 2016, I plan to immigrate to the United Kingdom and southern England in particular. I write dramatized history and recognize the benefit to my writing that comes from walking the places where my histories actually happened.

I need each of you to help me make that happen.

I will most certainly welcome you to this side of the ocean, athough I live much further south than the British Isles… but then, who knows, maybe by 2016 I’ll also manage to move to the UK and we can meet there! 😉 When did you start writing?

There’s really never been a time where I have not written or composed. I grew up in a particularly harsh evangelical Christian home where domestic violence was effectively condoned – no matter how far it went. I coped with the violence (which included rape by my father starting before the age of two) by singing and composing, making up songs, poems, and stories which I told to my pets as a preschooler and which took written form once I entered school.

As far as the published writing goes, my first national publication came in 1991 when the Minas Tirith Evening Star published my sonnet, “Why Bilbo?” in its edition honoring the 100th birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I was originally published as a poet and songwriter. In 2001 that evolved into non-fiction history writing for newsletters in the Society for Creative Anachronism. In 2008 Bird Talk magazine published two of my articles about the quirks of raising cockatiels. Finally, in August 2012 I published the first edition of my first novel (now out of print in favor of the extended edition from January 2013) from the Peers of Beinan Series and have been a self-published independent author ever since.

I am impressed… What genre(s) do you write?

With three book series, I am of course multi-genre.

The Peers of Beinan Series is science fiction (set in another galaxy), supernatural/fantasy, clean romance, adventure, and mystery/thriller. Since the stories focus on nobles, royals, and so forth (hence “peers”), there is a lot of political intrigue to the books and novellas.

The Legendary Women of World History Series is a series of biographical novellas exploring the lives of women who have shaped our history. Genre-wise they sit smack in the middle between creative non-fiction history and historical fiction. There’s not enough fiction in them to really consider them fully historical fiction. At the same time, I have to name anonymous historical persons and often invent details and conversations in particular that never made it into the historical record. That established, I stick to documented historical events. For example, we know from Tacitus that Boudicca married King Prasutagus of the Iceni and had two daughters with him who were twelve in 61 CE. In my narrative, you see Prasutagus and Boudicca meet in Camulodunum (now called Colchester), hear Prasutagus’ express romantic interest in her, and finally attend their wedding with them. Are these scenes fiction or non-fiction? That’s really in the mind of the reader.

American Stories ranges from historical fiction to dramatized history. These are stories entirely set in the United States or its historical precursors. Book one looks at Irish immigration to Nebraska in the 1880s. The second book, started on August 1st, tells the story of Charlotte Woodward Pierce, the only attendee at the Convention at Seneca Falls (1848) to live to see women cast ballots for the first time in 1920.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

Excellent question. History really is my biggest source of inspiration – not only in who I choose to explore in the biographies, but also with the Peers of Beinan Series as well. Beinarian culture is a fusion of medieval and modern British societies mixed with some Asian cultures and history as well and with an exciting mix of “heritage” and “modern” technologies. That is to say that Beinarian peers will use a heritage (medieval Earth) crossbow as readily as a laser crossbow that shoots plasma quarrels. In this I am grateful to my over twenty years with the Society for Creative Anachronism because I’ve had the opportunity to watch these different weapons in action and sometimes use them on the practice target range. There are several archery scenes in the books. Actually shooting a bow for an afternoon did much to help me write those scenes.

As for putting myself into the stories – I am surprised how much I do that. In chapters one and two of Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, King Prasutagus courts Boudicca much in the way that I wish to be courted someday. Prasutagus was flawed – his bad choices forced Boudicca into her confrontation with the Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus – but I would like to think he was also a gentleman in the best sense of the word. So their interactions very much reflect my personality and my desires for the future.

Likewise, I see a lot of different parts of myself in most of the Peers of Beinan Series protagonists.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

Not usually. Ghosts of the Past had the most formal outline I’ve used to date simply because it was the middle chapter of my first trilogy.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I tend to improvise. With the biographies, obviously I need to follow history extremely closely. But within those constraints, I let the characters/historical persons take me along for the ride.

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is the second novella in the LWWH Series on the life of Catherine de Valois. If you know your Shakespeare, you’ve already heard of Catherine – she was “Kate” in “Henry V” and married King Henry on 2nd of June, 1420. As I discovered in my research, Shakespeare’s version of her was radically different from the real person, making me wonder how Shakespeare kept his head given that she was King Henry VII’s paternal grandmother through her second marriage to Owen Tudor.

Catherine lived at the heart of extraordinary times. Across her life, civil war tore France apart. Her father, King Charles VI suffered from disabling mental illness and violent paranoid delusions. Adding to this the newly crowned King Henry V of England, seasoned by his wars against the Welsh, used her as an excuse to not only war with France, but commit terrible atrocities against the women and children of Rouen. Fortunately for her, King Henry’s obsession with eliminating all rivals to his claim to the French throne took his life on 31st August 1422, making her the most eligible widow in Europe – one that Parliament was determined to control. What happened next changed the world forever.

It’s a fantastic history that I hope all of you will explore. Like all my other novellas, Catherine is only 99 cents/75 pence, making it very accessible.

Also, if I may, I would like to let everyone know of an upcoming release this month.

All summer long, gifted UK actor Richard Mann has recorded Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni into an audio edition. It is with great pleasure that I announce that Boudicca is now in post-production and will be live on itunes, audible, and Amazon websites very soon, so please watch for it. Take a listen to my favorite scene from chapter three at

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

I am an independent author. As to why, I think I was always daunted by traditional publishing. I felt like I had no clue how or where to begin, who to approach, and so forth. So when I learned about independent publishing in 2012, I knew that was the way to go for me.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I am currently writing FOUR books right now.

For the Peers of Beinan Series, I am continuing work on book three, “Princess Anyu Returns.” Book two, “Ghosts of the Past” ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I know folks are eager for Returns. You can read deleted scenes and chapters from Returns in “The Lost Tales.” I am taking my time with this book because the story and the world building needs to be up to my meticulous standards. Making this book especially complicated for me to write: the exile of Princess Anyu on D425E25 Tertius makes me work from TWO different planetary systems and reference points at the same time. Beinarian units of time, distance, and so forth have to be used even though this alien planet is extremely alien to the princess – with a local solar day being less than 1/5th of a beinor (Beinarian day) long. This is of course very disorienting for her, especially early on, which merits a careful handling.

Once the narrative moves past her exile and we are back on Beinan, I think the writing will go much quicker!

Next, I am writing the third Legendary Women of World History novella, “Empress Wu” which is about the only woman to rule China entirely in her own right. Empress Wu was extraordinary not only for this achievement in the 7th century CE, but she was the first monarch in the world to patronize agriculture as science and academic discipline. Literature written by women thrived through her example and patronage. We really do own a lot to her trailblazing, even though most westerners have never heard of her.

Third, I am working on the second American Stories book with a tentative title of “Charlotte’s Vote.” Charlotte Woodward Pierce was the only signer of the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments from the Convention at Seneca Falls to survive to see women cast their ballots in 1920. Sadly, she was too ill to cast one of her own. Charlotte’s Vote is the story of how American women gained many of the human rights we take for granted. If you know nothing about American women’s history, you will find this an eye-opening read. In the meantime, I suggest Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony called “Not For Ourselves Alone” which is one of the sources I am using for the story.

Finally, I am writing a non-fiction e-book tentatively called “American Poverty: Why American Treatment of the Poor Undermines its Authority as a World Power.” The e-book collects about four essays I wrote for Yahoo Voices on poverty in America, then adds analysis from The Shriver Report and finally draws conclusions about poverty and how this affects America’s reputation abroad.

I have already been labelled a “traitor” by some members of the tea party just for taking on this subject, so I have high hopes it will be as broadly read and debated as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was during the American War for Independence. In my humble opinion, it is time we stop ignoring poverty and its effects on our society and start caring again for one another. This is something each of us can do something about and is a dialogue we need to have much more of.

 What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

I want to stimulate the sorts of debates and dialogues that lead to social change for the better. I believe in social justice. I believe we make the future what we want to make it with every choice in every day. We can convert our lawns into gardens and not only provide our own diets with fresher and healthier food, but give that which we cannot eat to those who are struggling to have enough to eat. We can be kinder, more compassionate, and less judgmental. And we can believe again in the future.

If there is a recurring theme across my books, it is HOPE. No matter how dark or how much death and pain is around you, there is always a reason to hope and believe in a better future. So I want to create cultures of hope around the world.

Author social media/website

Find Laurel’s books on Amazon at, on Smashwords at, and on GoodReads at or visit her websites at and, her blog at, or on social media.



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Sunday Surprise

My name is Brenda de Zorig and I’m a journalist for the Konigtown Gazette. I’ve been on the road for years as an actress in an itinerant company, but eventually decided to go back to my hometown to start living of the thing I like the most – writing. So while I write my Masterpiece, I took this job at the Gazette and they send me on various assignments… I thought I might as well starting interviewing random people. Since I intend to write fiction, but truth is always stranger than fiction, I’m eager to hear about people out there – on my world or beyond.

Aristocratic_Lady_15th_b1899sdLet’s see who we have here today… she looks like a lady to me! Hello, there! Tell me something about yourself.

My name is Catherine de Valois. I was born October 27th, 1401 at the Hotel Saint-Pol in Paris to King Charles VI of France and his queen consort Isabeau of Bavaria. I am famous for my first marriage to King Henry of England, but I did not love him. Instead, I found true love when I defied Parliament to marry my second husband, Owen Tudor.

I knew she was a noblewoman! Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

Fair, regal, French, elegant.

Do you have an enemy or nemesis? If so, who are they and how did they become an enemy?

The enemy of France is my enemy. This Henry king of England insists on warring with France. He slaughtered the women and children of Rouen who surrendered to him. Yes, I hate him, even though the Treaty of Troyes forced me to marry him on the 2nd of June in the Year of Our Lord 1420. Fortunately for me, he died of a camp fever on the 31st of August in 1422, sparing me decades of strife suffered by his foremother, great Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine when she married Henry II.

Would you kill for those you love? And would you die for them?

Enough blood had been shed in France over this monster of a king of England. Neither my death nor the deaths of others can bring the innocent back.

I got that. Even if your kingdom has been at peace for years, doesn’t mean I don’t know about power struggles between noble families and royalty. Where do you live?

I am originally from Paris where I lived until my marriage to King Henry after which I lived in London. Upon my marriage to Owen Tudor, I spent the rest of my years in Hertfordshire where I gave him three sons.

Are you involved in a relationship? If so, with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

My first husband was King Henry of England. I was forced to marry him on the threat of further slaughter of my people. However, I did find true love with Owen Tudor, defying Parliament in order to marry him. As a noble Welshman, Owen too has suffered much from King Henry’s relentless soldiering. He was forced to move to London as a child after his family lost everything in the last real war of independence against England, so we relate very well to one another.

I get that! What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

Between my father’s mental illness, King Henry’s wars against my people, and the political intrigue led against me by the Duke of Bedford, it is very hard to choose a “biggest” challenge.

Indeed! Do you have a family? Tell me about them.

My father Charles VI of France suffered violent fits of madness ever since I was born. My mother, Queen Isabeau of Bavaria largely ruled France as regent.

My younger brother Charles became Charles VII while I was queen of England – it was he who was the “dauphin” in the famous stories about Jehanne d’Arc.

I gave King Henry a namesake son who became known as Henry VI, the youngest king ever crowned in England.

I have three sons by Owen Tudor: Edmund, Jasper, and Owen (Brother Edward Bridgewater).

Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

In 1422 I gave birth to my son Owen in Westminster Abbey while visiting my oldest son King Henry VI. I was literally talking to the king on one of my rare visits to see him (no thanks to Parliament’s hostility against me) when my water broke and I went into labor.

Ouch! Ah, well, us women are born to suffer… anyhow, I see a gentleman here… let’s see what he has to say! Tell me a little about yourself, sir.

I am Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England. I was born the 16th of September in the Year of Our Lord 1386. I died on the 31st of August in 1422.

*wrinkles her nose* I’ve already heard someting similar, with different names… Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

Strong, athletic, battle-scarred, charismatic, with fire in my eyes.

Ahem! Well, fine. Not bad for a king. What is your role in the story?

As the son of Henry Bolingbroke, cousin of King Edward III, I have been a warrior all my life. Upon my father’s ascent at King Henry IV, I fought the Welsh on his behalf, putting down once and for all the last real challenge against English authority by Prince Owain Glyndŵr.

After becoming king of England, I turned my attention to France, fighting to conquer France starting in the spring of 1415. On the 25th of October I won the Battle of Agincourt and married King Charles VI’s daughter, Princess Catherine de Valois on the 2nd of June, 1420.

So, you’re Catherine’s first husband… Where do you live?

When I am home in England, I live in London. Most of the time, however, I live in France, camping with my armies.

Are you involved in a relationship? If so, with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

It is my divine right to marry Catherine. That she seems to hate me is irrelevant. She will do her duty in my bedchamber or I will treat her as the French woman that she is.

*snorts* Men. They think they’re so important in our lives… What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

Catherine’s brothers are still alive and therefore a threat to my claim to the throne of France.

Do you have a moral code?

I am a devout Roman Catholic who does my best to live a pious life.

Please give me an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.

I am the first king in English history to mandate government and court documents be written in the English language since the Battle of Hastings in 1066 instead of French or Latin.

Mmm, interesting. It’s always good to hear about other kingdoms and how they deal with administration and all that stuff! Thanks to both of you for talking to me today… Brenda de Zorig signing off.


Book(s) in which the character appears and links

Catherine de Valois

Author bio & social media/website

Born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska USA, Laurel A. Rockefeller is an amateur scientist and amateur historian known for her lavish world building in her Peers of Beinan science fiction series and her meticulous research across all three book series: the Peers of Beinan, the Legendary Women of World History, and American Stories.

Laurel is the first novelist to index paperback books using QR technology for smartphones, enabling a truly interactive paperback book reading experience.

Laurel’s books are all available in a broad range of digital formats at major retailers including the Kindle store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and the ibookstore with more limited offerings in paperback, QR interactive paperback, and large print editions.

Gifted British actor and voice actor Richard Mann narrates Laurel’s audio book editions, beginning with “Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni” which is coming soon to audible, itunes, and Amazon.

Find Laurel’s books on Amazon at, on Smashwords at, and on GoodReads at or visit her websites at and, her blog at, or on social media.



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Random Friday

Not sure if I’ll be able to post from somebody else’s computer, so I’m scheduling this ahead of time. I was planning on discussing my readings anyway, so here goes. Last week I the Writing World newsletter that had two articles on historical fiction – one from Moira Allen and the other by Victoria Grossak. Both discuss about accuracy in historical fiction.

What I had from my own experience is: never read a book (or watch a movie) set in a time period I have thoroughly researched and of which I have a fairly clear idea. My vision is probably different from the view of the author, and it would spoil the fun. So no more fiction set at the end of the 12th century for me! 🙂

When I started researching that particular time, I thought I should read more fiction set then, but my reading time was (and still is) limited, so I stuck to old ballads (available on Project Guttenberg) and medieval chronicles. I read some 19th century depictions of it (including one that was so historically incorrect I laughed all the way through it – and Sir Walter Scott is a novelist, not an historian, so I’m baffled as why he’s considered an expert of the Middle Ages. He wasn’t. He wrote fiction), but wasn’t too happy with them.

Kindgom of Heaven was so historically incorrect that it turned me off Ridley Scott doing historical movies. So yeah, this goes for movies as well. The only historically correct (because it had a Medievist behind it, Franco Cardini) is The Kinghts Who Made The Quest – but there are no women there. So when I wrote my own historical novel (still in the drawer, for those who’ve been following me from the beginning), I had to make up stuff for my maiden. And she still has less room that the two knights – wasn’t sure what she could do with herself in a male-dominated world! 🙂

Now I can go back to writing historical fiction and watch historical movies – as long as they’re not set between 1180 and 1215 (Magna Carta, in case you were wondering). I haven’t studied the other centuries as thoroughly as the end of the 12th, so I can be pleasantly surprised again – and won’t notice if the author takes a poetic license! 🙂

Coming back to the 21st century and Steve Job’s Mighty Mac, D2D has made Star Minds available on the i-bookstore in a couple of days. I’ll be adding the links to the US store, so if you’re anywhere else in the world, you’ll have to look them up. I assume that if you buy on i-tunes, you have tamed Mighty Mac (unlike me) and can find your way around it! 😉

Technological Angel i-bookstore US

Mind Link i-bookstore US

Slave Traders i-bookstore US

I’m hearing there are problems with B&N PubIt!/Nook Press, but as I can’t go direct, I’ll let my American friends to worry about that…

I took the train for Torino having finished the first Snippet – Ker-ris’s wedding. And I’m doing some drawings of the other characters – I did a first attempt at drawin Lin-sun, but I wasn’t too happy with it, so I redid her. But I will color them all when I come back, so next week I might send you to my DeviantART gallery for some new art!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Linky Saturday

OK, a few links for your weekend.

David Gaughran on incorporating historical figures into a narrative with a very good example from his own book. He’s also a guest at Joe Konrath’s blog with his own experience.

Dean Wesley Smith links to Penguin’s decision to moving to POD and Joe Konrath acts as Writers Beware on the BookCountry/Penguin deal. Joe is right, no need to pay Penguin and let them grab 30% of your royalties when you can upload your stuff for free and keep earning. Really, how hard can it be to format for those e-retailers? Come on, if technophobe me can do it, so can you! 😉 And I have Open Office, not Word, which means I had to adjust to the instructions in the Smashwords formatting guide… I guess the Bix 6 are panicking…

Clarion on promoting without selling – a guest post by Chris Evans. And a very detailed review of free press release sites.

Last but not least, Self-published Author’s Lounge Mari Miniatt on Google+ – you can have your brand page now. But I don’t think I’ll join yet. I have enough with Facebook, Goodreads and this blog! 😉

A couple of contests: for you NaNoWriMoers, there’s a contest for your first chapter – and you must send it out now, unedited! Yep, they want it raw. Small cash prizes. Also, Lulu has launched a short story competition which might make you win a Nook or something. If you can write 600 words (I know I can’t! ;-)) go check the contest page.

Also, Creative Reviews is hosting the 1000members giveaway, so if you’re on Goodreads, join the group and enter the giveaway – and don’t worry, if you don’t like ebooks (Soul Stealers is one of the prizes), the other two prices are dead-tree books, signed! 😀

That’s all from me for this week! Back to writing – although I have a “busy” weekend (meaning I have to socialize, so not much writing can be done, sniff! The Hermit Writer), but hopefully on Monday I’ll be able to print out that first draft and start the revisions. Still have to give it to the alpha-reader at the end of the month, and I need time to do the revisions and re-read it…

Have a great weekend!

Historical research

A short Facebook “discussion” between me and Mesmered on Tuesday  prompted me to do this post. Here was the exchange (my comment to her posting of Mark Williams piece about her):

# (me) I see I’m really NOT the only one writing about Richard and John Plantagenet’s times! 😉

# (Mesmered) Medieval era highly popular, Barb. It’s all that ‘no washing’ that does it!

# (me) Funny I’ve just reminded people that they DID wash in the 12th century… 😉

(which is something I mentioned in my comeback post, of course). So here goes the evidence! 🙂

p.s. I know she was joking, but many other people were very serious in their objections, hence this post…

Bathing evidence from the Chanson de Gestes by Chretien de Troyes (translations available at Project Guttenberg)

Erec & Enide

She had laid embroidered cushions and spreads upon the couches, where they all three sat down Erec with his host beside him, and the maiden opposite. Before them, the fire burns brightly. He brought them water for washing in two basins. The table was soon set, cloths, bread, and wine set out, and they sat down to supper.


The time for the meal had come, and those whose duty it was hastened to set the tables. The tables in the hall were quickly spread, then while some took the towels, and others held the basins, they offered water to all who came. When all had washed, they took their seats. And the King, taking Cliges by the hand,

made him sit down in front of him, for he wished to learn this very day, if possible, who he was. Of the meal I need not further speak, for the courses were as well supplied as if beef were selling at a penny.

You must know that baths are not lacking here, nor anything else which a lady needs, and which I can think of or recall.

These quarters are good enough for such a guest; for there are bedrooms, and bathrooms with hot water in the tubs, which comes through pipes under the ground.


Every day the has him bathed, and washed, and groomed. And besides this she prepares for him a robe of red scarlet stuff, brand new and lined with spotted fur. A Golden buckle for his neck, ornamented with precious stones which make people look well, a girdle, and a wallet made of rich gold brocade.

Then they say no more about the box, but minister in every way they can to the comfort of my lord Yvain, bathing him and washing his hair, having him shaved and clipped, for one could have taken up a fist full of hair upon his face. His every want is satisfied: if he asks for arms, they are furnished him: if he wants a horse, they provide him with one that is large and handsome, strong and spirited.

She relieves him of all his arms, nor was it the least attention she bestowed on him when she herself washed his neck and face. The lord wishes that all honour should be shown him, as indeed they do. She gets out from her wardrobe a folded shirt, white drawers, needle and thread for his sleeves, which she sews on, thus clothing him.


Standing beside the table, at the end of a bench, they found two basins of warm water in which to wash their hands, with a richly embroidered towel, all white and clean, with which to dry their hands.

Then the knight and his two sons extend a glad welcome to their guests. The rest of the household were not backward, for even the least among them prepared to perform his special task. While some run to prepare the meal, others light the candles in profusion; still others get a towel and basins, and offer water for the hands: they are not niggardly in all this. When all had washed, they take their seats.

Forget Sir Walter Scott! Let’s rewrite the history books! 😀

(and no, they’re not constantly bathing in my novel, but they DO bathe after a journey or stuff like that… they’re well-mannered knights and ladies, after all! ;-))

UPDATE that has nothing to do with the previous post: I’ve had my first interview! Read it at wonderful Chrystalla Thoma’s blog, she was very kind in having me! Check it out, especially if you’re new to this blog! 😀

Workshop retreat in Wales

Well, that was another adventure. Not really getting there, but leaving. I thought they’d keep me hostage in Wales until the sun came back and I could be able to properly visit Harlech castle (which would have probably meant until spring ;-))! 😀 But this will be the topic of the next post – the traveling hassles, I mean.

The venue was neat, stables turned to house with a big living room with very comfy sofas – considering I spent indoors most of the week, it was a very important feature! 😉 I traveled from London with my roommate Daphne and we met with Jan Fortune Wood (the workshop runner) and Becky and settled in.  Sort of. For the first time in my life I 1) locked a trolley on a train (I usually lock luggages only on planes) and 2) locked the key INSIDE the trolley (one of those neat TSR-approved locks – TSR has keys to them, I didn’t). So I had to cut the trolley zip open, fish for the key and open it. How to ruin a brand new 40euros trolley. More on this later.

The morning after Gill came in, and later in the week Karen. Mornings were spent with writing exercised and individual workshops. I gave the first (rewritten) chapter of Air, which was discussed by all on Tuesday. Considering the other lovely ladies were mostly poets, they were very nice about my fantasy outlet. Being the writer that I am, I refuse to read aloud, so Jan and Karen volunteered to do it for me – how sweet! 😀

Afternoons were for one-on-one workshops and mentoring with Jan. I found my copy-editor for Air, and she promised to help with my book blurb, so I’m very happy. We also had readings after dinner once or twice, which was fun.

The only time I left the house was to get to Harlech (the town) on Monday to buy needle and thread. The castle was closing, so we couldn’t visit it, and as I kept hoping for a not-rainy-not-windy day, I ended up not visiting it – but Gill and Daphne went the day after and bought me the guide. So I sewed the zip of the trolley and managed to close it again – and in spite of me not being so good with needle and thread, it held until I got back home. I will have to decide if I get rid of it or keep it a little longer – the Stitched Trolley has now a name, haha! 😀

I also had time to read, so I went through 2 novels in 5 days – mine and “Lady of the Glen” by Jennifer Robertson (the link doesn’t give the edition I have, though…). The latter is historical romance, so it was useful to get into the mindset of historical novels. It’s set in 17th century Scotland when the Mc Donalds of Glencoe were slaughtered for almost no reason. You can google history if you wish so. I knew it was historical romance as the two protagonists meet in chapter one, even if she’s still a child and it takes them literally years to get together (mostly because they’re from warring clans, Campbell vs. McDonald, so it’s just another Romeo&Juliet story – or not?).

What was harder for me was getting the dialogues. I dinna ken what to make of those strange words at first. Och, aye, I understood the meaning, but kept struggling with them. But the end of the book I got them, though, so it wasn’t that bad. I dinna ken if I’ll ever be able to do something like that, though. I willna. Now way. But I promise I’ll try to keep the 21st century slang out of my historical dialogs! 😉 The sex quantity was just right, and the same I plan on having in mine… although it’s NOT historical romance (they CANNA meet in the first chapter as they live quite apart, haha)! 😉

I’ll leave you with my exercises on metaphors:

The open air market in the summer / The streets at rush hour.

busy ants running errands.


The sight of Earth from space,

blue marble on a black playground.

(the ladies hadn’t seen Men in Black, but I did… not very original, I know! ;-))

The return of the crusader

Here’s how it all started. Doing my research on the Middle Ages, I found this statue and the short story behind it.


Le retour du Croisé - Hugues de Vaudémont, parti en 1147, retrouve son épouse (XIIsiècle) Nancy, Musée Lorrain


Translation of caption: Return of the Crusader – Hugues de Vaudémont, who left in the year 1147, reunites with his wife. She waited for him faithfully for 14 or 16 years… That’s the Second Crusade (1145–1149), and I’m following the third (1189–1192), but you get the point!


close-up of Return of the Crusader


So I started with a crusader – although at the time they didn’t call themselves “crusaders”, but they spoke of  “taking the cross”. At first I thought to put Robin Hood in the story, except Robin Hood is a legendary figure invented much later and there’s no evidence of an historical person who could become the legendary outlaw in the 12th century.

Thus I went back to the idea of knights, tournaments, chivalry and courtly love. I’ve seen what is left of Brocéliande forest back in 1999, so my knight comes from Little Brittany, his best friend from Normandy, his wife is Anglo-Norman living near Lincoln. Historical characters they meet are William Marshall, Richard Lionheart and Philippe Auguste, John Lackland, Saladin and a few “minor” names found in chronicles of the time (too many to list them all).

I look forward to check my notes and add more specific research in some areas I might have overlooked when writing the screenplay. I read that when pitching historical novels you should point out what in the novel would appeal to readers in the 21st century, as good historical fiction shows us what binds us together as human beings from different historical periods. So here are the reasons for this novel:

  • 12th century crusades are the equivalent of 21st century struggle between Christianity and Islam
  • 12th century chivalry is totally lacking in the 21st century, but maybe reminding us that it existed might help us to believe again in honor and faith
  • hatred for “other” and ignorance of  “other” were present then and are still quite present today, as is the clash of civilizations.

Hence I believe contemporary readers can learn something from those men and women and events of the past.

I pitched it on an agent’s blog as “conflict between Christianity and Islam” and she looks forward to reading it! So stay tuned for more. As soon as I finish the Books of the Immortals, I’ll dive into this brilliant new adventure! 😀

historical research frenzy

Apparently historical novels are doing well again, even according to agents – at least on Books&such they mention them and why write them today.

Having made up my mind, I’m sort of in research frenzy again. Looking through old notes, trying to prepare a bibliography so far and even finding new topics to look at. Some things weren’t necessary in a screenplay, because they were the production designer/costume designer’s business, but in a novel, they’re MY business! 😉

Also I’m thinking of approaching and interviewing reenactors, because I own a sword replica (just like Elspeth Cooper), but I’ve never used it (I’ve been told it would break in a real duel, it’s not made for use, only for display), so I have no idea of which muscles are involved in battle. Heck, I don’t even know what muscles get sore after a horse ride! 😉

But this is going to be fun. I chose the 12th century because that’s what Sir Walter Scott tackled and he was not an historian and gave us some preconcieved notions of the middle ages that I will try to bring down. I also read another novel from 1901 “Richard Yea and Nay” which was fun to read, but historically inaccurate. Heck, I’m the one who got mad at Ridley Scott (or better, his screenwriter) for screwing history in Kingdom of Heaven! 😉 I had just studied that part and seeing it “Hollywoodized” drove me nuts. I think I wrote the screenplay to counterbalance that movie. But then I’m not Ridley Scott, so I don’t have the backup to have it made. Hence let’s write the novel instead! 😀

so I’ll put those CDs back in the CD player and listen to old troubadour’s songs while I do more research, imagining it’s Richard’s voice singing “Ja nuls om pres non dira sa razon“. Of course it will still be fiction (albeit with historical characters interacting with mine), but I’ll try to take most inspiration from those medieval chronicles so easy to find on the internet now – God bless free e-books of out-of-copyright texts!

I guess it’s easier to do research if you already know the story, like Prue – or myself now. When I started researching, I had no idea of what I was looking for. Now I can focus on some aspects I might have skimmed upon when writing the screenplay. I know where my characters are and whom they interact with at every moment, so I can really focus on other aspects such as a more rich prose than the one necessary to write a screenplay!

Of the castles, only one really exists, the others are invented (or you could say they didn’t get to us as they were destroyed, but maybe the ruins can be found buried in Yorkshire and Normandy! ;-)). For the names, I tried to be accurate. I’ll try to read some more chanson de geste while I’m at it, squeezing it among the TBR books…

But I must remember at some point research must end, and I must start the actual writing! Like Eeleenlee says, it’s easy to get lost in research! 🙂 Happy writing!

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