Excerpt and an update: Battle Scars II, For King and Country

A_view_of_the_observatory_tower_of_Lincoln_Castle

Real life tends to get in the way of writing, of editing. I feel lucky to have talented author and editor Catherine Hedge combing through For King and Country. Cathy is on the last 50,000 words now. She did a lot of reading the last two weeks, which means I am now about 20 chapters behind her on edits!

I hope to be ordering proof copies around the 1st of March. By mid-month, the print will be in the hands of proof readers and I’ll be shipping the ebook formats to two others. After I have their feedback, I’ll update the manuscript for typos and formatting, cross my fingers and then hit “publish.”

Watch for my cover reveal later this month! I cannot wait to show it off. In the meantime, enjoy this short excerpt from For King and Country:

Henry and Bea escorted Amicia into the hall. The solar door closed with a groan behind them.

“Is he always like this?” Bea asked.

“Not always,” Amicia said quietly.

“Don’t lie.” The voice came from the landing at the top of the stairs.

Elle Weston. Henry drew in a breath. Elle was a more womanly version of the girl Alys had been at fourteen. Elle’s golden hair fell to her waist in two long plaits. She wore a leather jerkin that was custom fitted and showed her slender waist. Her gown was hitched up revealing boots that seemed more suited to a squire than to a lady.

Elle curtsied. “Forgive me, Sir Henry, Lady Beatrice. I’d been running the horses through their exercises in the yard when I heard you had arrived.” Her face beamed. “Blanc and Tal are from your stables, my lady. The finest of animals. Even my brother admits Cartholme has the best from London to York.”

“I was not aware he knew horses so well,” Bea said.

“He only repeats what I tell him.”

Amicia’s gaze flew towards the solar as if she expected Edric to rush out.

Elle trotted down the stairs. Alys had been meek and little-girlish when Henry had left for Outremer, so different from the mischievous and rebellious spirit he saw in Elle’s deep brown eyes. He was surprised that Edric had not found a wealthy match for her. Surely many had offered.

><><><><><><><><><><>

Lincoln Castle By LysNanna (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

><><><><><><><><><><>

men_small for blogSweeping battles, forbidden love,
and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
MEN OF THE CROSS
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree
and Readers’ Favorite
Get it from Amazon

 

Posted in Battle Scars, revising, teasers, works in process | 2 Comments

A mini prologue for Book II of Battle Scars

Coming soon…

1044681_446698448871074_6477593325856349677_n

For King and Country (Battle Scars II)

Posted in announcements, Battle Scars, teasers | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bringing in the new year…

Nothing like taking a break from cold Kansas.

24093786281_5af10d16c8_z

I am listening to the wind and the surf and working on final edits to For King and Country, Book II of Battle Scars. I’d love to stay here another month, but the day job is calling me back to the Plains in a few days.

When I look back on 2015 I think of all the wonderful support I have received from friends, readers, and other authors. I have met the most incredible people this year, both online and in person. Men of the Cross has received some great reviews. (And we indies certainly do appreciate your comments.) I was asked to be a regular contributor on English Historical Fiction Authors, and invited to participate on a couple of blog hops. I interviewed some fantastic authors. I hope you’ve had an opportunity to check out a few posts now & then!

2016 is going to be a great year. New book, new looks, and HNS2016 at Oxford! The blog will get a facelift soon. My son is helping me create new banners for the blog, Twitter and Facebook. Watch for my cover reveal later this month. The book blurb and historical note are shaping up nicely. I’m expecting feedback on the historical note by early next week. When it’s ready for prime time, you will get a sneak peek. Stay tuned…

Posted in Battle Scars, life, works in process | 2 Comments

Merry & Bright. White. Peaceful. Merry Christmas to You

The best of everything to you
and yours this holiday season
and in the coming year. 

1508637_10101397883142941_1693785308_n

 

Posted in life | Tagged | 2 Comments

Helena P. Schrader and Defender of Jerusalem

HPS-sculpture (2)I am delighted to have Helena P. Schrader on my blog today to talk about Defender of Jerusalem, Book II of her biographical series of novels about Balian d’Ibelin. Book I follows Balian from landless household knight to Baron of Ibelin, married to the Dowager Queen Maria Comnena. It is set against the increasing threat of Saladin who is unifying Muslim forces in the Holy Land. In Book II, the leper king, Baldwin IV, is dying. The Kingdom of Jerusalem must be defended not only against Saladin, but also against internal politics that are tearing it apart.

CN:  Welcome Helena! Primary sources are always critical for an author writing historical and biographical fiction. What sources did you use for research on the life of Balian d’Ibelin for this series? Were some years more sparse than others, and what was your approach when Balian was not identified as being present for notable historic events?

HS: The most important source for the life of Balian d’Ibelin is the lost Chronicle of Ernoul that was written by Balian’s squire. The Lyon Continuation of William of Tyre is considered the surviving source that is most closely based on the lost Chronicle of Ernoul. I also relied heavily on the Arab sources, Baha ad-Din and Imad ad-Din. For the general history of the period, William of Tyre is essential and the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi is useful if used with caution, as it is very biased and marred by ridiculous tirades.

Yes, there are huge gaps in Balian’s biography. We know virtually nothing about his early life, for example, and he is first mentioned at Battle of Montgisard in 1177, fighting alongside his elder brother. We also do not know where or when he died. However, based on the key role he played in several pivotal moments of the history of Jerusalem, it is possible to interpolate and develop a coherent story. This is fiction. I have changed no known facts, but I have created a great deal of new material, mostly to give the reader more insight into life in the crusader states in this period and to make the history come to life.

CN:  Defender has a multitude of colorful, historical figures who played key roles in the ultimate downfall of Jerusalem in 1187. Let’s talk about the major players… DEFENDER-OF-JERUSALEM-2

Guy de Lusignan becomes King of Jerusalem by virtue of his marriage to Baldwin IV’s sister Sibylla. He had been a rebellious baron in King Henry II’s Angevin Empire. What brought Guy to the Holy Land? 

HS: He was clearly fortune-hunting. This was a familiar pattern, followed by many in the period. Note, however, that Guy was not a baron in the West. He was the fourth son of the Lord of Lusignan, and at the time he came to the Holy Land, the family lands had passed to his eldest brother Hugh. He had two additional older brothers, Geoffrey and Aimery. Aimery had been in the Holy Land at least half a decade already, and is widely credited with suggesting to Guy that he come East.

CN: You made Guy a pretty despicable character, rivaling Reynald de Châtillon. Who is your favorite bad guy and why? 

HS: I’m going to confess, I had a very hard time getting inside Guy.

Guy was responsible for a completely unnecessary but utterly devastating defeat of the army of Jerusalem at Hattin, the consequences of which were the loss of the entire Kingdom to Saladin. Remember, a boy suffering from leprosy had managed to defeat Saladin again and again! There was absolutely nothing inevitable about Saladin’s victory, much less anything inevitable about the entire kingdom being overrun by the Saracens. Rarely in human history is a defeat as devastating as Hattin so clearly attributable to poor leadership. Guy de Lusignan must carry the personal blame for ignoring the good advice provided by Tripoli and supported by all the other barons. He alone caused the defeat at Hattin and the loss of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

So, that’s the historical fact. My problem was trying to create a character who was capable of such a monumental mistake. Some historians portray him as fundamentally weak, saying he just listened to the last person to talk to him. But then why wasn’t he talked out of his stupid decision by someone else before it was too late? Was he just stupid? But most people of limited intelligence recognize the fact and defer to those who are cleverer than they are. Guy didn’t. So not only was he stupid, he also had to be very arrogant and not have recognized his own weaknesses.

And then there’s the historical fact that Sibylla was madly in love with him. She defied all attempts by her brother and the High Court to get her to divorce Guy. She went to him in captivity. She even followed him to the siege of Acre and died there with her infant daughters. She was a devoted wife. Why? What on earth could there have been about this arrogant idiot that so completely enchanted her?

I had to imagine characters with traits that would explain both his and Sibylla’s historical behavior. I didn’t set out to make Guy despicable, but then again he couldn’t have been very nice or he would not have alienated the entire High Court of Jerusalem and made a bitter enemy of his brother-in-law Baldwin IV, would he?

CN:  That was my feeling about Guy – he appeared to respect no one and completely ignored the advice of men who had so much more knowledge of Saladin’s tactics and the harsh, unforgiveable terrain. I’m not certain who is more the idiot – Guy or Sibylla! She sacrificed her Kingdom for love or lust.

Reynald de Châtillon had been in the Holy Land since the Second Crusade. Would you call him a competent military leader? He seemed to spend a lot of time breaking treaties and raiding Muslim caravans, and had been captured in 1161 and spent 15 years in captivity. Do you think that influenced his character? Did he have any influence over the decisions King Guy makes regarding the Battle of Hattin?

HS: Fifteen years in a dungeon had to leave psychological scars, especially since Châtillon was allegedly kept chained in a dungeon not politely under “house arrest” as other prisoners like Raymond de Tripoli. However, some of his most notorious acts of brutality predated his imprisonment. He either flogged and tied up or buried up to his neck in sand the Patriarch of Antioch, then smeared honey over his wounds and/or head, and left him (crawling with flies) in the sun until he agreed to give Reynald money. Reynald next attacked the friendly, Christian island of Cyprus, pillaged and laid waste to towns, sacked monasteries and raped nuns. Breaking truces and attacking caravans were really some of the milder things he did, and arguably some of the more useful.

As Bernard Hamilton makes clear, his raids into Sinai and his famous Red Sea raids with warships were well timed to prevent Salah ad-Din from consolidating his power in Syria and really served the interests of the Kingdom of Jerusalem very well. I think you can argue that in his early career, particularly as Prince of Antioch, he was more interested in his own wealth and power, but after he was released from captivity his hatred of the Saracens was honed to the point where his violence was directed against them rather than his fellow Christians. He was certainly brutal and ruthless, but he was also very intelligent with a brilliant grasp of tactics and strategy— which precludes him being on the side of those who urged Guy to abandon the Springs and march the Army of Jerusalem toward Tiberias. He just wasn’t that stupid. The honor goes entirely to Gerard de Ridefort, the Master of the Temple, who never showed a shred of tactical sense in his entire life and recommended the suicidal advance to Guy, and Guy de Lusignan, who—as I said above—retains the lion’s share of the blame for following that idiotic advice.

CN:  Barry and Sibylla – fact vs. fiction – What does the historical record have to say about their betrothal? I wasn’t aware that Barry (Balian’s brother) was asked by Baldwin to declare that Barry and Sybilla had been betrothed, officiated by a priest.  What drove you to pursue that path? 

HS: It was logical. King Baldwin IV desperately wanted to eliminate Guy from the succession. He went to great lengths to try to exclude him — e.g. by crowning his nephew co-king during his lifetime and later making his barons swear to consult the Kings of France and England along with the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor about the succession rather than accept Sibylla (much less Guy). Furthermore, a church synod was convened with the explicit purpose of finding a means to dissolve Sibylla’s marriage to Guy. As the saying goes, where there’s smoke there’s fire. The church needed a basis for declaring Sibylla’s marriage to Guy invalid. Consanguinity, the usual excuse for aristocratic divorce in this age, just wouldn’t work with Guy as they weren’t related in even the most distant way. Nor could it be claimed that either party to the marriage had been too young to consent. Sibylla was nearly 20 and Guy older. That left only “pre-contract” as a possible tool for invalidating the wedding, and there had obviously been rumors about Sibylla and Balian’s older brother being betrothed. These rumors are recorded by William of Tyre, and Saladin’s ransom demand for the elder Ibelin — which was substantially higher than that for even reigning kings — is a clear indication that the rumors of an impending marriage between Baldwin d’Ibelin and Sibylla had reached all the way to Damascus. The fact that Byzantine Emperor helped pay the ransom tells us that the rumors had reached Constantinople as well. So what could have been more obvious than to try to use that well-known fact as a means to remove Guy?

CN:  I love your portrayal of the relationship between Balian and his wife, Maria Zoë. She exemplifies the strong, highly-competent, medieval woman. Because she was a dowager queen, was there a lot in the historical record of her life, or do former queens disappear into the woodwork, overshadowed by husbands, or in her case, by her step-son Baldwin IV?

HS: Thank you! Unfortunately, there is not that much known about Maria Comnena in large part because she did not try to interfere in political affairs after she was widowed and remarried, except for the famous incident in which she was instrumental in convincing her daughter by King Amalric, Isabella, not to make the same mistake Sibylla had made. Maria convinced Isabella to set aside an unpopular husband in favor of a man backed by the barons and bishops of Jerusalem, something that was very much in the interests of her former kingdom.

What we do know about her is that she benefited from the high level of education that Comnenan princesses routinely enjoyed, and that she appears to have been a patron of the arts, who encouraged an influx of Byzantine artists to the Kingdom of Jerusalem during her husband’s reign. After she was widowed, she held the extremely wealthy barony of Nablus for life, and defended it against Saladin. Since she could not be forced to remarry and had more than enough income to live in the height of luxury, we can be sure her second marriage was of her own choosing. We know she was safely escorted from Jerusalem by Saladin’s Mamlukes after Balian agreed to take over the defense of Jerusalem, but that she did not scuttle for safety in the Byzantine Empire, but rather remained in her adopted country. We know she had used her influence to convince her daughter Isabella to set Humphrey de Toron aside and marry Conrad de Montferrat. Isabella became Queen of Jerusalem and all subsequent monarchs of the kingdom were descended from her.

CN:  I also must commend you for your vivid description of the Battle of Hattin, which was a devastating defeat for the Christians and led to the downfall of Jerusalem a few months later. In this (as well as other conflicts) you describe the tactics of battle and the terrain, and you capture the emotions of men in the thick of battle. It is exhilarating, but horrifying!

What strikes me as I read Defender book are the parallels to current events. After 800+ years humans still argue whether aggression is the best response to fanaticism. We can always speculate – would Saladin have continued his campaign (and been victorious) if King Guy had ignored Ridefort’s advice that led to the loss at Hattin and ultimately Jerusalem’s surrender?  

HS: If you’re asking me, I think if the Christian army had followed the tried and true tactics of Baldwin IV, they could have held Saladin off in 1187 — and every subsequent year he invaded until he died. They only had to hold him off that long, because it was predictable that at his death his empire would either completely disintegrate into warring factions or be far too preoccupied with internal power struggles to have the resources to invade the crusader states. While the Christian kingdoms suffered from a shortage of male heirs, the Muslim states generally had too many. Saladin, remember, had 17 sons, and primogeniture was not as well established in the Muslim states at this time, giving ample room for younger sons — or brothers as in Saladin’s case — to lay claim to the succession. So it was really just about fighting defensive wars until Saladin died. I think they could have done that under almost any king but Guy — William de Montferrat had he lived, Baldwin de Ramla, had Sibylla married him, Raymond de Tripoli. Anyone but Guy.

CN:  What do you personally consider the most important theme or topic covered in Defender?

HS: Most books about the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th century end with Hattin. They describe this military disaster and then wipe their hands of the whole kingdom — the settlers and native Christians, the farmers, merchants, tradesmen, churchmen, wives, widows and children — and effectively say “and the rest is history.” Well, yes and no. What happened may have been inevitable, but there were still some 400,000 Christians living in the crusader kingdom that were suddenly defenseless and leaderless. This was a terrifying and shocking moment!

I wanted my readers to take the time to confront that fact and put themselves in the shoes of those who weren’t at Hattin, but were impacted by it. I also wanted to show how remarkable the defense of Jerusalem under the circumstances was.

People tend to dismiss the defense of Jerusalem in 1187. The city fell in just days rather than after weeks as in the First Crusade. Yes, well in the First Crusade there was a garrison of crack Egyptian soldiers defending it, the “useless mouths” (such as Christians) had been expelled to ensure it could withstand a siege better, and the attacking army was a decimated remnant of the crusader force, half-starved and too small to even encircle the city! In 1187, Saladin had a huge, well-discipline, battle-hardened and extremely well supplied army to besiege the inside, while inside there were NO fighting men in Jerusalem at all! Women and children outnumbered able-bodied men (meaning priests, youths and elderly who had not mustered with the army) by 50 to 1. Think about that: fifty women and children to each man. Not just that, the city was flooded with refuges. The population had swelled to at least three times the normal — and all those women and children had to be fed. The defense of Jerusalem in 1187 was an amazing statement of faith, courage and charismatic leadership.

CN:   Are you well into writing book 3 in the series?  What time period does it encompass? When can we expect to see it published?

HS: Defender of Jerusalem ends with Balian’s surrender of Jerusalem to Saladin. The third book in the series, Envoy of Jerusalem, opens in Tyre, where Maria and her children are, when news reaches the city that Jerusalem has fallen. It describes the siege of Tyre by Saladin, the release of Guy and Aimery de Lusignan and Humphrey of Toron from Saracen captivity, and the subsequent efforts to regain the lost Kingdom of Jerusalem including the siege of Acre, and the Third Crusade. It ends when Richard the Lionheart sails back for England and some of the remaining prisoners are finally released.

I’m still hoping to release Envoy of Jerusalem next summer or fall.

CN: What’s next on your writing agenda? 

HS: That depends on how well the Balian trilogy sells. Envoy of Jerusalem does not end with Balian or Maria’s death and though both disappear from the historical record, a lot was going on in the crusader states in the period after Richard sailed away. Several key secondary characters in the trilogy, namely Isabella, Aimery de Lusignan and his wife Eschiva d’Ibelin, were key actors in those events. For example, Aimery de Lusignan, who is a character in all three of my Balian books, became first King of Cyprus and then, after marrying Isabella, King of Jerusalem as well. He reigned longer than his younger brother Guy, by the way, and much better — though that wasn’t hard. At one point his wife, Eschiva d’Ibelin, was captured by pirates too. I personally think it would be fun and interesting to add a final volume to the series that covers these exciting events as well and escorts Balian (and maybe Maria) to their graves.

I’ve also already written a three-part novel set in 13th century Cyprus featuring the completely fictional nephew of Balian and Balian’s historical sons, John and Philip, in their revolt against the Holy Roman Emperor, Friedrich II. If there is any interest, I could re-work and release those books.

But in the absence of strong interest in any more Ibelin books, I will turn to a project I’ve been planning for well over a decade now, a biographical novel about Edward the Black Prince and his cousin and wife, Joan of Kent. Great material here! But, of course, changing time periods will require a huge amount of additional research and the development of new marketing platforms etc. A lot of work that I can’t tackle before I retire.

CN: I know many people eagerly await Envoy. Balian has become part of the family and I would miss reading about him if the series ends with Book 3, but your other projects sound intriguing, too!

Defender of Jerusalem is available on Amazon for Kindle and in print. Thanks so much for visiting today, Helena. 

BIO/LINKS

Read more about Helena on her blog, http://www.helenapschrader.com. Follow her posts on the crusader kingdoms of Cyprus and Jerusalem at Defending the Crusader Kingdom, http://defendingcrusaderkingdoms.blogspot.com

Helena has published numerous works of fiction about the Middle Ages and Sparta and works of non-fiction. You will also find Helena on social media on GoodreadsFacebook, and YouTube.

Posted in historical fiction, interviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

IndieBRAG Holiday Blog Hop

ALL-ABOARD-with-medallion
I have joined indieBRAG Medallion honorees for the month of December, on  http://www.bragmedallion.com/, for  this Christmas Blog Hop. Participating authors will share tales of Christmas traditions and more. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays to you!

Traditions…
Dad worked on the Christmas tree lot for the Optimists Club every year, selling beautiful and fresh-smelling pines and cedars. He could have xmastressbrought home the fullest, tallest, most gorgeous tree, but money was always tight. We didn’t get the Charlie Brown tree, but we’d inspect the ones in the back of the lot and find one that was misshapen – you know, that one that had a noticeable gap in the branches. But it was our tree! Covered in lights, balls, and tinsel (and with that gap facing the corner wall), it was perfect.

When I was growing up, the tree would go up in the first or second week of December. My mom made the holidays so festive – she loved to fill the house with greenery, sparkly lights, Christmas candles, even Christmas-y soaps in the bathrooms. The dining room table would be decked out in holiday colors, except when it was laden with presents being wrapped! One present that wouldn’t be there was Dad’s gift for Mom. Around 3 or 4pm on Christmas Eve, Dad would say ‘let’s go.’ We were off to the store to find a gift. He always knew exactly what he was going to buy, so we weren’t parading from one shop to the next. Straight to the appliance section for that new microwave; or to the jewelry counter – sometimes to both!

Mom made food gifts every year. Fudge, a dozen variety of cookies, and lasagna! We had lasagna-making parties. Four or more of us would sit at the kitchen table. Four types of cheeses would be shredded (none of that already shredded package stuff). Cooked noodles were in one bowl; more were cooking on the stove top. And the sauce – oh my! Mom called it her ‘meat sauce’ recipe, but Grandma Natale called it gravy.

My old card with Mom’s recipe is well-splattered, and I use the kitchen counter now to pull together my versions of sauce and lasagna. My pot is about 1/8 the size of the one Mom used. If you want the recipe for the meat sauce, I blogged about it 3 years ago; and Mom’s lasagna was delicioso! Lasagna has been our traditional Christmas dinner since I was a kid. Last year, we continued the tradition at my daughter’s house. My sons couldn’t join us, but they do remember that wonderful lasagna.

Nowadays at my house the tree trimming begins the day after Thanksgiving. I want to enjoy the holiday lights – including my Yoda tree-topper –  for several weeks. In my single-parent household,  we usually celebrated the holiday a week early every other year. The kids got two Christmases – one in Kansas and another in Florida. We enjoyed the tree when they returned, sometimes until the end of January. I do admit, I stop playing Christmas music on New Year’s Day.

What is or was your favorite stocking gift(s)?
Chocolate. Do people put other things in stockings?

What is your favorite Christmas story?
That’s a tough one… How about 3?
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; and
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

Egg Nog or Cocoa?
I can have cocoa anytime throughout the year, so egg nog is a real treat during the holidays.

What is your favorite part of Christmas day?
I love the smell of spaghetti sauce bubbling away on the stove top for hours, the lasagna & italian sausage cooking, garlic bread baking, and just relaxing with family with Christmas lights blazing and music playing.

Do you go all out on Christmas decorations?
That would be a “yes.”  

(I had to include the blizzard picture – that was Christmas Day a few years back!)

What is your favorite Christmas movie and why?
White Christmas
. I love the music & singing, the dancing, the story. I cry every time the General sees what his friends and family have done for him. A favorite memory is of Mom and her sister Betty doing the sisters’ routine for a party at their retirement community.

Thank you for stopping by. Check out the other indieBRAG holiday participants. The next stop on the indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop is tomorrow, December 13, with Martha Kennedy 

Happy Holidays to you & yours.

Posted in blog reading, life, marketing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout – 8 Authors, 8 Days, 8 Great Sales!

historical fiction promotion blogpost bannerGet swept away to
Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire (past & present),
the Crusades, the War of the Roses, the Regency era, and the Golden Age of Piracy.
Eight authors share the history and setting of their books.
Be sure to follow the links after my post to
read all the authors’ posts and then go pick up a great read
for only 99cents/99p for the holidays!

HHFB2
Men of the Cross
Time period: Medieval – 12th century

Richard the Lionheart. Saladin. Who hasn’t heard these names? I wasn’t a student of medieval history back in high school or college, but I knew of these two men. Sadly, I would not have been able to tell you they lived in the 12th century and were involved in the Third Crusade. Those were things I learned around 2007 when a BBC Robin Hood series placed them in context for me, and subsequently led to my overwhelming need to write a novel set during that war.

But first, I had to do a lot of reading and research!  So let me take you back to the 12th century, to the time of the Third Crusade…

A Time of Conquest
Throughout the 1170s and 1180s, the ruler Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, also known as Saladin, unified Muslim factions from Egypt to Syria. His army defeated forces of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin in July 1187. Nearly every Christian stronghold in the region, including the major coastal port cities of Ascalon, Jaffa, and Acre, fell to Saladin and he set siege to the city of Jerusalem. When word arrived in Rome in late October of the devastating loss at Hattin (where Saladin had also captured remnants of the True Cross), Pope Gregory VIII issued the call for a holy crusade. The city of Jerusalem had surrendered to Saladin in early October, but that news had not yet reached the Christian West.

Political alliances
For many Christian princes, kings, and nobles, the call to crusade meant putting aside regional conflicts. Among them, Henry II of England and Philip II of France had fought on and off in the 1180s in what is present-day France, but agreed to lay down arms. Unfortunately, Henry’s son Richard, Duke of Aquitaine – the man who came to be known as Lionheart – had become incensed when Henry would not recognize him as his heir unless Richard relinquished Aquitaine to his younger brother John. Richard responded by pledging loyalty to King Philip, and the conflict between Henry and Philip with Richard continued until Henry died in July 1189. At that time, Richard and Philip agreed to a peace and began to make plans to go to the Holy Land. Richard was crowned King of England in September 1189, and he and Philip met in Vézelay (in present-day France) the following April to begin the arduous journey to the Holy Land.

Richard and Philip had little love for each other, and as history would prove, Philip could not be trusted. Richard arrived in the Holy Land in June 1190 and joined Philip and other forces involved in the siege of Acre, including those of another future enemy, Leopold of Austria. Taking back Acre would be a critical step in the campaign to secure Jerusalem.

Religion and the Church
The Church dominated the lives of Christian peoples in medieval times. Secular rulers in the West answered to the Pope’s authority (though throughout the period, political struggles did exist). The call for the Third Crusade that came from Rome promised salvation for any person who “took the Cross.” It may have motivated many to this pilgrimage (as it was called then) to Outremer to wash away sins. Sin was also forgivable through confession – penances and/or a coin or two in clerics’ pockets would do the trick – and even the worst of sins could be forgiven. The idea of Heaven and Hell were very real.

Men of the Cross
This sets the background for my novel Men of the Cross. The young knights Henry de Grey and Stephan l’Aigle join the thousands of men in spring 1190 on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Henry is a devout Catholic and a naive, inexperienced warrior. Stephan is a battle-hardened knight who is cynical about the Church. The events of the novel and the developing relationship of the two fictional main characters takes place over the period March 1190 – March 1193, from Henry’s first meeting with Stephan and boarding a boat in Southampton to rendezvous with King Richard in Tours for the journey East until their return to England.

The reader becomes part of Richard’s army through the eyes of Sir Henry and Sir Stephan – they observe their king’s struggles first-hand. Life in a medieval army is not filled with flowery chivalry. These men cross great distances over land and sea, survive the elements, see the horrors of war, nearly lose their own lives in fights against the Saracen army, and come to question their beliefs about love and war. Henry struggles with his growing feelings for Stephan knowing that sodomy was a mortal sin in the eyes of the Church. Political intrigue abounds as Richard’s allies become enemies. Through it all, the knights’ loyalty remains with Richard.

They will endure battles in Messina, Sicily, the siege and massacre at Acre, the coastal march south with skirmish after skirmish, the Battle of Arsuf, Jaffa, and the march east to Jerusalem – twice – the truce with Saladin – sailing home – the harrowing flight through Bavaria where King Richard is captured – and back to England. You will be there.

historical fiction promotion blogpost bannerlindaA Similar Taste in Books – by Linda Banche

Historical Period: Regency

Synopsis:
Book 1 of Love and the Library: Clara and Justin

“Pride and Prejudice” has always brought lovers together, even in the Regency.

Justin has a deep, dark secret—he likes that most despised form of literature, the novel. His favorite novel is “Pride and Prejudice”, and, especially, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Intelligent, lively, fiercely loyal Miss Elizabeth. How he would love to meet a lady like her.

Clara’s favorite novel is “Pride and Prejudice” and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Intelligent, steadfast and willing to admit when he is wrong. Can such a splendid man exist? And can she find him?

One day in the library, they both check out copies of their favorite book. When Justin bumps into Clara, the magic of their similar taste in books just might make their wishes come true.

A sweet, traditional Regency romantic comedy novella, but not a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice”.

Website: http://lindabanche.blogspot.com/2015/11/holiday-historical-fiction-blowout-day.html
Sales Link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/247691
On sale for 99 cents at Smashwords only with coupon code FF67C (not case sensitive)

<><><><><><>
December 2

derekKingdom of Rebels – by Derek Birks

Historical Period: Fifteenth Century – the Wars of the Roses

Synopsis:

When all hope is gone, only death lies in wait…

England in 1468 is a nervous kingdom. King Edward IV has fallen out with his chief ally during the Wars of the Roses, the powerful Earl of Warwick. 
Ned Elder, a young lord whose sword helped to put Edward on the throne, has been forced out of England by Warwick.

Far away on the Scottish border, a beleaguered fort, Crag Tower, desperately awaits Ned’s return. Led by his fiery sister, Eleanor, the dwindling garrison is all that remains of his brave army of retainers. Unknown to all except the loyal knight, Ragwulf, Eleanor has Ned’s young son in her charge – a son who has never seen his father. But, as border clansmen batter the gates with fire, the castle seems certain to fall. 

One by one Ned’s family and friends are caught up in Warwick’s web of treason. The fate of the Elders and those who derek2serve them lies once more in the balance as all are drawn back to Yorkshire where they face old enemies once more. Eleanor can only hope that Ned will soon return. She must fight to keep that hope alive… and when Lady Eleanor fights, she takes no prisoners…

Website: http://bit.ly/1NZfXfF

Sales links
Amazon UK:   www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00MQA6826/
Amazon.com:  www.amazon.com/KINGDOM-REBELS-Rebels-Brothers-Book-ebook/dp/B00MQA6826

<><><><><>

December 3 

lucianaSearch for the Golden Serpent   (Servant of the Gods, Book 1) – by Luciana Cavallaro

Historical period: – 600 BCE Ancient Greece

Synopsis:
The story is about Evan, an architect whose been having strange dreams. He received an unexpected phone call from an entrepreneur from Greece who wants Evan to restore his Family’s home. He dismissed the caller and regarded the person as a crank. During a dream, he met the mysterious entrepreneur, Zeus, who catapulted him back in time, five hundred years before the birth of Christ. Evan, an unwilling participant finds himself entangled in an epic struggle between the gods and his life.

luci2Website: http://luccav.com/2015/12/01/hhfb/#more-2071
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Search-Golden-Serpent-Servant-Gods-ebook/dp/B00TO8TT9W/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1424238434&sr=8-6&keywords=luciana+cavallaro
Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/520605
Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/search-for-the-golden-serpent

 

<><><><><><>

December 4

adamChildren of Apollo (Eagles and Dragons – Book I) – by Adam Alexander Haviaras

Historical Period:   The Roman Empire, A.D. 202

Synopsis:
At the peak of Rome’s might a dragon is born among eagles, an heir to a line both blessed and cursed by the Gods for ages.

Lucius Metellus Anguis is a young warrior who is inspired by the deeds of his glorious ancestors and burdened by the knowledge that he must raise his family name from the ashes of the past. Having achieved a measure of success in the emperor’s legions in North Africa, Lucius is recalled to Rome where he finds himself surrounded by enemies, cast into the deadly arena of Roman politics.

Amid growing fears of treachery, Lucius meets a young Athenian woman who fills his darkening world with new-found hope. Their love grows, as does their belief that the Gods have planned their meeting, but when an ancient oracle of Apollo utters a terrifying prophecy regarding his future, Lucius’ world is once more thrown into chaos. Ultimately, he adam2must choose sides in a war that threatens to destroy his family, his faith and all that he has worked for.

Website: http://eaglesanddragonspublishing.com/blog-writing-the-past-2/
Available here on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo: http://eaglesanddragonspublishing.com/books/children-of-apollo-eagles-and-dragons-book-i/

<><><><><><>

December 5

helenSea Witch (Voyage One) – by Helen Hollick

Historical Period: The Golden Age of Piracy – 1716

Synopsis:
Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves – his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.

He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes – until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife – and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of “all that is good.” Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah’s jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.

When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship – the Sea Witch – is put in Jesamiah’s path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.

In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother’s ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?

Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the helen2Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne’s soul and bones as a trophy.

Website: http://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/holiday-histories.html
Amazon Author link: viewAuthor.at/HelenHollick
Universal Amazon link: viewBook.at/SeaWitch

<><><><><><><>

December 6

alisonINCEPTIO – by Alison Morton

Historic Period: Modern/Roman (alternate history)

Synopsis:
New York, present day, alternate timeline. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, and a ready-made family in a strange culture she often struggles with. Just as she’s finding her feet, a shocking discovery about her new lover, Praetorian special forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her.

And the enforcer, Renschman, is stalking her in her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why this Renschman is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

alison2Website: http://alison-morton.com/2015/12/01/holiday-historicals/ ‎
Purchase links:
Amazon (universal link): http://authl.it/B00K5OO4QW?d
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/inceptio-2
iBooks (UK): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/inceptio/id903741754
iBooks (US): https://itunes.apple.com/book/inceptio/id903741754
NookBook (UK): http://www.nook.com/gb/ebooks/inceptio-by-alison-morton/2940149661541
B&N Nook (US): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/inceptio-alison-morton/1114342315?ean=2940149661541

<><><><><><>

December 7

charMen of the Cross (Battle Scars I) – by Charlene Newcomb

Historical period: Medieval – 12th century

Synopsis:
War, political intrigue and passion… heroes… friends and lovers… and the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend await you…


Two young knights’  journey to war at Richard the Lionheart’s side sweeps them from England to the Holy Land in this historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade.

Henry de Grey leaves Southampton in high spirits, strong in his faith and passionate about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s army. Stephan l’Aigle’s prowess on the battlefield is well known, as are his exploits in the arms of other men. He prizes duty, honour and loyalty to his king above all else. But God and the Church? Stephan has little use for either.

Henry’s convictions are challenged by loss and the harsh realities of bloody battles,
char2unforgiving marches, and the politics of the day. Man against man. Man against the elements. Man against his own heart. Survival will depend on more than a strong sword arm.

Website: http://charlenenewcomb.com/2015/11/30/holiday-histor…iction-blowout/ ‎
Amazon (universal link) ‪http://mybook.to/MenoftheCross 

 

<><><><><>

December 8

lindsayFlavia’s Secret – by Lindsay Townsend

Historical Period:   Ancient Roman Britain, 206 AD

Synopsis:
Spirited young scribe Flavia hopes for freedom. She and her fellow slaves in Aquae Sulis (modern Bath) have served the Lady Valeria for many years, but their mistress’ death brings a threat to Flavia’s dream: her new master Marcus Brucetus, a charismatic, widowed officer toughened in the forests of Germania. Flavia finds him overwhelmingly attractive but she is aware of the danger. To save her life and those of her ‘family’ she has forged a note from her mistress. If her deception is discovered, all the slaves may die.

For his part torn between attraction and respect, Marcus will not force himself on Flavia. Flavia by now knows of his grief over the deaths of his wife Drusilla and child. But how can she match up to the serene, flame-haired Drusilla?

lindsey2As the wild mid-winter festival of Saturnalia approaches, many lives will be changed forever.

 

 

 

 

Website: http://www.lindsaytownsend.co.uk/2015/12/holiday-historical-fiction-blowout.html
On sale at Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/flavias-secret

 

Posted in historical fiction, marketing, reading | Tagged , , | 6 Comments