a final quote, a Goodreads giveaway, and my author’s note

quote from Men of the Cross Almost there! I received the print proofs for Men of the Cross yesterday, a day earlier than expected. I’ll have 4 sets of eyes to look it over while I continue formatting the ebooks for Kindle & Nook (and whoever else uses the .epub format). I hope to push the publish button next week.

I have a giveaway set up on Goodreads. Scroll down the page and you’ll see the link on my page to Enter to Win 1 of 3 print (and signed) copies. The giveaway will run until May 15, so sign up if you’d like.

To celebrate the upcoming release, I thought I would share my “author’s note” from the back of the novel.

~ ~ ~


The history of the Third Crusade is well-documented by several chroniclers who provided slightly different versions of the events of the day. Some of the history was written in the years following King Richard’s departure from the Holy Land after a three-year truce was signed with Salah al-Dīn. (In the novel, I choose to refer to him as most Christians did: Saladin.) I depended heavily on primary source translations, including Nicholson’s Chronicle of the third crusade : A translation of the Itinerarium peregrinorum et gesta regis ricardi, and Riley’s The annals of Roger de Hoveden, comprising the history of England and of other countries of Europe from A. D. 732 to A. D. 1201. I turned to those works and Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitaine: a life for initial background information.

As I delved deeper into Battle Scars, my list of resources grew to include numerous biographies of King Richard I, other historical figures of the day, and general histories of and articles about society and culture in the Middle Ages. (Working at a large university library has its perks!) Miller’s book, Richard the Lionheart: the mighty crusader, has a wealth of information about fleet and army logistics. The number of pilgrims, those we commonly call crusaders, varies wildly in reports from the chroniclers. Ambroise’s Estoire and the author of the Itinerarium mention 100,000 Christians and 300,000 Turks (or Saracens as the term I chose to use to mean all those in Saladin’s army). Both figures are greatly exaggerated. Actual estimates for the crusader army are closer to 20,000, with 6,000 horses. The Saracens numbered 25,000-30,000. The logistics of moving and feeding this 12th century army in a land far from home, especially under such adverse conditions as the weather, the terrain, and Saladin’s scorched earth policy, are incredible. Miller estimates that man and beast required 67 tons of food and 180 tons of water per day, most of which had to be carried with the army. He also notes that “Actual quantities [of supplies] are seldom recorded in the accounts that remain…but surviving records showing that 50,000 [horseshoes] were provided by the county of Gloucestershire and another 10,000 by Hampshire.” (p.168)

While the primary sources and others detail Richard’s actions, I had no intention to recreate every moment, but rather tell the story through the eyes of two fictional characters: Sir Henry de Grey and Sir Stephan l’Aigle. An early turning point for Henry and Stephan in Battle Scars occurs with an incident regarding the first reported fatalities. The armies of Richard and Philip of France had not even departed the European continent when a bridge over the Rhone River at Lyon collapsed in July 1190. Ambroise describes the scene as utter chaos with hundreds of people, animals and wagons plummeting into the rapidly-raging river. The chroniclers report only two deaths (or two bodies recovered per Ambroise) from that mishap. Scholars note that deaths among the “common” people often were not reported.

“But those who in the morning passed
Crowded the bridge so thick and fast
Misfortune did them overtake.…
the arch fell and they tumbled in,
and were shouting, groans and din…
The water there so fiercely surges
That little which falls in emerges.”
–Ambroise, The crusade of Richard Lion-Heart

Henry and Stephan are present for many of the events of 1190-1193. The joy of writing two fictional characters within an historical setting is that I am able to weave their fictitious lives around actual events. It gives me—without the benefit of being there myself—the chance to imagine what they saw and what they felt. Henry and Stephan are onlookers to the actions of the king. They have some intimate knowledge of King Richard’s inner circle but other sights and sounds are strictly their own and mine.

So forgive me, dear readers, if I slipped in an occasional anachronistic phrase, if I inadvertently missed or barely touched on key moments, or altered a date or an event to allow my two young knights to be participants. I have done my utmost to stick close to the historical record.

I did incorporate the translations of some of Richard’s words to his advisors, and in at least one instance, I placed those utterances on a different occasion on the road to Jerusalem for the pace of the story. I chose to use a fictitious character to deliver the news to Richard of Philip of France’s decision to leave the Holy Land in July 1191. It lets me add a bit more drama to that scene while showing the nature of allies and enemies. The fictitious messenger is a “hat tip” to my coffee shop acquaintance, Mick, who gave me The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny. De Charny, who must be France’s equivalent of William Marshal (England’s greatest knight), is Mick’s 14th century ancestor. De Charny and his family (through his mother) had close ties to French kings in the 13th and 14th centuries. I decided to extend the family’s relationship back to the 12th century with a paternal, rather than a maternal, connection.

The details of the Lionheart’s journey after he left Acre in October 1192 are not as well-documented. Some events are debated among scholars so I admit I have taken poetic license. In my research, I have not discovered the names of all of Richard’s companions as he journeyed through Bavaria. I chose one reported version of his capture because it added to the “adventure” of this novel. Queen Eleanor received news of Richard’s capture in mid-January 1193 and my research of the literature did not indicate who delivered that news. Why not Henry, Stephan and their friend Sir Robin?

Though one of the underlying themes of Battle Scars is the relationship between Henry and Stephan, I do not refer to the question of King Richard’s homosexuality. Twentieth century scholars suggested that Richard was gay, though more recent scholarship shows the “evidence” is circumspect. Like other forms of sex outside marriage, it was considered a mortal sin. The late John Boswell notes severe punishment, including death, did exist in some countries in the Dark and Middle Ages. However, Boswell also cites evidence that the “crime” of homosexuality was dealt with no more harshly than other forms of adultery, with a fine or penances to be offered for as little as a year.

Lastly, I would like readers to know that the final scene of Men of the Cross was actually the beginning of this labor of love. At a weekly meeting of my writers group, I shared a short story with Cathy, Marie, and Mark. The characters struck a chord with them. The Robin Hood legend—my take on it—is birthed in the novel because of their encouragement. Why not include the man who becomes the legend rather than just have a “Robin-like” character? My writing group wanted to know more about Henry, Stephan and Robin. How did these men, who fought at Richard the Lionheart’s side in the Holy Land, arrive at that moment on the battlements of a castle on the south coast of England in the early spring of 1193?

So I give you Men of the Cross, book 1 of Battle Scars.

As I closed in on completion of the first draft of Men of the Cross, plot possibilities for a sequel invaded my thoughts. It demanded to be written. As I publish Book I of Battle Scars, the second book in this series, For King and Country, sits in rough draft form on my hard drive (and in the Cloud because I am a huge believer in back-ups). The continuing story will follow Henry, Stephan and Robin in England as they reunite with their families and friends. The actual events in England of 1193-1194, when Richard languished in captivity and was held by the Duke of Austria and the Holy Roman Emperor, are well-known. My three knights will be part of that history, uncovering a plot by John, the king’s brother, to usurp Richard’s throne. I will expand the Robin Hood legend in Book II, including an explanation of Robin’s family history in Lincolnshire. Many familiar characters become integral to the plot, but I will approach their backgrounds from my own perspective. I hope you will stick around for the adventure.

For a list of my reference resources and to monitor my progress on Book II, please drop by my website, http://charlenenewcomb.com.

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seasons change. . . and so do characters. . .

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“It’s really irritating when you open a book, and 10 pages into it you know that the hero you met on page one or two is gonna come through unscathed, because he’s the hero. This is completely unreal, and I don’t like it.”–George R.R. Martin

Henry de Grey, my main character, “leaves Southampton in high spirits, strong in his faith and passionate about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s army.” You should be able to tell from my quote this week that the Henry you will meet in March 1190 in the opening chapter of Battle Scars I is a far cry from the man he will become by the end of the book. A good story shows more than just show a day-in-the-life. It shows a character changing, reacting to the people and the world around him. I wouldn’t want you to get bored. Come, join Henry’s adventure with Sir Stephan and Sir Robin whilst they serve Richard the Lionheart on the Third Crusade.


Winter has turned to Spring, and I have been promising a spring publication date. That gives me until mid-June, right? Just kidding. :) I am ordering the remaining cover graphics this weekend from Travis at probookcovers.com.  Next week I hope to upload the files for print and e-book versions for Amazon and order my proof copies to look over. I should be able to have the Nook version available about the same time as the Kindle version if all goes according to plan.

Are you on Goodreads?

Add Men of the Cross to your “want to read” shelf. Do it! Now. :)


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of kings, of knights . . . of war . . .

If you’ve read my book blurb, you are aware that one major theme of Men of the Cross is Sir Henry’s struggle with PTSD . . .

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Author Kristen Lamb writes “Your job as great superlative writers is to maim, torture, crush and kill” and “. . . to 1) generate love and affection for a wide cast of characters and then 2) torture them then 3) wait for the comeback.” http://wp.me/py7Aw-3UJ 

Do I put Henry (and his friends) through the wringer? You’ll have to read MoTC to find out!

BONUS! Enjoy a 2nd quote this week! I’d posted this one early on Facebook while trying to set up my author page. This quote is from a scene in the palace in Acre in October 1191. Sir Henry is talking with Queen Joanna, Richard the Lionheart’s sister. I had a wonderful time writing scenes with Joanna. She isn’t a major character in MoTC, but when she is “on stage” she shines – even if I do say so myself.

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I’m tightening up my prose in parts of the manuscript. Usually that means cutting words – and I have done that. But I have also fleshed out at least two scenes to heighten the drama. I’ve actually added more words than I deleted… Ah well. I’m still hoping to order my proof copies around April 20, and hit the publish button for Amazon print and ebook before the end of the month.


On April 6, 1199, Richard the Lionheart died in his mother’s arms after being struck days earlier by a crossbow bolt. Sharon Kay Penman has written Richard’s final moments in her new book, A King’s Ransom, which I haven’t read yet! You can read that snippet on her fan page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/skpfanclub/10152005269396937/?notif_t=group_activity

Have a great week!

Posted in Battle Scars, historical fiction, teasers, works in process | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

and the countdown to publication of Battle Scars I begins…

original artiwork by angelfire7508 Distributed under CC BY-SA3.0 http://angelfire7508.deviantart.com/art/Sword-and-Shield-original-47378670

original artiwork by angelfire7508
Distributed under CC BY-SA3.0

Congratulations to Denise who won the drawing for a copy of Battle Scars I: Men of the Cross. And thank you to everyone who participated. That was a lot of fun!

Now down to the serious stuff.

I hope to have final editorial comments on MoTC within the next 10 days. Barring technical issues with uploading the manuscript to Amazon’s CreateSpace interface, I should have a print proof of the book in hand by April 20. After I have a few pairs of eyes look that over, I can hit the “publish” button. Then things may get tricky…  Supposedly, I can publish direct to Kindle from CreateSpace, but because I haven’t done this before, I’m not exactly sure how it’s supposed to work. Last time, I published the e-book first, and then formatted the manuscript for CreateSpace. So keep your fingers crossed. May the Force Be With Me!

In other news…
You may know that I have created an author page on Facebook to avoid getting a nasty note from FB. If you use FB, go “like” my page. :)  I tend to post more frequently to FB – short updates, photos, links to other historical fiction or writing advice, and of course, links back here to my own posts.

Have a great week.



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book cover reveal – Battle Scars I: Men of the Cross

I am thrilled to show off the cover design for my upcoming novel!

Battle Scars I: Men of the Cross

Many thank to Travis at probookcovers.com for this superb design. He is a pleasure to work with, willing to listen and to offer his expert advice.

Release Date: TBA

Follow me here and watch for additional teasers in the next few weeks.

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Battle Scars I… book cover reveal coming on Wednesday

So today I give you just a short teaser

original artiwork by angelfire7508 Distributed under CC BY-SA3.0 http://angelfire7508.deviantart.com/art/Sword-and-Shield-original-47378670

original artiwork by angelfire7508
Distributed under CC BY-SA3.0

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Sign up now for a chance to win a copy of Battle Scars I

Want an early peek before I post my book cover to the world?

Email me (charlenenewcomb at gmail dot com) with the subject line SHOW ME THE COVER! I’ll send you a link to preview the cover about 48 hours before I post it here on my blog on Wednesday.

Sign up before 8:00pm (CT) Sunday, March 23.

And a bonus: Sign up by the above deadline and I’ll put your name in a hat for a drawing for a free copy of Men of the Cross!

original artiwork by angelfire7508 Distributed under CC BY-SA3.0 http://angelfire7508.deviantart.com/art/Sword-and-Shield-original-47378670

original artiwork by angelfire7508
Distributed under CC BY-SA3.0

Posted in Battle Scars, historical fiction, marketing | 2 Comments