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.

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!

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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)

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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

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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

 

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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/

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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

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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

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

 

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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

 

Michaelmas in Medieval Britain

Today I am participating in a blog hop to celebrate the release of volume 2 of Castles, Customs and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard. See the information at the end of this post to order this treasure. Participating blogs in this hop have chosen a custom or tradition from the past to highlight. Follow the links below to read them all.

Michaelmas in Medieval Britain
The 29th day of September is the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, also known as Michaelmas. In medieval times, it signified the end of the agricultural year. Harvest – hopefully a good one – was in. It was a time to celebrate.

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 43 : l'évêque Odon bénit le banquet.
Tapisserie de Bayeux – Scène 43 : l’évêque Odon bénit le banquet. (public domain)

In England, it was custom to eat a goose, which was supposed to protect against money problems for the coming year. With the end of the harvest, servants were hired and debts were paid. Geese may have been given to the lord of the manor to appease him when payment might be late or in lieu of payment. Apparently, Michaelmas also became a time when officials were elected.

Horse races – with prizes – were popular in Scotland. (St Michael was also the patron saint of horses and horsemen.) Scots also celebrated by having the eldest daughter cook a Struan Micheil – a large scone-like cake – made of oats moistened with sheep’s milk, and cooked on lamb skin, on Michaelmas Eve. The Old Foodie has a recipe for oatmeal bannock if you’d like to give it a whirl. Traditionally, he says,

“The dough is then placed on a “struan-flag” – a large stone which your menfolk brought in from one of yon bonnie banks earlier in the day – and is placed before the fire. During the baking three layers of a batter of cream, eggs, and butter is daubed over the dough to enrich and engolden it.”

Old Foodie cautions that any leftover flour must be saved, to be used on Michaelmas Day to sprinkle on your sheep and your land as a way to offer a blessing for the harvest.

So go cook your goose! Follow The Old Foodie’s recipe. Stuff your goose with carrots, along with apples, butter, spices and herbs, and add it to a pot of broth. Cook her good. But do put aside a few carrots. They should be tied together with red yarn, given as gift to any visitors who pop in.

Lastly, it was critical that your blackberries were picked no later than October 10, which was Old Michaelmas Day. Did you know Lucifer fell from heaven that day and landed on a blackberry bush? He wasn’t a happy camper and scorched and spat upon them, making them unfit to eat.

“On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries.”
–old Irish Proverb

Sir Henry and Sir Stephan will be celebrating Michaelmas in For King and Country, Book II of Battle Scars. Watch this space for publication updates. 

This is a blog hop!  Check out all these wonderful posts, including editor Debra Brown’s Crazy Customs from the Past Blog Hop and Book Release.

Sources:
Michaelmas. Encyclopædia Brittanica. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Michaelmas
Michaelmas. Historic UK. http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/michaelmas/
Michaelmas Eve. The Old Foodie. http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2006/09/michaelmas-eve.html
Michaelmas Day. The Old Foodiehttp://www.theoldfoodie.com/2006/09/michaelmas-day.html
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Castles, Customs, and Kings, vol. 2New Release!

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, Volume 2
Edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

Purchase links:

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817