Rocky Mountain highs amidst the Historical Novel Society Conference

What a way to begin my first HNS conference – a 3 hour broadsword workshop with writer/actor/swordsman David Blixt and his associate Brandon St. Clair Saunders.
david and brandon

These two gentlemen were superb swordsmen and were incredibly patient with some of us who were a bit uncoordinated, i.e., me!

Sword and shield

 Mary (from Iowa) and me!

Sparks flew. (Yeah, right.) We had a blast. And no humans were maimed in the process.

Even better, I met authors Sharon Kay Penman (Lionheart;and, A King’s Ransom; and many more) and Patricia Bracewell (Shadow on the Crown; and, The Price of Blood) in the workshop.

Sharon is such a lovely woman. I’d ‘met’ her through social media a couple of years back. She emailed me about 2 weeks before the conference and invited me to have lunch with her. Novelist Priscilla Royal joined us. This was the best conference moment ever! We talked of our love of the Angevins, of writing, deadlines, and marketing, of our favorite medieval fiction writers, and of the books we were working on and had already written.

me and Sharon Kay Penman
Me & Sharon Kay Penman
Priscilla Royal & me
Priscilla Royal & me









at the indieBRAG booth
with Geri & Stephanie at the indieBRAG book


And if that wasn’t enough, I met Geri & Bob Clouston and Stephanie Moore Hopkins of indieBRAG, who are extremely supportive of indie-published writers and made me feel so much at home. Stephanie also writes and hosts LayeredPages.


I’ll save the description of sessions I attended for another post – and there were many I enjoyed. It was surreal stepping into an elevator with two of my favorite authors: Diana Gabaldon and Patricia Bracewell. But the absolute highlight – beyond lunch with Sharon – was spending time with two individuals I’ve come to know through Twitter and Facebook: Anna Belfrage and Alison Morton. Both are indieBRAG Medallion honorees (multiple times!) and were such fun. Two of the warmest people I know.

Anna & me
Anna & me
with Alison Morton
me & Alison










Post-conference blues hit when you have to say goodbye to friends, but I headed north to Rocky Mountain Park to enjoy some time with family and great scenery.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Reading non-fiction for my fiction…

books for my researchIt was great to read Patricia Bracewell’s articles on early Roman roads in England on English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) – very timely given that in the upcoming sequel to Men of the Cross, Henry de Grey’s fictional manor lies about one mile west of Ermine Street in Lincolnshire. It was also heartening to see Patricia’s note on her own blog: “Whenever I put together a history-related blog post, it’s not something I’m writing off the top of my head even if the material springs from research I’ve been doing for the past nine years.”

I have spent extra time the last 2-3 weeks reviewing primary resources for my upcoming post about Messina on EHFA. And you may recall my search for information on the siege at Wallingford here.  Writing a Third Crusade novel meant knowing about medieval warfare as well as the events, major players, and politics of the time. The second book in my Battle Scars series takes place in the year following the Crusade, 1193-1194, and gives me the opportunity to learn more about social life and living conditions specifically in 12th century England. My background research includes topics such as:

  • medieval houses – sizes, materials used to build, layout
  • life on the manor
  • crops, trees, animals
  • Forests (with a capital “F”) and woodlands and fens

Here are a few of the books I’m using:

Land and people in medieval Lincolnshire
Power and profit: the merchant in medieval Europe
The English Mediaeval House
A social history of England, 900-1200

(See the complete citations on my Reference Resources page.)

I wish I could read something once and commit it to memory, but no – I find myself going back to review time and again. Are you one of those lucky writers with a brain that traps every word for future use?


ignore the enemy

My novel, Men of the Cross, is available in print and for Kindle
on Amazon & Amazon (UK) and other Amazon sites worldwide,
for Nook via Barnes & Noble, and via Smashwords in multiple formats.

talking about the book: Shadow on the Crown

15752152Title: Shadow on the Crown
Author: Patricia Bracewell

A tidbit about the author
She’s a California girl who majored in English literature in college and taught high school – bless her!  She notes that teaching is “the most challenging and rewarding careers that anyone could have.”

The story
The year is 1002. Emma of Normandy, who many will know as the mother of Edward the Confessor, leaves her home and crosses the Narrow Sea at the age of 15 to marry the 35 year-old Anglo-Saxon king, Æthelred II, also know as Æthelred the Unready. The king is cruel and heartless, and a bit mad. The Vikings attack. To survive, Emma must find allies in this world.

The scene that made you laugh out loud or cheer
There are many scenes where cheering is called for: Emma learns what she must do to win the hearts of the Anglo-Saxon people; she outwits the evil Elgiva on numerous occasions; she attempts to escape from the Viking Forkbeard (go, Emma, go!), and Athelstan (son of Æthelred) arrives to save her.

The place where you wanted to throw the book across the room
Almost any scene with Emma’s rival, Elgiva, made me cringe. Elgiva is the daughter of a powerful ealdorman and could have been queen to Æthelred, but politics and power dictated who would marry whom. Elgiva is the king’s whore, torn between him, her father and her brother. But she has no redeeming qualities. I don’t feel a bit of sympathy for her. Bracewell may have done her job in creating a character readers will dislike, but I found myself skimming many of the scenes she is in.

A memorable line 
“…he noticed a movement ahead of him and to his right, like the ripple of a wind breathing across a field of wheat. Puzzled, he stared at the brightly colored crowd, and amid their hues of green and yellow and rust, he made out a lone black form moving, swift as a hawk’s shadow, toward the king.”

My verdict
This was my first foray into this time period of English history and I struggled with many of the Anglo-Saxon names – trying to keep the huge cast of characters straight was a challenge. But Bracewell paints a vivid picture of each one – so stick with the book because as the story unfolds, I dare you NOT to get sucked in.

However, if you don’t like a little romance with your historical fiction, this may not be the book for you. Personally, I loved it (and wanted more)! This is a sweeping historical adventure with a compelling story. Bracewell’s words create images of time and place – you are there. And Emma? I look forward to reading book 2 of this trilogy.

what are you reading meme…

cream tea with a view Sit back.
Enjoy a cup of tea.
And read…

Open up the book you are currently reading. Go to chapter 9 (because it’s September, the 9th month) and write down the first and last sentences of the opening paragraph. Tell us the book title and the author. No chapter 9? Pick a random paragraph in the book!

April 1002
Canterbury, Kent
On Easter Sunday, Æthelred of England took his Norman bride to wife, and he watched with hundreds of others as a circlet of gold was placed upon her head and she was named England’s queen… Æthelred looked about him and was not entirely pleased with the situation in which he found himself.
Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

Æthelred has no clue what this arranged marriage will mean! This is a great book, a real page-turner.

Now for a big change of pace: a few links of interest via The Digital Reader.

For iPhone & iPad users: B&N Sends Out Email Warning About Nook App on iOS7

Do you or anyone you know participate in Book Country? Writing Community Book Country Hits New Milestone – 10 Thousand Members

Conan Doyle Estate Is Horrified That The Public Domain Might Create ‘Multiple Personalities’ Of Sherlock Holmes.