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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series, 12th century historical adventures filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.
There is a new site in town – rather, on the web – for reviews of historical fiction: Discovering Diamonds. You should definitely bookmark or follow this site if you are looking for good historical fiction.
And I am thrilled to report that For King and Country, Book II of Battle Scars, has been selected as a ‘highly recommended’ diamond. Read the great review.
“Ms Newcomb has stepped outside the normal restrictions imposed on novels set in these times in that her Henry and Stephan are not only comrades in arms, they are lovers. In a sequence of beautiful scenes, she breathes careful life into their passion, moments of tenderness and love that make it abundantly clear theirs is not a short-term relationship, theirs is the love of a lifetime.”
If you haven’t read the book, I hope the review might sway you! Give it a chance. Get the book on Amazon – it’s available in print and for Kindle.
Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.
Henry tried to shut out Marian and Robin’s voices as he and Stephan left. The wooden stairs creaked beneath their feet. At the landing, Henry heard Hugh settling his father for the night. Edward’s muffled laugh sounded, familiar and comforting, reminiscent of days long past.
Candlelight flickered beneath Bea’s door. She was singing softly, a verse their mother taught them and sang to lull her restless children to sleep.
Henry eased the door open to get a glimpse of his nephew. Bea sat near the brazier rocking David in her arms. She looked up as he peeked into the room.
“Is he not yet asleep?” Henry asked.
Henry tiptoed into the room. He smiled down at the babe, gently touched his nose and forehead. He turned, trying to coax Stephan closer. “His skin is so soft.”
Stephan nodded from the door. He looked somber, but then his eyes grew soft and a hint of a smile curved his lips. He looked at Bea. “Goodnight, my lady,” he said and headed for Henry’s bedchamber.
Henry stroked the dark tuft of hair on David’s head. He needed to ask Bea about her late husband, the one whose name drew scowls every time he’d heard it mentioned. And then there was their father…and Stephan. But Bea looked so content and happy, and he saw no need to spoil the night.
He wandered to the window and opened the shutters. Clouds trailed across the moon, bathing the guards’ tents in eerie shadows. At the sight of the tents he shuddered, drew in a ragged breath. Knees suddenly weak, he plastered his hands to the wall either side of the window.
“Henry, what is it? What’s wrong?” Bea asked.
He stared into the courtyard. “The tents, the Holy Land, so much blood…” He clenched his fist, drawing it to his chest. “I try to remember I am home now.”
“Is it helpful to speak of it?”
“I will not burden you with the horrors I saw, the things I did. Stephan listens to me. That is all I need.”
Bea placed David in his cradle. She smoothed her silk sleeping gown and drew up to Henry, slipping her arms around his waist. “I am your sister. I love you. I will listen, help you, any way I can.”
Bea rested her cheek against his arm. “Stephan will be gone soon. I will be here for you.”
Henry’s throat tightened and he fought back a tide of grief. He held Bea tightly and tried to forget the day Stephan would leave. But Bea was right. That day would come all too soon.
Let me take you to Outremer with the knights of Richard the Lionheart…
The term PTSD – post-traumatic stress syndrome – was given its name in the 1970s during the Vietnam conflict. Shakespeare has a scene in Henry IV, Part 2¹ (written in 1597) that describes it, though generations have ignored or glossed over it for hundreds of years. During World War I, it was called “shell shock.” While PTSD is commonly associated with the effects of war, any traumatic event can trigger it.
War is a central theme in my novel. War leaves its scars on young Henry de Grey. Henry’s idealism about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin and his naiveté about war fade as he sees brutal acts done in God’s name.
“Midst war atrocity and soldier camaraderie, [the knights] force themselves to question their own stolid values and their relationships. Their life and lifestyle decisions are as hard fought as those of the battlefield. The scars of war cause them to rethink everything about their lives – except loyalty to their King.” (from a review by Mark Rogers, Fiction House Publishing)
I had to put myself there. See what Henry saw. Feel what he felt. I also had to see Henry through Stephan l’Aigle’s eyes:
[Stephan] had walked through battlefields where men lay sprawled, eyes blank, staring at the sky with lance, bow, or sword at their sides. He’d never really seen those men, never felt their deaths or thought twice of the carnage until he’d met Henry and felt Henry’s pain.
Can a writer who has never been in the thick of battle even come close to imagining what it must be like? The words did not come easily, but I hope you will find that I captured the fear, the exhilaration, and the horrors or war in Men of the Cross.
¹Thank you to Sharon Kay Penman for mentioning the Shakespeare reference in one of her own blog posts.
Writer Matthew Harffy is ahead of me. On his blog, Bernicia Chronicles, he writes that he’s completed revisions on his Dark Ages novel and has sent it out out for another round of beta readers. His decision to do a ‘pitch’ at a conference inspired me to start thinking about how I might pitch Battle Scars.
What’s a pitch?
There are different types. Five minutes face-to-face with an agent, editor or publisher. Or thirty to forty seconds, hence the name ‘elevator pitch’. The door closes as you step in and the question follows:
“What’s your book about?” As the elevator travels up (or down), there is no time to delve into all the plots, sub-plots and characters. Little time to convince someone they should buy your book.
Writing a book is hard. Distilling 100,000 words down to a 10 page synopsis is hard. Writing the back cover blurb/Amazon description – 2-4 paragraphs – is harder. But the 2-3 sentence pitch – whoa!
So here’s my stab at a pitch for the first book of my 12th century trilogy, which I will begin revising in about 2 weeks.
In my historical novel Battle Scars: Men of the Cross, faith in God, skill with the sword, and courage may save a naive young knight in Richard the Lionheart’s army from Salah al-Din’s warriors. Henry de Grey realizes that those virtues aren’t enough when doubts about the war and about love torment him. His worst enemies are in his own mind and he must conquer them to save himself.