A shout-out from Sharon Kay Penman


me and Sharon Kay PenmanAugust slipped past and I never managed to mention that the lovely Sharon Kay Penman mentioned both For King and Country and Men of the Cross on her blog at the end of July. Sharon writes:

“I think they might be of interest to my history-loving, book-loving readers and friends.”

What a thrill to have my books noted by a best-selling author of historical fiction! I met Sharon last year at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver. She is so generous with her time, with her fans and with authors like me. And she writes amazing books – I have many on my TBR list, but will recommend Here Be Dragons as my favorite. 13th century, King John, England, Wales, and France – fabulous!

Men of the Cross and For King and Country (Battle Scars I & II) take place at the end of 12th century while John’s brother, Richard the Lionheart, is king. John’s shenanigans are the focus of Book II. Fans of Sharon’s Lionheart and King’s Ransom will enjoy the series (even if I do say so myself).  I hope you’ll check them out!

And don’t forget, both books have been recognized as great reads. Men of the Cross was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion in 2014; and For King and Country has been long listed for the Historical Novel Society Indie Award for 2017!

! An HNS-longlisted 2017-2registered- 800


Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical adventures set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Mailing List. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and to let you be the first to know about special offers.


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

talking about the book: Devil’s Brood

9636659Title: Devil’s Brood
Author: Sharon Kay Penman

A tidbit about the author
One-time tax lawyer. An animal rights enthusiast. Supporter of gay rights. Penman is a best-selling novelist known for her meticulous research. She has written 13 books. Her first, The Sunne in Splendour, published in 1982, is a novel of Richard III (whose bones, you’ll recall, were unearthed in a car park in Leicester in 2012). Penman’s most recent book, A King’s Ransom, describes Richard the Lionheart’s captivity and imprisonment by the Holy Roman Emperor following the Third Crusade, up to his death in 1199.

The story
Devil’s Brood,
published in 2008, is the 3rd in Penman’s Plantagenet series. This is the story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their sons from 1172 – 1189. Over the course of the novel, the three oldest – Hal, Geoffrey, and Richard (and four if you count John turning against Henry in 1189) – unite in rebellion with Eleanor against their father, and at various times with the French king. When the royal offspring aren’t fighting Henry, they scheme against each other. Eleanor is captured and spends 15 years under house arrest. If you are a fan of the film The Lion in Winter, it takes place during this tumultuous time. The movie is fabulous, but it stretches the truth a bit. (Why Hollywood chose to fabricate fiction is unfathomable considering all the real-life drama of this clan.) This is the only book of the 3 in the series that I’ve read (so far). It deals with the time period leading up to the era I write about: the Third Crusade.

The scene that made you laugh out loud or cheer
Before Eleanor had been imprisoned for her role in her sons’ rebellion against Henry, there is a scene where Henry has dismissed his barber. Eleanor – with scissors in hand – clips his hair. The thought of her with scissors at Henry’s neck brings a smile to my face.

It is hard to find places to cheer in the book because this family puts itself through hell. You keep turning pages thinking ‘surely, no, they’ll come to their senses!’ And you keep turning pages. There is a scene – Christmas time at Chinon in 1172 –  where Henry & Eleanor have a daytime tryst. They’ve not seen each other in two  years, and though Eleanor knows he has bedded numerous women (including the famous Rosamund), their conversation is amiable. They enjoy each others’ bodies and have fond memories. The banter between them is wonderful. If you didn’t know the history, you might let your guard down, only to be surprised a few pages later when Henry’s scheming riles Eleanor.

The place where you wanted to throw the book across the room
By the 3rd, 4th, or 5th time Henry fails to understand that withholding true power from his sons would create division that could tear the Angevin empire apart, I was in a state of disbelief. Surely the man was bright enough to see this. Pure fiction, for the drama? Not at all. Time and again, it truly played out as Penman writes. Henry’s stubbornness gets tiring. If you’ve read this book, did you want to slap his royal you-know-what?

A memorable line (or two)
“If lust could kill, Harry, you’d have been dead years ago.”

And if Henry spun webs to make a spider proud, Eleanor could entangle archangels in her snares. Roger suspected that she intrigued even in her sleep.

His thoughts were as skittish as unbroken horses, darting hither and yon as if he no longer had control of his own brain.

My verdict
Impeccable research. A vivid sense of time and place. Oh the politics! So incredible that you have to stop and remember THIS IS HISTORY! Penman isn’t making up the machinations of Henry II, Eleanor, their sons, or Philip of France. Penman brings them to life – you almost feel like you’re a casual observer in their lives.


Get swept away to the 12th century



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



Thank you, Sharon Kay Penman

2knightsI am honored that Sharon Kay Penman has included Men of the Cross on her to-be-read list and suggests it may be of interest to her readers.  She writes:

Charlene Newcomb has written a novel that I’d be interested in reading, Men of the Cross, the story of a young knight who follows the Lionheart to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade, where he finds a forbidden love and discovers the high price that battlefield glory exacts from soldiers; readers of A King’s Ransom know that I have great sympathy for the toll that PTSD has taken upon fighting men down through the ages.

Sharon’s Lionheart and A King’s Ransom will give the reader a great sense of King Richard I, rich with the politics and personalities of the late 12th century. Imagine being one of Richard’s knights, just outside his inner circle. Men of the Cross tells that side of the story and (in my humble opinion) complements Sharon’s novels.

Thank you, Sharon.

P.S. (Sharon reported on Facebook this morning (6/30) that gremlins had wiped out her post, but you can also find it at http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/6551201-read-this-at-your-peril.)

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!

work in progress Wednesday…

Several weeks ago I saw author Alex Beecroft use the subject “work in progress Wednesday” on her blog. I like the concept of a regular update, so I’m going to give it a go.

This week, I’ll start with a meme.

What is the title of the book you’re currently working on?

Battle Scars I: Men of the Cross.  Can you picture a medieval sword and a cross on the cover? I can!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to know more facts behind my favorite television shows, movies, books and historical events. Star Trek (yes, Trek, not Wars) led me to learn more about space travel, astronauts, the moon, and planets. Visits to Williamsburg, Mt. Vernon, Monticello, and Revolutionary War battlefields, inspired my love and curiosity about the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Battle Scars came from my reading and research about Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade after I saw the BBC television show Robin Hood (2006). 

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fiction/historical romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Kit Harington is Henry de Grey. Chris Hemsworth is Stephan l’Aigle.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

War, political intrigue, and passion… friends… heroes and lovers… and legends…

(I know, I know, that isn’t a synopsis or a logline but it captures the themes of Battle Scars. My book blurb is taking shape, too!)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About 9 months.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Sharon Kay Penman’s Lionheart. Sharon is a master storyteller who captures the essence of life in the Middle Ages in a brilliant telling of the politics, intrigue and people of the time.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to tell the crusaders journey to and from the Holy Land through the eyes of two knights who served King Richard.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There are many Robin Hood legends. Some claim that Robin served King Richard during the Third Crusade. A number of novelists have pursued that aspect of Robin’s life, including the popular Outlaw Chronicles series by Angus Donald.

I’d indicated to my writers group that one of my secondary characters was a Robin-type character. They said, “Why not make him Robin Hood?” They encouraged me to do my own twist on the legend. In Battle Scars, readers will meet characters who, one day, will become “Merry Men.” They’ll watch how young men are shaped by the war and by the people around them and see the origins of the legend take shape…well, my version of it.