Research, Writing, Star Wars, and Medieval Knights


I had the pleasure of being interviewed by award-winning author Anna Belfrage about a week ago. I probably went on too long about my research and inspiration for the Battle Scars series, my writing roots in the Star Wars universe, and the knightly romance, i.e., the forbidden love that is a central theme of this series. Anna rounded out the interview with a wonderful review of For King and Country.

If you missed my earlier blog stops, do check them out. On Matthew’s blog I write about 12th century Nottingham and York vs what what visitors see today:

“What Char Newcomb learnt while writing Battle Scars I & II”  on Matthew Harffy’s Bernicia Chronicles.

And on #EHFA, see the research behind the scene of For King and Country’s climactic battle scene:

“Richard the Lionheart and the Siege of Nottingham, 1194” on English Historical Fiction Authors 

There will be more to come, so do follow me! Sign up for my Mailing List. In the future I’ll use it – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

For King and Country and Men of the Cross

are available on Amazon sites worldwide.


Me as a writer: 7 facts

keyboardI was challenged by Lynne Provost to write 7 facts about me as a writer. I’ve been interviewed about my historical fiction elsewhere, so I’m going back to my writing roots here:

1. I didn’t pen many stories when I was young – the ones I wrote down were required for school. But my imagination was my playground. I had stories of the past, present, and future—of real people and imaginary ones. Apparently I had the Partridge family on Star Trek… And an original character from the future who ended up in the American West of the 1880s and 1890s.  Somehow I’d managed to forget that Partridge Family idea until an old friend recently reminded me of it. (You’ll probably want to forget it too.)

2. I have never taken a creative writing class.

3. The first short story I wrote and submitted was accepted for publication in a role-playing game magazine licensed by Lucasfilm, Ltd. in 1994. Artist Mike Vilardi did an exceptional job capturing the look of my original main character Alex Winger.

4. I get a little upset when people refer to my Star Wars short stories as fan fiction. My stories were vetted by an editor at West End Games and by content editors at Lucasfilm. Though my inexperience as a writer shows in those works, someone saw a glimmer of hope. 🙂

5.  After publishing several short stories in the Star Wars Adventure Journal, I worked on my first original novel, a SciFi story. I wrote about 40,000 words and got stuck in the middle. I didn’t write another word for almost 6 years. Family came first, and work exhausted my creative energies. I finished a first draft of that SciFi novel around 2005. It’s still sitting on the hard drive. I re-read it a couple of years ago and hope to resurrect it some day.

6. In retrospect, I wished I’d received more constructive criticism on those short stories. Fortunately, I have 3 wonderful ‘teachers’ in the writing group I joined in 2009. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel my writing is improving.

7. Dialogue is my strong point. The first drafts of my 2 published novels were written in what I’d describe as a screenplay format with very little narrative. Once I had the story down, I went back and revised, adding the descriptive elements. I struggle with narrative and description., but as I mentioned in #6, I feel like my writing is improving.

Bonus #8. I got to “THE END” of Book II of Battle Scars, For King and Country. The manuscript has been sent to 2 beta readers.

Keyboard photo taken by me. CC BY-SA 4.0


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Things I collect…

What obsess—er, collections do you have? I am quite purposeful in my collecting, though I don’t look to collect things with an aim to leave fabulous treasures or wealth to my heirs. (Sorry, kids.) I collect items that make me smile, bring back a memory. Things that can be used or played with.

I have keychains…

2014 keychains SW 2014 keychains ukand coffee mugs…

2014 mugs uk 2014 mugsand Fetts and R2-D2s…

2014 boba collection 2014 R2D2sDid I make you smile? 🙂

Sunrise & random thoughts…

clouds at sunriseWe had a gorgeous sunrise on Sunday morning. I headed out the door to my usual weekend writing spot and was met with this sight. I pulled out my camera phone as quickly as possible – this photo doesn’t do it justice. The clouds were sharp & distinct,  illuminated by the sun’s golden rays, the sky a beautiful blue. Took my breath away.

It’s funny trying to find something interesting to say today after the events of the last 2 weeks, including the devastating Hurricane Sandy. I had many friends and relatives in the path of the storm. My nephew & his family are still without power, but they and everyone else I know are safe. I hope your loved ones are safe, too.

My daughter left behind 7 of the guests gifts she made for her wedding reception. The tootsie roll minis inside them are calling to me.

I hate – no, that’s too harsh – I dislike the “fall back” thing. Actually, I’m not certain if I like it less than “spring forward”. Let me get back to you on that.

I get to read a love scene to my writers group (CPs) this week.

Did you know that before you get to the “happily ever after” (or “happy for now”) ending, you must have conflict that drives the lovers apart? Yeah, I know you knew that.

Writing the break up scene brought me to tears. I hope you feel the same way. That means I’ve done my job well.

Today I finished the “they-get-back-together” scene. Just about cried over that one, too.

I lied. On Saturday, I told my Facebook friends that I only had 2 chapters left to finish up this particular section of the novella. I’d barely begun working on the 2nd to last one today when I realized something was missing. I need to add another scene before the last two. *sigh*

I voted.

What! No more Star Wars Happy Meals?

I love Fall but thank the stars that I don’t have leaves to rake. Blankets of browns and golds are gorgeous (in someone else’s yard).  It’s one of the few benefits of living on former farmland – no trees!

Enough of my random thoughts. How do you feel reading love/sex scenes out loud to your critique partners? Have your children – presumably teenage or adult ones – read any of your sex scenes?

Thursday’s Walk on the Blog Side…

In recognition of the big news about Disney buying Lucasfilm:

2005.04 cIII vader and stormtroopers
Look, Dad! We’re going to Disney!
*happy dance*

And episode 7 coming in 2015?!?!??! Whoa. This is every kid’s, er middle-aged Star Wars fan’s dream come true. (Well, most of my friends anyway… )  I’ll admit my mouth dropped open when I saw the first link from one of my SW friends. This is a joke, right? But no, there it was – a video of George talking about the decision, another of him signing the contract. Wow.

Can I say I am extremely excited about the possibilities? I’ve been a fan of Disney movies, theme parks, etc. etc. since I was a kid. It seems they continue to build on Walt Disney’s vision. Solid record, a huge number of successful films & ventures. Marvel. Pixar. Star Wars will be in good hands. Star Wars will be around for generations to come with Disney guiding the pack.

I am nervous about episode 7. I’ve come to love many of the novels and characters from the Expanded Universe. (I’d say that even if I hadn’t been lucky enough to contribute to that “history“.)  It doesn’t matter how many times we’d hear that only the movies were canon. The EU that Timothy Zahn opened up in 1991 with Heir to the Empire kept Star Wars alive – no, brought it back to life – for many fans. It will be tough to swallow if the EU is completely ignored. I hope Disney finds a way to bring the best of it to episodes 7, 8 & 9. Either way, I’ll be in the theatre to see those films and continue to celebrate with my fandom friends.

Now, on to the blog reading – though this week, I’m pointing to several stories or excerpts that you might want to read:

Is Genre Dying? – by Marcy Kennedy

Marie Loughin gives us an excerpt from “Valknut: The Binding,” a Norse-based dark urban fantasy

Just in time for Halloween, Marie has also just published the short story Hell Hole. It’s  free on Amazon! Plus, there’s a bonus story by Jaye Manus, The Devil His Due.

And don’t miss the latest installment at Tales of the Fiction House: A TALE OF A MARINER’S WAIL AND A CAT’S CROOK TAIL

Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Jami Gold posted NaNo Prep: What Writing Tools Do You Use? Don’t miss all the tips & tricks mentioned in the comments to the post.

You’ll note that I’m not participating in NaNo. 50,000 words? In one month? Take me to the looney bin right now. My record is 29,000. I’d love to hit that again. 🙂

What about you? Are you participating in NaNo? Have you done it in the past? What’s your secret to being successful?

Thursday’s Walk on the blog side…

And we’re back in Cornwall this week for another incredible view. I know we’re supposed to be walking, but I could sit here and stare at this magnificent view forever. *sigh*

Minack Theatre
Minack Theatre

Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about the incredibly unbelievable world of traditional publishing and royalty statements. Writers who are “lucky” enough to go traditional better have a lawyer to help decipher the meaning of their contracts. My head aches thinking about the things that Kristine points out in 2 of her own contracts with separate publishers. Incredible.

LGBT Characters in Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Marc Davies takes a look at the under-use of LGBT in sci-fi and fantasy. Are they more prevalent in other genres? Why? Some writers steer away from it because they’re afraid of portraying the characters; others claim there may be no romantic element in the story, therefore no LGBT. Many of the commenters do point out numerous novels with gay protagonists if you’re looking for recommendations. My backburner sci-fi novel does have a budding romance, but I’ll admit it never crossed my mind that it might be m/m rather than m/f. I’m more familiar with m/m in historical fiction. In fact, I’ll be dealing with these issues in Battle Scars.

Angus Donald who spins wonderful tales of Alan Dale and Robin Hood tells us Why I Love the 12th Century. I’m right with you there, Angus! My WIP novella Battle Scars is from the viewpoint of 2 knights fighting alongside Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart. (Robin & the king are minor characters in my story.) I admit I fell in love with this time period after watching the recent BBC Robin Hood series and started researching the Third Crusade, King Richard and Eleanor of Aquitaine, a truly remarkable woman. I am fascinated by the people, the culture, the hardships faced by the Crusaders, and the cruelty of war.

I couldn’t possibly ignore Kristen Lamb’s post on What Star Wars “A New Hope” Can Teach us about In Medias Res. I agree that opening with 10K-15K of backstory is heartless. Starting too close to the action is a problem, too, especially in a novel. (What about in a short story?) Kristen explains her way through this one with her analogy to riding the Shock Wave at Six Flags, and then points out why we care about Luke. Spot on, Kristen.

Have a good weekend! Happy reading.

on inspiration…

Palm trees. Oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The Lady & Sons. Fried green tomatoes. Shelley’s cooking. Southern hospitality.

Savannah historic district I just returned from a short vacation in Savannah, Georgia. I would love to have stayed there to soak in the atmosphere. Be inspired by the look and feel of the place. It’s a perfect place for mysteries or the paranormal. Of course, those are two genres I don’t write. But history. There’s so much history there! Hm…will have to think about that for a future historical fiction adventure.

The settings for my Star Wars stories were inspired by the California coastline between Big Sur and Monterey. Cliffs that dropped precipitously to the sea. Waves crashing against rocks. It’s similar to the coast of Cornwall in southwest England, which I didn’t realize when I wrote those stories. It is a place I’d only read about but never seen until 2008. Now it’s one of my favorite places on Earth. St. Ives, the picture on my blog header, would work well as the location for Ariana on Garos IV, though it would look quite different. Ariana isn’t a small seaside community. No cozy fishermen’s cottages. It’s large, and dotted with government buildings. I can picture Imperial Headquarters on the hilltop overlooking the ocean and the city. It sure would be cool to see X-wings flying over St. Ives to land at the spaceport.

Readers – do you find inspiration in the places you live or visit? Writers out there – do real places inspire the settings of your stories?