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Character Interview: Emmaline Cagney from To Live Forever by Andra Watkins

We’re thrilled to be talking to Emmaline Cagney from Andra Watkins’ historical paranormal suspense, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis.  She is coming to us all the way from the great state of Tennessee.  It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

BTB: Thank you for this interview, Emmaline.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

To Live ForeverEmmaline: Well, I’m nine in the book, and I sometimes feel like maybe I was too baby-fied. It makes me mad to see how many times I was scared. I look back on my adventure with Merry now, and I wish I could’ve held it closer, breathed it in more, without fear.

BTB: What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Emmaline: Everybody tells me I’m stubborn. Even Daddy says that, and I always tell him I was stubborn enough to find him.

BTB: Worst trait?

Emmaline: Um……..I worry. I wonder what happened to Aunt Bertie. To my mother. I’m afraid the Judge will find me again and take me away from a life I love. Kids shouldn’t have to worry. I tell myself I shouldn’t, but I’ve been through a lot in my life, more than some grown-ups, even.

BTB: If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Emmaline: Doesn’t my part usually go to an undiscovered kid? That’s what I see happening……unless Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s daughter played me.

Did I spell her name right?

BTB: Do you have a love interest in the book?

Emmaline: Ew! I’m nine! My mother always tried to introduce me to her men, and I had to serve them tea with my shirt unbuttoned and stuff, and they were really gross, the way they looked at me. All boys are gross. Except Merry. And Daddy. I love both of them.

BTB: At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

Emmaline: Okay, you obviously haven’t read it, because I was nervous THE WHOLE TIME. I mean, you have a nasty man chasing you and saying he wants to marry you—and you’re NINE—and you run away from home with a stranger and tramp through the middle of nowhere. I was shot at and almost eaten by a wild animal and attacked by night monsters and even watched somebody die. I can’t believe I don’t have high blood pressure and stuff grown-ups get when they have problems.

BTB: If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Emmaline: I would not want to be the Judge. He’s got to be crazy to think I’m his dead wife. No matter how much I tell him I’m not her, he still comes after me. I wouldn’t want to be like him. Not ever.

BTB: How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Emmaline: It’s just like Merry said. It’s bittersweet. He taught me what that word means. What words of wisdom would you give your author if she decided to write another book with you in it?

Well, she’s already doing that, and I tell her all the time to listen to me more. I’m eleven in the new story—that’s two whole years older—and I know so much more than I did the first time around.

BTB: Thank you for this interview. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Emmaline: I’m just stubborn enough to make sure you do.

About the Book:

Is remembrance immortality? Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.

Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.

Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another.  An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.

Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.

It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.

Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.

To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?

After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.

About the Author:

Andra WatkinsAndra Wakins is a native of Tennessee but calls Charleston, South Carolina, her home for the last 23 years.  She is the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis from Word Hermit Press which is a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.

You can visit her website at www.andrawatkins.com or follow her on Google+,Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Goodreads.

Character Interview: James Crofter from Mike Hartner’s Historical Fiction/ Romance I, Walter

character interviews logo

We’re thrilled to have here today James from Mike Hartner’s new historical fiction/romance, I, Walter.  James is a 40 year old detective living in London, England. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

I, WalterThank you so for this interview, James.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

There really wasn’t much time to portray me in Dad’s biography.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

Given the information that Mr. Hartner has about my life, I think the colorization was fine.  But there is a lot still to be told.

What do you believe is your strongest trait? 

MY strongest trait is still my ability to think fast.

Worse trait? 

Probably my worst trait is one that insists that I must solve the puzzle, and not just walk away from it.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

I think there are several good artists out there to play myself.  But I wouldn’t presume that people like Brad Pitt would even be interested in my role/

Do you have a love interest in the book?

No

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out? 

The minute I was taken at the party.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

I would really not want to be two people:  I wouldn’t want to be my father, since seeing one of your children disappear really is heartbreaking, and I hope that never happens to our family again.  The second person I wouldn’t want to be is my Uncle Gerald.., More than hate, I totally pity him.  I saw too many things that happened to hi,

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I think the ending to I, Walter was nearly a perfect beginning to my story.  Hopefully Mr. Hartner will see fit to write it.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it? 

Tell it all.  Yes, my life has been filled with pain, but whose isn’t?

Thank you for this interview, James.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

 I certainly hope so.

About the Author:

Mike Hartner is a father, son, author, patriot, geek (ret), and husband.

His love of all things genealogical led him to writing, and writing has now led him to fiction and a large epic saga.

He lives in Vancouver, BC with his wife and son.

His latest book is the historical romance, I, Walter.

Visit his website at www.accidentalauthor.ca.

About the Book:

This is the life story of Walter Crofter, an English commoner who ran from home at the age of 11.  After two years living on the street, he ended up on a Merchant Mariners boat in the service of the Crown.

On his first voyage, he rescued a girl from pirates.  A very important girl, who stole his heart before she was returned to her home.

This is the story of his life.  What adventures he had at sea; what took him off the waters, and what happened to him as he lived his life and stayed true to his character.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON.

First Chapter Reveal: I, Walter by Mike Hartner

I, WalterTitle: I, Walter
Author: Mike Hartner
Publisher: Eternity 4 Popsicle Publishing
Pages: 224
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0973356154
ISBN-13: 978-0973356151

Purchase at AMAZON

This is the life story of Walter Crofter, an English commoner who ran from home at the age of 11.  After two years living on the street, he ended up on a Merchant Mariners boat in the service of the Crown.

On his first voyage, he rescued a girl from pirates.  A very important girl, who stole his heart before she was returned to her home.

This is the story of his life.  What adventures he had at sea; what took him off the waters, and what happened to him as he lived his life and stayed true to his character.

First Chapter:

“I, Walter Crofter, being of sound mind….”  Bah, this is garbage!  I tossed my quill on the parchment sitting in front of me.  People may question my sanity, but they should hear the whole story before judging me.  I’m sitting here, now, at the age of 67, trying to write this down and figure out how to tell everything.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get it right, though.  Too many secrets to go around.  However, this is my last chance     to offer the truth before I die.  The doctors say it’s malaria, yet I’ll be fine.  Perhaps.     But if the malaria doesn’t kill me, my guilt indeed will.  Maybe if people know the facts surrounding my life, everyone will have a better understanding.

I dipped the tip in the inkwell again, and wrote:

I was born September 2, 1588, and named Walter.  I didn’t belong in this Crofter family, who were storekeepers in London and not farmers as our surname might indicate to those who study this sort of thing.  My parents were courteous and even obsequious to our patrons.  Yet they received little or no respect.  The ladies came to us to buy their groceries or the fabric for their dresses, but as seemly as they comported themselves, and some even called my father ‘friend,’ it was not out of regard for him.  I was forced to run.  Well, “forced” might put too harsh a point on it, like that of a sword, but others can judge for themselves.

By the time I reached the age of 12, I’d found another family that was more     “me”.  They weren’t rich, but they were comfortable.  The parents had several children, including a girl my age who was named Anna.  Within two years, we had come to know each other quite well, and were getting to know each other even better.  Her father caught us getting too close to knowing each other better yet, and showed up at my parents’ house with a musket in his hand, telling them if I ever came near his daughter again, he’d use    it on me–and then on them.

I paused to dip the pen and wipe my brow.  Even though I was wearing a light cotton shirt, it was bloody hot in early August in Cadaques.  My wife, Maria, entered    the room and looked at my perspiring face and what I had just written.  Between fits of laughter, she smiled at me with wide lips and said, “You can’t possibly write this.  You’re not the only boy a doting father ever had to chase away.  Nobody cares about this sort of thing.”

“It will at least give a pulse to this writing,” I replied.  “It’s too boring to say          that I left because I was mismatched with my own family, so much so that I was positive someone had switched me at birth.  Or that I thought I was ready for more in life than what I could find at home.  Nobody would read that, not even me.”

“I agree, so tell the story that really means something.  All of it.”  She sighed softly and placed the parchment she had been reading on the desk in front of me and kissed my cheek.  The gleam in her eyes shed 20 years off her age and reminded me of    a much gentler time.  God, how much I love her.

I said, “Before I met you, I spent my life like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.  I’m just trying to make my story more interesting.”

“I’ve heard the accounts of your life before you met me.  Or I should say found me.  It was anything but boring.  So, if you insist on including in the story lines like those you just wrote, make sure they’re the only ones.  If you don’t, I’ll consider adding my own material.”  She winked.  “You know I’ve had good sources.”

She turned and walked away, laughing loudly as I called after her, “Yes, dear.”

I dipped the quill and put it to parchment again.

In my earliest days, I remember my father, Geoff, being a bit forceful with other people.  I also recall my brother Gerald, nearly five years my senior, and myself being happy.  Or at least as contented as two boys could be who were growing up in the late 1500s in England, and working every day since their seventh birthdays.  It was a time when boys were earning coin as soon as they could lift or carry things.  The money   could never be for themselves, however, but for the parents to help pay the bills.

Father lived as a crofter should.  He was an upright man and sold vegetables off   a cart like his grandfather did, and he also dabbled in selling fine fabric for the ladies of status.

One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my brother came home and got into a heated debate with my father about something.  When I ran to see what was the matter, they hushed around me, so I never got the full gist of the argument.  But whatever it was about, it was serious, and the bickering continued behind my back for five straight days.  When I awoke on the morning of the sixth day, Gerald was no longer at home.  And he never came back.

Soon afterwards, my father lost enthusiasm for his business and became generally passive.  I assumed this was because of Gerald’s leaving, and only on occasion would I see flashes of my dad’s former self.

At the start of my tenth year, our family moved closer to London.  We rented    the bottom floor of a three-story building in which several families lived in the upper floors.  My father said we relocated because he needed to be closer to more business opportunities.  But my mom didn’t believe he’d made the right decision, since he was  now selling food out of a cart and not inside a storefront.  One night, she greeted him at the door when he came home.  She was wearing a frown and a dress that had seen better days.

“Did you bring in any decent money?” she asked him before he had time to take off his coat.

“I told you, it will take some time.  It’s not easy to make good money these days.”

“Especially when you let the ladies walk all over you.”

“I know, I know.  But what am I to do when they aren’t running up to me to buy what I’m selling?”

“You at least bring home some food for us?”  My father had carried in a bag under his arm.

“It’s not much, a few carrots and some celery.”  He handed her the bag.

“What about meat?”

“We’re not ready for meat yet.”

“That’s true enough,” my mother said.  “But you should at least try to feed your family.  Walter’s growing, and so are our other children.”

“Leave me be, woman.  I’m doing the best I can for now.”  He sat in his chair, leaned his head against the wall, and fell asleep.

That same debate played out between my parents for the next two years.  Except for the summer months, when food was plentiful; then the arguments subsided.  But for the rest of the year, especially during the winter, the same discussions about money continued on a daily basis, and they were often quite heated.  I lost two younger siblings during those two years.  One during my tenth winter and the other during my eleventh winter.  Neither of the children was older than six months.  I always suspected hunger    as the primary cause of their deaths.

Just before my twelfth birthday, my father started taking me with him when he went to work.  My closest living sibling was nearly six and not feeling well most of the time, and the family needed the money I could bring in by helping my father, who was bland and wishy-washy, particularly when selling fabrics.  I had no idea what he was like before, but in my mind his lethargy explained why our family was barely making ends meet.  Our lives had become much harder since Gerald left, and part of me blamed him.  I’m going to thrash him if I ever see him again and teach him a lesson about family responsibility.

It took me less than a week to realize that the people my father was dealing with, as with those in Bristol, had no respect for him.  They regularly talked down to him.  Rather than asking the price, they regularly paid what they wanted to pay. And he took it without a quibble.  And when he tried to curry favor, he would never get it.  His customers looked upon him as a whipping board, at least that’s how it seemed to me.

I remember when we got home in the dark after a long day of work in late November, and my mother started in on Dad.

“Well?  Have you got the money for me to buy food tomorrow?”

“A little.  Here.”  He fished a guinea from his pocket.

“A guinea?  That’s it?  That won’t feed us for a day.  You’ve got to start working harder.  With what you earn and what I bring in sewing clothes, we can barely pay the rent, and there is nothing left over to heat this place.  And it’s going to get colder, Geoff.”

“I know, Mildred, I know.  I’m trying as hard as I can.”

“You haven’t worked hard since Sir Walter Raleigh left favor.  You can’t wait for him forever.”

“He’ll get favor back.  And when he does, I’ll be right there helping him.  You’ll see, we’ll be fine again.”

She groaned.  I was aware that this was not the first time my mother had heard this from my father.  It’s great talk from a man trying to get ahead.  But after several years of the same song, it loses its credibility.  She had enjoyed respectability in the early days when my father grabbed the coattails of the then revered Sir Walter Raleigh, and it was hard not having this luxury now.  She hadn’t planned to be satisfied with being a shopkeeper’s wife, and she wasn’t even that, at present.  She changed the subject, not her tone.

“I overheard the ladies gossiping on the street today.  They were talking about seeing Gerald’s likeness on a ‘Wanted’ poster.  A ‘Wanted’ poster, Geoff.  There’s a warrant out for our son’s arrest.  What are we going to do?  What can we do?”

My father stared at the wall.  “Nothing.  He’s an adult.  He’ll have to work it out for himself.”

I watched quietly as my mother cried herself to sleep, her head on my father’s shoulder.  No matter how bad things got, they loved each other and wanted their lives to be better, the way I was often told they were before my birth.  Maybe this is why I wanted to get away from them as soon as I could.

I didn’t usually watch my parents fall asleep.  But, that night I did.  And, after they were sound asleep, I left.  I had no plans.  I didn’t know where I was going.  I just left in middle of what was a dark, chilly night.

I could hear the dogs barking around me as I scurried along the roadside.  It felt as if they were yelping at me and coming towards me.  I began running, faster than I’d ever sprinted in my life, my speed assisted by my sense of fear.  Every time I heard a dog, or an owl, or any other animal, or even my own heavy breathing, my pace increased until I was exhausted and had to stop.  This continued throughout the night until the sky started to lighten and I found a grove of overhanging bushes and crawled inside for some sleep.

I scavenged for food during the day and swiped a few pieces of fruit from merchants along the way.  This became my means of subsistence.  I left a coin when         I could, as I’d pick up an occasional odd job, but I was always out of money.  I also tried begging, and while I did survive on the street, I found life difficult.  Yet for nearly two years I stayed with this vagabond existence before deciding to make my way to the sea.  Too bad my internal compass wasn’t any good.  Turns out I was moving more to the west than to the south.  But before long I was on the shores of Bristol.  And my life changed forever.

Character Interview: Jamie Collins from Michael Bowler’s romantic thriller ‘A Matter of Time’

We’re thrilled to have here today Jamie Collins from Michael Bowler’s new romantic thriller, A Matter of Time.  Jamie is a 20-year-old college student living in Santa Clara, California.

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Jamie.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

Actually, I feel I was excellently portrayed, maybe better than I could’ve portrayed myself. And I’m an aspiring writer, too.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

He could’ve described me as dashingly handsome to the point that ladies swooned in my presence. Ha! Sadly, that would’ve been true fiction. As to my personality, I feel he got it just right. I’m kind of an introspective guy, even shy at times, and that can be a difficult character trait to make interesting. But I think Mike hit just the right note in describing my interactions with the other characters as well as with the events that befell me.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Honorability, maybe loyalty. I confront some very difficult moral dilemmas in this story and had to make very weighty decisions. My honorable nature, I believe, is what impelled me to make the right choices.

Worse trait?

Self-doubt. I second-guess my decisions too much, even when others tell me I made the right one.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Ezra Miller is a phenomenal actor and he’d be outstanding playing me (plus he’s better looking than me, too, and that doesn’t hurt – Ha!)

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Yes. Actually, there are two, but only one is my soul mate. Sounds corny, I know, but I do find the love of my life along this journey. (sigh)

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

About the time I realized I had no way to get off Titanic and was going to go down with the ship. I’d planned everything out so perfectly, except how to get myself off the ship!

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Jay, because he’s cynical and bitter about life and I wouldn’t want to go through life that way.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Fate is pretty cruel to me in this story, and I’m kind of a basket case at the end. Still, I come to a better appreciation of who I am than I had at the beginning, and I’m hopeful that all the pain I endured can be turned into something positive.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

Maybe not quite so much pain and suffering thrown my way next time, huh? How about showing me some love, eh, Mike?

Thank you for this interview, Jamie.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Very likely, since I kind of, inadvertently, changed the timeline ever so slightly, but even a slight alteration can have devastating consequences, and, unfortunately, those consequences will fall on me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Oh well . . .

Michael Bowler grew up in San Rafael, California. He attended St. Raphael’s School and Marin Catholic High School before attending Santa Clara University. Titanic and her tragic fate fascinated him for as far back as he can remember. He has a vast collection of artwork, memorabilia and virtually every book ever written about the disaster.

He majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara and got a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University. He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several films, most notably “Fatal Images,” “Dead Girls,” “Hell Spa” (later re-edited and titled “Club Dead”), “Things” and “Things II.”

He has written a number of unproduced screenplays and is currently working on other novels he has outlined. He’s been teaching high school in Hawthorne, California for over twenty years.

He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to seven different boys over 28 years with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles for 27 years.  He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, something that is sorely lacking in this state.

His first novel, A Boy and His Dragon, was originally written in the 1980’s before fantasy stories enjoyed a major renaissance, and has remained unpublished to this day. It is intended as the first of a trilogy.

A Matter of Time, his second novel, was originally written in the 1980’s and completed in the mid-1990’s as time permitted.

You can visit Michael on the web at www.michaeljbowler.webs.com.

Follow Michael Bowler on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/BradleyWallaceM

Friend Michael Bowler at Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1377702356

Pick up a paperback copy of Michael Bowler’s A MATTER OF TIME at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/A-Matter-Time-Michael-Bowler/dp/143278711X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344430749&sr=8-1&keywords=michael+bowler

Download your electronic copy of Michael Bowler’s A MATTER OF TIME at Amazon Kindle Store:  http://www.amazon.com/A-Matter-of-Time-ebook/dp/B007GOAC9C/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1344430749&sr=8-1

Purchase your paperback copy of Michael Bowler’s A MATTER OF TIME at Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-matter-of-time-michael-bowler/1109296752

Pick up a copy of Michael Bowler’s A MATTER OF TIME at Outskirts Press:   http://outskirtspress.com/webpage.php?ISBN=9781432787110

http://www.amazon.com/A-Matter-Time-Michael-Bowler/dp/143278711X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333825240&sr=8-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-matter-of-time-michael-bowler/1109296752?ean=9781432787110&itm=1&usri=michael+bowler+a+matter+of+time

What is your destiny?

This question haunts 20-year-old Jamie Collins. A junior at Santa Clara University in 1986, Jamie has friends, a  professor who mentors him, and a promising future as a writer.

Then the dreams begin – nightmarish visions that transport him back to a time and place fifty years before he was born: Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912!  Less than a week before the 74th anniversary of its sinking, Jamie discovers that his fate is inexplicably linked to that of the famous vessel. Somehow, the two timelines are overlapping, and when Titanic dies this time, Jamie will die along with it.

The dreams reveal something evil stalking the ill-fated ship, something that expedites the collision which sinks her. Jamie realizes that the only way to stop this evil and prevent his own death may be to prevent Titanic from sinking in the first place.

But how? How can he stop that ship from sinking in 1912 when he hadn’t even been born yet? And even if he can stop it – should he? What will be the effect on history if he succeeds? Jamie’s quest to fulfill his destiny ties friendsand  family together  in ways he could never have  imagined.

A Matter of Time is an emotionally charged voyage into the value of friendship, the power of love, the impact of evil, and the vagaries of Fate.

 

 

 

Character Interview: Austin Ringwode from Donna Fletcher Crow’s ‘Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail’

We’re thrilled to have here today Austin Ringwode from Donna Fletcher Crow’s new historical fiction, Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail.  Austin is very old and for many years lived his life as a monk, OSB, until King Henry tore his world apart.  Now he says, “I’m a searcher.”  Austin lives in Glastonbury, England.

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so much for this interview, Brother Austin.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I am very grateful to this modern American woman who has taken the enormous effort to search out my humble gropings. I am amazed that anyone could understand me and my experiences so well 500 years after my own time. Perhaps it required such a distance to have the perspective to make sense of all that we endured. Our world, indeed, collapsed, but The world has continued. That gives meaning to all the centuries of striving for the right.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

My personality is not important— to be able to say that is a great achievement. Obedience is the hardest thing for a monk to learn. I was obedient to my abbot, to my king, to my God. Now all but God are gone. And sometimes He is silent. I pray for strength to carry on the task set before me. The task I must achieve alone.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Faithfulness. I am faithful to my vows, faithful to my quest.  The quest is everything. All must quest in life— for aren’t we all pilgrims? But to me was given the shining quest to find The Holy Grail when all else had been destroyed.

Worst trait?

Is my constant questioning my worst trait— or my best? I cannot judge, but I must live with the constant desire to know more, to understand, to discover what it all meant. Joseph of Arimathea and his little band of pilgrims bringing The Holy Grail to our green and pleasant land, King Arthur and his knights seeking to establish a kingdom of Right, our own Abbott Whiting standing for the Truth until he was dragged to his execution atop Glastonbury Tor. . . And yet the Light endures. How is this so?

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Derek Jacobi did such a wonderful job portraying my fellow Benedictine Brother Cadfael, also a seeker of Truth. I would be most honoured to have Jacobi present my humble life as well.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

I love the Truth. God help me to find it.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

For the first part of my search— through Celtic, Roman and Arthurian times— I was focused on the material object: “Where is the Holy Grail?” Then I began to wonder: “Why is the Grail of such importance? Why had so many sought it through so many ages?” Eventually I came to see that it wasn’t the object itself so much as its meaning. My quest then became one of understanding: “What is the meaning of The Holy Grail?”

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

One of the people whose lives I came deeply to understand and admire was St. George. And the more I learned of his life the more I admired him and the more I knew I could never have done what he did. I don’t refer to his martyrdom, because the end will come for us all and dying for one’s Lord is a glorious thing. But the active life George lived in the world as a Roman soldier, his travelling and fighting from one end of the Roman Empire to another and, I must admit, the love he felt for a woman. These are not experiences for a cloistered monk.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Ah, the quest was worth it all. Oh, yes. No one would choose the disaster, the suffering, the struggle. But to be able to look back at the end and say, “It was good. It was worth it all.” That’s the great thing.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if she decided to write another book with you in it?

Remember that it’s always darkest just before the dawn and no matter how bad things seem at the moment, it has always been worse at some time in history. And the Light has always triumphed— as it always will.

Thank you for this interview, Brother Austin.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Ah, the future, just as the past, are in God’s hands. God bless you, my child.

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

Donna is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave and A Darkly Hidden Truth, as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. To read more about all of Donna’s books  and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com.

Visit her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/DonnaFletcherCr.

Become her fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Donna-Fletcher-Crow-Novelist-of-British-History/355123098656.

Pick up your copy of Donna Fletcher Crow’s Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Glastonbury-Novel-Holy-Grail-ebook/dp/B00846FWYG/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1339097353&sr=1-3

Purchase your copy of Donna Fletcher Crow’s Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail at Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glastonbury-donna-fletcher-crow/1103281249?ean=9781581341621

THE HOLY GRAIL LIES SOMEWHERE IN GLASTONBURY!

When Joseph of Arimathea and his little band of pilgrims sought asylum from Roman persecution they fled to Glastonbury — and carried with them the most sacred relic in all of Christendom.

This tiny, sheltered corner of Britannia — this holy “Isle of Avalon” — was also a place of refuge when King Arthur and his knights fought off the invading barbarian hoard and it became the King’s final resting place.

Centuries later, the discovery of Arthur’s bones in Glastonbury sparked a great flowering of the faith and yet more magnificent building — after a devastating fire nearly obliterated the work and worship of centuries.

Then, after the last abbot of Glastonbury was dragged to his death atop Glastonbury Tor, the Abbey’s splendid arches were left to crumble. And yet they still stand today — as beacons of hope for the future.

Two millennia of history and legend intertwine around Glastonbury’s broken arches. And through it all — through ages ancient and modern — the faithful have sought to answer the same question that Arthur asked: Where is the Holy Grail?

Early 60s Racial Tensions Make The Promised Land a Must Read

Valerie Stocking booksigningValerie Stocking was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and wrote her first short story when she was five. When she was eight, she won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine. She wrote her first play at the age of ten. In 1966, when she was twelve, she and her mother moved to a small town in Florida where they lived for a year. During this time, Valerie experienced difficulties with the public school system, tried a Seventh Day Adventist school briefly, and then dropped out altogether. It was her experiences during this year that inspired The Promised Land. Later, she would finish high school, graduate from college and earn a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from NYU.

For nearly 30 years, she wrote and edited in various capacities, including copywriting, newspaper articles, and short stories. She wrote nearly 20 full-length and one act plays over a ten year period, which have been performed throughout the U.S. and Canada. She edited books for audio, abridging over 100 novels in a 6-year period. In 2010, she published her first novel, A Touch of Murder, which is the first of what will become the Samantha Kern mystery series. It was nominated for a Global eBook Award in 2011 for Best Mystery.

Valerie lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her dog and cat, and is working on her next novel.

You can visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com.

About The Promised Land

The Promised LandIt’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut, Joy is moving to Willets Point, Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.

Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Valerie.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

“The Promised Land” is my second book.  My first, “A Touch of Murder,” came out in July, 2010.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

For A Touch of Murder, I went the self-publishing route, but it was through a company rather than me doing everything myself. I paid to be published, but first I had to submit the manuscript of my novel and have it be accepted.  It was, and I was very happy about that.  I self-published because I was tired of doing the query-the-agent routine and getting nowhere.  Self-publishing has become a lot more respectable lately, and I also liked the fact that I got a say in everything that went into producing the physical book.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

With my first book, it took about a year, and that year seemed to drag on forever!  My second book, which was published by SJT Press (CreateSpace) took half that time, but it still felt like a long process.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It didn’t really hit me that I was a published author until I saw my books on a rack in Borders, where I was doing a book signing.  It felt wonderful!  Just being able to hold the book in my hands was awesome.  I celebrated by going out for Chinese food with friends after the book signing!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I hired someone to promote the book for me.  That was a mistake.  With The Promised Land, I’ve hired someone to arrange a blog tour for me, but that is far less expensive than having someone else do all the legwork.  Now I am doing the marketing, and it feels great!

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I would like to think that I have learned from my editors and have improved in certain ways.  Also, I take feedback from readers very seriously, and paid attention to their responses to my first book.  I’m taking more risks now.  I’m putting things down on paperthat actually happened, and mingling them with fictitious situations and characters.  The Promised Land is an edgy story, and totally different from A Touch of Murder.  Touch is a mystery, while The Promised Land is historical fiction/fictional memoir.  I don’t like to write the same thing all the time.  My next book is going to be the sequel to A Touch of Murder and the book after that will be paranormal suspense.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

The sheer number of people who are involved in the industry, from writers to editors to graphic designers to artists to bloggers to marketers.  It is so vast!  Also, I have been very pleasantly surprised by the quality of service that CreateSpace provides.  A couple of my friends who are also published authors went with them, and they persuaded me to try them.  I’m glad I did.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

When someone likes my work and wants to read more of it.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Get a professional editor to help you.  Join a writer’s group and listen to their critiques.  Rewrite and polish.  Then give it to someone whose opinion you trust and rewrite some more.  When it’s ready, let it go.  Go for it!  You can be published – but you want to publish something that’s of real quality, and that takes work.  So roll up your sleeves and get to it!

 

Read a Chapter: The Promised Land by Valerie Stocking

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at Beyond the Books! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring The Promised Land by Valerie Stocking. Ordering information follows. If you would like to learn more about Valerie, visit her website at www.valeriestocking.com. Enjoy!

 

It’s 1966, just two years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and twelve-year-old Joy Bradford’s life is changing dramatically. Born and raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut, Joy is moving to Willets Point, Florida, to live with her mother Jessica because her parents are divorcing. Hoping it really is the Promised Land that her mother describes, she joins in Jessica’s enthusiasm only to find out how horribly wrong that vision is.

Unfortunately for Joy, the move does nothing to change her mother’s emotional and mental instability, resulting in a continuation of the physical and verbal abuse she is all too used to receiving. Her new school is years behind her old one, the kids dress and act differently, and on just the second day, Joy has a run-in with her geography teacher. Things are going from bad to worse until Clay Dooley, a mixed-race boy from that same geography class, offers his friendship. The two become close, sending shockwaves that dovetail with a growing sense of tension and unease in the community as a whole. Clay’s father Clytus, a well-educated black man, attempts to open his own clothing store in the white section of downtown Willets Point. This causes Jessica’s new lawyer cum boyfriend and leader of the local Klan chapter, Bill McKendrick, to join with other white citizens in using great force to block Clytus’ dreams. Tempers flare and emotions run high when Clytus refuses the Klan’s subsequent demand that he and his family move out of the white neighborhood they live in, setting off an explosive confrontation that will change them all forever.

An absorbing and suspenseful coming of age story set against the tumultuous backdrop of racial tensions in mid-1960’s America, Stocking’s blend of historical fact and fiction is as relevant today as it was during the explosive Civil Rights era. Probing the human psyche for the deep-seated fears that fuel the fires of racism and bigotry, she expertly builds characters who feel their very lives are at stake by the changing times. Full of insight and intensity, The Promised Land is a spellbinding journey you won’t want to miss.

 

Chapter One

 

AUGUST 1966

 

            Joy Bradford stared out the window of the moving train headed from New York’s Penn Station to St. Petersburg, Florida.  Her ungainly body was encased in a pair of Bermuda shorts and a white, sleeveless Ship and Shore blouse. She had unfashionably short, curly brown hair, and a splotch of acne across her forehead. She was twelve years old.

She frowned, blinking her eyes behind Coke-bottle thick, horn-rimmed glasses.  The area they were traveling through was very poor, with houses that were nothing more than dilapidated, one-room shacks. Some were tilting to one side, threatening to collapse.  Some of the roofs looked partially caved-in. Windows were crude openings, lacking blinds or curtains.

Aunt Margaret, who was traveling with Joy and her mother Jessica, had referred to the lean-tos that Joy was seeing, which had appeared throughout their trip, as “Niggertowns.”  The term bothered Joy.  When she’d been four, her mother taught her a rhyme, “Eenie meenie miney moe, catch a nigger by the toe. If he hollers let him go, eenie, meenie miney moe.”  She’d recited it proudly for their housekeeper Melissa, who had shouted at her, “Don’t you ever say that again.”

“Why not?” Joy asked.

“It’s a bad word for colored people.”

Joy had never seen her so upset.  “Okay, I won’t say it anymore,” she promised…

“What are you doing?”

Joy, startled, jerked away from the window, looking up as Aunt Margaret entered the room.

Aunt Margaret frowned.  “Come away from there.  That’s something you shouldn’t have to see,” she said.  “None of us should have to look at it.  It’s disgusting.  A cesspool.”

Joy eyed her, but was silent.

“Where’s your mother?” Aunt Margaret wanted to know.

Joy shrugged.  “She said she was going to the dining car to get us a table.”

Aunt Margaret looked at her watch.

“Yes, it’s about time for lunch.  Come along.”

Jessica Bradford was waiting for them in the dining car at a table adorned with a starched white tablecloth, white cloth napkins and ornate silverware.  She was an inch taller than Margaret’s diminutive five feet one, and slender. Her shoulder-length blonde hair hung in her face, partially concealing her high cheekbones and doe-like brown eyes. “Well, just a few more hours and we’ll be there,” Margaret said.  She took one of Jessica’s cigarettes from the Phillip Morris pack lying on the table and lit it.  Jessica automatically reached for a cigarette herself, got a light from Margaret’s flame and inhaled deeply.

“Everything should be ready at the house,” Margaret continued.  “Peter will be picking us up at the station, and I’ve notified Vivian and Carly to make up one of the guest suites.”

Jessica nodded, but said nothing.

“You don’t seem as enthusiastic now as you were before we got on the train,” Margaret commented.  “Getting cold feet?”

Jessica’s lips thinned.  She shook her head.  “Not at all.”

Joy shifted uncomfortably in her chair.  Ever since her mother had announced she was leaving Joy’s father, there had been tension between Jessica and Aunt Margaret.  Joy knew that Aunt Margaret liked her father.  Almost everybody did, except for Jessica.

Now, Aunt Margaret shrugged.  “It’s your life,” she said in a voice that was too loud.  “Of course, there’s also Joy to consider.”

“That’s one of the main reasons why I’m getting a divorce,” Jessica said.  “For Joy’s sake.”

Aunt Margaret squinted at her as she inhaled smoke, then shook her head.  “I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.  “Your husband is a fine, upstanding…”

“Creep,” Joy’s mother supplied.  In a lower tone, she muttered, “Drunken pervert.”

“Jessica,” Aunt Margaret said in a warning tone.  “Watch your language.”

Jessica snorted and stabbed her cigarette out in the glass ashtray beside her.  Then

she fumbled in her purse and produced a large bottle of Mylanta.

Aunt Margaret watched her disapprovingly.  “We’ll have to get you over to Doc Nelson once you’re settled,” she said.  “It isn’t normal for a person to be taking so much of that stuff.”

“Are you a doctor?” Jessica’s voice was loud.

Aunt Margaret took another pull off her cigarette and said nothing.

There was a pause while Jessica looked for something to pour the antacid into.  The only glasses on the table were filled with water.  She shook the bottle, unscrewed its cap, and tilted it back as she gulped the chalky liquid.  Her dark eyes roamed from side to side, checking to make sure no one noticed. Then she replaced the cap and put the bottle back in her purse.

“Good afternoon, ladies.”  A Negro waiter approached them and handed out menus.

“Good afternoon.” Aunt Margaret smiled what Joy called her Gracious-to-the-Help Smile.  She showed just a bit too much of her teeth, but the gesture was gone so quickly it left you wondering if it had been a grin or a grimace.

They ate in silence.  Joy hated it when things were this way.  Of course, it was far better than they’d been during the past year, when Joy and her parents were living under the same roof.  She gazed sourly at her mother, who left half her chicken sandwich on her plate and was lighting another cigarette.

When she couldn’t stand the tension any longer, Joy said, “I think I’ll go back to the room and read.”

“Go ahead,” Jessica said tightly.

Joy rose so quickly she nearly knocked her chair over.  She saw with dismay that there were two wet streaks left on the seat.  She perspired heavily from the backs of her thighs, but didn’t know what to do about it.

When she reached the room, instead of pulling out a book, she snuck two pages of plain white stationery from her mother’s tablet, picked up a pen lying on the table and began to write:

Dear Dad,

 

We are almost in St. Petersburg.  There are lots of oranges and palm trees and other things that aren’t so nice to look at.  The land is flat.  I don’t think I’ll have any problems riding a bike here.  We just ate lunch.  I like the food on the train, and the men who make up the rooms and wait on the tables are very nice.

 

She hesitated, tapping the tip of the pen against her front teeth.  Then she added,

 

I miss you.  Thank you very much for the five dollars you gave me just before we left.  I still have it, and I didn’t tell Mom about it.

 

Abruptly, she heard footsteps approaching the room, and Aunt Margaret’s voice

 

saying, “Come over for gin rummy as soon as you’re ready.”

Jessica mumbled something Joy couldn’t hear, then turned the knob on the door.  It was locked.  She tapped on the door, calling,

“Joy?  Are you in there?”

Hastily, Joy shoved the stationery under her pillow and put the pen back on the table.

“Joy?”

“Yes.  Coming,” she called, and opened the door.

Jessica stepped in and set her purse on the table.  “Are you all right?” she asked Joy.

“Fine,” Joy replied.

“Aunt Margaret wants me to play cards with her,” Jessica said as she stepped into the tiny bathroom and shut the door.

“That’s nice.”

“Do you want to play?”

“No, thanks.”

There was a pause.

“I wish I didn’t have to,” Jessica muttered.  “That woman cheats.”

Joy smiled.  She’d played cards with her aunt before, and knew that Aunt Margaret wasn’t dishonest. She just had a good memory and knew after a couple of turns who had which cards.  She very seldom lost.

After Jessica left the room to go next door, Joy got out the letter she’d been writing to her father and resumed:

How is Kitty? I miss her.  I miss you, too.

Joy stopped, aware that she’d already said that.  She thought of scratching it out, but that would leave a blotch on the paper, so she left it. She lay on her stomach on her bed, rereading what she’d written, trying to think of something else to say.  Finally, she wrote,

I hope you’re OK.  You can write me at Aunt Margaret’s address in Bellair.

 

Love,

Joy

She’d only used one of the two sheets of paper she’d taken from her mother’s tablet.  She rifled through Jessica’s cosmetic bag where she’d found the paper, searching for an envelope.  She managed to locate one jammed in a corner and pulled it out.  It was creased across the flap, but Joy smoothed it out and wrote her father’s address on it.   Then she put Aunt Margaret’s address in the upper left hand corner.  When she was done, she stuffed her letter in the envelope and sealed it.  There. Now she just needed a stamp.  She’d ask Aunt Margaret for one when they reached the house.  She’d also ask her aunt to mail the letter to her father.  She didn’t trust her mother to do it.

Joy put the sealed letter in her small suitcase underneath some blouses.  She spent the next half hour writing another letter to her best friend Karen.  It had been very painful to say good-bye to her.  They’d been close for nearly two years.

When she was through, Joy decided she’d ask her mother for an envelope.  She didn’t want to go snooping through Jessica’s luggage again.  Jessica might notice something was amiss and get suspicious.

Joy folded the letter to Karen and put it on the table.  There was no reason to hide that one, she thought.

They had stopped in some Florida town, and now they were jerking forward again, the train giving off its loud HOO-HOOOOO and thunketa thunketa thunk as it pulled out of the station.  Joy returned to her place by the window.

            It won’t be long now.

**

Sheriff Thaddeus Simms and Gil Meyers sat side by side on rickety folding chairs as they had for hundreds of Wednesdays, outside Willets Point Barber Shop, which was owned by Gil. Thaddeus was a tall, imposing man, six feet five and more than 250 pounds.  The little hair he had left Gil Meyers buzzed off every Wednesday.  Thaddeus’s face, which had been innocent-looking enough in high school to earn him the nickname Baby Huey, was hard and craggy with age, but his eyes remained an icy blue.

Thaddeus’ cheeks still smarted from the aftershave Gil had slapped on him a few minutes before.  He sat motionless with his eyes closed, feeling the Florida sun bake his face.  He wished there was a breeze.  Sweat was beading on his forehead and dripping down the sides of his nose.

“I hear he’s rented a place downtown,” Gil said.  Short, string bean thin with gangly arms and legs, he exuded an odor of menthol.

Thaddeus’s eyes flew open.  He stared dully at the seven-acre lot across the street.  It had had a For Sale sign on it for so long the sign looked weather-beaten.

“Them niggers is gettin’ awful uppity these days,” Gil added.

Thaddeus shrugged and said, “Don’t borrow trouble until it knocks on your door.”

“You know who I’m talkin’ about, don’t cha?” Gil pressed.

Thaddeus shifted his bulk in the uncomfortable chair, making it squeak in protest.

“I reckon,” he said.

“That nigger from Atlanta, Clytus Dooley.”

“What about him?”

“What are you gonna do about him?” Gil asked.

“Nothing, unless he breaks the law.”

Gil snorted.  Then he asked, “How’s the truck running?”

Thaddeus shrugged.  “You know.”

“What do you mean?” Gil was defensive.  “When I sold it to you I said…”

“I know what you said.  She’s got her moments, is what I’m saying.”

As Thaddeus said this, he couldn’t help but look at Gil’s brand new 1966 Ford

Fairlaine parked in front of the shop.

Must be in hock up past his chin.

Abruptly, Gil changed the subject: “Know who’s coming into town today?”

Thaddeus winced.  Sometimes he wondered why he bothered talking to Gil at all, but he kept his voice even when he asked, “Who’re you talking about?”

“You know who.”

“Why don’t you tell me?” he asked.

“Miss Jessica Arkasian.”

“You mean Mrs. Bradford,” Thaddeus corrected.

“She’ll go back to her maiden name after she’s took that surgeon husband of hers for all she can get.”

Anger flared in Thaddeus.  “She’s no gold-digger,” he said.  “She doesn’t have to be.”

“Well,” Gil said doubtfully.  There was a pause.  “She’s got a kid, I hear.”

“Yeah,” Thaddeus said noncommittally.

“Train’s pulling in, in about an hour,” Gil went on.  When Thaddeus didn’t reply, Gil added, “You gonna go meet ‘em?”

Thaddeus snorted.

“Are you?” Gil pressed.

“Why would I?” He wished Gil would drop it.  It was too damned hot to be talking.

“I’ll bet Bill McKendrick shows up to welcome ‘em,” Gil said, his voice full of needles.

Thaddeus said nothing.  But his hands, which had been resting in his lap, now moved to grip his knees.

“You don’t want him getting the jump on you again, do you?”

“Don’t know what you mean,” Thaddeus said.

But he did know, damned right well…

Gil laughed.  Thaddeus suddenly wanted a drink.  He glanced at his watch.  Another twenty minutes until he was on his official break.

“Come on, Thad.  I’ve heard she’s still a looker.  Don’t tell me you’re not interested.”

Thaddeus rose from the chair, adjusting the heavy belt containing flashlight, handcuffs and gun that rode on his hips.

“I haven’t seen her in almost twenty years,” he said.

“So?”

“So, people change.”

He watched as a satisfied smirk settled on the wrinkled features of Gil Meyers.  It was hard for Thaddeus not to punch him.  He imagined his knuckles connecting with Gil’s nose.  He imagined Gil on the floor, dazed, shaking his head, all the self-assuredness and mean pettiness knocked out of him.

“I just figured you’d want to know,” Gil said.

“I’d best get back to work,” Thaddeus said, glancing once again at his watch.  Seventeen minutes to go…

**

            “I need a drink,” Margaret Karlson murmured.  She stood wilting in a pink linen suit next to Joy and Jessica in the parking lot of the railroad station in St. Petersburg.  They were waiting for Peter, Margaret’s chauffeur, to arrive.  Margaret shifted impatiently from one foot to the other.  She inhaled the fetid air and tried not to grimace.  This was the worst part of the trip.  Why they put railroad stations in the middle of the worst cesspools of humanity she would never understand.  But at least they were off that wretched train.  Five days riding on that damned thing should have won her an endurance medal.  She blamed Johnson for the whole thing, of course.  It was his fault the damned airlines were on strike.  If only Goldwater had gotten in…

Joy stood next to her mother, her face shiny with sweat. There were dark, wet rings under her arms.  Margaret was aware of the perspiration dripping down her own chin, trickling down her neck.  She retrieved a tissue from her bag and mopped it up.  She glanced at Jessica and experienced a short burst of irritation.  Jessica never perspired.  And the sun loved her: she could bake in it for hours until her skin was as dark as a Negro’s.

“I’m going to start calling you my nigger niece,” Margaret told her.  She turned to Joy and added, “I don’t want any niggers in my family, do you?”

Joy stared stonily back at her. The child made Margaret nervous.

“I’m surprised Bill isn’t here,” Margaret said.

Jessica pulled a cigarette out of a beige leather case and put it between her lips.  “He’s probably working,” she said, fumbling in her purse for a lighter.

“Still,” Margaret said.  “Attorneys can take long lunches if they want to.”  She pulled a cigarette out of her own purse and waited until Jessica produced a lighter to incline her head towards the flame.  She inhaled deeply and said, “I’ll let you in on a little secret about Bill.” She paused and looked at her niece.  “He’s going to be the next D.A.”

Jessica puffed on her cigarette and said nothing.

“I’m financing Bill’s campaign.” Margaret paused to let that sink in, then added, “Don’t dare tell anyone.  It’s supposed to be a secret.  He’s going to be on radio, TV, everything.” Margaret watched her niece carefully.

Doesn’t she have any feelings at all?  If she’s fallen out of love with Mike, she can damn well get cozy with Bill again.

“Personal appearances, too, of course,” Margaret added.  “They say those are most important.”

Jessica was silent.  Margaret frowned.  “He never married you know,” Margaret said pointedly.

“Smart man,” Jessica said.

Margaret sighed in exasperation.

I give up!  She shot her niece a look.  For the time being…

She looked both ways, down the rows of cars in the parking lot, and then at her watch.

“Not where’s that damned…oh, here’s Peter,” Aunt Margaret said jubilantly as the black Cadillac limousine nosed its way toward them.  Peter, dressed in full livery, opened the driver’s side door and got out.  He was a small man, barely Margaret’s height, but as far as she was concerned he had the energy of two regular-sized men.

“Welcome home, Mrs. Karlson,” Peter said, bowing and tipping his hat.

“Thank you, Peter.  This is my niece Jessica Bradford and her daughter Joy.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Peter said, nodding to both of them.  He gestured to the bags near them.  “Is that everything?”

“Yes,” Margaret replied.  To Jessica, she said, “Come on, let’s get in the air conditioning.”

As they climbed into the back of the limo, Margaret looked at her wristwatch, feigning surprise. “I had no idea it was so late. I’m ready for a drink.  Jessica?”

Margaret turned to her niece, pretending not to see the disapproval flash in Jessica’s dark eyes.

“No thank you,” Jessica said.

“What about you?” Margaret asked Joy.  She saw the girl’s eyes widen in surprise.

“Aunt Margaret, please,” Jessica protested.

“Why?  What’s the matter?” Margaret’s voice took on a defensive tone.  “We’ve been stuck on that God-awful train for days, and baking in the heat on that platform for God knows how long.  We’re entitled.  Aren’t we, Joy?”

Without waiting for a reply, Margaret opened the bar in the back of the limo and helped herself to a glass and a miniature of J&B.  “What would you like, Princess?” she asked Joy.  Joy didn’t reply. “Oh, come on,” Margaret said impatiently.  “Didn’t you tell me you were dying of thirst?”

“That was yesterday,” Joy said in a barely audible voice.

“It’s too early,” Jessica muttered.

“It is not.  It’s late afternoon.  How many people have cocktails at lunch?”

“Not everyone,” Jessica retorted.

“Well, it’s hours past lunchtime now.”

They hadn’t served any alcohol on the train before 2pm.  Margaret thought that was outrageous, and had argued with the help on board, but they refused to bend their damned rules.

Now, finally, Jessica was silent. Margaret experienced a sense of triumph.

I showed her.

Peter climbed into the limo on the driver’s side and shifted into drive.

“I bet I know what you’d like,” Margaret said to Joy.  She pulled a small bottle of green liquid out from the back of the liquor supply and took a fresh glass.

“You like mint, don’t you?” Margaret asked.

Joy shrugged.

“Huh?  Do you?” Margaret asked loudly.

“It’s okay,” Joy whispered.

“Here.  Try some of this.” Margaret handed her the glass, which was half-full of the green liquid.  Joy took a small sip.

“Isn’t it good?” Margaret pressed.

“Sure,” Joy said.

Margaret settled back against the leather upholstery, nursing her scotch.

“Oh, Jessica,” she said. “Did I tell you I invited Bill McKendrick over for dinner tonight?”

“No, you didn’t,” Jessica replied.

“It’ll be like old times.”

**

            Joy watched out the limo window as they made their way 30 miles west from St. Petersburg to Willets Point, Florida.

The car was the height of luxury, she thought.  Its upholstery was covered in suede, and the only things Joy could hear were the hiss of the tires and the subdued whir of the air conditioner.  It felt like a long ride to Joy.  However, as the cool, green crème de menthe coated her tongue and throat, she began to relax.  She loved the way it grew warm as it traveled down to her stomach.

They passed a golf course and a short block of boutiques. They made a right turn and were in a really fancy section now.  Homes spread out gracefully on immaculately manicured lawns.  Palm trees adorned the wide meridians.

Joy had never seen anything this opulent back home. It was impossible not to gape, even though she had been here four years ago. Enough time had passed for the impact of this wealth to strike her again.

The last time she’d been here, when she was eight, she’d gotten lost on the first floor of the Karlson home, between the dining room and the guest suite she was supposed to occupy.  She stumbled around in the dark, on carpeting so thick her feet sank into it, wandering through the breakfast gallery, the library, and the cavernous living room before she finally encountered a servant and timidly asked the way back to the kitchen.  The maid had found it terribly funny.

Joy remembered Aunt Margaret’s favorite part of the house was the elevator.  It was a tiny, plushly padded cubicle that whirred from the first to the second floor.  She and Joy went up and down, up and down in it. Aunt Margaret’s small dark eyes shone with childish glee as she said, “Press the button.  Going up.”

**

            Aunt Margaret resided in a two-story mansion on a large corner lot in Bellair, located in the northernmost section of Willets Point.  Like the other homes on the street, it was white stucco with a coral-colored roof and accents.  Jessica remembered it being bigger when they’d last been here, four years ago.

Things had been better with Mike then. Friends of Margaret and Gustav, Margaret’s husband, including several physicians, had tried to persuade him to move and practice urology in Florida.  He seemed amenable to the idea at first, but then backed down as soon as they had returned to Connecticut.

Now, Jessica gasped as she felt hot acid rising to her gorge.  She looked at her handbag, where she’d kept the large bottle of Mylanta, but then realized she’d transferred it to her luggage because the bottle was stretching the material of her purse.

Once they arrived at the house, Aunt Margaret ushered Jessica and Joy into the same guest suite Joy had stayed in four years earlier. It was done in French Provincial, all yellow and white, and boasted a huge separate dressing room and bathroom. Sliding glass doors led directly out onto the patio, which featured inlaid tile and an ornate fountain.

“Freshen up,” Margaret commanded. Her face was flushed, and her strident voice was a bit louder than usual. Her eyes fixed on Jessica’s. “I know you’ll want to look nice for our guest.”

Jessica pursed her lips, but her heart was pounding with excitement.

She’d met Bill after she’d graduated high school.  He was a few years older, with a lot more experience in the ways of the world than she.  She recalled that summer before she went to college.  Bill had just finished his second year of law school, and was full of promise.  She remembered the first time he kissed her in the parking lot of the Willets Point Country Club, how his lips had lingered over hers, coaxing them open.  She had ended it a few weeks later, after he’d started a fistfight with Thaddeus Simms.

Now, in Aunt Margaret’s house, the first thing Jessica unpacked from her red cosmetic case was the large bottle of antacid.  She found small paper cups in the bathroom, filled one with the chalky liquid, and downed it.

After Jessica and Joy had showered and unpacked a few things, Jessica sat at the vanity table in the dressing room, fumbling with a myriad of small tubes, vials, and sticks.  They left smeared, multi-colored trails of powder and liquid on the imported marble surface.

Jessica was aware of Joy watching her as she applied her make-up.  The girl annoyed her to no end.  She was disobedient and disrespectful, and she took Mike’s side in everything.  Further, Jessica found Joy’s beady-eyed stare behind those dreadful spectacles she wore unnerving.

The silence between them thickened.  Well, Jessica was damned if she was going to be the one to break it.

When she was through with her make-up, she rose and walked into the spacious closet. She hesitated, her hand poised over one of her mini skirts.  The hand wavered, then moved past, finally settling on a knee-length, pale blue dress that accentuated the narrowness of her waist and the curve of her hips.

“Can I wear some lipstick?” Joy asked timidly.

“No.”

Joy moved from one foot to the other, causing the loose shift she had changed into to sway. It concealed her growing bosom and the rest of her chunky body.

She was silent as Jessica applied carnelian colored lipstick to her mouth, puckered and pressed her lips into a tissue, leaving an orange smear.  Jessica sprayed herself from neck to chest with cologne in several rapid, waving motions, then turned to Joy.

“Let’s go,” Jessica said.

            They found Margaret alone in the den, having a cocktail. Margaret shook the ice around in her glass of scotch.  “Can you believe it?” she demanded.  “They’re actually letting niggers into white schools.”

Her face was flushed, and she mopped sweat from her chin with her free hand.

“That’s one of the reasons we need Bill,” she went on.  “These niggers are getting away with all kinds of things.  Everyone’s concerned about their damned civil rights.  What about my civil rights?  What about the rights of white people?  Don’t we count any more?  For God’s sake.”

She made a vague gesture towards the bar.  “Help yourselves,” she said.

Jessica nodded to Joy, who went to the bar and mixed a scotch for Jessica and ginger ale and grenadine for herself.

“What about that high-falutin’ one from Atlanta?” Margaret continued. “He thinks because he’s college educated he can come down here and do business with the whites.  It’s absurd.  No white person wants to be associating with coloreds that way. It’s unnatural, that’s what it is.  Unnatural.”

Jessica cleared her throat.  Margaret could carry on after a few belts.  Anyway, Jessica had other things on her mind besides race relations.

“How’s Bill these days?” She tried to keep her voice casual.

“As handsome and eligible as ever,” Margaret said, grinning broadly.  Jessica’s face grew warm.

As if on cue, the doorbell rang.  Margaret darted to the den door.

“I’ll get it, Vivian,” she bellowed. Unconsciously, she pressed her steel-colored curls against the side of her face with one hand as she strode out of the room.

There was a long silence.  Then Jessica heard Margaret’s voice, loud with excitement as she greeted her guest, followed by a man’s voice, much lower, murmur something indistinct.  There was a pause, and Jessica heard Margaret again, this time much closer:

“Right this way, Bill.”

She was followed into the room by Bill McKendrick.  He was a tall, burly man,  dressed in a dark grey suit, white shirt and striped tie. His grey hair was thinning on top.  He wore horn-rimmed glasses and had broad features.

Jessica almost blanched when she saw him.  He looked like an inflated version of the Bill she’d known 20 years ago.  Still, her heart shimmied crazily as Margaret marched him up to her and said, “Bill, you remember my niece, Jessica Bradford.  This is her daughter, Joy.”

Jessica noted with satisfaction that Bill didn’t bother looking at Joy.  Instead, his eyes lit up with interest and his eyebrows rose slightly as he took Jessica in.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again,” he said, extending his hand.

Jessica took it.  It was surprisingly smooth and soft.  He squeezed her hand gently.  She nodded and smiled.

Margaret stepped in.  “I’m hoping you’ll be able to help Jessica.  She wants to divorce her husband, and needs a good lawyer.”

Jessica was mortified.  Then she thought, Why not?  What the hell?

“I’ll be glad to help if I can,” Bill said.

“Let me get you a drink,” Margaret said.  “Still a bourbon man?”

Bill laughed and nodded.

“Tell us what’s been going on in the world of crime.”

Bill settled his large bulk into a loveseat across from Jessica.

“I saw the sheriff yesterday,” he said to Margaret.

“Thaddeus?  How is he?”

“Just fine, I think. Getting a little broad in the beam.” Bill laughed, then patted his own stomach. “Of course, I’m a fine one to talk.”

“What do you mean?” Margaret waved at him impatiently.  “You’re a big man, Bill.”  She turned to Jessica. “And he will probably be an even bigger man before the end of the year.”  She handed Bill a drink.

“Well, now, we don’t know that yet, Margaret,” Bill said, but he was smiling broadly.

Jessica tried not to look too impressed as she thought,

He’s confident.  He’s a man who’s going places.

“Oh, Bill.  You don’t have any competition to speak of, unless you count that nigger-loving peace-blabbing asshole from…”

“Aunt Margaret, please,” Jessica murmured.

“Well, it gets my dander up every time I think of that idiot saying equal this and equal that.” Margaret took a breath.  “What’s wrong with equal and separate?”

“Believe me, most people feel that way,” Bill said.  “We’ve got some pending business downtown with that fellow Clytus Dooley…”

“He’s the one I was telling you about,” Margaret said to Jessica.  “That left leaning nigger from Atlanta.”

“He’s applied for a permit to open a business downtown,” Bill said.

“In the white section, isn’t it?”

Bill nodded.

“Well, can’t you do something to stop him?” Margaret’s voice was strident.

“We’re trying,” Bill answered.  “But he seems to think the law is on his side.  He’s got some sanctimonious leftist lawyer from Tampa to represent him.  White, I might add.”

“Is he going to have white people working in the store?”

“If he is, they’re bound to be trailer trash who don’t know any better,” Bill said.  “The point is, do we want our hard-earned money lining this carpetbagger’s pockets?”

“No,” Margaret almost shouted.  She took a large gulp of her drink.  “What can be done to stop him?”

Bill smiled thinly.  In a soft voice, he said, “We’ll take care of it.”

At that moment, Jessica felt the scope of this man’s power, and smiled.

 He’s going to be mine.

            Jessica was removing her makeup in the dressing room after dinner when Joy came in.

“What do you think of Bill?” Joy asked as she leaned against the wall next to her mother.

“I don’t know.  Why?”

“Are you going to see him again?”

“Well, yes.  Didn’t you hear me make an appointment with him?  Aunt Margaret wants him to handle the divorce.”

“That’s all?” Joy asked.

Jessica shot her a look.  “What do you mean by that?”

“I don’t know. Do you think you might…date him?”

Jessica’s eyes turned hard. “I’m still married, for God’s sake,” she snapped. “Do you think I’m going to start running around with a man like some floozy? For God’s sake.” She picked up the blue-streaked tissue and continued removing her eyeshadow.

**

– Excerpted from The Promised Land.  All rights reserved.

 

Interview with Carole Eglash-Kosoff: ‘It felt very special to hold that stack of pages in my hand’

An avid student of history, Carole Eglash-Kosoff is a native of Wisconsin. After graduating from UCLA, she spent her career in the apparel industry and teaching fashion retail, marketing, and sales at the college level. Her first book is The Human Spirit. She has also established the …a better way! Scholarship program, which provides money and mentoring for worthy high school students for both their first and second year of college. Carole Eglash-Kosoff lives and writes in Valley Village, California.

Her latest book is When Stars Align.

You can visit her website at www.whenstarsalign-thebook.com or connect with her at Facebook at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553077163.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Carole.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published? 

Hi…I’m multi-published.  When Stars Align is my second book.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route? 

I self published The Human Spirit – Apartheid’s Unheralded Heroes.  It represents stories of individuals I worked with in the black townships of South Africa and I had no Agent for this book.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

Less than 3 months.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate? 

It felt very special to hold that stack of pages in my hand.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time? 

I began sending copies of the book to those I thought would be interested, Ambassador to the US from So Africa, for example

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author? 

I’ve certainly grown in self-confidence.  I’ve participated in Book Fairs and the NY Book Expo and I’ve learned how little I really know about publishing and promoting options.  I have a great deal to learn.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole? 

The size and complexity as well as its current state of flux.

 Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

The feeling that I’ve accomplished something.  My current work is a work of love and passion and I’m very proud of it.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day? 

Write…write…write…then be prepared to rewrite and edit some more.

Interview with John Milton Langdon, author of ‘Against All Odds’

John Milton Langdon is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and has a master’s degree in maritime civil engineering.  Langdon retired and became a professional writer after an active and rewarding engineering career.  Initially he worked in Britain but from 1972 until 2008, he dealt with project development in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria.  Langdon lives in the Austrian town of Klagenfurt which has a history stretching back to mediaeval times.  Langdon has three children and five grandchildren from his first marriage and two step sons from the second.  Langdon has many interests including travel, the British canals, music and literature but hiking in the mountains surrounding his home is a preferred leisure activity.

John’s latest book is a historical fiction titled Against All Odds (Tate Publishing).

You can visit John Milton Langdon’s website at www.jmlangdon.com.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, John.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I have published four books so far; Against All Odds being the first.  My first two books have been translated into German and I am searching for a publisher willing to produce a German language edition.  I also hope to complete and publish several more books in English over the next two years.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?#

After writing to forty or fifty agents over the space of a year without any success, I decided to take an alternative route.  Writing was my hobby not a career, and I was prepared to spend some money to have my book produced; just as another adult will buy model planes or ships for pleasure.  I chose a publisher who contributed a large proportion of the production cost and operated a print on demand policy.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I don’t have an accurate record for this but I believe it was about six to nine months before I received my first book.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I imagine I felt much as a new mother would feel when she holds her first child in her arms.  Amazed, elated and very proud.  My late wife and I had a glass of Prosecco to celebrate.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I made book readings and also started to visit bookshops in the hope they would stock some books.

Q: Since youve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

It isn’t sufficient to have a subject to write about; it is necessary to learn how to be a writer and for me that proved to be a challenge.  After spending forty years dealing with facts and figures during my engineering career, it was not easy to persuade my brain that it was now OK to use my imagination.  It has been interesting also, to see how my style of writing has changed during the composition of the four books.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

It’s diversity.  There are now so many ways to achieve the publication of one’s work, but I wonder how long it will be before books written in ink on paper will become obsolete.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

The great pleasure I feel when someone asks for the next book in the series, and when they are sad when they reach the end of the fourth and last book.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Don’t stop dreaming.

 

 

 

 

Why I Write Historical Fiction by M.M. Bennetts

We have a special guest today!  M.M. Bennetts, author of the historical fiction novel, Of Honest Fame (Diiarts), is here to talk about writing historical fiction! Educated at Boston University and St Andrews, M.M. Bennetts is a specialist in the economic, social and military history of Napoleonic Europe. The author is a keen cross-country and dressage rider, as well as an accomplished pianist, regularly performing music of the era as both a soloist and accompanist. Bennetts is a long-standing book critic for The Christian Science Monitor. The author is married and lives in England. You can visit the author’s website at www.mmbennetts.com.

Why I Write Historical Fiction

By M.M. Bennetts

Somewhere along the line we’ve got the idea that history itself is dry and academic, that it’s about battles, names and dates, and curiously, very few people.   But history without the people isn’t really history at all, it’s geography.

And I want to put the people back.

Recently, I read this line by journalist, Charles Moore:  “In studying history, you must imagine yourself into the truly difficult choices people had to make in the past…”

And I thought, Whoa!  That is exactly it.  Nothing can say it better.

And that is the whole job of the historical fiction writer.  For us, it is not enough to live in another person’s skin within the contemporary world, but (possibly we have a strain of masochism?) we have to complicate matters still further by adding the past senses of smells, sights and sounds that are long gone or diminishing.  Then add to that, imagining ourselves into those unequivocally awful decisions and their aftermaths.

But when we get it right, how great is the result.  How much it deepens the experience of the reader.  And how it transforms our view of our current world by understanding our birth, the nascency of the ideas with which we live, the consequences of actions long since taken.

Historical fiction is one of the greatest communicators, if you’ll pardon the hackneyed expression.

When I was studying at St. Andrews, and skiving, I frequently wandered into Innes’ Stationers and Books, climbed the stairs to the panelled haven where the book department was and sat down on the stool they had there to read.  And it was there that started reading Dorothy Dunnetts’ Lymond sequence.

And for the first time, someone was talking about the Renaissance and Europe as interconnected–artistically, economically, militarily–and doing it through a set of characters with whom I became wholly engaged.  It may have been history made easy, but it was also history made embracing.

Look at how many people were engaged by Patrick O’Brian’s novels about Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin.  Probably more than half the bearded blokes at the conferences leading up to the bicentennial of Trafalgar in 2005 were O’Brian devotees. And that’s how many of them had come to it.  O’Brian had been their window to the past.

And the fact of the matter is I want to see our history, our past, alive and available to all.  Not just to academics in university linen-fold panelled libraries.  Not saying I don’t like faculty libraries or their reading rooms.

But I want more than anything to see people today realise that the past isn’t names and dates, it’s people–good people, bad people, all of whom loved, lived, fought, triumphed, had families, contributed, didn’t contribute, died or survived to fight another day…

And historical fiction can do that.  And do it most effectively.

It can, if skillfully written and well-researched, bridge the gap between our modern-day lives and views and theirs, however many centuries ago they lived.  It can throw open the shutters of our minds, show us their lives–their strengths, their courage, their fears, their failures–and in the process, teach us not only about the challenges of the past, but about answers for the present.

And how cool is that?

A Few Facts about the period of my novels:

1.  Napoleon was only 5’3″ or 5’4″ at most.  I’ve seen his clothes.  He had tiny feet too.

2.  The shoes of the period have neither a right nor a left–they’re like ballet shoes.  And this is true of men’s shoes as well as women’s.

3.   In Napoleon’s army, the buttons on the trousers of the French Infantry were made of tin.  Tin turns to powder in extremely cold temperatures.  So during the French army’s retreat from Moscow in autumn and winter 1812, those poor fellows couldn’t even keep their trousers up.

4.   Lord Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary from 1812-1822, was a fine cellist.  So was the Prince Regent, later King George IV.

5.  The London fog was every bit as bad in the early years of the century as in the old Sherlock Holmes’ movies.  It was often so dense, even during the day, that you couldn’t see from one side of a square across to the other.  This was caused by the use of coal as the primary means of heating the houses.  Paris, on the other hand, was fog-free–they used wood and charcoal for heating.

6.  From November 1806, because of Napoleon’s Continental Blockade, until the end of the wars, across Europe, there was no tea, no coffee, no sugar, no chocolate and no cotton to be had.  Just like during WWII.

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