My Reading Pal
• May 25, 2002 - Oct 22, 2010 •
Forever in my heart
Today I’ve got a guest post for everyone from author C.C. Humphreys and his newest novel The French Executioner which Mark Huffam, who produced the first season of the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, has signed on to produce the movie adaptation of The French Executioner, which has been optioned by an acclaimed Hollywood producer/director. I’ll be reviewing The French Executioner in November so watch for my review then. In the meantime enjoy the guest post and be sure to enter my giveaway for a chance to win your own copy.
WHY WRITE A NOVEL ABOUT THE MAN WHO KILLED ANNE BOLEYN?
Where do the ideas for novels come from?
I remember exactly what I was doing when the idea for The French Executioner hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was working out.
I was living in Vancouver at the time. Making my living as an actor. I’d written a couple of plays. But my dream from childhood had always been to write historical fiction.
I wasn’t thinking of any of that, on that day in a gym in 1993. I was thinking about shoulder presses. Checking my form in the mirror.
This is what happened. (It also shows you the rather strange associations in my brain!)
I lift the weight bar.
Me, in my head. ‘God, I’ve got a long neck.’
‘If I was ever executed,’ – Raise bar – ‘it would be a really easy shot for the ax.’
‘Or the sword. Because, of course, Anne Boleyn was executed with a sword.’
Raise bar. Stop half way.
‘Anne Boleyn had six fingers on one hand.’
Flash! Boom! Put down bar before I drop it. It came together in my head, as one thing: the executioner, brought from France to do the deed, (I remembered that from school). Not just taking her head. Taking her hand as well, that infamous hand – and then the question all writers have to ask: what happened next?
I scurried to the library. Took out books. I knew it had to be a novel. I did some research, sketched a few ideas. But the problem was, I wasn’t a novelist. A play had seemed like a hill. A novel – well, it was a mountain, and I wasn’t ready to climb it. So I dreamed a while, then quietly put all my research, sketches, notes away.
But I never stopped thinking about it. The story kept coming and whenever I was in a second hand bookstore I’d study the history shelves and think: if ever I write that novel – which I probably never will – I’ll want… a battle at sea between slave galleys. So I’d buy a book on that subject, read it. Buy another, read it.
November 1999. Six years after being struck by lightning. I’m living back in England and I find a book on sixteenth century mercenaries – and I knew the novel I was never going to write would have mercenaries. Twenty pages in, I turn to my wife and say: “You know, I think I’m going to write that book.” And she replies, “It’s about bloody time.”
I wrote. The story, all that research, had stewed in my head for so long, it just poured out. Ten months and I was done. I wondered if it was any good. I sent it to an agent. She took me on and had it sold three months later.
I was a novelist after all.
GIVEAWAY – OPEN TO US RESIDENTS ONLY
1 copy up for grabs!
*CLICK HERE* and fill out the form to enter
Draw Date November 4/14
(comments are welcome but do not count as an entry)
Today I’ve got Janel Gradowski, author of The Queen of Bad Decisions visiting the blog. Some of you may remember Janel from her days blogging at Janel’s Jumble which is where I met her about five years ago. Well now she spends her time writing and has published several books. I reviewed her newest The Queen of Bad Decisions and Must Love Sandwiches – both from The Bartonville Series – yesterday (my review) and I enjoyed both books a great deal. They are light, fun reads and perfect for those times when you don’t feel like reading something heavy and long. Today Janel joins us with a guest post about her writing…
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot
That is my favorite quote. In fact, I have a print of it hanging on the wall above my desk. It is a little reminder to always follow my dreams because hopes and aspirations don’t have an expiration date.
I am a late bloomer in the fiction writing world. I was forty when my first flash fiction stories began appearing online in journals and contests. This wasn’t because I had recently decided that I wanted to be a writer. No, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in the fifth grade at the tender age of 10. In my teens and early 20’s I subscribed to writing magazines and I think I even entered a few writing contests, which I didn’t win. While I held down many jobs during that time, from renting apartments to college students to greeting shoppers in a grocery store, my favorite was writing press releases for the stock car race track that I also worked at. It was such a thrill to see words that I wrote in the newspaper. I was a published author, of sorts. There wasn’t a lot of creativity in listing race winners and my name wasn’t always included when the press release was published. Still, I enjoyed the work.
Then life got in the way. I got married, found a steady job working in the pre-press department at a newspaper, bought a house and had children. My old stories and ideas got stuffed into binders and buried among the clutter in the basement. After I had my second child I decided I wanted to make some inexpensive Christmas presents for friends and family, so I pulled out an also forgotten stash of beads. Soon I found that I had a knack for doing beadwork. It wasn’t long before I began designing my own patterns. Somewhere, in between the dirty diapers, mountains of laundry, seed beads and stacks of jotted down notes, I managed to read a book that talked about writing down dreams and goals as a way to help them manifest. So I scribbled “I want to be a published author” on a sheet of paper and tucked it away in between the pages of a notebook. Within a year I was regularly seeing my beadwork patterns published in major beadwork magazines. One of my designs was even the cover image for an issue.
What an exciting time that was. I loved stopping by the magazine area at Barnes & Noble when one of my patterns was published. It was like a delicious secret to look at a magazine and know my work was inside. Designing and publishing the beadwork patterns was exciting, but as time went on I realized I had still left behind my childhood dream. I wanted to write stories.
As my fortieth birthday approached I went into a creativity mid-life crisis. I decided to give writing fiction a hearty effort to see what would happen. I was getting too old to sit back and let my dreams just wither away. Much to my surprise, editors liked my work. I began accumulating publishing credits and then decided to compile some of my stories into ebooks.
I just released my fourth ebook, a novelette called “The Queen of Bad Decisions”. It is the second book in my Bartvonille Series of women’s fiction with recipes. The series is a form of serialized fiction, so stories will range from flash fiction to novella length, all revolving around the people who live in an artists’ colony.
While being a writer can be challenging it is also very rewarding. I get to live all kinds of interesting alternate lives through my characters. While I may not be a 20-something rising literary star I sure am happy I took Ms. Eliot’s advice to heart and found that it is never too late to become the author I have always wanted to be.
ABOUT THE QUEEN OF BAD DECISIONS ( from Amazon)
Daisy’s life is sliding downhill at breakneck speed. Leaving her worthless boyfriend lands her back at her parents’ home, sleeping on the couch. After only a few days she is tired and annoyed. Her parents give new meaning to the term “early riser” and she can’t avoid unpleasant encounters with her obnoxious brother. The only escape from the familial torture is at her job in a book store. Her boss finds a solution to the housing dilemma, but Daisy will need to change more than her address labels to make the arrangement work.
This book is a novelette that contains approximately 11,500 words. Two, short bonus stories along with recipes are also included.
ABOUT JANEL GRADOWSKI
There are hundreds of fictional characters living in my mind. I love to let them out to play in my stories. I have written about everything from an insane ghost to a jealous wife with an explosive personality. Over the past few years many of my flash fiction and short stories have been published both online and in print. I have also been designing and publishing beadwork patterns for over 10 years. In 2012 I began publishing ebooks in my 6:1 Series. Each volume has six stories based on one theme. In 2013 I will begin publishing a culinary fiction series based in my home state of Michigan. While I love writing flash fiction, this new series will include novellas, novelettes and longer short stories as well as flash fiction pieces.
My favorite place to write is in my recliner, nestled into the corner of the living room. I can glance over my laptop screen and watch the wildlife perusing the field across the road. Everything from deer to turkeys and pheasants pass by as I wrestle the characters out of my head and onto the page. My almost constant companion and writing buddy is my beloved Golden Retriever, Cooper. He’s a great listener and always reminds to get up a stretch once in awhile, on the way to his treat jar. Besides my fur baby my family consists of two wonderful children and a fantastic husband.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (eBook only)
This giveaway is open to anyone able to read an eBook and I will draw for the winner on November 20/13. Good luck!
Source: Giveaway copies to be provided by the author.
Please join me today in welcoming Pamela Schoenewaldt, author of Swimming in the Moon to the blog! I reviewed her newest novel Swimming in the Moon which released on September 3 yesterday (my review) and I have to say that this novel is another favorite of mine just as her first one When We Were Strangers was. She is a very talented author who writes beautiful books and I feel privileged to have read them. Today she joins us with a guest post entitled The Medieval Birth of a 20th Century Novel…
My second historical novel, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, is set in Naples and Cleveland from 1904 to 1913. Actually the project began a bit further back, in the Middle Ages. After I finished WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, which tells the journey of a needleworker from a mountain village in Abruzzo to America in the 1880s, I plunged into a project about a woman in the household of the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor in the late 11th C. I have to say, it was a bit of a slog, but I slogged through many iterations, found my way, and presented the first four chapters to my agent, who then passed it to the editor.
Who loved the chapters, she said. But . . . the immigration theme had such resonance with readers and interest in historical novel is moving into the early 20th C. Did I have anything more, hum, current? Could some of the themes in my novel be pushed a little from 1195 to, say, 1905? Mind you, this was a conference call between me, my agent and my editor. No pressure. Just put together a novel idea on the fly.
The amazing thing is, it happened. Adrenalin is magic. And in fact I had, in my medieval slog, been thinking of other themes and story ideas. A woman of great musical talent which her daughter doesn’t share. A mother whose fragile mind breaks: the theme called up for me so many friends today torn between living their own lives and the need to parent their own parents. In that high-tension conference call I pictured a mother and daughter in service forced to leave a Neapolitan villa which has sheltered them. I went to college near Cleveland and that city’s blend of scruffy history, cultural verve and immigrant neighborhoods has always intrigued me. Add vaudeville (why not?). In Knoxville where I live, I’m involved with several worker justice issues and a local union. I reeled off these themes to polite silence. Could I make all this into a treatment? Soon, I imagined, like tomorrow. I did. The story bloomed. Names and faces came to me; the plot formed itself. My slog was over and I was on my way to SWIMMING IN THE MOON.
As an addendum, it’s tempting to see stories like this as wasted time, blind alleys, but I think otherwise. Every story has its own way of coming, its own gestation. My early 20th C story had a long road, but the journey has its value and I’m grateful. I hope you enjoy reading SWIMMING IN THE MOON as much I enjoyed living with it.
ABOUT SWIMMING IN THE MOON (From Harper Collins)
Italy, 1905. Fourteen-year-old Lucia and her young mother, Teresa, are servants in a magnificent villa on the Bay of Naples, where Teresa soothes their unhappy mistress with song. But volatile tempers force them to flee, exchanging their warm, gilded cage for the cold winds off Lake Erie and Cleveland’s restless immigrant quarters.
With a voice as soaring and varied as her moods, Teresa transforms herself into the Naples Nightingale on the vaudeville circuit. Clever and hardworking, Lucia blossoms in school until her mother’s demons return, fracturing Lucia’s dreams.
Yet Lucia is not alone in her struggle for a better life. All around her, friends and neighbors, new Americans, are demanding decent wages and working conditions. Lucia joins their battle, confronting risks and opportunities that will transform her and her world in ways she never imagined.
ABOUT PAMELA SCHOENEWALDT (From Pamela’s website)
Pamela Schoenewaldt lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy and the United States. Her play, “Espresso con mia madre” (Espresso with my mother) was performed at Teatro Cilea in Naples. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee and now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a physicist, and their dog Jesse, a philosopher.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (US only)
I have one copy of Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt to share with my readers. To enter…
This giveaway is open to US residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on September 21/13. Good luck!
Source: Giveaway copy courtesy of the publisher. No compensation was received.
Today Gillian Bagwell, author of Venus in Winter, joins us on the blog with a guest post. I reviewed Venus in Winter yesterday (my review) and I can easily say that if you enjoy historical fiction then Gillian’s newest novel is one to pick up and read! It was a great read for me and I can’t wait to read more of her work. For today though I hope you’ll enjoy Gillian’s guest post entitled The Power of Marrying Well and Widowhood…
Bess of Hardwick, the subject of my novel Venus in Winter, rose from a childhood of genteel poverty to become the richest and most powerful woman in England after Queen Elizabeth. Besides overseeing the workings of her increasingly grand household, she went to court numerous times in her life and supervised the building of Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall as well as smaller construction and renovation projects.
Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury
At a recent event I did for the release of the novel, someone asked what qualities and skills Bess had that allowed her to become so powerful. The answer, no doubt disappointing to a twenty-first century woman, was that Bess married well, not once but four times, and outlived all of her husbands.
Except for royalty, marriage was really the only path to wealth and social standing for women in the sixteenth centutry. Unmarried girls and young women were subject to the control of their fathers. Once they married, they and all they owned were subject to the control of their husbands. But a widow was entitled to a “widow’s dower,” or a third of the income from her late husband’s property, and widows enjoyed more independence than single or married women.
Bess was probably fifteen when she married for the first time. Her husband, Robert Barlow, was only thirteen. When he died the next year, she was entitled to have for her lifetime a third of the income from the Barlow properties, which passed to his younger brother. She had to go to court to get her money, but she eventually succeeded, winning an income of about thirty pounds a year. This was a respectable amount of money when a maidservant earned three pounds a year and the fixed annual income of a brewer was ten pounds.
Bess’s next husband, Sir William Cavendish, was about twenty years older than she was. He came of an old and influential family and when he married Bess, was already quite wealthy. Perhaps because he didn’t want Bess to struggle to get the income she was entitled to if he died before she did, he made her the joint owner of his many properties. This was a very unusual situation, and greatly benefitted Bess, because when he died, she owned and controlled their substantial estate, which included Chatsworth House and hundreds of acres around it, as well as properties in several other counties.
Bess’s third husband, Sir William St. Loe, also signed a will leaving everything to Bess. When he died, leaving her mistress of his family properties, she became even wealthier.
By this point, Bess could easily have remained a widow for the rest of her life, living comfortably on jher income and answering to no one. But she had children who needed to make good marriages to rise in the world, and the only way for her to increase her social standing was to marry again. Her fourth husband was George Talbot, the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, and their marriage was a dynastic arrangement that took care of both of these considerations.
Shrewsbury was enormously wealthy and almost the highest ranking nobleman in England. By marrying him, Bess became the Countess of Shrewsbury. Even better, one of her daughters married one of Shrewsbury’s sons, and one of her sons married one of her daughters, thereby securing the property of both families for future generations.
It was only after Shrewsbury died, leaving Bess a widow once more at the age of sixty-three, that she began her most ambitious project: the building of Hardwick Hall, a palatial mansion near her childhood home in Derbyshire. The building was not quite done when she moved into Hardwick Hall on her seventieth birthday. The building account books list the names of 375 workmen, many of whom had worked for Bess on Chatsworth House and other projecdts. Bess oversaw the construction of Hardwick Hall, whose most notable feature was the tall windows that prompted Robert Cecil to quip, “Hardwick Hall? More window than wall.”
Hardwick Hall by Thomas Allom
Bess had served Queen Elizabeth as a lady in waiting for many years, and her granddaughter Arbella Stuart was a possible successor to the throne. Bess no doubt hoped that she would entertain the queen at Hardwick Hall and that her granddaughter would inherit the throne, and she consciously built Hardwick to be fit for a queen. Alas, the queen never did visit Hardwick and ultimately it was James I, not Arbella, who ruled after Queen Elizabeth’s death. But Bess had risen as far as it was possible for a non-royal lady to rise in Elizabethan England.
ABOUT VENUS IN WINTER
Based on the first forty years of the life of Bess of Hardwick, 1527-1608, the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast who began life in genteel poverty and ended as the richest and most powerful woman in England after Queen Elizabeth; built Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall; and is the forebear of numerous noble lines including the Dukedoms of Devonshire, Norfolk, Somerset, and Newcastle, the Earls of Lincoln, Portsmouth, Kellie, and Pembroke, the Baron Waterpark, and the current royal family of Britain.
ABOUT GILLIAN BAGWELL
Gillian Bagwell’s richly detailed historical novels bring to vivid life England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Venus in Winter, based on the first forty years of the life of the formidable four-times widowed dynast Bess of Hardwick, begins with Bess’s introduction to the court of Henry VIII just as the king weds Anne of Cleves. Bess quickly learns to navigate the treacherous waters, and survives the turbulent reigns of five Tudor monarchs to become of the most powerful women in the history of England.
The Darling Strumpet puts the reader smack in the tumultuous world of seventeenth century London, charting Nell Gwynn’s meteoric rise from the grimy slums to triumph as a beloved comic actress, through the cataclysmic years of the last plague epidemic and the Great Fire of 1666, to the licentious court and the arms of the king.
The September Queen (U.K. title The King’s Mistress) is the first fictional accounting of the extraordinary real-life adventure of Jane Lane, who risked all to help the young Charles II escape after the disastrous Battle of Worcester in 1651, saving his life and the future of the English monarchy.
Gillian uses her years of experience in theatre an actress, director, and producer to help authors give effective public readings, through workshops and private coaching.
Her life-long fascination with British history and dedication to research infuse her novels with a compelling evocation of time and place, and provide fodder for her non-fiction writing, including articles on “Frost Fairs on the River Thames,” “The Royal Miracle: The Biggest What-If in English History,” and “1660: The Year of the Restoration of Theatre”. Gillian blogged her research adventures for The Darling Strumpet and The September Queen, including the day-by-day events of Charles II’s dramatic escape after the Battle of Worcester.
Please keep visiting Gillian’s website, www.gillianbagwell.com, for more on her books and upcoming events.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (US only)
I have one copy of Venus in Winter by Gillian Bagwell to share with my US readers. To enter…
This giveaway is open to US residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on July 23/13. Good luck!