Interview with Bestselling Historical Novelist C.S. Harris

813djule6wlI am so excited to bring you today an interview I recently had with bestselling historical novelist C.S. Harris. You may know her from her wildly popular Sebastian St. Cyr thrillers, or maybe under her other names Candice Proctor or C.S. Graham.  Now she’s out with a new Civil War-era historical novel, Good Time Coming, which I was fortunate to be given a copy of through the Historical Novel Society. I’ll be writing a feature article on it that I’ll share once it’s published, but I was also lucky enough to get to sit down with C.S. and ask her a few questions. And I have to say, this is one of the best interviews I’ve ever had here.

Most people know you for your Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries. What made you want to change from writing Regency historical thrillers to straight historical fiction set during the Civil War?

I am still writing my Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series—the twelfth installment, WHERE THE DEAD LIE, will be out in April 2017, and I’ve almost finished #13, tentatively entitled WHY NOT THE INNOCENT. But it’s all too easy for an author to get into a rut writing the same kinds of stories with the same characters and settings. So I think it’s important for any writer—and especially one with a long-running series—to occasionally venture outside her safe zone and try something different. For a while I was also writing a contemporary thriller series, but I found keeping two series going at the same time too stressful. So a standalone seemed the best answer.

What was your inspiration to write Good Time Coming?

C.S. Harris

C.S. Harris

My very first historical mystery, Midnight Confessions, was set in Occupied New Orleans (the book has been revised for republication and should be available early next year). In the process of researching that story I became fascinated with the effects of the Civil War on the population of Louisiana (spoiler: it was pretty horrific), and I’d been wanting to write a straight historical about that ever since. What happened to civilians in the Civil War is a virtually untold story.


Why did you choose to make your protagonist a 12-year-old-girl?

Some of my favorite books have been coming of age tales, and it seemed the right way to tell this story. Children bring an unblinking honesty to their experiences that I felt was particularly appropriate for the complexity of the issues I wanted to explore. The journey from child to adult is basically a loss of innocence, and to watch that development happen to someone in the midst of an experience as horrendous as war is truly gripping.

And Amrie is a girl because we already have countless books about the experiences of boys and men in war. This is about war as seen through the eyes of the women and children left behind to cope with a world falling apart in every way imaginable.

What kind of research did you do to make the book historically accurate?

I researched this book for almost a dozen years. I read hundreds of letters, journals, and memories, along with general histories of the Civil War and more specific monographs. I visited the story’s various towns and battle sites—Port Hudson and Camp Moore, Bayou Sara and Jackson—and spent many a day wandering around St. Francisville’s haunting churchyard. I basically took the real incidents recorded by people who lived through the war and wove them into a story. With the exception of the central incident in the book—Amrie’s killing of the Federal captain and the events that flow from it—I made up very little of what’s in this story. And that is truly terrifying to think about.


How hard was it for you to work from the point of view of the South when traditionally history is told by the victors, and therefore our country has glorified the role of the North? How did this influence the way you told your story?

I had to make Amrie’s family staunch abolitionists; I simply could not have been sufficiently sympathetic to them as main characters otherwise. Plus I liked the way this shifted the dynamic of their interactions with their neighbors, both white and free people of color. But when it came to the actual events in the story, all I did was stay true to what actually happened to the women and children of St. Francisville. It really was brutal. As a professional historian, I’ve always been irritated by our cultural tendency to both glorify war and forgive the sins of one side while focusing endlessly on the sins of the other. This book doesn’t shy away from the sins committed by either side.

And I should probably state for the record that the only Civil War veterans on my personal family tree fought for the Union; one great-great uncle even died at Andersonville.

One of the things that struck me the most about this book was your willingness to challenge long-held beliefs and viewpoints about the Civil War (i.e. President Lincoln was a hero, he abolished slavery out of the goodness of his heart, the Northern soldiers were the good guys and the Southern the bad, etc.) Can you please tell me a little about your motivation behind this and what kind of a reaction you’ve received so far?

I think it probably comes down, again, to my training as a historian. I have long been bothered by the all too common tendency to turn history into a series of comfortable myths that we as a nation tell ourselves to make ourselves feel good about our past. It’s incredible to me that here we are 150 years later and both sides of that war are still telling themselves “feel good” distortions and outright lies. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was a wonderful thing, but that shouldn’t lead us to distort the explicit reasons he gave for doing it, or overlook the truly heinous things he also did. Likewise, too many Southerners still stubbornly refuse to acknowledge just how horrific the institution of slavery was both in theory and in practice. I don’t spare either side in this book. I guess in a lot of ways this story was an expression of my frustration with myth-making. I wanted to write about what really happened because it is so important to acknowledge that and finally have a real conversation about it. Unfortunately, myth busting is not popular!

In the Author’s Notes to the book you talk about a reticence of history to admit to rape being employed as a weapon of war during the Civil War. (I came up against a similar circumstance when depicting Guinevere’s rape by Malegant in Arthurian legend – most people either don’t know its part of the myth or don’t want to think about it.) Can you please talk a little about your reasons for including it and how you came to understand it would be important to your story?

When I first started plotting this book, I believed the commonly accepted “truth” that rape in the Civil War was rare. But as I read all those original sources written by the women who actually lived through it, I realized that was just one more myth.  Rape has always been a part of war. What we’ve seen in our own lifetimes in places like Bosnia and the Congo isn’t something new; it’s the reality of war, and it has always been. But historically, women who were raped in wartime did not talk about it. Why would they, given their societies’ traditional ostracization of women who were raped?

As I read these women’s accounts, I also came to realize the importance of the fact that the people of 1860 weren’t very far removed from the time of the American Revolution and the War of 1812. That meant they knew exactly what had happened to their mothers and grandmothers in those wars (something else we don’t talk about). It’s one of the reasons the people of the South were so afraid of those armies of men marching against them. And they were right to be afraid. The North’s battle cry was “Beauty and Bounty!” In other words, Rape and Plunder! Yet 150 years later we still don’t like to admit it.

To be honest, I didn’t realize just how controversial this aspect of my story would be. Many of the editors who read the manuscript cited the rape part as their main reason for rejecting it. I guess as a writer you can kill people by the thousands, but you’d better not have a woman raped by American soldiers.

What do you think are the key themes of this novel? What do you hope readers walk away from it knowing/believing/feeling?

This book is about women’s resilience in the face of crushing adversity, about the way friends and neighbors can come together to survive great hardships, about love and loss and, ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit.

But the main theme of this book is the idea that there is good and bad in every person and every nation. I am frankly shocked by some of the things I am seeing in our country today. I never thought I’d see Americans screaming “Sieg heil!” and panting swastikas on tombs, or hear talk of the Nazi-style registration and internment of a religious minority. Somehow we have failed to learn the right lessons from history, and I think the tendency to mythologize the past is one of the reasons for that failure.

If you could summarize your experience writing Good Time Coming in one sentence, what would it be?

Oh, wow; that’s hard! I’d say writing Good Time Coming forced me to move outside my comfort zone in many different ways; to confront my own prejudices and assumptions; and to think long and hard about what it would be like to experience things I hope I’ll never have to face.

Do you plan to write more straight historical fiction like Good Time Coming? What can readers expect from you next?

I do plan to continue writing other things as I also write my Sebastian St. Cyr series. I’ve just finished a novella set in World War II that will be part of an anthology due out probably in 2018. That was a new experience for me because I’d never written anything that short before. It’s a very different format, so that was a challenge.

Is there anything else you’d like to talk about that we haven’t touched upon?

I find it unfortunate that coming of age novels these days tend to be seen by the publishing industry as “young adult novels.” They don’t have to be, and in fact some of the best were never written to be. I also find it curious that editors think young adults can handle large-scale massacres, zombies, vampires, and the end of the world, but not non-graphic rape. What does that say about us?

Thank you, C.S. Harris for being with us today. Good Time Coming hits stores December 1, so you don’t have to wait long to read it for yourself. Pre-order or order it today! You won’t regret it; it really is a great book.

Questions for the author? Leave them here and I’ll let her know she can get back to you.

[Guest Post] The Long Road to a Debut Historical Novel by Jeannine Atkins

Photo1LITTLE-WOMAN-webGrowing up, I liked to read books about ordinary girls doing things like fighting with or forgiving their sisters, but set in the past. Cooking in pots over fires or slogging through snow to reach wells or cold horses seemed thrilling. I started with an orange-covered series called “Childhoods of Famous Americans,” which were then shelved with biographies, though their use of dialogue and other fictional elements have convinced some librarians to put them elsewhere. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about Little Houses in woods or on prairies, another series that has made a similar shift to the fiction sections. I’m happy to browse for what I want, which remains books based on real girls and women who are full of dreams.

I found such a girl in one of the first fat books I cracked open. Many years ago, Little Women’s Jo March — huddled in a chilly garret penning plays and stories — gave me my first inkling that a girl could grow up to be a writer. My curiosity about other women writers stuck and carried me through college. I was unsatisfied with most reading lists, but scanned the stacks for books by women who’d been forgotten. I wrote some papers about them, and while I kept a scholarly tone, felt as if I were playing dress-up, again immersed in history.

The challenges and triumphs of women who came before me kept me good company as I wrote some stories that were published and two novels that weren’t. After I became a mom and read to my daughter, I found myself happily back with once-cherished books and the mother of the co-president of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan Club. The girls made posters (“Laura rocks! Ma rules!”) and wore old dresses to bake cornbread. Reminded of how life-changing children’s books can be, I put away my novels about angsty adults to write books for the young. I published picture books about paleontologist Mary Anning and religious reformer Anne Hutchinson, and collections about women explorers and pioneers in air and space.

No one should write history who doesn’t love doing research, and some of that is rereading books you once adored. I came back to Little Women, but what got inside me most this time was the half-hidden story of the youngest sister. In the novel, Amy March gives up art when she realizes she might not become great. In real life, May Alcott stuck with her paints.

I believed this real person who tried to balance art and love deserved more attention. Children and teens are a wonderful audience, but I wanted the girl I first met in Little Women to step out as fully adult, finding her way through or around traps and temptations and reveling in romance, too. For Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott, I circled back to writing for adults who may find May’s struggles familiar, though they took place more than 150 years ago. Could May find a true love, in a period, after the Civil War, when eligible men seemed scarce? Could she keep making art in a time when women painters were rarely taken seriously? I loved exploring those questions, and finding a way to let another woman step out from the shadows of the past.

To learn more about Jeannine Atkins’s books about girls and women in history, please visit her website at

Do you have any questions or comments for Jeannine? She’ll be around checking out the comments.

[Guest Post] Elaine of Corbenic by Tima Z. Newman

image001Today, my special guest is Tima Z. Newman, whose new book, Elaine of Corbenic, is new take on an often overlooked character in Arthurian legend. I personally love the character of Elaine and can’t wait to read Tima’s book. Take it away, Tima!


He opened the door.

A woman stood looking out the window, her back to him. She was clothed in blue and azure interfaced with rose, her black hair tumbling loose. It was not Guinevere.

She turned at the sound of the door opening.

“I had thought to find the queen here,” Launcelot began.

“No.” Elaine’s lips trembled as she spoke the single word. She wore no jewelry. The open neckline revealed the young throat he had once glimpsed wet in the stream from a distance. A quality like the moistness of dew lay upon her, yet in that moment he saw that she whom he had thought child was also woman….

Elaine of Corbenic is an Arthurian character that is often eclipsed in the shadow of Elaine of Astolat, immortalized by Tennyson’s “Lady of Shallot” and John Waterhouse’s and Rosetti’s art, as well as overshadowed by the legendary passionate love of Launcelot and Queen Guinevere.  Elaine of Corbenic only briefly appears in Malory’s account of the Arthurian saga.  Yet she is the one who bears Launcelot’s son. And unlike Elaine of Astolat, Elaine of Corbenic does not pine away for Launcelot, to be carried down a barge, but goes to King Arthur’s court to fight for recognition by Launcelot, and when two years later he is discovered in his madness, it is the Grail of which Elaine was once bearer which brings Launcelot healing.

I found myself drawn to her character when I came across the tale some many years ago, and began writing her storyand my book has just now been released by Savant Books.  Based on Malory’s account in Le Morte d’Arthur of the three brief encounters of Launcelot and the Fisher King’s daughter, my ELAINE OF CORBENIC is the chronicle of their poignant romance—and of Elaine’s journey through abandonment and despair to the finding of inner strength and deepening wisdom.

I have taken poetic liberties with Malory’s account, telling it from Elaine’s point of view, and leaning at times toward a metaphoric and symbolic interpretation.  For instance, in Malory’s account Launcelot lay with Elaine thinking all the while she was Guinevere, both times drugged by a potent potion of Lady Breusen’s. It seemed clear to me that while the more magical an enchantment Launcelot might claim, the more efficacious an excuse it might have been, any such enchantment in reality was more like due to the close presence of the young Elaine than to any potion or brew.

Offering the poetry of medieval legend, for me the tale speaks to contemporary themes of love, betrayal, abandonment and the finding of identity—and also the deep longings of the spirit, the quest for the sacred, and the search for meaning in the mystery threading through our lives.  My rendition approaches the grail legend in a way that reflects an evolving relationship to the mystery of the grail embodied in life itself. In the heart of the heroic Arthurian legend, it offers a deeply feminine spirituality, threading through the pain and joys of a young girl’s heart, a single mother’s hopes and broken dreams, and a fierce determination to find the grail’s meaning.

The novel wrote itself over the course of a few months the spring of the year of my arrival in the Bay Area, its first paragraphs emerging as I climbed among the gorse covered hills, my own young son in tow….

Corbenic’s valley lay hidden, in a corner of Lystenoys close by the sea, and it was not wholly by chance that any man found his way there, including Launcelot.

It was spring when he came; the hills of the valley were verdant, and the evening mists fragrant. Spring was short in that part of the country, except in the valley where the castle lay, where the mists rolled in from the sea, and a stream from the hill flowed into the river which bordered the castle’s south wall. The rains were meager and often did not come, so that the land surrounding the valley was barren and wasted, the tufts of grass dry and sparse over the rocky soil. What green did come from the winter snow quickly browned and withered in the summer sun. That week though, in the rocky barren seacoast land of Lystenoys, spring was in the air, the sky was blue and the gorse blooming yellow

She was not looking for love that day. It is true she had not passed through her youth without hearing minstrels’ songs and dreaming girls’ dreams of some noble prince bearing her away….. Though her father lacked wealth, and his land was no great lure, her blood was royal, and her face fair. There was, true, a strangeness about her family, the strain of mystery that hung about their lineage. Lystenoys lay sequestered far from the main thoroughfares of Britain, and Corbenic’s valley was hidden. However, that the strangers were few who came through was of little import, for there were worthy enough lords in the court of Corbenic itself.

Yet in the end, she had no thought for the knights of her father’s court. The aura of the grail that haunted her dreams was fullness enough for her. She was Elaine, daughter of the fisher king and of the lineage of the grail keepers, and the mystery of the grail, the sacred cup that lay within Corbenic’s walls, was in her very blood. Nothing else could find space in her heart. Until Launcelot came.        

There is a short Youtube video produced by the publisher at

The press release for the book can be found at; and signed copies are available (with free postage in the U.S.) through my author website  (The book may also be ordered directly from the publisher at or from Amazon.)

Tima Z. Newman
Author of ELAINE OF CORBENIC (Savant 2015)

Zoe Newman, MFT, is a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California

Zoe Newman, MFT, is a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California

Tima Z. Newman has written as far back as she can remember, and has always loved medieval times, fairy tales and legends, and brings an attunedness to myth, symbol and archetypal fairy tale motifs in listening to the narrations of those she work with.  Originally from Minnesota, she currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she practices as a psychotherapist and dream group leader. She has written several children’s books, as well as the adult nonfiction Lucid Waking: Using Dreamwork Principles to Transform Your Waking Life, which explores approaching our everyday life as a waking dream, similarly as we might work with our night dreams, to find in it the same opportunity for guidance, insight and creative possibilities.

If you have any questions or comments for Tima, please leave them in the comments. She’ll be monitoring them and will respond as she can. Hope you enjoyed hearing from her and are interested in her book.

Release Day for Rachel Rossano’s Book, Honor

SeriesHonorCoverToday I’m thrilled to be helping my fellow author Rachel Rossano welcome her next book baby into the world. Rachel’s books are sweet medieval romances, or as I like to call them, “Game of Thrones for those who don’t like graphic violence and graphic sex.” They are just as complex and emotionally satisfying, if not more so.

Today is release day for Honor, the second book in the Novels of Rhynan series. I discovered Duty (the first book in the series) through one of the review services that I write for and fell in love immediately. While Rachel was kind enough to send me a review copy, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I have no doubt I will love it just as much as the first. And so will you.

About Honor
The Earl of Dentin excels in his position as Securer of the Realm. But the king’s order to pluck an orphaned child from a loving home unsettles Dentin. When a dark-eyed woman challenges his honor regarding the mission, Dentin finds himself unable to justify his actions or get her out of his mind. Something about her lack of fear intrigues him.

Lady Elsa Reeve attempts to avoid the marriage of convenience her brother and mother demand of her. She understands the need to pay off her brother’s massive debt. She only wants her family to consider her wishes in the process.

As Elsa becomes further entangled in a snare of her brother’s creating, only one man defends her. But can she trust Dentin, her unlikely champion, and his motives? With a murderer on the loose, Elsa’s fate in jeopardy, and a traitor plotting against the king, Dentin finds his priorities shifting in an unexpected direction.

Book Trailer:


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The trunk made it onto the wagon, but not until breakfast was half over. I left him strapping it into place at the top of the load and rushed back inside to find something to eat.  When I entered the hall, most of the places at the tables were empty and the servants and pages were clearing away the remnants. I slung my cloak over one arm, and claimed hunks of bread and cheese from one of the trays moments before a servant walked off with it.

“Just ask for them to bring more.”

I turned around abruptly at the sound of Lord Dentin’s voice and lost my balance. He caught my elbow through the layers of my cloak and steadied me.

“Not so fast. Come and sit. You have a long day ahead and that is hardly enough to feed a bird.”

Before I could protest, he was leading me to the head table and my usual place. He signaled one of the servants as we walked.

“My mother is going to be angry if I am not waiting at the wagon when they reach it.”

“Let her be angry.” He pulled out my chair, guided me into it, and claimed my cloak from my arm in a smooth series of motions. “You can blame it on me.”

“That will just make it worse.” Despite my protests, it did feel wonderful to just sit.

He sat down next to me as a servant set a trencher and a platter on the table before me. The steaming stew, a remnant of supper from the night before, wafted a savory essence into my face.

“Now.” Dentin offered me a spoon. “That is much better than cold bread and cheese.”

“You don’t know my mother.”

He grunted, placed the spoon into my limp hand, and closed my fingers over it. Then leaning close enough that I could smell the basil-scented soap he had washed with that morning, he whispered, “Eat.”

My breath caught as our gazes locked. The whisper of his breath on my cheek and the warmth of his large hand enclosing mine made my heart beat unusually fast. Part of me wanted to look away, turn my face, and break the hold he had on me. But, I couldn’t gather the will to do so.

I enjoyed the sense of security he represented. Despite his reputation for coarseness and caustic responses, he treated me with respect and honor. Something many of my other relationships lacked in recent months. After years of being ignored, overlooked, and taken for granted, the sudden sense of being admired and desired was heady. The allure both scared and fascinated me.

Still, I could not linger here for long.

“I need my hand to eat.”

The moment was broken. With a muttered apology, he released my hand and leaned away.

Ignoring the sudden sensation of cold, I filled my spoon. The stew did little to dissipate the sense of loss.

Rachel RosannoAbout the Author
Rachel Rossano balances her time between the chaos of raising and homeschooling her three children and the world of drama and high adventure in her head. With her faithful husband and chief consulting editor by her side, she dreams of many more adventures to come.

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Guest Post: HF Author Sarah Kennedy Talks City of Ladies and Christine de Pizan

I am so excited to have as my guest today historical fiction author Sarah Kennedy, whose recent book, City of Ladies (second in the Cross and Crown series), was one of my favorites of 2014. (Here’s my review; still waiting for Historical Honey to post it. And here’s the related article I wrote for the Historical Novel Society.)

Today Sarah talks about her book, as well as the real-life inspiration for its title and main themes. Thank you for being here, Sarah!

Cities of Ladies by Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy

When I began my second novel, City of Ladies, I didn’t have a title in mind.  I wanted to move my main character, Catherine Havens, forward in time:  get her married, put her in charge of a large household.  Catherine, however, is not the sort of person who would simply forget the convent that she grew up in, which was a community of women (despite the presence of a priest and the male hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church).  She would, of course, keep women around her.  She is comfortable with women.  She respects their ability to reason and work.

As the novel evolved, Catherine’s newly-formed household seemed to draw to it former nuns, and Catherine wanted to protect them.  The women have nowhere else to go—and yet they still have skills and knowledge that can help the girls and village women nearby.  What else would Catherine do besides take them in and shelter them?  This is part of her calling, as she sees it, even in a secular world, and it also becomes part of the problem of the plot, as the women begin to turn up dead.

At some point in the drafting, the original City of Ladies began to tug at my mind, both as a book that Catherine would have owned and as a metaphor for the world Catherine is trying to build under Henry VIII.  The Book of the City of Ladies (1405) was written about a hundred and fifty years before my book’s time period, by a woman named Christine de Pizan.  Christine was Italian by birth but spent much of her life in Paris.  She was unusually well-educated for her time (like my Catherine), primarily because her father (like Catherine’s father) insisted upon it.

City of LadiesChristine was happily—and conventionally—married in her teens and bore three children.  Her husband, however, died, leaving Christine to raise her family alone.  This she did by writing, becoming the first woman in European history to earn her living as an author.  Other women did write—and some of them were widely known—but they were nuns, who had the leisure and the status to circulate their work.  Nuns didn’t have to make money, but Christine did.  And she succeeded.

The authorial tradition was heavily against her, and The Book of the City of Ladies takes on the cultural and theological arguments against women in general.  Christine writes in defense of women’s moral and intellectual worth, against the backdrop of “all manner of philosophers, poets and orators too numerous to mention, who all seem to speak with one voice and are unanimous in their view that female nature is wholly given up to vice” (6).  As she becomes more and more despondent about being a member of such a flawed sex, she is visited by three ladies, who reveal themselves as Reason, Rectitude, and Justice.  These three ladies encourage and assist Christine in building her “City of Ladies.”

This city is metaphorical.  The book itself is the structure, and within it are the “lives” of many women, historical, biblical, and mythological, who have been exemplary or have done extraordinary things.  They are mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives—and they show that women are resourceful, caring, intelligent, and moral.  The entire book becomes, as Rosalind Brown-Grant notes, an example of the “biographical catalogue,” and it seems designed more for visiting than for a beginning-to-end tour.  The three-part structure and multiple sub-headings and “arguments” within the text make for fruitful lucky-dipping.  Christine’s City of Ladies may be old-fashioned in its emphasis on moral virtue in women, but her goal is not to provide a defense of what women should do but rather a defense of what women are.

My own City of Ladies is a metaphor, as well, but it’s also the physical house where Catherine Havens lives.  She dreams of a world where women can read, write, think, and work.  My Catherine does want to go out into the world and use her knowledge.  She wants to hear her calling for herself—and then act to make the most of her gifts, which she believes are given to her by God.

And so Christine de Pizan’s Book of the City of Ladies became the only choice when I sought out a title.  My Catherine began life in a convent, and the historical Christine went to live in one as an older woman.  In hindsight, it seems natural that Catherine claimed that book as one of her most prized possessions.  It gave her something that Christine herself didn’t have—a foremother who showed her in writing what a woman, even under a harsh king, could accomplish.

Brown-Grant, Rosalind, editor.  The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan.  London:    Penguin, 1999.

Do you have any questions or comments for Sarah? Please leave them below. She will be popping in and answering comments/questions as she can. And again, go read her books if you haven’t already!

Blog Tour – Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page

IslasInheritanceBlitzBannerThis week I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for my friend and fellow author, Cassandra Page. Her debut novel, a young adult urban fantasy called Isla’s Inheritance, was released on October 9. I met Cassandra on Twitter a few years ago when we were both participating in the same pitch contest and it’s been a joy to watch her grow in confidence and mature as a writer. So please, take a moment to check out her first novel and if it sounds like something you’d like, give it a read. Plus, if you read to the end, there’s a giveaway for a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble card!

About Isla’s Inheritance

IslaIsla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.


Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

 Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords

Interview with Cassandra Page, author of ‘Isla’s Inheritance’

Can you tell us a little about ISLA’S INHERITANCE?

It’s a young adult urban fantasy set in Australia, and is about a girl named Isla (surprise!). Isla’s seventeen and a bit of a sceptic, in that she always looks for the sensible, mundane explanation for things—something her single-parent father has always encouraged. At a Halloween party, she agrees to take part in a séance because a hot guy she used to have a crush on wants to go; it’s a shock to her when the “spirit” they contact claims her mother isn’t actually dead, as she’s always been told. Of course, she doesn’t believe it at first, and is quickly distracted by said hot guy, whose name is Dominic.

Of course, that’s when things start to get interesting. 😉

Isla’s Inheritance is the first book in a trilogy. The other two books are coming out in the first third of 2015, which is both exciting and utterly terrifying! Getting everything ready is going to be a bit of a mad rush, but the flipside is that readers won’t have to wait years between instalments. GRRM, I’m looking at you!

I notice you write using Australian English spellings. Is the book written that way too?

Yes, it is. Even though Turquoise Morning Press is based out of the USA, the team decided that since the story is set in Australia, it would be more authentic to use Australian spelling and terms where possible. However, I did try and choose words that had common meanings, to minimise the chaos and confusion for readers. As an example, a thong in Australia is a type of shoe that I’m told is called a flip flop in the US. We’d never say flip flop here but, on the other hand, given what a thong is in other parts of the world, I didn’t really want people to get mixed up! There have been a few different decisions like that.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Writing the last few chapters of a book, definitely. I’ve drafted four now, and that’s always been the best part of the experience. It’s such a heady rush, seeing all the plot threads come together and the plot accelerate. Also, usually by that point I’m doing mean things to my characters, which is always fun!

The other thing is that it takes me a long time to write a first draft—somewhere between six and nine months—so it’s always satisfying to reach the end of that process. I’m a single mother and work full time, so I have to squeeze in my writing where I can: after my son’s in bed, on lunch breaks, that sort of thing. I also do a lot of plotting (and scheming) in the car.

Given the reference to iron in the blurb, it’s not a surprise to learn the “fantasy” part of your urban fantasy relates to the fae, which are part of European mythology. How did your fae come to be in Australia?

I decided very early on in the drafting process that I didn’t want cute Disney elves. Not that I have a problem with Disney—I’m a mum and therefore know the Frozen soundtrack verbatim—but I felt something darker than Tinker Bell suited young adult readers better. My ruling class of fae are renowned for their vanity, and their cruelty to those in their service. As a result, the fae in Australia are almost all refugees of one kind or another: “lesser” fae who want to live free of oppression.

Where in Australia are the books set?

They set in Canberra, Australia’s capital, which is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either Sydney or Melbourne do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play.

It’s a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces. Werewolves and fairies in particular would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?

When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.

Author bio

CassandraCassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — which is ironic, as she’s allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Author links

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Pinterest | Goodreads


Enter HERE to win a $50 gift card at Amazon or Barnes & Noble – winner’s choice (open internationally, through October 27).

Do you have questions for Cassandra? What do you think about her book? Are you going to read it? Feel free to leave your thoughts below and she’ll pop in to say hi and answer questions.

Guest Post: Fiction: Making History

A proper woman may have sat quietly in her rocker, but many, like suffragist Alice Paul preferred to live life a little more loudly. (Image by Edmonston, Washington, D. C. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

A proper woman may have sat quietly in her rocker, but many, like suffragist Alice Paul preferred to live life a little more loudly. (Image by Edmonston, Washington, D. C. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Please welcome today’s guest author, Lisa Borja. She is a woman after my own heart, who seeks out opportunities to restore women to their rightful place in history. Lisa, thank you for being here!

I’ve spent most of my life hating history. In my high school and college, history classes were all about the power of men. They filled every page, from “our founding fathers” in the U.S., to celebrated military generals, to brilliant scientists and inventors throughout the world. Women, meanwhile, were placed here and there in their bonnets and plain dresses, sewing flags, tending children, nursing soldiers, or standing behind their male counterparts.

So how does a post-Gloria-Steinem teenage girl relate? Years passed before I discovered history wasn’t all about men or only about women who were off (or seated quietly upon) their rockers. It wasn’t even entirely taught in school. I simply needed to look to different sources. The best source for me, and the most interesting by far, is historical fiction. I know these novels are rarely the most popular books out there. And I know, at first, it doesn’t sound like people can learn much history through fiction. Surely the truth has been sensationalized, amended, or stretched too far? And anyway, do I even want to learn when I’m reading for fun?

While it is true that some stories are not well-researched and that fiction readers mainly want to be entertained, not schooled, I stand by my creed that more people should read and write historical fiction – especially more women, specifically ABOUT women. Historical fiction books have done a great job overall in accentuating women’s roles in history as powerful and important. I actually read it for fun, but there’s more to it than that. When I read something, even a novel, I want it to make me think. All I could do while reading academic history was wonder how many talented women in the past could have “made history” if given the opportunity. The answer to that is something we can only guess. A better answer is: we should guess.

 “Well behaved women rarely make history.” I used to see this bumper sticker everywhere. Maybe it’s just me, but the notion that women had to misbehave to get noticed is not empowering. It’s not that there weren’t many successful women in the past. They were there, and not always clad in skirts below their ankles straightening men’s ties and raising perfect children. I learned in school about a few women who were outstanding female leaders like Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, activists like Harriet Tubman and Mother Theresa, outlaws like Calamity Jane, outspoken first ladies like Mary Todd Lincoln, and various other women writers and artists. But did you, like me, ever get the feeling these women were depicted as unusual rule-breakers who were probably a little crazy?

“We can do it.” Now there’s a slogan I can get behind! We can, in a way, go back and give women the opportunities – possibly even just a spotlight – they didn’t have or haven’t yet been given. As women who read and/or write it, we can give ourselves more to believe in. What makes us think our history books are full of accurate, unbiased truth anyway?  

I love to create a powerful female protagonist, so I gain more benefit from writing historical fiction than reading it. I have found no end to inspiration for creating her world from an already-existing cast of memorable historical characters (or character-types), mind-blowing challenges real people faced (not just women), and fascinating events that actually shaped our society. Through hours upon hours of ravenous study, I’ve also become somewhat of an expert in my research area of the Victorian and Spiritualist Eras. Well, if I’m not an expert, then at least friends tell me I’m a lot more fun at social gatherings and way more helpful on trivia night at the bar.

Prehistory. The love of historical fiction can start with something simple. For me, it started with books I didn’t even think of as historical fiction: namely The Clan of the Cavebear, by Jean M. Auel. This series is an excellent example, set in an era the author somehow researched exhaustively, despite its occurrence before recorded history. I loved Ayla, the heroine, who was depicted not only as influential and admirable but also as the inventor of some serious game-changers, from holistic medicine to domesticated animals to the use of soap for personal hygiene. No one really knows for sure where such ideas were first implemented, but doesn’t it just make sense that it would be a woman?

Art History. Another highly inspiring, similarly fictional character for me was Griet, otherwise known as The Girl With the Pearl Earring.Before I read Tracy Chevalier’s book, I didn’t even know I needed a different perspective on the male-dominated world of art history. No offense to former teachers, but my high school and college classes tended to celebrate visual art with very little attention to the often debatable accuracy of its social context. For example, if I had known Vermeer was probably kind of an ass, I’m certain I would have admired his work less. When I realized that some famous male artists may have had a talented woman like Griet assisting them, possibly even doing work for which they got all the credit, I was really depressed.

What got me over it was discovering the chance I had at rewriting history. Sort of. Okay, if not rewriting it, then at least reading what someone has written about our previous notions of what “really” happened, looking at some additional sources, and writing an alternative that could be just as believable. It is fun to read a fast-paced political thriller based on nothing in particular, or a romance or adventure that takes us to places we don’t get to be in daily life. But historical fiction can encompass all of those things, and add instant, real-world knowledge.

And the rest is . . . For me, reading historical fiction has been life-changing. Ultimately it’s because of the inspiration I’ve felt to write, but it’s also life-changing because I feel like I’ve gained a backstage pass to the roles and lives of women throughout history in events that have caused this world, and my life, truly to be changed for the better. If you’re like me, you just might like yourself and the world more if you choose a fun little read with a bit more research and unlimited inspiration from your very own, very real world.  You, too, could shout out more answers during Jeopardy. You, too, might have more to write about than you ever had before. You, too, can make history.


Lisa BorjaLisa Borja is a writer with a background in psychology that extends to parapsychology and exploration of psychic phenomena. A new historian of Victorian America and Spiritualism, member of the Society for Psychical Research, and explorer of the development of psychic ability, Borja recently left her own Midwestern roots and followed the many signs pointing her in the direction of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Oregon with her husband, dogs, and 25-pound cat, and can be found writing on

If you have any questions/comments for Lisa, please leave them in the comments below and she will respond.

David Pilling: A Bolton, a Bolton! The White Hawk!

TWHpaperbackcoverToday please help me welcome blogger David Pilling, author of the historical fiction novel  The White Hawk.

“A Bolton, a Bolton! The White Hawk! God for Lancaster and Saint George!”

England, 1459: the kingdom stands divided and on the brink of civil war. The factions of Lancaster and York vie for control of the King, while their armies stand poised, ready to tear each other to pieces.

The White Hawk follows the fortunes of a family of Lancastrian loyalists, the Boltons, as they attempt to survive and prosper in this world of brutal warfare and shifting alliances. Surrounded by enemies, their loyalties will be tested to the limit in a series of bloody battles and savage twists of fate.

This period, with its murderous dynastic feuding between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, is perhaps the most fascinating of the entire medieval period in England. Having lost the Hundred Years War, the English nobility turned on each other in a bitter struggle for the crown, resulting in a spate of beheadings, battles, murders and Gangland-style politics that lasted some thirty years.

Apart from the savage doings of aristocrats, the wars affected people on the lower rungs of society. One minor gentry family in particular, the Pastons of Norfolk, suffered greatly in their attempts to survive and thrive in the feral environment of the late 15th century. They left an invaluable chronicle in their archive of family correspondence, the famous Paston Letters.

The letters provide us with a snapshot of the trials endured by middle-ranking families like the Pastons, and of the measures they took to defend their property from greedy neighbours. One such extract is a frantic plea from the matriarch of the clan, Margaret Paston, begging her son John to return from London:

“I greet you well, letting you know that your brother and his fellowship stand in great jeopardy at Caister… Daubney and Berney are dead and others badly hurt, and gunpowder and arrows are lacking. The place is badly broken down by the guns of the other party, so that unless they have hasty help, they are likely to lose both their lives and the place, which will be the greatest rebuke to you that ever came to any gentleman. For every man in this country marvels greatly that you suffer them to be for so long in great jeopardy without help or other remedy…”

The Paston Letters, together with my general fascination for the era, were the inspiration for The White Hawk. Planned as a series of three novels, TWH will follow the fortunes of a fictional Staffordshire family, the Boltons, from the beginning to the very end of The Wars of the Roses. Unquenchably loyal to the House of Lancaster, their loyalty will have dire consequences for them as law and order breaks down and the kingdom slides into civil war. The ‘white hawk’ of the title is the sigil of the Boltons, and will fly over many a blood-stained battlefield.

In the following excerpt, the Lancastrian lord “Butcher” Clifford prepares to defend a river crossing against the Yorkist host:

“Lord Clifford sat his horse on the north bank of the River Aire and watched the glittering mass of the Yorkist vanguard march into view from the south.

It was a bitterly cold afternoon, with a hint of ice on the wind. Clifford took no notice. He was the lord of Skipton and Craven in Yorkshire, and the atrocious weather and desolate landscape of the north appealed to his stark nature. This was his country.

“The Butcher,” the Yorkists had started to call him, for his cold-blooded killing of Edmund of Rutland after the Battle of Wakefield. Clifford gloried in the name. The more his enemies feared him, the better. He was a hard man, consumed by a lust for revenge since the death of his father at the First Battle of Saint Albans, six years previously.

Clifford had slaked his thirst for Yorkist blood somewhat on Rutland, and still felt a tight little shiver of pleasure at the memory of his knife plunging into the boy’s soft white gullet. One death, however, wasn’t enough. Only the bloody annihilation of all the Yorkists in England would suffice.

“Fauconberg’s men are in the van, as we suspected,” said Lord Neville, his second-in-command, pointing at one of the enormous standards carried at the head of the Yorkist troops, displaying blue and white halves painted with Fauconberg’s distinctive sigil of a sable fish-hook in the top right corner.

Clifford said nothing. He had already repelled an attempt by the Earl of Warwick and Lord Fitzwalter to cross the stone bridge over the Aire, falling on the Yorkist camp at dawn and slaughtering many soldiers in their beds. More had died as they tried to escape across the river, drowned or swept away in the icy waters. Lord Fitzwalter had been mortally wounded, and Warwick himself barely escaped with an arrow in his thigh.

The bridge was the only reliable crossing over the flood-swollen Aire for miles in either direction. The Yorkists had to cross the river to engage the enormous Lancastrian army slowly deploying a mile to the north, between the villages of Towton and Saxton. Sooner or later, Clifford appreciated, they would realise how small the force was that opposed their crossing…”

If this whets your appetite, then please check out the paperback and Kindle versions of Book One below…

The White Hawk – paperback version

Kindle version

David can also be found online at Bolton and Pilling and Pilling’s Writing Corner.

Readers, what do you think of David’s post? Please leave your comments for him below.

Enda Glacken: An Introduction to Celtic Music

Celtic Fiddle – Angela Anderson-Cobb

Today we have a special post by Enda Glacken, a native of Ireland and founder of

Although the Celtic music of today draws most of its influence from ancient Celtic music traditions that date to prehistory, the term “Celtic music” has only been used to describe this particular musical genre in the last century.  Today, the term can refer to a broad range of music from Northwest Europe, including the styles of Scottish music and traditional Irish music.

At its most basic, Celtic music refers to any of the folk music of the Celtic people, thus referring to the traditionally Gaelic peoples of Ireland, Scotland, Manx, and the traditionally Brythonic peoples of Brittany, Wales, and Cornwall.  Similar to the linguistic distinctions between the languages, musical distinctions divide both groups easily, although many commonalities form the basis of each musical style.   For example, Gaelic Celtic music, common in Scottish music and traditional Irish music, usually strictly adheres to a pentatonic scale, a scale with five notes per octave as opposed the seven note scale identified with the major and minor scales.  Moreover, traditional Gaelic music has a greater octave range than Brythonic music, which is distinctly compacted. Thus, while in common practice Celtic music has become synonymous with Irish music, particularly folk music, the term is technically applied to a much broader population.

Celtic music can also be identified by the distinct musical qualities shared between the traditional music of the culturally Celtic people, and not simply their geographical location.  One of the most distinguishing features of Celtic music is the movement of melodic lines up and down primary chords.  One of the key reasons for this identifiable style is the ease of which Celtic melodies can be varied, or repeated in altered form. In these cases, the melody, or the linearly successive notes that are easily identified as a single “voice” are prone to variations or alterations.  The traditional instruments of the harp and bagpipes commonly lend themselves to this task. Additionally, these melodies are also easier to predict, allowing for a very natural, improvisable harmony to develop underneath the melody, especially given the use of common recognizable cadences.  Finally, Celtic music has identifiably wider tonal intervals that allow for stress accents to adhere to the traditionally Celtic accent in its music.

Uillean Pipes – Wikimedia Commons

Nevertheless, there are still many distinct genres within the classification of Celtic music, often geographically divided amongst the different Celtic nations.  Traditional Irish music, or Irish Folk music, employ traditionally Irish instrumentation such as the fiddle, flute and harp and is further divided into singing and dancing music.  Scottish music, such as the Strathspey, evolved in a similar manner to the Scottish Gaelic music, and has its own distinct musical style, instrumentation, and dance; the Great Highland Bagpipe is a distinguishably Scottish instrument.  The Welsh Cerdd Dant and Canu Penilion respectively refer to their traditional string or vocal improvisational styles.

Today, Celtic music is also apparent in many other modern forms of music under the title of Celtic fusion.  Many traditionally American genres of music lend their roots to Celtic origins, such as bluegrass and country.  Early colonial Americans in the New World came from Celtic countries and greatly influenced the creation of what is now considered classically American music. Other music traditions that have Celtic roots include Atlantic Canadian music and even rock and roll.  More recently, Celtic fusion has also expanded to include explicit fusion from artists that combine many of the different Celtic styles into a pan-Celtic style.  Celtic rock, metal, pop, and countless more sub-genres have begun to experiment in bringing together once entirely separate styles.

Celtic Harp – Ed Gaillard

The great adaptability of Celtic music can be seen in the numerous genres which it has influenced and inspired, and its diverse musical tradition has left an undeniable mark on all it has touched, extending far beyond just Scottish or Traditional Irish music. If you’re looking for a good introduction to traditional Celtic Music, some accessible modern artists include: Planxty, Christy Moore, The Dubliners, and The Clancy Brothers.

Author’s Bio
Enda Glacken is a native of Ireland and writes enthusiastically on all things relating to Ireland and jewelry. He is the founder of, a modern online Celtic & Irish jewelry site. You can find his thoughts and musings at his blog  or connect on Twitter @celtic_jeweller.

What about you? What types of Celtic music do you enjoy? What did you learn from this article? Do you have any questions for Edna?