Dead Winner, by Kevin G. Chapman

Rory McEntyre is a New York estate lawyer in a reputable firm: competent, hard-working, and single. One afternoon, his new clients turn out to be his old university friends Tom and Monica Williams, with an unusual request. They’ve won a share of one of New York’s mega-lotteries, and need his help to set up a trust to smokescreen their good fortune. Rory, who still pines for Monica but thinks that the better man won her heart and hand, obliges. But then Tom dies, apparently by his own hand, and the grieving and confused widow needs Rory’s help and support in every step of negotiating the labyrinth of complex investigations and revelations resulting from Tom’s suicide.


Dead Winner is a pacy, twisty comedy-thriller. At least, I hope it was supposed to be a comedy-thriller. That’s how I read it, and that’s how I’m reviewing it. Without spoilers, let me say I read it that way because the plot was obvious to me from the first chapters, and my enjoyment was in watching Rory getting deeper and deeper into something that wasn’t going to end well for him.


Side characters added to my chuckles. The executive assistant who was an Olympic judo contestant uses those skills in a scene reminiscent of Emma Peel in her leathers. The head of security who has ‘muscle envy’ on seeing the build of the (of course) probably-Russian hitman. Each character fit their role – harried and overworked detectives, ex-cop security, cold and efficient head of the investment firm for which Tom had worked – perfectly, instantly recognizable, taking their places in the unfolding events like the stock characters of a Christmas pantomime. As in a pantomime, there were many places when I wanted to figuratively shout ‘look behind you!’ at Rory – but then again, that would have spoiled the fun.


Recommended, but not – at least for me – to be taken seriously.


Reviewed for Coffee and Thorn Book Tours.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Chapman is an attorney specializing in labor and employment law.  His passion (aside from playing tournament poker and rooting for his beloved New York Mets) is writing fiction. He recently completed the first five books in his multi-award winning Mike Stoneman Thriller series.

Kevin writes: “The process of writing crime thrillers involves hours of thinking about and talking about how to kill people. And how to get away with it. It also involves figuring out how my protagonist detectives might solve the case. But mostly it’s about planning out ingenious ways to murder people. My wife is a willing participant in this process (so she must trust me). My current book is more of a mystery, and a little bit of a tragic romance. But all the stories are about the characters. If you don’t care about them, then I’m not doing my job.”

TO CONTACT THE AUTHOR

Kevin G Chapman welcomes communication from his readers – including comments, ideas, disagreements and critiques. He can be contacted via any of the links below:

Author website: https://kevingchapman.com/

The Mike Stoneman Thriller Group on Facebook

Email him at kevin[at]kevingchapman[dot]com

He is also on Twitter (@KGChapman)

HistFic Outside the Box

Creative and unconventional doesn’t always describe historical fiction and its subgenres, but today (and until Nov 30) five authors are offering you exactly that.

Click HERE to see the books by:

Bryn Hammond, stories derived both closely and imaginatively from The Secret History of the Mongols.

Julie Bozza, with books set from Rome in the 19th century to the ‘wild west’, with historical characters seen through a different light.

Elles Lohuis, whose stories transport you to 13th century Tibet.

Laury Silvers, offering detective stories set in 10th century Baghdad, exploring not only solving the crime, but the paths of Sufi practitioners.

And mine, a reimagining of what a world that looks a lot like Europe after the decline of Rome might have been.

Great storytelling combined with diverse representations of places, times and peoples – take a look!

WHAT THREE THINGS?

By Helen Hollick

Hello Marian, thank you for inviting me onto your blog. You asked me to tell you and your readers about the books I write. Where to start!

I used to write straight historical fiction: my first Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy was about King Arthur with a setting in Roman Britain in the 5th to 6th centuries. These were originally published back in the early 1990s – so I’ve been writing for a lo-o-ong while now! My intention for the trilogy was to strip away all the myth and magic of then Medieval Christian-based tales and write the books as ‘what might have happened’. Not for me the familiar ‘love triangle’, there is no Lancelot in my story, no Holy Grail, no Merlin either. I saw Arthur as an ambitious but capable war lord, Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) as an equally capable woman. They love each other but are two people with intelligent minds – and firm ideas which often clash. I used the earlier Welsh legends, which are far more interesting and very different from the later Medieval tales.

Following these, I moved to the 11th century and the events that led to the Battle Of Hastings in 1066. I am a firm supporter of King Harold II, so this story is written from the English point of view – stripped of all the Norman propaganda. The other book is the story of Emma of Normandy – Queen Emma of Anglo-Saxon England. She was married to Æthelred the Unready and then to King Cnut. One of her sons was Edward the Confessor, so a prequel story to the people involved in the subsequent Norman Conquest of England.

I turned to crime during the months of lockdown – fictionally, that is. I branched out into writing cozy mysteries. My Jan Christopher Series are quick read novellas set in the 1970s against the background of my years of working as a library assistant – with the twist of a murder mystery included. There are two in the series published so far, I plan more!

My favourites, however, are the Sea Witch Voyages. I wrote the first, Sea Witch back in 2005/6 when I wanted to read something as good as the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie – but for adults (with some adult content, some adult scenes and language, and some violence.) I couldn’t find what I wanted to read so I wrote it myself. I have just published the sixth in the series, Gallows Wake, with a short read novella prequel, When The Mermaid Sings as a bonus read.

So, three things that I care passionately about in my writing?

1) My Characters. I fell hopelessly in love with ‘my’ Arthur, mind you, I was in that man’s mind for more than ten years (it took me that long to write what eventually became The Kingmaking and half of Pendragon’s Banner!) I am even more in love with my pirate (well, ex-pirate now,) Captain Jesamiah Acorne.  Funnily enough, I did notice, a while ago, when looking through bits of The Kingmaking, just how alike Arthur and Jesamiah are! They are both rough, tough guys. Both formidable when angry, but quick to laugh, both determined, both loyal in their own way – both would willingly die for the woman they love, even though tempers often flare between them. Honour is important for both of them – although both are also ruthless when needs must. They both have a solid, reliable friend and I wanted to portray them both as men who cared, who hurt when their hearts were broken and who drowned their sorrows …

2) I care about creating a feeling of believability. ‘Harold’ and ‘Emma’ both had a lot of historical fact to base the outline of the stories on: history tells us that this, this and this happened, and when and where it happened. The novelist has to decide (OK, make up) the whys and hows. For ‘Arthur’ there is nothing to go on – let’s face the truth, King Arthur did not exist (although he might have been an amalgamation of several notable post-Roman war lords.) So for the ‘facts’ I researched post-Roman Britain and used what little we do know as the basis for my trilogy. I also extensively used my knowledge of horses.

For ‘Jesamiah’ some of the elements in the Voyages are supernatural or fantasy – the love of Jesamiah’s life is Tiola, a White Witch, a Wise Woman of Craft. To balance the ‘made-up’ bits I was as careful as I could be to get the ‘real’ bits right, in particular the sailing scenes aboard Sea Witch. I also used quite a bit of factual history from the early 1700s – although some I did ‘bend’ a little to suit my timeline (but I mention what I changed in my author’s notes.) I have absolutely no knowledge of sailing Tall Ships, though. Fortunately there are a lot of good books to use for research and I have a wonderful friend in the author James L. Nelson who checks my sailing scenes for me – and doesn’t laugh too loudly at my bloopers!

3) I suppose my third passion is for writing the book I want to read. ‘Arthur’ I wrote because I have never liked the later Medieval tales. I could never see Arthur as the sort of king who would go off and leave his country for years (although Richard I, did). Nor could I see Gwenhwyfar as being so stupid as to have an affair with Lancelot (who, actually, I didn’t like anyway.) The familiar tales, I believe, were written as propaganda to get men to go off on Crusade, and to justify Richard I, the Lionheart’s obsessions.

‘Harold’ and ‘Emma’, were the same, I wanted to write their stories as they ought to have been written. As for Jesamiah, well, he’s entirely made up, but as I said earlier, I wanted to immerse myself in a swashbuckling, enjoyable and engrossing adult nautical adventure … I didn’t expect that first Voyage, however, to turn out to be such a successful series!

Choose an excerpt or two to illustrates one of your three topics.

1a. From The Kingmaking

With a short, exasperated sigh, Cei strode over to the drunkard. As he was about to shake the man’s shoulder, he broke into a chuckle. Ah no, the poor tavern keeper could not give this one to the street.

Roused by Cei’s persistent nudging, Arthur staggered unsteadily to his feet.

It was only a short journey to the palace but, hampered as he was by the almost dead weight of his companion, it took Cei a while to reach their assigned rooms, where, laughing, he waved Arthur’s sleepy servant aside. “Go back to your bed, I shall tend your master.” He seated Arthur on the bed and pulled off his boots. “An enjoyable evening, I assume. Trust you to spoil it by getting yourself over full of wine.”

1b. Excerpt from Sea Witch, the first Voyage

Waking several hours into the fore noon to a thundering headache, Jesamiah staggered to his feet. He tottered to the  door, peered out, squinting at the brightness of the morning sun.

Rue stepped forward offering a pewter tankard. “Drink this.”

Hesitant, Jesamiah took it wrinkled his nose at the foul looking liquid. “What is it?”

“Old French recipe. Brandy, ground garlic with ’alf a pint of ale. Deux œufs – fresh-laid is that cackle fruit – a pinch of gunpowder and melted pork lard.”

Jesamiah sniffed again at the concoction. He poked a finger into it and picked out a piece of floating egg shell. “I don’t care for raw eggs.”

“Just drink it.”

Doubtful, Jesamiah raised it to his mouth. Changing his mind, offered it back.  “Later perhaps.”

“Écoute mon gars,”  Rue said finally losing patience. “Look, my friend, you lead us like the brilliant captain you are or we leave you ’ere in this God-forgotten emptiness, with as many bottles of rum as you please.”

Jesamiah looked from Rue to the tankard. Hesitant, he raised it to his lips. “It smells foul.”

The fouler the medicine, the quicker the cure, or so ma mere used to say.”

“What was she? The village poisoner?”

Both these scenes get across to the reader that the men have good, reliable friends, and that broken hearts can be dulled by drink, but not mended. The mending, of course, comes later in the stories!

THE VOYAGES

SEA WITCH   Voyage one

PIRATE CODE  Voyage two

BRING IT CLOSE  Voyage three

RIPPLES IN THE SAND  Voyage four

ON THE ACCOUNT  Voyage five

WHEN THE MERMAID SINGS  A prequel to the series

(short-read novella)

And just published…

GALLOWS WAKE

The Sixth Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne

By Helen Hollick

Where the Past haunts the future…

Damage to her mast means Sea Witch has to be repaired, but the nearest shipyard is at Gibraltar. Unfortunately for Captain Jesamiah Acorne, several men he does not want to meet are also there, among them, Captain Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, who would rather see Jesamiah hang.

Then there is the spy, Richie Tearle, and manipulative Ascham Doone who has dubious plans of his own. Plans that involve Jesamiah, who, beyond unravelling the puzzle of a dead person who may not be dead, has a priority concern regarding the wellbeing of his pregnant wife, the white witch, Tiola.

Forced to sail to England without Jesamiah, Tiola must keep herself and others close to her safe, but memories of the past, and the shadow of the gallows haunt her. Dreams disturb her, like a discordant lament at a wake.

But is this the past calling, or the future?

From the first review of Gallows Wake:

“Hollick’s writing is crisp and clear, and her ear for dialogue and ability to reveal character in a few brief sentences is enviable. While several of the characters in Gallows Wake have returned from previous books, I felt no need to have read those books to understand them. The paranormal side of the story—Tiola is a white witch, with powers of precognition and more, and one of the characters is not quite human—blends with the story beautifully, handled so matter-of-factly. This is simply Jesamiah’s reality, and he accepts it, as does the reader.”

Author Marian L. Thorpe.

BUY LINKS:

Amazon Author Page (Universal link)https://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick

Where you will find the entire series waiting at anchor in your nearest Amazon harbour – do come aboard and share Jesamiah’s derring-do nautical adventures!

(available Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in paperback)

Or order a paperback copy from your local bookstore!

ABOUT HELEN HOLLICK

First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write…

Website: www.helenhollick.net

Newsletter Subscription: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick

Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HelenHollick Twitter: @HelenHollick https://twitter.com/HelenHollick

Robert of Gloucester

Royal bastard, powerful magnate, capable commander – King Stephen’s man?


By Cathie Dunn

What if…Robert of Gloucester had not supported his half-sister, the Empress Matilda?
Would the mid-12 th century civil war that ravaged much of England, and Normandy by
association, have happened at all?


A Race against Time, my short story in the wonderful anthology, Alternate Endings,
published through the Historical Writers Forum, is set just before the period now widely
known as The Anarchy. It begins on December 1st , 1135, with the death of King Henry I at
his hunting lodge at Lyons-la-Forêt in Normandy.


Henry’s illness appeared quite suddenly, made worse by a meal of lamprey eels, apparently,
that didn’t do his constitution any good, and it didn’t give his administrators enough time to
consider the serious matter of a successor. Henry refused any discussions on the subject.
So the status quo remained that, as designated heiress, Matilda, Countess of Anjou and
former Holy Roman Empress, was considered Henry’s heir as his only surviving legitimate
child. But she was, of course, a woman, and one married to a rather unpopular and ambitious
young noble, Geoffrey of Anjou. It didn’t help matters that Henry had been quarrelling with
the couple before his untimely death. In short, the situation was a mess.


In A Race against Time, Robert of Gloucester, illegitimate eldest son of King Henry I, seeks
to scupper Stephen of Blois’ rushed accession to the English throne (and you’ll have to read
the story to find out what happened!), but what if Robert had stayed on at Stephen’s side, for
good?


After all, with Hugh Bigod claiming that Henry had released the barons from their oath of
fealty to Matilda on his deathbed, he opened the door for an alternative candidate – one more
suited to the responsibilities of kingship than a mere woman. It was a view that was shared
widely amongst the English nobles. Very few were surprised when Stephen – Matilda’s
cousin through his mother’s side – made a dash to Westminster and had himself crowned
with unseemly haste. Very likely, they approved of his ’decisive’ action.

The effigy of Robert of Gloucester’s tomb by: George Hollis, The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain, Public Domain.


As did Robert of Gloucester at the time, it would appear. Early on, the Empress’ older half-brother, a highly valued commander and astute politician, pledged his allegiance to Stephen. But by 1138, he’d seen enough, and was easily persuaded to pursue his sister’s claim to the
throne.


There were rumours of a strong dislike between the two men, and that Robert did not hide his disappointment in the new king. But how could Stephen have kept this man, whose sweeping lands in the west country stretched into south Wales, on his side?


With Robert covering his back, Stephen could have pacified the squabbling nobles. They’d have toed the line rather than challenge him and doing pretty much what they wanted. Perhaps Robert could even have kept Stephen’s brother Henry, Archbishop of Winchester, from scheming. He’d have had a task at hand to convince Matilda’s supporters to give up any hopes of her becoming queen, but they would likely have heeded his guidance.

But how could Stephen have ‘bribed’ this man who did not seek the highest power, who was no backstabbing traitor? Perhaps if Robert had been granted a position of high power, and in particular support against his enemies in the ranks of the barons, he may have stayed. If Stephen had been less dithering, less of a ‘good guy’, but come down harsh on the troublemakers, Robert would have supported him. If Stephen had been a decisive king, hard but fair, a medieval ruler not relying on his popularity amongst the peers, and if he’d not given in to their increasing demands. If…


Without Robert, Matilda’s chances would have been close to nil. She had friends, barons in
the west and south-west of England. But with her husband’s focus on reining in the small
uprisings in Normandy, she wouldn’t have had the influence or the manpower to stage an
attempt at claiming her throne. Without Robert, she’d never have made it to England. Perhaps
as a visitor, but never as a potential queen in her own right.


This would have also meant England and Normandy remaining divided – England firmly in
Stephen’s hand and Normandy in Matilda’s and Geoffrey’s. Normandy was her true home,
but her husband’s campaigns to consolidate his power and defend Normandy against raids
from the French may have counted for nothing without the backing of powerful magnates
such as Robert. A small duchy with a large, greedy kingdom on its doorstep, snapping at its
heel.


Matilda may have lost everything.


And Robert? Well, he’d have been in a high position of power, possibly responsible for
defence of the kingdom, or even for the upbringing of Stephen’s son, Eustace. Perhaps the
boy may have turned out a nicer character than he so clearly was. And maybe, then, he’d
have survived his father…


The balance of power would have shifted, had Robert of Gloucester remained at Stephen’s
court and in the king’s favour. The good folk of England wouldn’t have seen nearly two
decades of fighting, particularly across the south and west. There wouldn’t have been all the
burnt crops and destroyed fields and castles. And there wouldn’t have been all that needless
bloodshed.


But then, Robert of Gloucester was a man of principle, of loyalty and honour. Any personal
ambition of his never made him aim for top job itself, as he knew it to be wrong. Times had
changed. Also, it would appear, he didn’t suffer fools gladly, in that he preferred to see his
headstrong sister accede to the throne of England, rather than malleable, indecisive Stephen.
He gave the man the benefit of a doubt early on, and then chose his side, never again
wavering in his support for Matilda.


It is, perhaps, for those reasons that Robert, earl of Gloucester, is my favourite historical
character. And I dare say, he’d have made a fine King of England, even if he was born on the
wrong side of the blanket…


A Race Against Time, my short story in Alternate Endings


The King is dead. Long live the…Queen?

A Race against Time begins with the news of the death of Henry I, King of England and
Duke of Normandy. His illegitimate son, Robert, earl of Gloucester, has expected the news.
Like the other lords, he has sworn allegiance to his half-sister, Matilda, Henry I’s only
legitimate heir. But she is a woman!


When word reaches him that their cousin, Stephen of Blois, is on his way to London to seize
the throne, Robert and his fellow lords must decide how to proceed, fast.
Should they put a woman on the throne, after all, in her own right and with an ambitious
husband no one can control? Or is there perhaps another contender?

International buy link for Alternate Endings: https://mybook.to/AltEnd


About Cathie Dunn:

Cathie Dunn writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance. The focus of her current historical fiction projects is on strong women through time.


For many years, Cathie has been intrigued by the period in English history now known as The Anarchy, the mid-12th century civil war that affected England and Normandy. Although her current novel writing projects are set in other eras, she is planning to return to The Anarchy soon again, with a sequel to her romantic murder mystery, Dark Deceit.


In her spare time, Cathie loves to explore castles and ruins, allowing her to get ‘in the zone’ with her historical characters, fictional or real. She currently lives in the south of France with her husband and two rescue pets.


Website: https://www.cathiedunn.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cathiedunn
Review Blog: https://ruinsandreading.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CathieDunnAuthor
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/cathiedunn

Writing for Effect

A Dialogue with Eva Seyler

Eva Seyler is the author of four historical novels or novellas. Here, we discuss how she weaves emotion and reaction into her books, while maintaining a simple style.


Eva:

“Writing for effect”, in my books, is all about the characters.

Snogging 

I’m notorious for writing gratuitous snogfests that (often) don’t make it into the finished projects (for example, there’s an extremely un-kid-friendly RageSex scene that did not make it into The Summer I Found Home because it’s designed to be appropriate for kids). 

The scenes that do make the cut have to meet a few criteria: they need to signify something about the characters’ development, and they need to be focused on emotions rather than mere physicality. The goal is for what I don’t say, what is left to be read between the lines, to be as punchy as what I do say.

His voice caught as he wove his fingers into my hair and searched my eyes. “I am abominably drunk but I will show you things…” 

He bent close, his mouth exploring my throat and shoulders and breasts. His restless, certain fingertips called forth blissful whimpers from deep within me. Clothing shed, skin on skin, fingers of one of his hands interlacing with mine while the other hand like a magician’s called forth sense and life I hadn’t known existed. His mouth on mine, tasting of brandy and cigarettes and heaven, layer upon layer of feeling, sinking—drowning, but never dying, curiously alive, singing strings within. He was intense and he was focused and he knew what he was doing. 

Marian’s reaction:

My sense here is that the narrator is inexperienced, if not virginal: ‘sense and life I hadn’t known existed’. Perhaps she’s taking a risky step here?  And that the man is experienced, and both cultured and perhaps a little disreputable: – ‘abominably drunk’ – not the language of an uneducated man; the brandy also suggests this.  How far off am I?

Eva:

Right on every count. She’s been married before, but the husband was, shall we say, unimaginative at best—and it is a risk because this man is her best friend’s husband. (This snippet is from Ripples, the companion novella to The War in Our Hearts.)

Snappy dialogue 

Louise and George’s banter in The Summer I Found Home and its sequels has segued into an experiment: trying a brand-new (for me) style of dialogue that is intended to evoke the frenetic energy of 1930s-40s screwball comedy. I’m trying to perfect this for a WIP that’s third down the release pipeline: basically, using as few dialogue tags as possible, but still making it clear who’s speaking. 

Just one example of many from the WIP in question:

“I mean, friendship is wonderful. Everything is more fun with a friend. But imagine having, say, me for a friend, Miss Shipton.”

“I wasn’t aware we were friends. Anyway, I’m home now, you needn’t linger—”

“We could be. Friends, that is. Not home. We could be that too. I mean. Together.”

“Are you this eloquent and seductive with all your lady friends?”

“Oh no. Much more with them.” 

“You flatter me.”

“You hoover all the panache right out of me.”

“How romantic.”

“As I said.”

“Will you stop leaning in that impertinent way?”

He was too close, his forehead nearly touching hers. “What kind of person do you want to marry, Miss Shipton?” 

Marian’s reaction:

The short and sometimes interrupted sentences are very effective here, and it’s easy to follow who’s speaking by the inclusion of ‘Miss Shipton’ and/or ‘lady friends’. And then at the end the tone changes to more serious, simply by the dialogue becoming slower and a full sentence, and, the inclusion of an action tag prior to the dialogue. Was that your intent?

Eva:

I’m not sure I thought it out that thoroughly, but it’s true!

Simplicity 

Another strong aspect of my style is staying sharply on point. I don’t write flowery descriptions of scenery or events. I’m not against such things, by any means—it’s just not something that comes naturally. This Great Wilderness, at over 90,000 words, is incredibly long for me. Usually my books (including my two earliest, experimental novels) run considerably shorter. The Summer I Found Home is only around 62,000 words. 

I attribute this to focusing on character development and the specific events that drive that development. 

As with my snogfests and sex scenes, setting descriptions must enhance character development. Here’s an example from This Great Wilderness that encapsulates the scenery in a few short paragraphs, and the description is directly related to the state of Leni’s mind. 

The scenery is stark and incredible. There is the brown, desert-like landscape going one direction, like what the American West always looked like in the cowboy pictures we sometimes sneaked out to see when I was little. 

But face the other direction, and it is saw-toothed mountains, and snow, and ice, and vast lake. 

Two worlds. The desert is my life with Mauritz. The mountains are my life now. Both of them are terrifying to me, and the solitude is immense.

Marian’s reaction:

I’m sure this has a formal definition in writing (it’s not quite pathetic fallacy), but I couldn’t find one – the landscape reflecting the emotions of the narrator. It’s one I use a lot myself. I particularly like the starkness and simplicity of the contrast here between the desert and the mountains, and the threatening aspect of the mountains: ‘saw-toothed’ and cold. But the lake – water is usually a symbol of life and renewal – modifies that. Was that your intent, to suggest to the reader that there is hope for Leni In this new environment?

Eva:

I had not thought of the water aspect! At least not consciously, but that’s an absolutely legit interpretation, and it’s true that the wilderness does bring her back to life.


Eva’s contact information is at https://linktr.ee/theevaseyler  Find out more about her and her books at https://www.evaseyler.com/

How Has Writing Changed Me?

A guest post by Raina Nightingale

I hardly remembered when I first started to write. I was eight years old, having just learned to read. And what I wrote first was something that was at least half fanfiction: sometimes simply out of love and enjoyment, I would write stories very much like those I read, but other times, when it seemed to me there was something lacking in a book, or something that was wrong and not the way I wanted it to be, I would try to write a story that was like it, but different.

I think in stories. Both reading them and writing them is a big part of my thinking. In some ways, the exploration that comes from both is similar, but in some ways it is different, and different books are very different to read and very different journeys, though I do love some good escapism now and then (especially if it has nice world-building that speaks to me, more on that later)! In reading, I explore other people’s thoughts and am sometimes prompted to consider things about myself and what I like from angles I might not have considered on my own, and it does not take the same energy that writing does.

But writing, making up stories and exploring them as I will, is how I really think, how I discover, challenge my thinking, and consider new thoughts that I find in other places or other people suggest. Or sometimes thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Character, plot, and world-building can all be a part of thinking to me. A lot of my world-building, even – especially – the more magical parts of it, is inseparable from my appreciation for and understanding of this world, and helps me to articulate things I see better.

My characters are more wild. Sometimes I don’t understand them very well, and sometimes what I think I ought to have learned from them, whether their relationships with each other or their responses to their environments, I’m not at all sure that I do.

Probably most of my characters share some likeness with me, even if it’s as trivial as an aesthetic appreciation or a taste in cuisine. Some of them are very unlike me, while others can be largely deep explorations of aspects of my personality, dreams, or desires, or questions about these might be, but in general I don’t think too much about whether a character is like or unlike me, or how. Yet I always find it fascinating when I’m writing a character like none that I have ever written before, and I keep having moments of, “Oh, this is how someone who is like this thinks!” It’s really quite surprising. Yet, in real life, I sometimes feel like my empathy, my ability to understand and feel for people, is far behind my characters. Yet what would it be if I didn’t try? Or what would my stories be if I didn’t try in real life?

It’s hard to enumerate, or even really define, how writing and stories have been a part of my life and thinking, since it is so interwoven altogether. I don’t think there’s anything where it can be fully separated: sometimes I learn, through writing a character who enjoys something, to have more appreciation for it myself. Some recent examples are that I see the beauty in the ocean so much more after having written Corostomir, a man who is in love with the ocean, and writing a dry plains-loving people sharpens my appreciate for desert climates, something that used to not exist at all: the greener and the wetter the better, I thought.


Raina Nightingale has been writing fantasy since she could read well enough to write her stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She enjoys rich characters and worlds where magic and the mundane are inseparable. She calls her fiction ‘Dawndark’.

Author/Review Website: https://www.enthralledbylove.com

Universal Book Link for all my books: https://books2read.com/raina_books

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Areaer_Novels

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The Welsh Dragon, by K.M.Butler

A Review

Henry Tudor—the victor of Bosworth who defeated Richard III to claim the crown and become Henry VII of England, beginning the Tudor dynasty – had a weak claim to the throne. Descended on his mother’s side from the royal prince John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford, Henry was barred from the line of succession by this illegitimacy. But Henry’s father Edmund Tudor was half-brother to the king, through his mother’s second marriage to Owen Tudor, and this too brought a potential claim.

When Edward IV took the throne from Henry VI in 1461, amidst the complex politics and battles of The Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper fled to Brittany. It is the fourteen years that Henry spent in exile that is the focus of nearly the first half of The Welsh Dragon – a period of which little historical fact is known. Author K.M Butler therefore had a fairly free hand to imagine this time in Henry’s life.

Butler shows us a young man attempting to live a life free of the politics of court and crown, in love with a commoner, the competent merchant Jehane, and learning to be useful and skilled in trade. A small life, perhaps, but a free one. But his mother’s (and others’) letters from England, the emissaries who come, and his own sense of duty can’t let him forget who he is. Nor can his enemies: Henry’s life is frequently in danger.

History takes its course, and Henry accepts his role. Butler handles the complexities of factions, allegiances and intrigue well (a small caveat here: I am familiar with this period and the historical people portrayed here – for someone new to it, it might still be a touch confusing) and does not, thankfully, underrepresent the role of the powerful and politically astute women on both sides.

One of the enduring mysteries of this time is the fate of the Princes in the Tower, Edward IV’s last two legitimate sons, imprisoned by Richard in the Tower of London. While generally considered to have been murdered by Richard’s orders, there are other theories. The one proposed by Butler was new to me – but plausible.

Henry may have been reluctant, but his acceptance of the expectations of his birth and upbringing rings true; Butler portrays him as a sympathetic character who grows into maturity and what he sees as his duty, accepting his role in the larger tapestry of politics and history, rather than his personal desires. The book ends with the victory at Bosworth: it is the making of a king, rather than his reign, that is brought to vivid life in The Welsh Dragon.

Writing for Effect: A Dialogue with Jamie Tremain

Jamie Tremain: aka Liz Lindsay and Pam Blance

Currently, Jamie Tremain has two series. The Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series is in the mystery/crime genre revolving around a female private investigator, Dorothy Dennehy.  The story is set in Portland, Oregon. Her office is aboard a houseboat, ‘The Private, Aye?’, moored in the Willamette River. She has a solid circle of family and friends who assist in her cases.  By the time we’d written the second book, we realized what we seemed to enjoy from writing this series, and Grant’s Crossing, is the building of character dynamics and relationships with one another.

Grant’s Crossing is our second series and is a mystery/amateur sleuth series. It might have cozy ‘overtones’ but doesn’t classify as a cozy.

It’s set in rural Ontario. We have two main characters, Alysha – owner of the home, and Dianne – a resident, and the story is told from each of their POV in first person. The setting is an old farmhouse converted to house 8 retired seniors in a guest-home type environment. 

As mentioned above, we feel our strength, and passion, in these stories has evolved to focus on character relationships, to show what life can do to all of us and how we cope or carry on. We’ve been successful based on comments and feedback received from readers.


Emotion of Characters, Witty Dialogue, and Diversity are the three topics we’ve chosen. They dovetail into each other as we build stories that portray life experiences on different levels a reader can relate to, while still providing a crime or mystery to solve.


Emotions of Characters – The Goal to build relationships built on human experiences common to readers.

These are two scenes from Lightning Strike, the second book in our Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series. Our protagonist, P.I. Dorothy Dennehy has learned her fiancé, Paul, has been murdered.  The first scene is her father, Max, trying to comfort her, and the second scene is Dorothy waking up from a dream the day of Paul’s funeral.

“Why did you change your clothes? she asked, wondering why his casual jeans and sneakers had disappeared. Now he wore his best corporate attire. Perfect tie and polished shoes.

“I had to change, Dee. You know what today is. Have to look my best.”

She awoke with a cry on her lips and a breaking heart. As the dream’s images fluttered away, she sighed. “You always looked your best, my love. I miss you so much and today will be the hardest day I’ve lived through.”

Marian’s thoughts:

Dreaming of lost loved ones is a common human experience. Dreams, too, often have hidden meanings. If I read into the scene that Paul’s message to Dee is that she must put on her ‘best’ today: best clothes, best front, best control – to change her real feelings to get her through this hardest day – would I be reading something into it you didn’t mean?

Jamie Tremain:

We think you’ve reacted as we intended. And without “knowing” our character Dorothy, this is even more true because she is a strong and independent woman, but the death of Paul has knocked her off her feet, and in addition to his funeral she knows that she, as a private investigator, is going to do her best to solve his murder. So, control of her emotions is paramount to her staying level-headed. Her grief will be put on hold. And Paul would have known that, as well.


Dialogue – The Goal to bring humour at times, but to always show that our characters are “human”, subject, for example, to petty backbiting, or one-upping.

We have fun with some characters’ dialogue scenes. This is from Resort to Murder, the second book in our Grant’s Crossing series. Our characters, most retired, live together in a small retirement “guest” home – Leven Lodge. Mealtimes can be lively due to their various personalities.

Rose changed the subject. “Anyway, I hope the investigation wraps up soon so the spa can reopen. I’m anxious to try out some of the services they offer.”

“Maybe they can do something about those wrinkles,” sniped Minnie.

“At least I know what a spa is for,” retorted Rose.

I settled back to watch the show, but Nina broke things up. “Now ladies. Let’s not bicker. Life’s too short. I’d hoped to make use of the spa while I’m here as well, but if it doesn’t work out, c’est la vie. That’s French you know.” The barb hit its mark with Minnie.

“Well kiss my derriere. That’s French too.” Minnie smirked. Then she exited the room. I noticed Lily’s small grin as she watched our wicked witch’s departure.

I had a feeling breakfast congeniality was done.

Marian’s response: 

Writing ‘gurus’ often say that no dialogue tags other than ‘said’ and ‘asked’ should be used. (Not that I agree with it!) Here you’ve used a variety of other tags and descriptors. Can you expand on why you chose them?

Jamie Tremain:

When we were traditionally published with our first 2 books, we had an amazing editor. Her opinion favoured avoiding the overuse of ‘said’ and it stuck with us. Not that there is anything wrong with ‘said’, but I (Liz) recently read a book, where about ten consecutive pieces of dialogue were tagged with ‘said’, and I found it boring, as if the writer couldn’t find something more descriptive to use. Balance is key, because to overuse any tag runs the risk of reader turn-off.

The narrator and Lily both seem a little detached from the bickering. You convey this both through the use of ‘watch’ and the fact that neither speaks. Were those conscious choices?

Jamie Tremain:

Definitely on Lily’s part, yes. She is an introvert, overshadowed by her extroverted twin sister. As for the narrator, yes as well. She enjoys being a bystander during these exchanges, although she has been known to stir the pot when it suits her.


Diversity – The Goal to have diversity in various forms, woven into a story so that it’s done in a way to make it seem natural and not because we have to tick boxes.

Without really intending to, we find our Grant’s Crossing series has touched on several areas of diversity, most done in subtle ways, to hopefully show diversity is taken for granted, and not a big deal to be fussed about. We’ve touched on Aboriginal issues, mental health, have had a gay character, and, aging is a general theme throughout. We, as writers, hope it’s a reflection of ourselves, that diversity is, and should be, a natural part of life’s fabric.

The example concerns a new couple, Sasitha and Bachan Patel, who have taken up residence in Leven Lodge – from the third book in the series, Acting Off-Script. It’s a small town in rural Ontario, with little familiarity of East Indian customs.

I decided to ask about a question I had. “I noticed you’ve placed some beautiful small candles in the front room. Are they for a special occasion?”

Sasitha beamed. “Oh yes, my friend. These are for celebrating Diwali. So important for us.”

“Festival of Lights,” interjected Bashan. “Lighting these candles, for us, means we are getting rid of the darkness. The darkness can be meaning bad vices, such as greed.”

From what I knew of the Patels, greed was a foreign concept to this generous and kind-hearted couple.

Marian’s thoughts:

You have subtly captured the rhythmic speech patterns of West Asian immigrants speaking English. Did you worry about being accused of stereotyping in the name of diversity?

Jamie Tremain:

The Patels are my (Liz) characters and have been modelled after a former co-worker, whom I am very fond of.  The speech patterns were part of everyday work life. Honestly, if a reader feels this is stereotyping, then, with respect, that would be an inaccurate assumption.  Earlier in the book, the Patels give an account of how they came from India, lived in Scarborough, and ended up in Grant’s Crossing. We thought having a retired married couple, who happened to be East Indian, would be an interesting dynamic to add to the mix of characters living at Leven Lodge.

Was the use of ‘foreign’ in the last line purposeful? To me it creates an effective dissonance between the idea of ‘foreigner’ and how we all share universal human attributes and concepts.

Jamie Tremain:

That’s an interesting observation, Marian. It wasn’t intentional, but we agree with your assessment of its use.


One final question from Marian:

You strive to show character relationships, ‘to show what life can do to all of us and how we cope or carry on’. Author intent and reader interpretation can be very close, or it can be very far apart. Art is a tension between the creator(s) and the ‘consumer’, the person experiencing it. Have you had feedback from people whose interpretation was far from what you intended?  If so, how did you handle it? (And if not, how would you handle it?)

Jamie Tremain:

We’ve been told our character relationships are a focal point of both series, and so we now make a conscious effort to create life situations for our characters that most people could relate to at various times in their lives – aside from finding murdered bodies, of course!

The most feedback we received was when we “killed” Paul in the second book of our Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series. Readers who had enjoyed the first book were dismayed, and even a little angry, that we’d dispatched him. We didn’t expect the level of disappointment but were gratified in a way because it showed readers connected with the character. And it made us realize that a mystery is not just about the crime to be solved, but it’s about the characters. So having the strong feedback about killing Paul was valuable.

Every reader has their own viewpoint and interpretation on what they read. We’ll continue to create scenarios we hope are relatable and always welcome feedback, be it positive or not, on how we’ve tried to portray relationship dynamics. We may be the author, but we can always learn from our readers, as well.


Links:

Web: http://www.jamietremain.ca/   

Blog : https://jamietremain.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.ca/Jamie-Tremain/e/B06X1FFCCF/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Books2Read :  https://books2read.com/ap/nObabJ/Jamie-Tremain

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/jamietremainwrites

Email: jamietremainjt@yahoo.com


Would you like to be part of this series? Authors published or unpublished are welcome – leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

September’s Books

OK, it’s a little late…but here’s a roundup of books I read/listened to in September, along with some I’ll be starting soon, with some brief thoughts on each.

The Lion of Skye, by J.T.T. Ryder.  The sequel to his debut Hag of the Hills, set in iron-age Skye in a world where myth and legend walk with humans, for those with eyes to see. Fast paced, sometimes bloody, and definitely not a 21st C worldview. Full review here.


Gallows Wake, by Helen Hollick. The sixth book in the Captain Jesamiah Acorne series: piracy with a touch of the paranormal. Expert writing, engaging characters, a solid plot, and no need to have read the first five. Full review here.


Something to Hide: A Lynley Novel by Elizabeth George. The 21st Lynley novel; competent, twisty, the plot focused on FGM among Nigerian and Somali communities in London. Readable, but overall it felt tired, as if the author is putting her characters through their paces reluctantly.


The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint. I’ve been a huge de Lint fan for many many years; this one, set well away from his usual fictional city of Newford, had some interesting elements, but overall was too similar in theme and some aspects of plot with others he’s written, even if the mythology was primarily Native American and not Celtic. Enjoyable, but not his best.


A Prayer for the Crown-Shy: Monk & Robot Book II, by Becky Chambers (audiobook). Along with the first book in the series, A Psalm for the Wild-Built, hands down the most delightful, hopeful, and subtly thought-provoking novellas I’ve read in a very long time. Highly recommended for those tired of dystopias (and perhaps real life).


Begun but not yet finished (NOT DNFs)

The Welsh Dragon, by K.M Butler. A historical novel about Henry Tudor, focusing on the years before he defeated the Lancastrian forces at Bosworth, ending the Cousins’ War (The Wars of the Roses) and taking the throne as Henry VII. So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying it; review to come.


Fairy Tale, by Stephen King. (audiobook).  I have a long way to go in this…like most of King’s books, it’s not short. Reserving my opinion for now, because this is a book with two distinct parts, and I’ve only just begun the second story. 


Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World, a collection of essays by the late Barry Lopez. Like authors Annie Dillard and Robert MacFarlane, Lopez’s nature writing goes far beyond a set of empirical observations. I’m only not finished because I’m pacing myself, giving myself time to think about what he’s saying about human societies, the importance of place and belonging, and our relationship with the rest of the planet.

Although there are one or two statements among all the gems that don’t ring true, overall, a thought-provoking and sometimes lyrical book.


In the Queue:

Singing for Our Supper: Walking an English Songline from Kent to Cornwall, by W.R. Parsons. I’ve been following Will Parsons on his modern pilgrimages around the UK for some years, via Facebook, Twitter and his website. Walking in Britain has been both a place of peace and a source – the source, probably – for my novels, and my own walk across England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, a highlight of my life.  I, however, can’t sing a note. I am very much looking forward to this book.


The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga, Book II) by P.L. Stuart. The second book in Stuart’s magnificently imagined world, with that hardest of protagonists to do well (and Stuart does) – an unlikeable one. Will Othrun’s hubris and ambition lead him to glory or to the ashes of his dreams? I’ll find out soon.

I Began with a Landscape

Thoughts on Worldbuilding, Part I

“Observing the interplay of minute details…within the larger, overall picture, sensing the tension between the revelatory particular and the general condition…the written stories we most trust about life begin to take shape.” 

Barry Lopez

Worldbuilding. There are a thousand blogs and articles and books on how to worldbuild in fiction. I wouldn’t be adding to them, except I was asked to. For years, my response to the readers and authors who ask me how I created the (apparently) immersive, believable, world of my books has simply (and honestly) been, “I don’t know. I just write.” 

But being asked to share my ‘wisdom’ on this subject made me analyse it – or try to. With the serendipity or synchronicity that often, I find, happens, I had started to read Barry Lopez’s last book, Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World, a collection of essays. Lopez is a writer I have returned to over and over; like Annie Dillard and Robert MacFarlane, his relationship with the natural world goes far beyond empiricism. And from the quote above, I began to see a way to explain how my fictional world came into being. At the heart of that creation is the often-given advice: write what you know.

Earlier in the summer I’d begun a stop/start/continue exercise to combat a growing sense of irritation and dissatisfaction with my life. Part of the exercise is to define what is important to you; what you truly care about. I knew that during the pandemic years, I’d lost sight of some of it.             

Here’s what that analysis showed me:

As I studied this result, I realized that these are not just the things I care about deeply. These are the things I know and have spent my days on. And as Annie Dillard wrote: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Write what you know. What do we know better than how we spend our days and our lives?

I took those eight identified foundations of my life, simplified it a bit, and created this slightly wonky Venn diagram:

At the intersection of these six passions, where their interplay of both detail and general weave together, is where, for me, worldbuilding occurs.  The world of my books – its ecology, geography, history; even its languages, arose from what I have spent a large part of my time on for over fifty years. Tolkien, the philologist, began with languages and built a world around them. I began with a landscape.

And I always did. Right from my first ‘apprentice novel’, begun when I was seventeen, the major theme of all my work has remained the same: the interrelationship between place and identity: what keeps us there, what drives us—or calls us—from it, how it shapes who we are both in its presence and its absence. In Empire’s Reckoning, the young Gwenna, visiting her mentor Sorley’s boyhood home with him, asks him about what it means to him. (The first-person speaker here is Sorley.)

“This all should have been yours.”
“I gave it to my brother,” I said.
“But you still love it here.” She shook her head in frustration. “That’s not right. More than love, but I don’t know how to say it.”
“Dùthcas.” She looked up at me quizzically. “I can’t translate it,” I said. “Belonging is close. It’s as if I carry this place deep inside me, and I hear it calling to me, always.”

This is the basis, the core of creation of a world for me. The bedrock. Place and culture are—or were—inextricably linked. The knowledge held and expressed in the tundra and taiga of northern Canada and the vast expanse of Australia are not the same, nor is the knowledge needed to navigate life in a big city the same as that needed to live on a ranch fifty miles from the next one. The next step in worldbuilding is showing that knowledge and its attendant skills in context, whether the world in question is real, quasi-real, or entirely fictional.

To be continued….