Thursday, December 11

Medieval Medley: Guest Interview with Charlene Newcomb

It's always really nice to welcome a guest to my blog and today I'm delighted to host Charlene Newcomb. Char is the author of Men of the Cross, a historical adventure set during the Third Crusade.  

It was designated a B.R.A.G. medallion honoree in November 2014. To celebrate Char's marvellous recent recognition, we thought we'd indulge our mutual love of all things medieval with a suitable medley!

Medieval Mate- who’s your hero/heroine?

Men of the Cross features two heroes. Henry de Grey is the son of a minor baron in 12th century Lincolnshire. Stephan l’Aigle has been fighting at King Richard’s side for five years. The two young knights have taken the Cross: Henry because he is passionate about the Pope’s call to retake Jerusalem from Saladin; and Stephan because of his sense of duty and loyalty to Richard. Henry is young, naive, inexperienced in battle. He has a disdain for politics. Oh, the things he will learn as he travels from Southampton to the Holy Land and back.

Medieval M├ętier- what would your job be?

A busy (quite fierce)
scribe
I would have been a lousy peasant. All those domestic chores have little interest to me and my family would starve - I do not have a green thumb. Surely I would have been a scribe or maybe a troubadour with the nine years piano & five years guitar lessons my parents paid for. Either of those jobs would have served as a front for my “real” job: I’d have been involved in routing secret messages and translating encrypted ones. Those years in the U.S. Navy as a communications technician/voice language analyst were useful. Currently I work as a librarian in electronic publishing and coordinate data gathering for external reporting about the collections of a large university library.

Medieval Manor - where do you live?

Char's workplace!
Somewhere...over the rainbow. Or you may know it as Kansas. It’s not all flat farmland if you’re only familiar with Dorothy’s Kansas. We have beautiful rolling hills and prairie here. We don’t have any castles to my knowledge, and certainly no remnants of structures dating back a thousand years. But I’ve long suspected I was fated to be here. The place I work looks like a castle.

However, I wanted to experience the real thing and have travelled to the UK numerous times. Thank goodness that was not via a medieval galley. (I was the Navy seaman accompanying four Army privates on a tour boat in Monterey Bay - guess who got seasick? Yours truly.) Oddly enough, I didn’t have to draw heavily on castle life for Men of the Cross. Many scenes take place in the army’s camps if not on a battlefield. The sequel, For King and Country, will feature Norman-style baronial homes and castles, including Nottingham where the climax occurs.

Medieval Meal- what’s on your table?

It is the Thanksgiving holiday as I’m working on this and I just had leftovers from Thursday’s feast. Our medieval friends would not know the turkey, that American bird. Potatoes? Ditto - brought to Europe by the Spaniards in the 1600s. I wonder if there was something akin to bread stuffing? Stews (or pottage) were often thickened with grain. Pottage might have peas or beans, garlic, onions, and herbs. Turnips, parsnips or carrots might have been used. Fish was plentiful, but meats weren’t consumed too often. Bread and cheese: now that I could live on!
Cooking depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry

When compared to a soldier’s fare on an extended march, a meal of pottage, bread and cheese might have been downright lavish. Contemporary chroniclers of the Third Crusade don’t mention food too often, except for near riots over horse meat or spoilage to meat and bread caused by harsh winter weather. The typical soldier’s diet included cheese, bread, dried or salted pork or bacon. The men often packed a 10-day supply. Knights’ provisions were carted by their squires or on wagons accompanying the army.

Medieval Madness- what behaviour could you never accept today?

The marriage of (the adult)
Marie de Brabant
This is more a custom than a behaviour: Arranged marriages and child brides. Like many a little girl, I dreamed of being a princess (and a rock star, but that’s a tale for another day). Fairy tale princesses in books, television and movies? That vision was shattered as I learned more about the lives of people my characters in Men of the Cross would know, or know of. I cannot imagine the young girls sent to live as wards in royal households when they were betrothed. Alys, half-sister of Philip of France, was betrothed to Richard and sent to live in England when she was eight; and Richard’s sister Joan (or Joanna as I call her in Men of the Cross), was sent to Sicily at the age of eleven to marry King William II. These girls may have been raised to expect this as their fates, but I’m glad this is a relic of the past in most cultures now.

A behaviour of the past that I find most heartbreaking was the criminalization of homosexuality, or sodomy as it was called in medieval times. By 1300, secular laws against sodomy existed throughout England and Europe, and of course the Church had penitentials in place for hundreds of years prior to that. However, as I posted on my blog recently (http://charlenenewcomb.com/2014/11/17/medieval-man-sex-and-mortal-sin-in-men-of-the-cross/), attitudes about and punishment of homosexual behaviour varied tremendously in the 12th century. Main character Stephan l’Aigle in Men of the Cross is gay; my protagonist Henry struggles with his feelings as his friendship with Stephan deepens. Don’t worry - no erotica contained herein - the novel is about the relationship, not the sex.

Medieval Military- what’s your weapon of choice?

Archer hunting deer
The pen may be mightier than the sword - sorry, I couldn’t resist - and I would say I’d take the blade if I wasn’t so partial to bow and arrow. Of course, sword and lance were the knights’ weapons of choice, though as squires these men would have trained to use the bow. It came in handy when hunting for sport. Axes and clubs were popular too. Robin Hood and his exploits with Richard the Lionheart via books and on the screen are a huge influence on my choice of weapon.


Men of the Cross includes a secondary character, a knight named Robin who is extraordinarily skilled with bow. Readers will learn of his humble origins and the girl he left behind - Marian. Teenaged camp-followers-turned-squires Allan and Little John were so much fun to write. They are wise beyond their years, and also provide a bit of comic relief. In my book blurb, I’ve referred to this as the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend. I’ll be expanding the origins story in Book II, For King and Country, and introducing other familiar figures from the legend.

Medieval Matters- why do you love it so much?

Blondel's Richard the
Lionheart (1841)
I think I am enamored by the ideals of chivalry, which probably started when I saw Disney’s Sword in the Stone as a young girl. By middle school I’d seen Camelot and then read T.H. White’s Once and Future King and became a fan of Arthurian legend. Honestly, I didn’t learn much medieval history in school with the exception of the Norman Conquest and Magna Carta. I recognized names like Richard the Lionheart and Saladin and King John. Television and movies brought them to my full attention. Being skeptical of dramatized versions, I turned to books - biographies, translations of primary sources, and non-fiction social histories, as well as other fiction - to learn more about the people (and not just the kings and queens) and their times. I know every era has an incredibly rich history, but the 12th century captivated me.

The wars were horrific, the politics insane - you cannot make up this stuff! - and not all knights were chivalric, but still, a story about knights going off to battle gave me an opportunity to indulge in my love for adventure in storytelling. If I might return to my Star Wars roots, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away...”: historical fiction takes you to another time and place, albeit not one with X-Wings and star destroyers - a place I hope I can bring to life for readers.

As I'm sure you do, Char! Thanks so much for stopping by to obsess with me a little more about the fascinating medieval world.

Thank you for the opportunity to chat, E.M.!

Charlene Newcomb is the author of Men of the Cross, a tale of war’s impact on a young knight serving Richard the Lionheart and of forbidden love. Book 2, For King and Country, will be published in spring 2015.

For more information about Charlene, please visit her website, http://charlenenewcomb.com, find her on Facebook at CharleneNewcombAuthor, and on Twitter @charnewcomb.

Be sure to check out her special holiday offers and grab a bargain copy- ends December 25 2014!
http://charlenenewcomb.com/2014/11/30/men-of-the-cross-more-special-holiday-offer/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Blood of The Fifth Knight is published by Thomas & Mercer on 01.01.2015. You can pre-order it here on Amazon.com or here on Amazon.co.uk. Available to UK customers through Kindle First 1-31st December 2014!


Monday, November 24

Deleted Scene: The Blood of The Fifth Knight

As any writer knows, handing your manuscript over to an editor can be a daunting process. But it's also an incredibly exciting one. For this is the point where your novel cases to be something that is yours alone. There is now another creative mind at work, and one who works with a different skill set.

So it was when I submitted The Blood of The Fifth Knight to my publishers. The novel is the sequel to The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Amazon bestselling historical thriller in both the US and the UK.  No pressure, you understand?

Crucially, your editor has what you, as the writer, can never have about your own work. And that, my friends, is distance. So while you might pride yourself as an ace editor, you will never have the advantage of not having written it in the first place.

Enter my wonderful developmental editor for The Blood of The Fifth Knight, Katie Green. Katie was extremely encouraging and complimentary (she called it a 'brilliant historical thriller'!). Such editorial feedback is, I can assure you, very easy to accept.

Yet in order to make a book better, an editor also has to suggest the dreaded deletions. Yes, those scenes, those chapters that you sweated so hard over. They need to get gone. And begone no matter how great they are. For while they might work as a piece, they need to fit in to the overall novel. So it was with the original second scene in my novel.

In the first scene, Sir Benedict Palmer is standing on the sweltering streets of Canterbury on 12 July 1174, watching King Henry II make his brutal public penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. (This was the last scene in The Fifth Knight).

Henry is in deep trouble. A rebellion led by his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is on the cusp of victory. A key figure in the rebellion is Raoul de Faye, Eleanor's uncle and would-be suitor. Scene two was to have introduced us to de Faye, hiding out in London that day as he prepares for Henry's defeat.

Yet Katie felt that the scene (while a great scene) slowed the pacing and interrupted what was happening with the main characters. She also advised that it was probably a bit of a duplication with another scene. She was right. It had to go, with some of the aspects put into later scenes.

But of course de Faye didn't go. He's crucial to the whole book. And he's one of my bad guys, and I love my villains very, very much. So to get the love going for de Faye, and to get a peek into the world of The Blood of The Fifth Knight, here (for free!) is that deleted scene:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

London, 12 July 1174

Raoul de Faye, Seneschal of Poitou, wiped the perspiration from his forehead and cursed London.
One would have thought this rented room high enough above the street to escape the stink. Yet the many and varied foul stenches drifted up and in here as sure as smoke.

He crossed to the small wooden window, propped open to allow a modicum of air. He leaned out to see if he could catch any glimpse of the messenger he expected. No sign of the man yet in the relentless, noise-filled surge of people, horses, carts, donkeys and oxen below. A farmer driving a dozen large pigs added newly to the barbarous crush.

Withdrawing inside in disgust, de Faye fastened up the window. Gloom descended in the wretched room. It would soon become stifling, but that would have to be borne. He liked heat. Or rather he liked clean heat, the heat of the countryside.

On a day such as this at his castle in Faye-le-Vineuse, south of Chinon, the air would be hot with scent, with growth. A breeze would travel the peaceful fields, birds soaring upon it. The roses in his courtyard would throw out their thick, sweet scent, with the grapes in his vineyard drawing it in, using it for their miraculous swell that would yield him his fine wines.

But London was not his beloved countryside across the water. London did not even have the finesse of the cauldron that was Paris. No, this city was a cesspit all of its own, a place to be endured rather than enjoyed.

He picked up a jug of ale from the rickety wooden table and poured himself a cup. Though the brackish liquid looked and smelled foul, the steadiness of his own hand pleased de Faye. Like the greatest of knights, he traveled amongst his enemies at great peril to himself, and remained unafraid.

As he drank a mouthful, the warm, yeasty liquid left a rancid residue on his tongue. He grimaced. How many hours had men spent making water and barley taste this bad? Better they had left them apart, though any water he’d seen in this rancid city would kill a wild ox stone dead. He took another draught.

Outside, the church bells rang for the office of None. Low ones, high ones, all in an orderly chime. Good. They were a portent, a portent that all his careful plans were coming to fruit. The messenger should not be long now.

The rebellion was proceeding exactly as he, the uncle of Queen Eleanor herself, had planned. In a matter of weeks, her churl of a husband, Henry, would be defeated. Then he, Raoul de Faye, could lay the kingdom at the feet of his niece, his love. She would see him for the heroic warrior he was, and his fifty-eight years on God’s earth would not matter to her. She would want him to rule by her side, would offer her bed and her body to him.

De Faye wiped the wet of the ale from his neatly trimmed beard. Troubadours would assemble at the court over which he and Eleanor would rule, to delight her in the melodic poems she loved and cultivated so much. Yet it would now be him they celebrated him in song for his victory: praising him as the courtly knight who had done this for his passion, his worship for his lady. His name would echo down the ages, just as it had for Arthur, for Lancelot. For Yvain.

A muffled knock came from the door. At last. To be expected but de Faye had to make sure. He had no business in this city. If the king’s men even got a sniff that he was here, he would be hauled from here and flayed alive.

De Faye raised his voice. “Whom do you seek?”
The answer: “Harpin.”
Harpin. The monstrous giant slain by the great knight, Yvain.  De Faye smiled to himself at his own choice of password and swung the door open.
The messenger stood there, the dust from the July road covering him like thick, brown snow.
“Pray come in.”
The messenger did so, accepting gratefully de Faye’s offered cup of beer.
“How does it proceed?” asked de Faye.
“Word from Norwich, my lord. Bigod’s troops are assembling. Victory is imminent.”
“As I thought. This is good, good news.” De Faye clasped his hands in satisfaction.

All to plan. His plan. Henry teetered at the edge of the precipice called defeat, about to take the long, hard fall that could only end in disgrace and death. De Faye had brought him there. The only response from the king? To whine and wobble about the streets of Canterbury, appealing to that dead traitor, Becket.

“Another drink, my man?”
The messenger nodded and held out his cup. “My thanks to you, my lord. I seem to have swallowed half the road.”

De Faye refilled, waited until the young man drank deep, head back, uncaring of anything except the liquid slaking his thirst.
Then with a quick sweep of his long, pointed dagger, de Faye opened the neck of the messenger, so fast the foul drink sprayed out with the hot blood.
The man crumpled to the rough floor planks, cup clattering from his hand. A swathe of crimson swamped the brown dust of his clothes.

De Faye collected his bag and swung his cloak around him. The young man had hardly been an opponent like the giant Harpin. Nonetheless, de Faye had vanquished him. But a shame. Good, discreet messengers were hard to find, took a long time to train. Yet they could leave a trail and de Faye couldn’t risk that with this one, not at this point in his campaign.

Like the great Yvain, his victory was in his grasp. Then Henry would pay, pay for his betrayal of Eleanor. Pay with his very life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Blood of The Fifth Knight is published by Thomas & Mercer on 01.01.2015. You can pre-order it here on Amazon.com or here on Amazon.co.uk. Available to UK customers through Kindle First 1-31st December 2014!


Monday, November 3

Medieval Sorcery

© 2014 E.M. Powell 
At this time of year, there is much talk of witches, with large numbers of people happy to don a pointy black hat and party hard. Medieval people would have been unlikely to join in. The matter of anyone who practised magic was complex and they would have recognised the concept of a sorcerer rather than a witch.

In medieval Europe two forms of magic existed: natural and demonic. Natural magic used the hidden powers in nature, helping with cures and protection. Demonic magic was a perversion of religion, practised it was believed by those who had turned away from God and instead to the devil. It was the practise of sorcerers.

To continue to read what they got up to, please go to the rest of my post here:

English Historical Fiction Authors: Medieval Sorcery:

If you've enjoyed the post, you may enjoy my new historical thriller, The Blood of The Fifth Knight which will be published on 01.01.2015. And yes, accusations of sorcery are made with horrific consequences.

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com.au


Monday, October 27

The Blood of The Fifth Knight: Cover Reveal & Giveaways

I tried to write so many sensible crafted introductions to this blog post. I tried the differences between the written and visual medium. I tried the emotions pictures evoke in a reader. I tried a build up from The Fifth Knight to The Blood of The Fifth Knight.

In the end, this seemed to work best: ta-dah!

The Blood of The Fifth Knight is released on 01.01.2015. To celebrate this cover reveal of Sir Benedict Palmer's second adventure, I'm running a number of giveaways for a signed paperback copy of his first, The Fifth Knight. 

There's one on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment. It's open to worldwide entries until November 2nd 2014:

There's another open on Goodreads. Entries are accepted on this giveaway from the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada and Australia. It's open until November 14th 2014:

Last (but by no means least!), I'm running a third giveaway on this very page. Please leave a comment with your contact details to enter. Worldwide entries are accepted and it is also open until November 14th 2014.

Please enter any or all of these. There'll also be giveaways in the next few weeks for The Blood of The Fifth Knight. Why not sign up for e-mail alerts on my website to make sure you don't miss out?

Good luck!

Find E.M. Powell's books at:
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

Thursday, October 23

Guest Post: Interview with Ginger Myrick, Historical Fiction Author

Ginger Myrick

It's always nice when other writers stop by my blog!

Today, I'm delighted to host Ginger Myrick, winner of the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012 and author of five historical novels. She is also one of the most supportive writers I've met through the Historical Fiction community, dropping everything to bail confused bloggers (that would be me) out where necessary.

Ginger writes in a number of different time periods, so I thought I'd kick off by asking her about that:


Welcome, Ginger! You've written five novels so far, which is very impressive. Out of those, which is your favourite?

I am currently working on number six! Each book is like a child and has something special about it that I love. The Welsh Healer has a twist of magic and incorporates British myth and folklore.
Work of Art is an updated Cinderella story with a dark twist. But for the Grace of God is my take on Christian values and an argument for human equality, two things about which I am passionate. Insatiable, the Marie Antoinette book, is a dark rollercoaster ride through 18th century France on the verge of revolution, with all the drama that setting entails.

But I would have to say that El Rey is closest to my heart. It was my first book, the first time I experienced that strange gift of inspiration. I didn’t know how long it would last, and so I threw everything I had into that story. It’s nearly 600 pages and the biggest reflection of me as a person. Basically, it’s my life story fictionalized, and that lends itself to favoritism, or at least it’s more personal than the others. There is also a sense of freedom in that book—with a sea journey and horseback rides on rolling green hills—that I find utterly intoxicating.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Hahahahaha! I still don’t consider myself a writer and avoid using that title as much as I can, although my husband bandies it about with alacrity. I suppose my attitude stems from the fact that I never aspired to any of this. One day out of the blue, I had a sudden inspiration for a story, so I sat down and began to type. El Rey was the result, and here I am a couple of years later working on book number six. Although the term writer is debatable, there is no denying that I have produced five novels, so novelist is a term I tolerate a bit better.

 Have places inspired your stories?

In order to write convincingly, I need a good visual in front of me, but I’ve only been to the places I’ve written about via the internet. When I began scouting a location for El Rey, I fell in love with Terceira.
Terceira
It’s an island in the Azorean archipelago, a Portuguese territory. The island chain is volcanic and sits in the Atlantic Ocean, so the scenery is dramatic with steep coned peaks sloping all the way down to the shore along with the rolling green hills mentioned above. It’s also covered with hydrangea, always a plus for someone who loves flowers.

As you can tell, I get swept away simply by the idea. I have a standing invitation to visit, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to take advantage of it. I have a Labradoodle who would pine away for me if I left him for more than a few hours! I would also love to see the Seven Wonders of Wales, which also held me quite enchanted as I wrote about them.

Which historical person would you want to meet and why?

I have always been fascinated with John of Gaunt, probably because Katherine by Anya Seton was the book that lit my fire for historical fiction. I have even made several subtle homages to that work in El Rey. I have always been intrigued by John’s complex character, his strong ambitious side juxtaposed with the tenderness he held for two of his wives, Blanche of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford. He did everything right, but could never quite succeed in the things he held most important. He acted honorably enough, but he still could not win the love of the English people.
John Wycliffe reading his translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt.
Ford Madox Brown
Yes, he hungered for a crown and married a foreign princess—a Castilian one—in hopes of sitting a throne, but how is that different than any other prince of the time? I guess I am sort of carrying a torch for him, but don’t tell my husband. Even if John of Gaunt has been in the grave for over 600 years, hubby would still be jealous!

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your writing?

That would have to be a sentiment expressed in a personal email that my writing helped a friend through a major loss. She said that El Rey allowed her to finally cry where she hadn’t felt free to do so while holding her family together during their crisis. To know that I have touched someone in such a profoundly personal way is priceless. It’s what I hoped to achieve from the start.
Another cool thing is that I’ve had readers ask me if I am Portuguese, Welsh, or Irish, insinuating that I must have some connection with the cultures I have written about. This gave me untold satisfaction in regard to The Welsh Healer, because the folklore and traditions run so deep. I figured I must have done a good job if people thought I had grown up with the beliefs of such an isolated people.

On a bit of a side note, The Welsh Healer was catalogued into the library at the Madog Center for Welsh Studies where I had some translation done for the book. I’m not going to lie, that definitely made me feel legitimate! People have even treated me like an authority on Marie Antoinette, but I am only learned on a given subject for as long as I am writing about it. When the research for a project is finished, I go back to being a Jack(ess?) of all trades, master of none.

What’s next for Ginger Myrick?

I have just begun writing another book in the Insatiable series.

This will actually be the first volume—Marie Antoinette’s story being number four—in what looks like a six part rewrite of French history. My WIP centers around Catherine de’ Medici and will explain the genesis of the mysterious plague turning ordinary French citizens into the mort-vivant. I had originally intended to write the books in chronological order but thought I might garner more interest with such a flamboyant figure as Marie Antoinette. It didn’t quite work out the way I anticipated, but everything in its time.

In closing, I would like to thank the lovely E.M. Powell for hosting me and all of you who took the time to listen to me ramble on. I am grateful for your time and interest. You are what makes this journey worthwhile.

As do you, Ginger! Thanks so much for providing such interesting insight into your writing world.

 Winner of the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012, Ginger Myrick is the author of five novels: But for the Grace of God, Work of Art, The Welsh Healer, El Rey, and Insatiable: A Macabre History of France ~ L’Amour: Marie Antoinette. A Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core, she hopes to show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion.

Visit her website at www.gingermyrick.com
You can find all her books on:
Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Thursday, October 16

Fair Rosamund, Mistress of Henry II

Fair Rosamund
John William Waterhouse, 1916
Public Domain

King Henry II has a deserved infamous reputation for extra-marital affairs. Documented evidence exists of several liaisons, some of which produced illegitimate offspring, with women rewarded financially for their services to the King.

By far the most well-known of Henry's mistresses is Rosamund Clifford, the young woman who is often referred to as Fair Rosamund. A less flattering contemporary description comes from Gerald of Wales, Henry's acerbic chronicler, who refers to her as 'that rose of unchastity.'

You can find out more about her on my post for English Historical Fiction Authors by following this link:

English Historical Fiction Authors: Fair Rosamund, Mistress of Henry II:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In the new medieval thriller with Sir Benedict Palmer, somebody is trying to murder the Fair Rosamund. Henry summons Palmer to find out who is responsible. But as Palmer races to secure the throne for the King, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry’s traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated...

You'll have to find out what happens next in THE BLOOD OF THE FIFTH KNIGHT, published by Thomas & Mercer on 01.01.2015. 

You can pre-order it here: Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Available to UK customers 1-31st December 2014 through Kindle First!

Thursday, September 25

Sisters in Crime September Blog Hop


Yes, I write historical thrillers. Much of what I blog about is the historical part, less so the thriller part. Not any more! For I have been tagged by fellow Sister in Crime Member, H.A. Somerled as part of the September SinC-Up. You can read her post on her musical muses here.

The blog co-ordinators at SinC posed some great questions, so here's my choices.

1. Which authors have inspired you?

For thrillers, it has to be Tess Gerritsen. She's a thriller writer that I read and think, 'Damn! Why can't I do that?' She writes great female protagonists that have their feet firmly on the ground yet can really piss people off too. (yay, Detective Jane Rizzoli!)There's no pink, no wittering on about shoes and no needing men to rescue them.


One of my all-time favourite novels is Robert Harris's Pompeii. You don't get many water engineers who are heroes, but Marius Attilius Primus most certainly is. Harris showed me in this book the thrilling story telling that can result when ordinary (fictional!) people are caught up in extraordinary historical events.
Pompeii
2. If someone said 'Nothing against women writers, but all of my favourite crime fiction authors happen to be men', how would you respond?

Tess Gerritsen. Kathy Reichs. Tana French. Karin Slaughter. Agatha Christie. Patricia Cornwell.Val McDermid. I got those ones out in one breath. And I have plenty more breath left.

3. What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?

The best part is those wonderful scenes that just pour out as if someone else is doing it. Finding a solution to a plot problem that is far, far more entertaining (and grisly!) than in the original synopsis.

The most challenging is when it doesn't fly. When the writing is sat there like a muddy lump and I am boring even myself. I carry on, then delete. I should learn to delete faster.

4. If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?

Learn your craft. Like any apprenticeship, you need to learn which nuts and bolts fit together. If you don't, nothing works quite right. Worse case scenario, it falls apart.

Use the fantastic resources that are writers' organisations. Like Sisters in Crime. Like Romance Writers of America. Like the Historical Novel Society. Whatever your genre/cross-genre is, there will be an organisation for you. The support, the expertise, the sharing the frustrations, the generosity of other members: all this will help you greatly.

Yes, it costs to join. But not a great deal. And they're worth their weight in gold!

I'm now tagging fellow SinC member, Judith Starkston to write her September SinC-Up post. Judith writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire.

Her novel, Hand of Fire (Fireship Press September 2014), tells Briseis's story, the captive woman who sparked the bitter conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad. There was more to her than the handful of lines Homer gave her. Imagine a woman who can both challenge and love that most conflicted of heroes, the half-immortal Achilles.

Visit Judith's website at: www.judithstarkston.com





The Fifth Knight is a #1 Bestselling historical thriller. Find it here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk. The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1st 2015. Find it here!