Interview with Award Winning Author M. Catherine Berg

Miriam Berg BRAG

I’d like to welcome, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree M. Catherine Berg today to talk with me about her book, REVEALING MAY. Berg is a contemporary writer of murder mystery. Berg has a history in the world of TV promotional advertising and TV syndication. She lives with her husband in a small beach community along the coast of California.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indieBRAG when searching the Internet. I read their requirements for accepting books. I sent mine in and held my breath. How honored I feel to have Revealing May accepted into this wonderful group of books and authors. In addition, how appreciative I am for all that the organization does in helping to promote authors.

Please tell me about your book, REVEALING MAY.

REVEALING MAY is a Gracie Wentworth murder mystery. Gracie works for her uncle, the owner of Montgomery Group, a small, private investigation firm. In this book, Gracie reluctantly goes undercover as a reporter at the prestigious boutique winery Somerset Hills to find out who is framing her client, the owner Elliot Somerset, for murder. Elliot, fond of drinking more bourbon than wine, becomes a person of interest in the gruesome murder of a drug dealer who is found dead in Elliot’s private wine cellar. Elliot’s wife, May Somerset, is alluring and fragile, coping with a past that now threatens her family’s future. People start disappearing without a trace and the body count keeps growing. Gracie becomes deeply involved not only professionally, but also personally and starts to uncover a world of drugs, blackmail, money, sex, and lies.

Revealing may BRAG

Will you tell me a little about what Gracie and her mother, Lillian Wentworth’s relationship is like?

Gracie’s mother, Lillian Wentworth, is a world famous, wealthy author of lascivious sex and salacious murder novels. She is a very private, bestselling author and lives on a beach compound in Buena Del Mar. Lillian built Gracie a small beach cottage on the compound after Gracie’s tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce. Mother and daughter have a strong bond and solid relationship. They not only relate as mother and daughter, but as single women with a strong work ethic. Both share a strong sense of justice being served, and they are sometime drinking buddies.

Tell me a little about Paso Robles wine country as the setting for your story.

My husband has been in the wine and liquor business his entire career. I have visited many wineries from Southern California, Northern California to France. I have seen the big commercial wineries, the small family owned wineries and everything in between. I love the Paso Robles wine country and enjoy visiting the wineries in that area. I knew that I wanted this book to be located there. For the book, I changed the name to Paso Miguel as the setting.

Who is Simon?

Simon is the winemaker of Somerset Hills winery. In a small boutique winery, the winemaker and owner work closely. Not only in proximity, but also in their vision of how they want the wines they are producing to taste. I found that relationship interesting. Not only the intimacy of the work but also what would happen if either one faltered in their attention to that relationship. Simon became the character and the catalyst of that idea.

How did you come up with the book title?

Each book will have a month in the title. The month will represent either a person’s name or time of year. The corresponding word will represent the story in some way.

Who did your book cover?

I work with a lady named Tara at Fantasia Frog Designs. I usually tell her my idea then sketch it out in a very primitive manner. I can’t draw worth beans so there is usually a good laugh involved. However, she works up a cover and she is usually dead-on. We do some minor tweaking and then go for it. I trust her and she is incredibly easy to work with.

How long did it take to write your story and what was your process?

The entire book from start to finish was approximately seven to eight months. My process is one that I am comfortable with and continue to use. I am a four-part structure girl. In addition, I always know my beginning, middle and end before I start. I usually have a vague overview of the story and a vision of the bad guy. Then I write a short version of the story from the bad guy’s perspective because he or she drives the story. I need to know what he hopes to accomplish with his evil ways. I then write what each character hopes to accomplish. Then I do a one or two line beat sheet for each scene from first to last. That could take me weeks. Once I have that done, I embellish each scene with a Scene Worksheet that will have everything from the time of day, characters in that scene, what is going to happen, the subplots, I throw it all in there as much as I can. When that is finished, that becomes my outline. I can flip through and read the story from beginning to end. If I need to rearrange, I move the pages around. Once I am comfortable with that, I start writing the rough draft. As the process moves along and other ideas pop up that I like and can use, I write them on the Scene Worksheet. I also keep a “Don’t Forget” list for each character that I need to fit in or mention. I try to be as organized as I can. As you can see, I am not a panster!  In addition, since this is a series, I need to keep track of things mentioned in previous books that carry over. I keep it all in a notebook in front of me.

Author Website

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview M. Catherine Berg who is the author of, REVEALING MAY, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, REVEALING MAY, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Layered Pages Christmas Greetings

manger scene for christmas post

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.


Christmas has always been an important time in my family’s life- not only because of the traditions we have shared but most importantly our faith in Christ’s birth. I often think of the candlelight Christmas Eve Services we have gone to and how meaningful they have been to us. I think about the gift of giving to others and seeing their faces light up with happiness. My memories are filled with favorite movies we watched together, favorite Christmas songs, baking goodies, playing board games and decorating the tree. Even though we still do many of those things, some of our traditions have changed as we have grown older, but some traditions have remained the same. I wish you all wonderful Christmas and holiday. May your new year to come be blessed and full of happiness and joy.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone! God bless.

Stephanie M. Hopkins


A Writer’s Life with Barbara Lamplugh

Barbara Lamplugh BRAG

I’d like to welcome Barbara Lamplugh today to talk with me about her life as a writer. She was born and grew up in London, studied in York and then moved to Shropshire. Her writing career started in the 1970s, inspired by a life-changing overland journey to Kathmandu in a converted fire-engine. This trip was followed by a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway and several months backpacking around Japan and SE Asia. Her two travel books, Kathmandu by Truck (1976) and Trans-Siberia by Rail (1979) were the result. Another new experience – motherhood – came next. With two children to bring up, her extensive wanderings came to an end but she continued to write, turning instead to fiction. She has written several novels, though Secrets of the Pomegranate is the first to be published.

Her day jobs have included working as a librarian (her first career), as a project officer for Age Concern (inspiration for one of her earlier novels), running a Volunteer Bureau and, briefly, recording milk yields on Shropshire farms. She trained as a counsellor and worked in a voluntary capacity for two local organisations. At the same time she was writing articles for various magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian and Times Educational Supplement.

In 1999, she fulfilled a long-held ambition and moved to Granada in Spain. Having trained to teach English as a Foreign Language, she soon found work, a place to live and new friends. A job as English Editor followed, along with some freelance editing and translation. After a few years, she found her dream job as a regular Features Writer for Living Spain magazine, to which she contributed around a hundred articles over several years on topics as diverse as garlic, machismo, the life of a lighthouse keeper and the nightmarish experience of being trapped at an all-night drumming festival.

Her novels have always focused on ordinary people rather than the privileged or exotic. Working in the community and meeting people from all walks of life proved to her that everyone has stories to tell and that the most fascinating and unexpected are sometimes hidden behind a seemingly conventional exterior. Almost everyone has secrets – some that may never be revealed, others that are only revealed to a select few, but by their nature, secrets are always subject to discovery and, as in Secrets of the Pomegranate, may be catapulted into the open by a dramatic event. 

She is currently working on her next novel, set during and after the Spanish Civil War.


Like many other writers, I write because I have to; because it’s something I feel compelled to do. But it’s not a burden. I want to write. I feel more alive when I’m writing. It opens something up in me and gives me a high that’s like no other. Yet at the same time, I feel more grounded.

I first discovered this joy of creativity at primary school. I remember, at the age of about ten, writing an essay imagining I was a sailor on Captain Cook’s ship, describing the rats and the scurvy and the long days at sea. And around the same time with the same teacher, writing with passion about William Wilberforce and his attempts to end slavery.

I love using my imagination to create characters and stories, but I love equally the very different process of playing around with words, choosing the precise right one, finding the best structure for a sentence or paragraph.

I wrote my first novel when I was pregnant. I gave birth to the novel and my baby son around the same time. The novel left a lot to be desired but I learnt from my mistakes and discovered the joy of writing fiction, having previously written only travel. My son was perfect from the start!


It has had a huge impact on my life because it takes up so much of my mental and emotional energy and so much of my time, preventing me doing other things I might also enjoy. I try to keep a balance, ensuring for example, that I get enough physical exercise and time outdoors. This isn’t always easy – there never seems enough time in the day to fit everything in and I’ve realised this is because writing expands to fit whatever time is available, there is no end to it! I live alone and I’m happy writing so there’s a real danger of becoming isolated. However, I do manage to see friends and family and have a social life. What tends to get neglected is housework.

Publishing my novel, Secrets of the Pomegranate, has been a life-changing experience. Having appreciative audiences at my various launches and presentations, receiving positive feedback from readers and being awarded the BRAG medallion have boosted my confidence enormously and made me feel more justified in calling myself a writer. Previously, despite two published travel books and many years of journalism, I didn’t always feel I was being taken seriously as a writer.


I would say persistence is one of the most important qualities necessary to be a writer. Writing is hard work and getting published is even harder. It’s no good giving up at the first or even the hundredth setback. Good writing doesn’t come magically at first draft. Be prepared to rewrite and rewrite, to go on courses, learn from reading critically and by asking for feedback from those who will be honest and constructive and who read similar books. You have to be thick-skinned and not let criticism and rejection put you off. At the same time you have to be hyper-critical of yourself – or rather of your writing – to make sure it’s the best it can be.


Ideas can be sparked by something I read. But my best ideas usually come when I’m completely relaxed and my mind is open. This happens when I’m walking alone in the countryside. It happens when I’m near water – lying on the beach, swimming in the sea, walking by a river, or even in the bath or shower. It doesn’t tend to happen sitting at my desk in front of the computer.

Author Website

Facebook: Barbara Lamplugh

Barbara L Book Cover BRAG

Passionate, free-spirited Deborah has finally found peace and a fulfilling relationship in her adopted city of Granada – but when she is seriously injured in the Madrid train bombings of 2004, it is her sister Alice who is forced to face the consequences of a deception they have maintained for ten years. At Deborah’s home in Granada, Alice waits, ever more fearful. Will her sister live or die? And how long should she stay when each day brings the risk of what she most dreads, a confrontation with Deborah’s Moroccan ex-lover, Hassan? At stake is all she holds dear…

Secrets of the Pomegranate explores, with compassion, sensitivity and – despite the tragic events – humour, the complicated ties between sisters, between mothers and sons and between lovers, set against a background of cultural difference and prejudices rooted in Granada’s long history of   Muslim-Christian struggles for power.


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Philip Dodd



I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Philip Dodd to today to talk with me about his book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle. Philip was born in 1952, lives in Liverpool, England, has a degree in English literature from Newcastle University, and has been writing songs, stories and poems since he was twelve. His first book, Angel War, was published in April, 2013. A work of fantasy fiction, rooted in The Bible, it was chosen as a finalist in The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards in 2013. His second book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, was published in March, 2015. A work of light-hearted science fiction, it was chosen by indieBRAG as a Medallion Honoree in October, 2015. His third book, Still the Dawn: Poems and Ballads, was published in October, 2015.

He has had poems published in his local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, The Dawntreader, a quarterly poetry magazine, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, Mallorn, the Journal of the Tolkien Society, and Greek Fire, an anthology of poems inspired by Greek mythology, published by Lost Tower Publications.

He enjoys posting his poems in the Poetry group on Goodreads, on poetry group sites, like Uncaged Emotions, on Face Book, and on his WordPress blog

Here is the link to his web site:

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first heard of indieBRAG when I read on Face Book that a book by Elisabeth Marrion, which I had read and reviewed, had been made a Medallion Honoree. I was then led to the indieBRAG web site. I then decided to enter my own book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, for the same award.

Please tell me a little about your book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle.

My book is a light-hearted science fiction story. Basically, it is the biography of an inventor. His name is Klubbe, a turkle who lives on the planet, Ankor. Turkles look like turtles only they walk on their hind legs, have yellow golden skin and back shells, and they have the gift of language and the ability to create their own culture. To amuse myself and, hopefully, others, I wanted my book to contain the opposite of the high seriousness and complexities of the science fiction novels I have read by such writers as Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Bear, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. So I created a bird brain, simple story about an inventor called Klubbe who invents the first flying craft on his planet, which is powered not by an advanced technology, as in a serious science fiction novel, but a larger version of the battery which lit the bulb in the toy torch he had as a child. I wanted to write a story without any villains, conflict or darkness, in which all the characters are good natured and helpful to one another, something which those who have read and reviewed my book have appreciated as a refreshing change.

Philip Dodd Book Cover BRAG

What is the planet, Ankor like?

Ankor is very much like Earth as it was in its early ages before the industrial revolution. Turkles are its guardian race. They live in cities, towns and villager’s, but travel everywhere on foot, unless they journey by barge on one of its canals or in a cart or carriage on one of its roads, drawn by hill ponies. Most of the planet is uncivilized, left to be wild, complete with forests and jungles. Some of its birds, beasts and fish, like the Great Glom, for example, cannot be found anywhere else.

Tell me a little about them pyramid priest.

I wanted Turkles to seem like a real people who live on a real planet, so I gave them their own religion. Many aliens in science fiction novels and films have an advanced technology but appear to have no spiritual life or religious beliefs. Ubbtosh, the pyramid priest, I created to represent the spiritual side of turkle life and nature. He holds in his hand a copy of The Zump, the sacred book of Ankor. He is the key to the turkle version of God, who they call Nunkturnom, and the angels who serve him, who they call the Esur.

Who is Archy Eopta?

I got the name Archy Eopta from the name of the earliest bird, Archaeopteryx. On Ankor, the Archy Eopta is the king of all the birds on the planet, considered to be a myth, until his home is found in a mountain cave by Klubbe and his company of explorers.

Tell me a little about the setting and period of your story.

Most of the events in the story take place on the planet, Ankor, which is a very primitive planet until Klubbe invents its first flying craft. In space, Klubbe and his crew members, on board his flying craft, the Golden Star Coracle, encounter space stations and space ships, manned by aliens from advanced planet civilizations, and when they land on Earth it is Earth as it is now in the twenty first century.

What are you currently working on?

In October, 2015, I published Still the Dawn: Poems and Ballads, a collection of poems and ballads I wrote between the years of 1983 and 2015. I started writing songs and poems when I was twelve in 1964. Now I enjoy writing poems and posting them in the Poetry group on Goodreads, poetry groups on Face Book, like Uncaged Emotions and Literary Feast, and on my WordPress blog. I have written fragments of a sequel to Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle. It is called Assinarc, which is the name of a star city invented by Klubbe. I may finish it one day. At the moment, I am content to write verse.

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers can buy my book on, and Barnes and Noble.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I found a tiny plastic model of a turtle, designed to fit on the end of a pencil. It looked odd, for it stood upright, on its hind legs. So I decided it was not a turtle at all, but only a creature that looked like one. I changed the second t in turtle with a k to get turkle, and gave him the name Klubbe, who lived on a planet called Ankor. His first invention, the Golden Star Coracle gave me the full title of my book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle.

Who designed your book cover?

I chose the picture for the cover of my book from Shutterstock. The design team at Publish Nation did the lettering.

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Philip Dodd who is the author of, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




Book Spotlight: The Ice Queen by Bruce Macbain

The Ice Queen: Book Two of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga By Bruce Macbain


Publication Date: November 30, 2015 /Blank Slate Press /eBook & Paperback; 285 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

The second volume of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga takes up Odd’s adventures as a skald (court poet) in the land of the Rus. Here he is drawn into a dangerous love affair with the passionate and cunning Princess Ingigerd of Novgorod, and is forced to break with his sworn lord, Harald the Ruthless. Along the way, Odd devises a stratagem to defeat the wild Pechenegs, nomadic warriors of the Russian steppe, and goes off on a doomed mission to explore the distant reaches of the Black Sea. The novel concludes with Odd sailing into the harbor of Constantinople, bent on a secret mission, which will almost certainly cost him his life.

Eager, curious, quick-witted—and sometimes wrong-headed—Odd Tangle-Hair recounts his story with candor, insight, and always an ironic sense of humor.


About the Author

03_Bruce Macbain

From boyhood, Bruce Macbain spent his days in reading history and historical fiction. The Greeks and Romans have held a special fascination for him, and this led to earning a master’s degree in Classical Studies and a doctorate in Ancient History. Along the way, he also taught English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Borneo. Later, he taught courses in Greek and Roman civilization at Boston University, and published a few dense monographs, read by very few. In recent years he has turned to writing fiction, a much more congenial pursuit, beginning with two historical mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games and The Bull Slayer). Now, he has turned his attention to his other favorite folk, the Vikings. Odin’s Child , the first novel of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga, was published in May, 2015 and is now followed the sequel, The Ice Queen. A concluding volume will follow next year.

Bruce spends his spare time in the kitchen, cooking spicy food.



2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award Announcement

I have the great pleasure to announce that I have been honored of being the short-list judge for the Historical Novel Society Indie Award alongside Steve Donoghue HNS US Indie Review Editor and author Janis Pegrum Smith – and the Finalist judges: James Aitcheson (author and historian) and Anna Belfrage author and 2015 Indie Award Winner. -I am in good company!

Here’s the full long-list – the nine selected shortlist titles will be announced here on 1st January.


Stephanie M. Hopkins

Calling All Readers!

pic of BRAG Books Banner

Thank you to readers who have submitted applications to indieBRAG– we are so glad to have you join us!

We still need more readers so be sure to tell your friends!

Genres provided: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult, Children and Non-Fiction.

We will provide the ebooks for free and you will be a part of a global reading group attempting to shine a light on worthy self-publishing books.

Apply Here

Thank you!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

indieBRAG Team Member

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lucinda Brant

Authorphoto Lucinda Brant

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree LUCINDA BRANT today to talk with me about her book, Salt Bride. Lucinda is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning Georgian historical romances and mysteries. Her novels have been described as from ‘the Golden Age of romance with a modern voice’ and ‘heart wrenching drama with a happily ever after’.

Lucinda has degrees in History and Political Science from the Australian National University and a post-graduate diploma in Education from Bond University, where she was the recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Education. Before becoming a full-time writer, Lucinda taught History and Geography at an exclusive boarding school for young ladies. She drinks too much coffee and is addicted to Pinterest. Come join her there in her 18th Century world

‘Quizzing glass and quill, into my sedan chair and away! The 1700s rock!

How did you discover indieBRAG?

Through Facebook announcements, and author colleagues receiving the award.

Please tell me about your book, Salt Bride.

When the politically powerful and eminently eligible bachelor Lord Salt, the earl of Salt Hendon, suddenly and inexplicably marries Jane Despard, the beautiful daughter of a poor squire, the nobility are appalled and intrigued in equal measure. Many believe Salt has been taken in by a beautiful face. But Jane and Salt share a secret past of heartache and mistrust, and are forced into a marriage neither wants. Enter Diana St. John, who will go to extreme lengths, even murder, to hold Salt’s attention. It remains to be seen if the newlyweds can overcome past prejudices and sinister opposition to fall in love all over again.

I have to admit for an historical fiction lover, I haven’t read stories often in this period until recently. What can you tell me about this period that might inspire me to read more?

Well, the fashions are pretty fabulous! All those wonderfully embroidered silks and velvets, gold thread and matching buttons. And that’s just the men’s clothes! Seriously though, the 18th Century was a dynamic period in our history—a time of exploration, enlightenment, and revolution, when the pace of change rivalled our own. It was also the age of comfort and high fashion, of ritual, traditions, and codes of conduct that made all manner of daily interactions between people so much more complex and mannered. All this makes for rich romantic story telling.

How long have you been drawn into this period of history?

Since I was eleven years old. In school and later at university, and as a teacher, I read widely and studied and taught about different historical periods, but I am always drawn back to the 1700s. There is so much to learn and so much that fascinates me about it.

Please tell me a little about Jane Despard. What are her likes and dislikes?

Jane is self-contained, quiet, sweet natured, and no-nonsense. She also has a deep-seated belief that good will always triumph over evil. She is blessed with great beauty, the sort of beauty that causes people to openly stare. She is aware of her looks, but because she is humble and kind-hearted, she goes out of her way to make people feel comfortable in her presence. Those with a less than wholesome heart misjudges her as weak and dull. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jane possesses an inner-strength and a strong faith that she draws on in times of distress. Having grown up in the country, and not being the son her father wanted, she has led a simple and rather uneventful life. She likes to garden, embroider and play the pianoforte. She knows how to run a household, and her greatest wish is to be a good wife and mother, and helpmate to her husband, whom she loves. She dislikes cruelty in all its forms.

What is some of the historical facts in your story?

The weather! Truly! J The winter of 1762/63 was one of the worst on record, with the river Thames freezing over, and many people dying from exposure in the London streets. I read lots of primary sources—newspaper reports and diaries—for the year 1763, and the political and parliamentary machinations of the day are discussed by my characters. The peace negotiations of the Seven Years War, George the Third’s favorite, Lord Bute and whether he would or would not resign as Prime Minister (then called the First Lord of the Treasury) and who would take his place, are all based on fact.

Salt Bride

Would you please share an excerpt?

I’d love to! This excerpt is from Chapter Two.

“You will sit, Miss Despard.”

It was a command Jane ignored.

“Very well. Let that be your last act of defiance,” Salt replied coldly, taking a turn about the room, circling her as a lion does its prey. “Tomorrow, once you and I have been up before parson, spiritually and legally we become one. Make no mistake, Miss Despard, I am that one. As that one, you, as my wife, will act in accordance with what is in my best interests. Never forget: Wherever you go, whomever you see, however you conduct yourself, it is I that society sees, not you.

“You will not do or say anything that I do not want you to do or say. You will not go anywhere I do not want you to go. You will do precisely as you are bidden. Do I make myself perfectly understandable?”

Jane understood. He was intent on making her realize how thoroughly undeserving she was of the social position to which he was reluctantly elevating her. And yet, what she was thinking was how much he had altered since they had danced at the Salt Hunt Ball four years ago. It had been her eighteenth birthday that day, and her first proper social engagement, her coming out as a young lady.

During the hunting season, and later the Salt Hunt Ball, indeed during the whole of that wonderful autumn month preceding her eighteenth birthday, he had been an entirely different being from the one standing before her now. She remembered that behind those thin uncompromising lips there were beautiful white teeth, and that he possessed an infectious, good-humored laugh that made his brown eyes crinkle at the corners. And then there was the summerhouse…

Instantly, she mentally pulled herself up.

It didn’t do to let her thoughts wander to the summerhouse by the lake and what had occurred there. The summerhouse made her acutely aware of the consequences of her impulsive actions, and that only brought forth darker, more unspeakable memories, memories she tried desperately to suppress. Nurse had told her not to dwell, she must go forward, not look back. That was the last piece of advice Nurse had given her before her death. She missed her nurse terribly. She wished with all her heart she was with her today. She needed her strength and her no-nonsense approach to life. Go forward, don’t look back, child! Looking forward meant accepting the Earl of Salt Hendon as he was now, not as he had been during that fateful autumn.

“I will take your silence as assent and not stubborn disobedience,” he stated, circling her once more. “You are not unintelligent, and thus you will see that if you play your part in public, if you adhere to the strict upbringing you had as the daughter of a country squire, society will, given time, come to accept you not only as my wife, but as the new Countess of Salt Hendon. As Lady Salt, you will soon be invited everywhere. As for Polite Society’s private opinion of you, that is of supreme indifference to me.” He signaled impatiently for his secretary to step forward and then continued. “But how you conduct yourself as my wife is very important to me and to my family. To this end, I have had a document drawn up which sets out the rules governing how you will live as Lady Salt. Ellis will read it aloud and you, Miss Despard, will sign it as evidence of your understanding of how your life will be conducted from this day forward…”

How did you come up with the title for your book?

As the story is about Jane’s journey as the bride of the Earl of Salt Hendon, “Salt Bride” seemed like the perfect title.

Who designed your book cover?

Larry Rostant—one of the world’s top digital photographers and book cover artists, and named in Lürzer’s 200 Best Digital Artists worldwide 15/16. Larry’s vision for the cover was “…to create a modern Georgian Portrait’. And he has succeeded admirably. J

What’s up next for you?

I recently released the third instalment in my historical mystery series DEADLY PERIL: A Georgian Historical Mystery (Alec Halsey Series Book 3), and have now returned to the Roxton Family Saga to write the fifth and sixth instalments. I am also having my books made into audiobooks. Performed by British actor Alex Wyndham, it has been an exciting collaborative experience that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Alex has brought a whole other dimension to my stories.





A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lucinda Brant who is the author of, Salt Bride, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Salt Bride, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




Interview with Stephen E. Yoch

Stpehen Yoch

I’d like to welcome, Stephen E. Yoch to Layered Pages today to talk with me about his book, Becoming George Washington. Stephen. to start, thank you for chatting with me today about your book, Becoming George Washington and how delighted I am that you have chosen to write about his younger years. I adore America History.

Thank you.

Please tell me why you chose George Washington as your subject to write about?

I’ve always been fascinated by Washington. His ability to repeatedly give up power makes him truly unique. December 23, 1783 should be celebrated as much as July 4, 1776.  It was the day that Washington returned his commission to Congress at the end of the Revolution.  His willingness to give up power in 1783, and, at the end of his second term as President, makes him one of the most important leaders in world history.

To understand Washington’s unprecedented actions, my research drove me into his youth where I found a story that few people know and that compelled me to pick up my pen and share it.

For those who don’t know, who is Sally Fairfax?

Sally Fairfax was the wife of George William Fairfax. The Fairfax family was connected to the Washington family through George’s older half-brother Lawrence Washington.  George first met Sally as she joined the Fairfax family.  Virtually all historians agree that George fell in love with Sally and most agree that she loved him.  The question which no historian can really answer, is whether their affair was ever consummated.  Certainly neither Sally nor George ever admitted to anything in their lifetimes.  My book presents one possible story, but the Extended Author’s Notes in the back of my book discuss the views of the leading non-fiction historians on this controversial topic.

Is there a defining moment in Washington’s life that has left an impression on you?

As discussed above, his return of his commission to Congress was perhaps the greatest act of his life, and one of the turning points in American history. However, in his young life, which I cover in my book, it is the Battle of the Monongahela.  That event transformed Washington into a national figure and hero, cemented his leadership position in Virginia, and positioned him to lead the Revolutionary Army twenty years later.

Could you please share an excerpt?

See “The Battle” Excerpted below.

In your research did you discover anything about him that-maybe-most people do not know? If, so can you please share?

Washington’s young life was incredibly hard. We have this misperception caused by the invented “chopping down the cherry tree” story, which created the impression of a loving father and an idyllic childhood.  In fact, Washington’s father was largely absent and he died when George was only 11.  George’s mother was a very difficult person and they had an extremely strained relationship their entire lives.  With his father’s passing, George lost any ability to obtain a classical education in England and his financial resources were limited.  Far from an “ideal” childhood he had to overcome great challenges to become the George Washington that led the Revolution.

Stephen Yoch photo

What is your overall feeling about the American Revolution?

It is a watershed moment in world history. Because of Washington, and our other Founding Fathers, we avoided the typical pattern of revolution which includes violence followed by an anti-democratic counter revolution.  Washington, arguably more than anyone, helped establish the most enduring and robust democracy in history.

 Will you continue to write stories that take place in this era?

Absolutely! I am writing a series of books that deal with the American Revolution.  Upcoming books are (in order of publication):

Becoming Benedict Arnold

Becoming Alexander Hamilton

Becoming Benjamin Franklin

Where in your home do you like to write and how often do you write?

Whenever possible, I like to sit outside and read and write in the woods surrounding my home. One of my “disadvantages” has also given me great flexibility in how I write.  When I was 27, I had a cascading thoracic compression in my neck which caused me to largely lose the use of my arms for a year.  Since then, I’ve experienced significant weakness in my arms which prevents me from typing more than a few sentences at a time.  With the support of my wonderful partner and assistant, Deborah Murphy, all my books, articles, and other correspondence have been dictated.  Thus, I do not need a good writing surface or a power source to write.  All I require is a chair, my dictaphone, and an opportunity to think and write.

When I am actively writing, I follow no set pattern. That is, I do a great deal of research, and when I feel that I have reached a critical mass of understanding of facts of a particular scene, the story and narrative usually come to me in bursts.  I then feel compelled to get it all written down as soon as possible.  This can involve writing (dictating) very early in the morning, late at night, or whenever time permits.  When I reach a lull, I revert back to intensifying my research on certain scenes or areas until the words return.  It is the constant tradeoff between research, writing, and editing that I find so enjoyable.

Tea or coffee by your side when writing?

Tea. I’ll drink coffee when I grow up.

Stephens book

 Excerpt: The Battle

At about 2:30 p.m., George, still at Braddock’s side, was surprised to hear the unmistakable pops of muskets, followed a couple minutes later by the crash of mass directed fire. The column shuddered to a halt, and Braddock immediately ordered messengers ahead to determine what was happening. Within a couple of minutes, he received confused reports from young officers indicating that the vanguard had run into French and Indian troops, with volleys erupting directly in front of Gage’s men and resulting in an indeterminate number of casualties.

As updates continued to stream in, Braddock remained composed and, apparently completely at ease on his horse, made no effort to move forward. George pulled his mount next to the general and volunteered, “Sir, if you would like, I would be pleased to go to Colonel Gage and the van and provide you with a more complete report of conditions.”

Confidently surveying the troops, Braddock spoke without looking at George. “As you were, Colonel. I am receiving regular reports. Our calmness inspires the men. I can’t have you gallivanting off in a huff. My aides-de-camp must be at my side if the battle becomes hot. I am confident this is an exploratory force of French and Indians charged with preventing us from simply walking up and taking the fort without a shot.”

“Yes, sir.”

As he said it, George’s temper flared: It is more than that! And we are sitting in the middle of the road like pigs awaiting slaughter. George added, with more urgency than he intended, “Our preliminary reports say in excess of three hundred French and Indians, General.”

“Never believe the initial reports, Colonel; they are almost always wrong.” Then, Braddock muttered to himself, “Where are the goddamned cannons? Gage, what the hell are you waiting for?”

George liked Thomas Gage and desperately wanted to find out what was going on and, if possible, join the fight. Then, in apparent response to the general’s whispered plea, came the twin boom of Gage’s six-pounder cannon. A cheer went up from the British lines.

Slapping the top of his leg with obvious pleasure, the general exclaimed, “There you go, Colonel; that will put the fear of God into the savages!” Turning to Orme, Braddock ordered with calm military precision, “Please instruct Lieutenant Colonel Burton forward to reinforce the vanguard.”

Word came that Gage’s troops had executed classic formations: kneeling, firing, reloading, and firing in ranks in turn. This mass firing, along with the use of the cannons, was apparently met with some initial success. However, there were also indications that Indians were moving down either side of the column and enveloping the British’s unprotected flanks, limiting the British’s ability to bring their superior firepower to bear.

The war whoops and battle screams of the Indians began in the surrounding woods, terrifying the British soldiers. The instant the fighting began, the unarmed road builders under St. Clair began moving to the rear. When the Indians increased their battle yells, a controlled retreat by the unarmed men turned into a full sprint, unnerving the regular soldiers who remained as road builders ran past them to the rear.

George was next to Braddock when a disturbing report arrived that Gage had apparently ordered his grenadiers to fix their bayonets and form a line of battle to rush the hill on the British right flank. The grenadiers followed the first order but then, in terror and confusion, refused to move forward as the Indians appeared to materialize from all sides.

Within fifteen minutes of the first shots, the French and Indians had moved along both sides of the British line and had taken control of the hill on the British right that Gage had neglected to secure. The concentrated British formations were ideal targets for French and Indian snipers shooting from cover. Now directed fire began to rain in from all sides, especially from the hill overlooking the right side of the British line.

Around him, George could see the main body of soldiers were nervous and fidgeting. Glimpses of running Indians could be seen in the woods. It was increasingly apparent that the French and Indians were using the trees and terrain as cover to fire on the British. Periodically a French rifle would ring out, a nearby British soldier would scream, and a volley of British guns would blindly return fire at the hidden source of the shot.

A wounded St. Clair, shot in the shoulder and chest, was pulled on a gurney before Braddock. Delirious, St. Clair bizarrely shouted at Braddock in Italian. Braddock, without breaking stride, responded in the same language.

Amazed, George turned to Orme, who explained, “St. Clair laments that we are all going to die and should retreat. The general told him—rather directly—to shut his mouth.”

George then heard St. Clair switch to English and gasp, “For God’s sake, the rising on our right.” Then he collapsed onto his gurney, unconscious.

George noticed for the first time what St. Clair was talking about. “He raises a good point, Robert!” George shouted above the battle’s din. He pointed to the hill. “I believe the general should move our men there.”

A frustrated Orme replied, “The general believes in firepower, not maneuver.”

As if responding to Orme’s comment, nearby artillery began to fire, but the gunners failed to find any target and mainly contributed smoke and noise to the confusion with no adverse effect on the enemy.

Meanwhile, Gage’s vanguard retreated as its ranks were decimated by enemy fire. Gage’s men, along with St. Clair’s already fleeing road builders, smashed like waves into the main body of soldiers that, under Lieutenant Colonel Burton, were moving forward. The soldiers met each other at the base of the hill now held by the French and Indians, just as St. Clair had feared. The telescoping line was now a morass of men moving forward and backward, with units mixed in terrified confusion. Almost the entirety of Braddock’s whole army was now squeezed into an area less than 250 yards in length and about a hundred feet wide, while the rear guard was still about a half mile behind. French and Indians fired volleys of arrows and ball with virtually no chance of missing. Not only did the Indians have the advantage of cover, but they also shot with rifles that had greater range and accuracy than the British smooth-bore Brown Bess muskets.

Braddock became incensed at the disorder. He slapped men with the side of his sword, bellowing, “Get back to your standards, men! There is no retreat here. Move to your officers and return fire!”

George recognized the need to move men into the woods and engage the enemy while also presenting a less inviting target. Turning to the general, George yelled, “General, we must not crowd the men! Please, General! Let me lead some men out into the bush!”

A blazing Braddock spat back, “As you were, Colonel! We need to organize our men to attack and mass fire against these heathen bastards.” George acknowledged the order and turned back to the men to hide his disgust.

About forty-five minutes into the battle, George began to see the noose tighten as the French and Indian movement along either side of the British line had created an elongated half moon of French and Indians surrounding Braddock’s troops. The hair-raising shouts of the Indians, coupled with steadily increasing fire, left the British feeling trapped and defenseless.

As George approached Orme, a bullet grazed George’s side and hit Orme squarely in the thigh, staggering his horse. Amazingly, Orme stayed in the saddle, and, without missing a beat, he reached into his bag and pulled out a sash, tightly winding it around his injury.

“Robert, you are wounded!” George pleaded. “You should move to the rear.”

“There is no rear, my friend, and I can’t leave you and the general. It appears the bullet went straight through. Unfortunately it also seems to have wounded my horse. I’ll stay with him as long as I can.”

With George, Morris, and the wounded Orme at his side, Braddock was moving up the line toward the front of the column. They continued perhaps another twenty yards when suddenly Braddock’s horse collapsed from a shot to the head. Braddock deftly jumped from the saddle, and without any apparent concern for his own safety, he turned to Orme and said, “Down you go, sir. You are wounded, and I need your horse.”

“My horse has been injured, General, but he still seems to ride well,” said Orme as he hopped down and helped the general mount.

“It’s just a nick below the saddle,” Braddock said. “Your leg and the saddle were kind enough to absorb most of the energy, Captain. You will remain here with these troops and provide direction.”

George dismounted and helped Orme to a nearby tree. “Do make an effort to stay out of trouble, Robert,” George said with forced levity.

Grinning despite the pain, Orme retorted, “Don’t worry about me, you blasted fool. You are the largest target out here. I’d say keep your head down, but there is nowhere to hide that enormous body.”

The men’s conversation was suddenly cut short by the bark of General Braddock, “Goddamn it, Washington! You are with me, sir!”

George and Braddock trotted along the line. Periodically George would see flicks of Braddock’s uniform spray in the air as French and Indian soldiers directed overwhelming fire on the high-sitting general.

After almost an hour of battle, men all along the line continued to drop from sniping fire and Indian arrows. Nevertheless the British remained tightly packed, falling back on training that was designed to provide mass fire in the open fields of lowland Europe.

What had started as a crystal-clear day now appeared like a foggy morning, with white powder smoke from cannon, musket, and rifle obscuring targets. Shots of canister, essentially giant shotguns, were being directed into any identified concentrations of French and Indians with minimal effect, hitting more trees and leaves than enemies. A dry dust filled the air, mixing with insects and heat to create the perfect cocktail of misery for all as canteens ran dry.

George knew the men were petrified at the prospect of being captured. They had all seen the Indians’ handiwork on the mutilated bodies of unlucky British soldiers separated from the column. It was this fear, more than anything else, that kept them together.

Everything about this engagement—the sights, sounds, and smell—was different for George. When his men had endured the onslaught at Fort Necessity, the incessant rain and stifling humidity had deadened the sounds and smells of battle. In contrast, today the dust-filled air carried sound with horrifying clarity. The acrid smell of gunpowder stung everyone’s eyes, and the men’s faces were covered in powder from biting cartridges to refill and fire their muskets. At Fort Necessity, the Indians’ arrows were both silent and largely inaccurate. Here, George would periodically hear the twang of a bow, closely followed by the scream of the arrow hitting home. Even the perspective was different. He sat high on a horse here, whereas at Necessity, he slogged in the mud. Finally, most importantly, George did not face the burden of ultimate command in this battle. He relayed orders and observed the mêlée, but he was not the man fundamentally responsible. This detachment gave him the perspective he recognized he was missing at Fort Necessity.

While the British soldiers were a crowded, paralyzed mass of mindless confusion, the Virginians instinctively took charge and began moving out into the trees and fighting “bush style,” effectively pushing back the French and Indians. Moving in small groups, the men used the undergrowth, trees, and rocks for cover as they deftly approached the French and Indian position.

One group of 170 Virginians attempted to deploy into the woods. However, British officers mistook the blue-clad Virginians for French Canadians and directed mass fire, wiping out the officers and all but five of the Virginia soldiers, despite their screams that “We are English!”

Any soldiers taking the initiative and moving forward to engage were also almost immediately cut down by friendly fire. While clouds of smoke obscured vision, the misdirected fire was caused more by raw terror and a lack of leadership. George saw a Virginia soldier aggressively move forward to engage the enemy. Suddenly, the man’s skull exploded like a melon hit with a hammer. George knew it was equally likely the bullet came from a friend as from a foe.

The narrow road and fire coming from all directions made traditional maneuvering virtually impossible. Still, Braddock, with George at his side, rode up and down the lines, haranguing his men to form platoons. But Braddock was unable to organize movement into any particular direction. Meanwhile, men had to avoid being run over by periodic riderless horses racing to the rear—another reminder of the dwindling number of officers.

The battle raged into its second horrendous hour, and the British line continued to absorb appalling losses. Faced with an untenable situation, the English took cold comfort in the rote actions of practiced drill: biting a powder cartridge, ignoring the foul taste of the saltpeter, priming the pan, pouring the balance down the barrel, ramming the ball and wad down the barrel, and firing. Even the sting to the face of powder igniting in the pan and the slam of the butt into a soldier’s shoulder provided an illusion that “something” was being done. These soldiers could maintain this rate of fire at three to five times per minute, faster than any trained army in the world. The practiced actions had always meant victory. Reassuring as it might be, the rote motions had little effect on a hidden and protected enemy that mercilessly fired from cover on the huddled British.

The sound of passing bullet and ball became so omnipresent that George began to almost forget the air was filled with death. He was reminded of his true situation when, as the general paused to berate soldiers, Washington and Braddock were both simultaneously thrown from their horses. George, whose horse died instantly, was aware enough to jump off his saddle so as not to be pinned, but he hit the ground hard. The general’s horse whinnied and buckled, yet Braddock was able to dismount as the animal began to collapse. Again without missing a beat, the general pulled his pistol and shot the horse in the head, immediately calling for a new animal to be brought up. George’s horse was likewise replaced.   . . . .

About the Author

Steve doesn’t golf or fish and is a below average hunter, but his love of history and writing compelled him to pick up his pen and tell the little-known stories behind the men that made American history. After years of extensive research, Steve wrote his first book on young George Washington.

Steve lives in a suburb north of St. Paul, Minnesota with his supportive wife and two fantastic teenage sons. He graduated with honors from Boston College and the University of Minnesota Law School. He has enjoyed over two decades of practicing law in the Twin Cities, helping individuals and businesses solve complex problems.


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 07 Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, December 9 Review at Library Educated

Friday, December 11 Spotlight at The Writing Desk

Monday, December 14 Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, December 15 Review at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, December 16 Interview at Layered Pages Spotlight at Historical Readings and Reviews

Thursday, December 17 Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, December 18 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, December 21 Review at Bookish

Tuesday, December 22 Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, December 23 Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews Guest Post & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, December 24 Review at Book Nerd

Monday, December 28 Review at Just One More Chapter Spotlight at Puddletown Reviews

Tuesday, December 29 Review at The Absurd Book Nerd Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, December 30 Review at Luxury Reading Guest Post at The Absurd Book Nerd

Thursday, December 31 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Guest Post at Let Them Read Books


Review: The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck

The Debt of Tamar

In 2002, thirty-two-year-old Selim Osman, the last descendant of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, flees Istanbul for New York. In a twist of fate he meets Hannah, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and an artist striving to understand a father she barely knows. Unaware the connection they share goes back centuries, the two feel an immediate pull to one another. But as their story intertwines with that of their ancestors, the heroic but ultimately tragic decision that bound two families centuries ago ripples into the future, threatening to tear Hannah and Selim apart.

From a 16th-century harem to a seaside village in the Holy Land, from Nazi-occupied Paris to modern-day Manhattan, Nicole Dweck’s The Debt of Tamar weaves a spellbinding tapestry of love, history, and fate that will enchant readers from the very first page.



What first captured my attention about this book was that it was first self-published and then was picked up by St. Martin Press. Then of course the cover and premise had me intrigued. As I began to read the story I was instantly drawn in. I was completely selfish with my free time in reading this story. What is best to describe the story when looking at the cover is that it is a multi-generation story.

The story begins in 1544, Portugal. So beautifully portrayed. I was enthralled with Jose and Reyna’s story. Not only that, Dona Antonia-their Aunt-was an outstanding character. I loved reading about her and I was greedy to read more of her life. Alas, her story was short lived. As the narratives shifted to the other generations, I couldn’t help feel sadden by leaving Antonia, Joes and Reyna. Their story was so powerful and can really be written in a novel by itself. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the other stories as well. Each story of the lives of the characters in this unforgettable tale was written beautifully and one can’t help come away with this story with a sense of longing.

One thing that bothered me is that I wanted to know what happen to Tamar.

Wonderfully atmospheric, memorable characters, and exquisite details of centuries told. I’ve rating this book four stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins