Characters in Motion – Valerie Biel

Circle of Nine Valerie Biel IIOne of the best parts of being an author is the freedom to create diverse casts of characters. I like combining characters of different ages or characters from different eras. In my debut novel Circle of Nine: Beltany, I combine historical chapters and modern chapters. The main character in this novel is a modern teen in the United States, but the historical characters (her ancestors) are Irish and range in age from teen to elderly. And, one of my middle-grade novels is set at a senior living center, combining a cast of pre-teens with octogenarians.

This is why my rejection letters often said, “While I enjoyed the story and characters, I am not certain how to market this.” Oh, the horror! What shelf should this book live on?!? The good news is that my books have managed to live on many shelves, and I have had no problem marketing my titles to a broad audience of readers.

Writing diverse characters within the same novel is not always easy. In the Circle of Nine series, two of my favorite characters are roughly the same age but live more than 550 years apart. They have so many similarities, including sharing the same magical heritage as descendants of the Tuatha de Danann—a legendary founding tribe of Ireland. But, their reactions to challenges and their overall life experience is very different.

With one character living in medieval Ireland and the other in the modern-day USA, I had to think about how their decisions and viewpoints would have been informed by the era in which they live and the constraints placed upon females in that era. Reactions would be different because their options and choices are impacted by the sheer reality of their worlds, even if their hopes and dreams are the same.

And truly their desires aren’t that different. Both Dervla living in mid-1400s and Brigit living in the 2000s want to fit in with the others around them and they both (desperately) want to control their own destiny. Brigit, of course, living in the modern world has the most freedom to chart her own course, while Dervla is at the mercy of her brother who has decided to arrange a marriage for her.

But, while you would assume that Brigit has all the advantages by living in modern times, that isn’t completely the case. In Dervla’s world, while not everyone is an enthusiastic supporter of mysticism and magic, at least she doesn’t suffer much societal rebuke for practicing these “old ways”.  In Brigit’s world, her mother is looked upon as a freak or possibly a witch and is the subject of gossip and innuendo that has followed Brigit her whole life, keeping her mostly on the fringe of others the same age. These different experiences have a big impact on how they embrace their magical heritage when learning of it for the first time. (See excerpts below.)

My goal was to make these characters’ desires, wishes, and hopes very relatable, and my prep work with character mapping and research paid off, giving me a platform to create authentic emotional reactions for both of them.

Another equally important aspect of creating believable characters from different eras is using accurate language. When done properly, a character’s vocabulary and manner of speaking or diction should transport the reader into the correct era and make the reading experience that much more enjoyable. While it is not always simple to write modern teen dialog, it is even more challenging to create a manner of speaking in keeping with the 1400s. I spent a lot of time on word research . . . I am forever grateful that I live in the internet age.

There are so many characters that have stuck with me long after reading their stories. I only hope that the characters I’ve created do the same for those reading my books.

(Excerpt from Circle of Nine: Beltany, conversation between Brigit Quinn and her mother.)

“Brigit, you need to take a deep breath. I know it seems unfair I’ve never mentioned this. Tradition dictates that our heritage isn’t revealed until you are old enough to understand and not abuse your power. This is not a curse. It is a gift. The Tuatha have certain abilities, but . . .”

“Abilities?” I screeched. “What abilities?”

“It’s too soon to know what yours will be. Each Tuatha has different gifts, and now that you are fifteen, we’ll explore what yours might be. Maybe it will be something like my skill in botany. It’s no different than anyone else’s talent like musicians or mathematicians. It’s nothing to be frightened of.”

But I was afraid. No matter what she said, I knew this was nowhere near the same as being able to play the piano well or do Calculus. “We are witches,” I whispered.

Mom shook her head forcefully. “No, we don’t use that word. We are Tuatha.” She finished very seriously with her eyes staring straight into mine and squeezed my hand in reassurance.

I wrenched my hand out of her grip and glared at her. I didn’t want any part of this. I wanted to go back to being Normal Brigit like I was yesterday—well, almost normal anyway.

She ignored my simmering defiance and left the table to pour more tea. “You have a choice. You always have a choice to be whatever you want to be, but you owe it to yourself to know what you are choosing between.”

(Excerpt from the novella Dervla’s Destiny, conversation between Dervla Quinn and her mother.)

“Each of the Tuatha has special gifts. It is too early to tell what yours might be, but at a minimum you will likely be more skilled in one area over the others.”

“What is yours?”

“You already know mine—the gift of healing. I seem to know what ails people and can create medicines that will help them. Sometimes I do not understand exactly how my gift works, but I seem to have an instinct about what people need. The rest of what I do is normal knowledge, like how chamomile can calm a headache.”

Dervla nodded and drank more of her mother’s tea. Even though she had only pretended to have a headache, she hoped that the soothing nature of the brew might stop her mind from playing tricks on her. After a few sips, she asked her mother, “How long will it take for me to learn my special gift?”

“That is very hard to predict,” her mother said. “It may be obvious right away or it may take some time to uncover. The only way to find out is to begin your training.”

“When can we start?” Dervla asked immediately.

Her mother laughed at her eagerness. “Finish your tea and meet me in our workroom.” As she left, Dervla thought she heard her add, I have so much to teach her.

Valerie Biel BRAG IIValerie Biel’s love for travel inspires her novels for teens and adults. When she’s not writing or traveling, she’s wrangling her overgrown garden, doing publicity work for the local community theatre, and reading everything she can get her hands on. She lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband and three children and dreams regularly of a beautiful cottage on the Irish coast where she can write and write and write.

Her debut novel Circle of Nine – Beltany has been honored as a 2015 Kindle Book Award Finalist, a finalist in the Gotham Writers’ YA Novel Discovery Contest and the Readers’ Favorite Book Award Contest as well as being a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Author Websites:





Amazon Author Page

Book Trailer

Historical Fiction & Meaning with David Cook

David Cook II’d like to welcome David Cook today to talk with me about his Historical Fiction writing. David has been interested in history since his school days, and developed a love for the Napoleonic Wars era from his father, who painted and amassed a lead model army of the Battle of Waterloo. From there David became fascinated with The American Civil War, The English Civil Wars and English medieval history, particularly the legend of Robin Hood. David is writing a novel entitled The Wolfshead, a story of Robin Hood, but based on the original medieval ballads as the source.

What are the periods of history focused on for your writing?

I write about anything historical that I fancy. What I’ve self-published, so far, are the years 1793-1815; the Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars.

It all started in 2006 when I began to write about a British expeditionary force being sent to Egypt in 1801 to *remove* the remnants of a French army there. It is the start to a twenty volume series I’ve outlined. I finished the book, titled The Desert Lion in 2008. I immediately started to write the second and all these years later I’m 50% of the way through. What brought on the long pause was that after the first was completed I sent it out to try to get a literary agent interested. After some initial rejections I was also advised that it was an ‘unpopular era’.  So I put it on hold.

I started to write something different. A different genre and told in a different style. Robin Hood has always captivated me and so I spent the next few years researching and writing the legend but based only on the known medieval sources.

Then I got married and became a father and things slowed down. In 2014, I decided to self-publish the Soldier Chronicles series which started out as back stories to the twenty volume series I had begun in 2006. Each story is a standalone and are companion pieces.

I’ve written about the Roman period, the Norman invasion, the Tudor era, the English Civil War and the American Civil War. I’m not sure if I’ll publish them, but if I do, it’s not for a few years.

Fire and Steel Final Cover I

Why Historical Fiction?

Simply that I just love history. I find it so interesting. I love reading about subjects I don’t know much about. I find nothing more rewarding than research. To some it might be tedious. I don’t. With Tempest, the sixth story in the Soldier Chronicles (out in April) I found immense joy in debunking myths and finding out the truths. I just get a buzz out of going back in time.

When did you know you wanted be a HF writer?

When I was a teenager I was on holiday with my parents and we went to a museum about Roman finds in Somerset. I was interested in Roman soldiers and spent ages drawing imaginary battles and writing character names.  When I was sixteen I was reading a lot about the Crimean War and the American Civil War and wrote about an Englishman involved in both conflicts. I thought it would be a good idea to show a man forged by battle and come out of one war to be thrusted into another. I suppose it was then that I was first interested in writing.

How much time do you spend on research? What sources do you use?

It really depends how busy I am. With the novellas of the Soldier Chronicles, it can be 3-6 months. With the novels, six months to a year. I mainly use books. I do use sources on the internet. I have visited museums. Whatever I do use, I make sure they are notable and reliable. I take pride in trying to write accurate historical stories.

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What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

As I said above, I take pride in portraying the people and the times. I feel a great responsibility for making sure it’s as accurate as possible, as well as thought-provoking and enjoyable. Sometimes too much historical detail can ruin a story. Some will say you cannot achieve complete accuracy in the storytelling. I do know this, but as an author it’s my choice. Can I write how English people spoke during the time of Robin Hood? No. Even if I spent years researching that, I’m not sure anyone would understand it or want to read it.

I don’t want the story to sink under the weight of all the detail, but neither do I want to write an historical piece with nothing in it. There’s a fine line. There has to be a balance. There is also no right or wrong. However, if I do take artistic liberties, then I will explain my reasons for doing so and the truth in the note section at the back of the book.

Who are your influences?

There are lots to be honest. For me the number one is Bernard Cornwell. He is responsible for taking up far too much of my book shelves. I’m a big fan of his Richard Sharpe series and his Saxon stories.

Simon Scarrow, Sharon Kay Penman, George. R.R. Martin, Jane Austen, J.R.R Tolkien, Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Ken Follet and Elizabeth Chadwick to name but a few.

How do you feel the genre has progressed in the last ten years?

It’s a niche market. Well there’s more of it available now (thank God) and so there’s more choice. It’s certainly and still very popular with readers, but some time periods are lacking. Some are saturated. As long as it’s supported and marketed well, it will continue to grow.

What are the important steps in writing HF?

Showing the reader your great enthusiasm in the story you’ve created. Believe in it. Trust it and love it. Make the research count. All the hours put into it, use them wisely. Make the characters interesting, believable, and human. We all have flaws. Don’t be afraid to show them.

Liberty and Death II

What must you not do writing in this genre?

Try to show the times in the story. One example: I had to write about a character beating his wife and I hated it. But it was during the mediaeval period when a man was entitled to. Disgusting, but it’s the truth and I wanted to show that. There are lots of examples. I think you have to immerse your readers of the times, be honest and hopefully it won’t disappoint.

When writing, do you use visuals to give you inspiration?

I use photographs, paintings, portraits. I visit places where and when I can too. I think its vitally important to visit the place I’m writing about and at the same time of year. You can get a better sense of it. When I went to the Waterloo bicentennial last year, I was on the battlefield and stayed there nearly all day. I felt something that day. The June crops, the weather, the skies, the animals scampering into the woods, the air and the very ground. There’s something special about it that I can’t really explain.

Thank you, David!

Author Links:

Twitter @davidcookauthor




Amazon UK

Book Blast & Giveaway-The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau

02_The Tapestry

The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford #3) by Nancy Bilyeau

Paperback Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Paperback; 416 Pages

Series: Joanna Stafford
Genre: Historical Mystery

Fans of the Tudor era, you’re in for a treat” –InStyle magazine

Henry VIII’s Palace of Whitehall is the last place on earth Joanna Stafford wants to be. But a summons from the king cannot be refused.

After her priory was destroyed, Joanna, a young Dominican novice, vowed to live a quiet life, weaving tapestries and shunning dangerous conspiracies. That all changes when the king takes an interest in her tapestry talent.

With a ruthless monarch tiring of his fourth wife and amoral noblemen driven by hidden agendas, Joanna becomes entangled in court politics. Her close friend, Catherine Howard, is rumored to be the king’s mistress, and Joanna is determined to protect her from becoming the king’s next wife–and victim. All the while, Joanna tries to understand her feelings for the two men in her life: the constable who tried to save her and the friar she can’t forget.

Ina world of royal banquets, jousts, sea voyages and Tower Hill executions, Joanna must finally choose her future: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier.

The Tapestry is the final book in a trilogy that began in 2012 with The Crown, an Oprah magazine pick. Don’t miss the adventures of one of the most unforgettable heroines in historical fiction.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound


“In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values.” (Deborah Harkness)

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!” (Alison Weir, author of The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I)

“A rip-roaring Tudor adventure from Nancy Bilyeau! Novice nun turned tapestry weaver Joanna Stafford returns to the court of Henry VIII. She’s that great rarity of historical fiction: a fiercely independent woman who is still firmly of her time. A mystery as richly woven as any of Joanna’s tapestries.” (Kate Quinn, author of Lady of the Eternal City)

The Tapestry takes its history seriously, but that doesn’t stop it from being a supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling – and enlightening – novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.”(Andrew Pyper, International Thriller Writers Award winner of The Demonologist and The Damned)

“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with the sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations . . . Bilyeau breathes life into history.” (Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King)

“In The Tapestry, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” (Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale)

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” (Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl)

“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” (Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire)

About the Author

02_Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013, and THE TAPESTRY in 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, March 22
Just One More Chapter
Historical Fiction Addicts
Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, March 23
Passages to the Past
With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Thursday, March 24
Impressions In Ink
The Life & Times of a Book Addict

Friday, March 25
The Reading Queen
Queen of All She Reads

Saturday, March 26
A Holland Reads

Sunday, March 27
Layered Pages

Monday, March 28
A Book Drunkard
Historical Readings & Reviews

Tuesday, March 29
Book Nerd
Carpe Librum

Wednesday, March 30
The Lit Bitch
Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Thursday, March 31
A Book Geek
What Is That Book About

Friday, April 1
CelticLady’s Reviews
A Dream within a Dream

Saturday, April 2
So Many Books, So Little Time

Sunday, April 3
Susan Heim on Writing

Monday, April 4
100 Pages a Day
A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, April 5
The Tudor Enthusiast
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!


Two paperbacks of The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form below.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US addresses only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Direct Link: GLEAM

03_The Tapestry_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Review-Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

Time of fog and fire I

Molly Murphy Sullivan’s husband Daniel, a police captain in turn-of-the-century New York City, is in a precarious position. The new police commissioner wants him off the force altogether. So Daniel accepts an assignment from John Wilkie, head of the secret service. Molly believes her husband is in Washington, working for the president, until she spots him in San Francisco during a movie news segment. Then she receives a strange letter from him, leading her to conclude that he wants her to join him in San Francisco.

She takes her young son Liam on the cross-country train trip, but when they arrive in San Francisco, Molly is told that she’s too late, her husband’s funeral was yesterday. She’s devastated, even more so when she receives a cryptic note saying Daniel’s death was not an accident. In her grief she stays on to investigate, until she meets a strange man at a party, whom she soon starts to suspect may not be quite who he appears. Then Molly finds another body in the basement, but before she can report it, the Great Earthquake strikes San Francisco, and the servant runs off in a panic with Molly’s son. Suddenly Molly has no idea where to turn or whom to trust, and she knows there are many lives on the line, including her own.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I have read by Rhys Bowen and I have to say I am not in the least disappointed with this story. I picked this up from the sixteenth in the series and while there were some holes for me about the character’s lives and what-not, this still made a great stand alone. I do love a good mystery and adventure. I got both in this story and more.

I will begin with the atmosphere and period of the story. I loved it. I felt I was taken back to the 1900’s and the author gives a truly wonderful sense of time and place. And the historical aspects of the story were marvelously written. Just the right touch and not over-whelming.

The plot was suspenseful and really had me biting my nails at times! Can you imagine believing someone you love is in a certain location and then you come to find out they are somewhere else and their life may be in danger? Then you receive a cryptic letter from them. How cool is that?! Makes for a great premise.

Enjoyable characters, splendid backdrop of the earthquake in San Francisco, adventure, suspense in all the right places, intrigue, and entertaining dialogue! I can’t wait to read what happens next!

I am now a fan of Molly Murphy and will be picking up this series from the beginning!

I received a copy through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.K. Thorne

TK THorne II

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.K. Thorne today to talk with me about her award winning book, Noah’s Wife. T.K.’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” When she retired as a captain, she took on Birmingham’s business improvement district, City Action Partnership, as the executive director. Both careers and a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama provide fodder for her writing, which has garnered several awards, including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews) for her debut novel Noah’s Wife. Her first non-fiction book, Last Chance for Justice gives the investigators’ perspectives of the 1963 Sixteenth Street church bombing case and was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. Rave reviews have followed her newest historical novel about the unnamed wife of Lot, Angels at the Gate, which has just been announced as a finalist for IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin awards! She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons and writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap.

 How did you discover indieBRAG?

 At the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference, I happened to sit next to Geri Cloustan, the president of indieBRAG, and we started talking.  I was excited by the concept of having a way to screen a book’s quality for readers who love discovering good indie books, so I took her card, looked into it, and submitted Noah’s Wife.

Tell me about your book, Noah’s Wife.

Noah's Wife II

This is really the backstory of the tale of Noah’s flood from the perspective of Noah’s wife. The Bible only mentions her with one sentence, so I decided to make her the focus and tell her story. I wanted the retelling to be supported by what was known about the science and history of the time period.  Noah’s wife is Na’amah, a beautiful young shepherdess in ancient Turkey who has what today we would term Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism. Na’amah sees the world through unique eyes. Her first words are, “My name, Na’amah means beautiful or pleasant.  I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful.” Her only wish is to watch the sheep on

her beloved hillside, a desire shattered by the hatred of her brother and the love of two men. Her savant abilities and penchant to speak truth force her to walk a dangerous path in an age of change—a time of challenge to the goddess’ ancient ways, when cultures clash, and the earth itself is unstable. When foreign raiders kidnap her, Na’amah’s epic journey to escape and return home becomes an attempt to save her people from the disaster only she knows is coming.

 What are some of the historical facts or significance about your book?

 Noah’s Wife is based on four years of studying Asperger’s Syndrome, historical, archaeological, geological, and cultural information about the land and time period, as well as a fabulous trip to Turkey!  Here are a few highlights:

  • Robert Ballard, the explorer who found the sunken Titanic discovered a lost civilization under the Black Sea, confirming that it was once a fresh water lake that flooded in a cataclysmic event around 5500 BCE.
  • The oldest known worshiped deity was female.  The role of the feminine in the divine was also entwined with early Judaism and keeps reappearing throughout history.
  • One in every 88 persons has a form of autism.  The choice to make Noah’s wife an Asperger savant stemmed from personal experience in my life and gives the story a distinctive perspective.

Please describe the setting and period of your story.

Several theories about the flood that inspired the Noah’s ark episode in the Bible. It seems very likely that the story was actually borrowed from what is the earliest known written tale—the epic poem of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was unearthed in the cities of Babylon and Ur in Mesopotamia.  In the Bible, Abraham is said to have come from Ur. As I mentioned, scientists have discovered that a cataclysmic event during the Copper Age changed a fresh water lake north of Turkey into a salt water sea—the Black Sea—causing it to overflow its banks, reverse the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and flood the Middle East as far as the Mesopotamian cities of Ur and Babylon. Adira’s adventure begins in the green hills just south of the Black Sea. Her journey takes her across the expanse of Anatolia and some of the land’s natural wonders.

For those who do not know the meaning of the Copper Age, could you please explain?

The Copper Age (also called the Chalcolithic Age) is the period of human history that occurred after the Neolithic (Stone Age) when mankind had discovered how to make implements with copper. Interestingly, this discovery did not happen at the same time across the world. For this part of the world, it occurred between 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. Villages and communities nestled in the hills just south of the Black Sea (where Noah’s Wife is set) were very advanced in the technology, even ahead of Egypt. In fact, archeologists have traced the path of those peoples fleeing the Black Sea flood by the pottery they left behind, and believe the spreading of their culture stimulated the technical advancement of Europe as well as other areas, significantly affecting the entire world’s history.

Please tell me a little about the cultural experiences you had in Turkey.

Turkey is an amazing place. The city of Istanbul, which straddles two continents, is full of history, stunning architecture, and an eclectic mixture of old and new, but the majority of Turkey stretches out in a land mass to the east of the Mediterranean known as Anatolia. The word means “Land of the Mother.” In ancient times the mother goddess was worshiped there, and even though 98% of today’s population is Muslim, there are tribes who trace their roots back thousands of years for whom treating women with respect and giving them status is so important that they advise their girls not to marry outside the tribe, lest they be unhappy. All over Turkey, I was welcomed warmly. The people in the Anatolia countryside live

connected to the land and produce beautiful rugs, pottery and other crafts with family designs that go back many generations.

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

I stole the idea from the international bestseller, Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund, because I liked the simplicity of the title and the concept of taking one line from a famous book and building a totally new story around the old one. After it was published, I had the opportunity to meet Sena for tea while she was in residence in Fairhope, Alabama. She “blessed” my title, read the book and gave me a lovely review.

What are the challenges of building a new story around an old one?

Both of my novels are taken from biblical stories involving an unnamed woman (Noah’s wife and Lot’s wife in Angels at the Gate) whose life is skipped over in the text. In Judaism, writings or oral stories that further enlighten or enrich the primary text is called midrash. In a loose sense, these novels are midrash, or reinterpretations. I wanted to tell the woman’s story, to make her a real, whole person in what I felt was a historically accurate time and culture, leaving moralistic or religious interpretations to the reader to add or not. It was often fun to twist the traditional, such as deciding the white dove in the flood story might have actually been a white parrot with his own personality. The challenge was the several-year journey of research needed to authentically represent a time period that existed before any written material and to make an ancient story both familiar and new.

Who designed your book cover?

My sister, Laura Katz Parenteau, who is a graphic artist, designed the beautiful cover. We wanted to avoid a religious connotation that might misrepresent the story and settled on a composition she drew—a woman with flowing hair lying on her side, facing the sunrise. It can also be viewed as a scene of mountains with water. I love the fact that the cover has layers of meaning, just as the story has, and the fact that my talented sister designed it. She has created and crowned herself “Queen” of the T.K. Thorne Super Fan Club, which she has a lot of fun with. Any fans out there can contact her at

Thanks so much for letting me be a part of Layered Pages.  I’m proud to be associated with IndieBrag! And I love hearing from readers.

Author Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview T.K. Thorne who is the author of Noah’s Wife, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Noah’s Wife, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money




Characters in Motion with Lindsay Downs

On Writing Antagonists by Lindsay Downs

I’m sure we all love writing that dashingly handsome hero and the beauty who wins his heart. I know I do. But, where would they be, much less meet and fall in love, without an antagonist…

They can be tall, short, fat, or thin. Even have fetid breath and poor hygiene. The antagonist, villain, bad guy (whatever you want to call them) doesn’t have to be male. Women make great ones as well.

The antagonist can be a peer, such as an earl and countess along with their son, Smedley as in Married by Christmas (TouchPoint Romance). They were so cruel they abandoned the second son, Justin who was raised by a duke and duchess. Justin later inherits the earldom after his parents and brother dance the hangman’s gig.

Another example of a father being the antagonist is in La Contessa and The Marquis (TouchPoint Romance). In this, the first in the Rogues and Rakehells Mystery series, the Barone Givonni Nardo had run short of funds and arranged for the murder of La Contessa de Massa’s husband. As she inherited not only money but lands the barone had tried to force her into a marriage then have her committed with the barone controlling the funds.

Without a doubt my most favorite antagonist to write is Lord Ethan Rosewood. He’s the older brother to Lady Kristina Markson who believes it’s his duty to oversee her, even after she marries Lord Robert. Now, don’t get me wrong he’s not a villain in the true sense of the word but works for the Crown and only at the end of The Guilty Countess does he make this known to Robert and Kristina. What makes Ethan so much fun to write, he has facts available thusly proving the countess innocent of the crime she’s accused of. To this end he’s banned, by his married sister, from ever darkening the doorway of the Markson townhouse and estate.

He makes his next appearance in Highland Gold. Again with valuable information which he refuses to share.


“That’s because I instructed them not to say a thing but let you find out the problems on your own,” Lord Ethan Rosewood announced.

Kristina watched as he stepped into the room.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded.

She could feel her face heat from anger at her older brother for interjecting himself where not wanted. She knew, without looking down, her hands had fisted and she started to stand but a gentle touch halted her. Turning to Robert, she saw the same emotion in his eyes that she was feeling. Her only question, should it be dealt with man to man or should she say something. As silence continued, she knew it was she who had to deal with Ethan.

“Hamish, I am your Mistress. You are to get footmen and bring them here then remove this thing from our sight. I don’t care if he’s locked away in the deepest, darkest, dampest cell or where. All I and Lord Markson desire is he to be gone from our presence post haste,” she ordered.

“You can’t do that as I’m here on orders from the Crown,” Ethan answered back.

“I don’t care under whose authority you are operating you’ve no right to give instructions to my staff. Do I make myself clear?” she screamed at Ethan.

“My power exceeds your wants and desires, dear sister,” he replied back.

Angered not only at his words but the cocky way he was grinning at her, Kristina bolted up and started to charge on him when a hand gripped her firmly around the waist.

“Let me deal with him then you can have what’s left for I completely agree with you,” Robert whispered in her ear before releasing her.

“No, he’s my brother and I’m tired of him meddling in things which aren’t his concern,” she answered back in the same low tone.

“As you wish, my dear, for I shan’t deny you the pleasure.”

Ethan, much to her annoyance, was still standing with a smug expression on his face and arms folded across his chest. Kristina looked up to her husband and nodded. Bearing down on Ethan, she glared up at him then with her open hand slapped him across the face, sending him staggering backward a few steps.


As you can see there is very little love between sister and brother.

In this book and The Guilty Countess my self-publish editor wanted me to write more of Ethan into the books. When I explained my reasons for having him presented as I did, she understood.

However, in Book 4, Brotherly Love! Ethan turns to Robert and Kristina to prove his innocence in murdering the son of a very powerful duke.

In The Duke’s Bride (TouchPoint Romance) releasing in April finding who the antagonist is proves difficult. To find this person or persons Simon, The Duke of Kettering, along with Lady Emma, the heroine, and the duchess must search through endless correspondences in the hope of finding the late duke’s murderer. It’s not until Emma’s mother arrives for a visit do they learn not only the names but the how and why these people wanted the late duke and Simon dead.

As you can see writing antagonists are fun for me to pen. Sometime when writing the book I have no idea who they will be until it’s time for the reveal. Other times I know who is the villain from the very beginning and so does the reader. Then, I have to decide how much information to pass along and when. On more than one occasion I’ve had readers come right and tell me they jumped to the end of the book to find out who the killer was. When I hear that I know I’m doing my job of keeping you on the edge of your seat.

About me-

Lindsay Downs Head Shot_M9A0698-resized smaller

I’ve been an avid reader ever since I was old enough to hold a red leather bound first edition copy of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake in my lap.

So it only seemed natural at some point in my life I take up pen and paper to start writing. Over time my skills slightly improved which I attribute to my English teachers.

My breakthrough came about in the mid 1970’s when I read a historical romance written by Sergeanne Golon, Angelique. This French husband and wife team opened my eyes to the real world of fiction. Stories about romance, beautiful damsels, handsome heroes and plots which kept me hooked. Of course, being a man, I had to keep my reading hidden from others as that wasn’t appropriate reading for men.

With this new found appreciation of the written word I took up other books and devoured them as a starving person would a plate of food. I them attempted to write again. I still wasn’t satisfied so I put it aside for years as other events entered my life.

Finally, in the early years of the new millennium I tried again to write and once again met with limited success. At least now I was able to get past the first page or two. Then, in 2006 a life changing event brought me back to my love, I took a job as a security officer. This allowed me plenty of time to read different genres.

My favourite was regency. As I poured through everyone I could get my hands on I knew this could be something I wanted to attempt.

Since 2012 when my debut regency romantic suspense released I was hooked and have, except for a few contemporaries, focused on this genre.

Since 2012 I’ve lived in central Texas. I’m also a member of Romance Writers of America and their local chapter.

Where you can find me-


Facebook Pages

Twitter- @ldowns2966



Lindsay Downs-Romance Author



Wish-List Five: Mysteries & Thrillers

This month for the five books I’ve chosen on my wish list are mystery and thrillers-again. Yes, I have been on a serious kick lately of these two genres-or the mix of the two one might say. These stories you will see below will hopefully captivate you, have you biting your nails and provoke your thoughts you never could imagined. Well, at least for me I hope they do. I LOVE a good THRILL! Let’s get started, shall we?

The Crooked House

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

Published in the United Kingdom in early 2015, Christobel Kent’sThe Crooked House has already drawn comparisons to works by the pantheon of British female literary suspense writers–Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, P. D. James, and Kate Atkinson. In this darkly atmospheric psychological thriller, she accomplishes what those celebrated writers do best: she creates an insular world (a single house, a small town) where something sinister has occurred, and subtly inflects each page with the toxic residue of violence.

Much like the unnamed narrator of Rebecca, Alison lives her life under the radar. She has no ties, no home, and she spends her days at a backroom publishing job. Which is how she wants it. Because Alison used to be a teenager named Esme, who lived in a dilapidated house by a bleak estuary with her parents and three siblings. One night, something unspeakable happened in the house, and Alison emerged the only survivor. In order to escape from the horror she witnessed, she moved away from her village, changed her name, and cut herself off from her past.

Only now her boyfriend invites her to a wedding in her old hometown, and she decides that if she’s going to have any chance of overcoming the trauma of what happened, she’ll have to confront it. But soon Alison realizes that that night’s events have left a terrible mark on everyone in the village, and she begins to suspect that they are all somehow implicated in her family’s murder.

The Forgetting time

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Noah wants to go home. A seemingly easy request from most four year olds. But as Noah’s single-mother, Janie, knows, nothing with Noah is ever easy. One day the pre-school office calls and says Janie needs to come in to talk about Noah, and no, not later, now – and life as she knows it stops.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has stopped. A deadly diagnosis has made him realize he is approaching the end of his life. His first thought – I’m not finished yet. Once a shining young star in academia, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw it all away because of an obsession. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he didn’t care – something had to be going on beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for thatsomething else. And with Noah, he thinks he’s found it.

Soon Noah, Janie and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for seven years – and when that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Sharon Guskin has written a captivating, thought-provoking novel that explores what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between. In equal parts a mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, The Forgetting Time marks the debut of a major new talent.

The Life we bury

The Life We Bury Allen Eskens

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same.

Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man by Gary Inbinder

Like many fin de siecle Parisians, Inspector Achille Lefebvre is looking forward to a pleasant summer holiday at a seaside resort with his wife, Adele—but a body found hanging from a bridge in a public park interferes with the inspector’s plans.

Paris: July, 1890. Inspector Achille Lefebvre and his wife Adele are enjoying their stay at a seaside resort—until a body found hanging from a bridge in a public park demands the Inspector’s attention. Is it suicide or murder? A twisted trail of evidence draws Inspector Lefebvre into a shadowy underworld of international intrigue, espionage, and terrorism. Time is of the essence; pressure mounts on the Sureté to get results. Achille’s chief orders him to work with his former partner, Inspector Rousseau, now in charge of a special unit in the newly formed political brigade. But can Achille trust the detective who let him down in another case?
Inspector Lefebvre uses innovative forensics and a network of police spies to uncover a secret alliance, a scheme involving the sale of a cutting-edge high explosive, and an assassination plot that threatens to ignite a world war.

Two Evils

Two Evils by Mark Shennen

DI Charlotte Savage has been warned to lay low. After a string of high profile cases, her infamous reputation precedes her.

But when a vulnerable child goes missing, for Savage, it’s too close to home. She’s not the kind of detective who can sit back and watch events unfold.

Then a second child is snatched – echoing a terrifying incident that happened over two decades before. It soon becomes apparent that there is a more chilling motive behind the disappearances.

History looks set to repeat itself. It’s down to Savage to seek out the cold blooded killer. Before it’s third time unlucky. Before it’s too late . . .

Book Descriptions from Goodreads.

Other Blogger’s Wishlist 5: The Maiden’s Court ,  A Bookaholic Swede , A Literary Vacation , 2 Kids and Tired Books

Confessions of a Book Blogger: What I Expect


A writer breathes life into characters with words and their book is their canvas. A writer’s art is to gather elements of life and situations and weave them into stories. To design a story that draws a reader in and leaves an impression that has the reader emotionally invested.

A book blogger’s blog is their canvas to express the feelings that they come away with in those stories. We want to be impressed with the narrative’s story-telling, themes and all other elements of the story. I want a writer to ignite my imagination. I want the characters to haunt me. Humans are multi-dimensional. I want that shown in stories. I want happy, raw, sorrowful, honest and REAL emotions.

Does SAWBONES do this for me? Find out when I post my review in April!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Review: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

The madwoman upstairs

In Catherine Lowell’s smart and original debut novel, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her eccentric father left behind, and the Brontës’ own novels.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

Yet everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long lost objects from the past begin rematerializing in her life. Her father’s distinctive copy of Jane Eyre, which should have perished in the fire that claimed his life, mysteriously appears on Samantha’s bed. Annotated in her father’s handwriting, the book is the first of many clues in an elaborate scavenger hunt derived from the world’s greatest literature. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own writing.

For readers who devoured The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Madwoman Upstairs is a suspenseful, exhilarating debut by an exciting new talent who offers a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

My thoughts:

When I was a teenager, I absorbed the stories written by the Brontës’. I would re-read them many times and would day dream about the characters and their plight. The prose and the character’s actions stayed with me for a long time. These stories to me were so atmospheric and wrought with overemotional heartache. I loved it!  Another aspect of the stories that fascinated me were the social norms of the period portrayed in the story. As a young person living in modern times I found that to be extraordinary and the injustice of it all would provoke so many feelings in me about it. I believe the story of Jane was the most meaningful for me. Her misfortunes and journey was powerful and I was moved by the narrator’s voice.

As I got older, I put these books aside. I think it’s because of my own situations in life hindered me from wanting to revisit them. I’ve really never explored my reasons why. Maybe I will one day. Anyhow, currently I have been rediscovering the sister’s stories again and now in a broader approach one might say.

The Madwoman Upstairs has stirred up so many of my old emotions about the Brontës’ and new emotions as well. Samantha Whipple became my new favorite heroine. Her qualities appealed to me and her search in finding the answers to her Father’s clues to the untold family legacy had me hanging on to every word she uttered. Her strange childhood with her Father has me even more intrigued.  The dynamics of the relationship building between Samantha and Orville are spellbinding to say the least. I think I feel a little in love with Orville. I found is him to be very Brontë-ish, if you know what I mean.

All the elements of the Brontës’ in the story was superbly written and alluring. We see many things come to light about the Brontës’ one might not have thought of. There is lots of enthralling material and insight to mull over. I will have to say that I was a little surprised and-maybe- disappointed in the way the story ended. I have two minds about how it could have ended but I will say that just gives me more to ponder on so I don’t mind at all!

I really cannot say enough about The Madwoman Upstairs. My review seriously cannot do this book justice. I highly recommend this story.

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley and the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Characters in Motion with C.L. Talmadge

The Villains of Azgard

By C.L. Talmadge

Question: Who are your five top antagonists? Talk about each one and what motivates them.

Answer: Meet the schemers of Azgard, the doomed island nation setting for the Green Stone of Healing® speculative fiction series. They are ranked in reverse order, with the fifth least vile villain first on the list, and the most lethal up last.

As the series moves from generation to generation, some of the antagonists’ change. Or they become more or less powerful, depending on circumstances and whether or not they’re still breathing. But the top viper retains his place as No. 1. His plots and plans ultimately consign the entire world to mass destruction.

Don’t use anything except a pencil to fill out a scorecard….


Villain No. 5: Griffin Mordecai

Griffin Mordecai is the grandson of Lord James Mordecai’s mortal enemy, his uncle, Lord Jasper Mordecai. After he kills Lord Jasper to claim his right to the Dukedom of Alta and position as Lord Protector, Lord James refused to acknowledge Griffin. That consigned the latter to an early life of poverty and obscurity, although Lord James did pay for Griffin’s higher education. Needless to say, Griffin seethes with murderous (if impotent, at first) rage against the Lord Protector and anyone related to him, like first-generation heroine Helen Andros.

As a young man embarking on a profession in the law, Griffin seeks out the patronage of the Prince of Istar, the highest-ranking political enemy of the Lord Protector. Prince Seti finds Griffin an occasionally useful lackey and a symbolic insult to his detested rival.

At the outset of the series, Griffin holds the powerful post of Lord Chancellor thanks to the undue influence of his princely patron during the incapacity of the Exalted Lord, Azgard’s title for its king. Griffin aims to destroy Helen as an indirect shot at undermining the Lord Protector’s support among the noble houses of the Kinshazen, the Toltecs’ political assembly.

Later in the series Griffin’s social status changes, and he uses his wealth and power to inflict a great deal of harm and wreak havoc in a once formerly prosperous province. He gets his comeuppance from the one person he actually loves, to the extent that he can love.

The Scorpian Strike

Villain No. 2: Ezekiel Malachi

In Azgard there is little distinction between religion and the state. As Helen discovers to her peril, subjects and residents of Azgard can be charged, tried, convicted of, and punished for purely religious offenses as well as for crimes against the state.

Thus the position of the Supreme Lord of the Temple of Kronos, referred to commonly as the Holy One, wields extensive power. At the start of the series, a native of Southern Alta Province named Ezekiel Malachi holds that high and powerful religious office.

Malachi is a true religious fanatic. He is determined to force both Toltecs and Turanians to adhere to his concept of proper religious practices and beliefs. Resenting and fearing the Duke of Alta’s toleration and support of the Turanians within Alta Province, Malachi invariably sides with Lord James’ political enemies. The Holy One also feuds with Prince Enoch Atlas over his toleration of Turanians.

Malachi not surprisingly strongly adheres to the Temple’s edicts against half-breeds, for hidden personal reasons that go beyond religious belief. He is only too eager to make an end of Helen and of her half-breed second cousin, who is the second son of Prince Enoch. Helen and her father suffer the pain of separation due to Malachi’s machinations.

Malachi’s own arrogance, however, will bring about his demise. He cannot believe that his trusted No. 2 would do anything to undermine him, and pays dearly for that mistaken assumption.

Villain No. 3: Prince Seti Poseidon

This prince of the Ruling House of Poseidon is defined by lust and hate.

Born the Prince of Istar, which means he is heir to Kingship held by his elder brother, Kefren. Prince Seti lusts for absolute power. This drives him to find covert ways to murder his elder brother to inherit the Kingship. He lusts for revenge against Lord James Mordecai, the man whom Prince Seti chooses to believe stole Kefren’s respect and affections away from him.  Prince Seti also hates Lord James for refusing his sexual advances during Lord James’ boyhood. He is the personification of the scorned lover.

Bisexual, Prince Seti also lusts for his own daughter, Lady Samantha. After she, as a child, is betrothed to Lord James, Prine Seti abuses her as a twisted payback against Lord James, who eventually weds her. Prince Seti falls in love in with her in much the same way as he fell for Lord James.

Prince Seti is a twisted, unprincipled opportunist with a certain amount of political savvy, even if he lacks true wisdom or the slightest inkling of compassion. When Lord James’ relationship to a half-breed bastard becomes public knowledge, Prince Seti wastes no time in using the information to try to destroy his political opponent.

When he finally comes to power, he invariably overplays his hand and loses the support of the noble houses. His loveless treatment of his son and heir guarantees that he will not long maintain his hold on the Kingship.

The Vision

Villain No. 2: Prince Enoch Atlas

To call this prince of the Royal House of Atlas a snake in the grass would be an insult to all serpents.

A direct descendent of Kronos’ presumed second son Atlas, he becomes Prince of Westar upon the mysterious accidental death of his elder brother. Prince Enoch is also the highest-ranking lord of the Kindred generally regarded as a member of the Exalted Lord’s faction. While Lord James treats Prince Enoch like a staunch ally, Kefren’s wily Consort, Lady Naomi Palladin, isn’t nearly so certain. She doesn’t trust this prince at all.

Her suspicions are well founded. Unlike the openly power-hungry Prince of Istar, the Prince of Westar wraps his ambitions to rule supreme in the mantel of friendship and support. Unfortunately for Helen, Prince Enoch’s murderous designs will include her and her ability to bear half-breed children if married to his half-breed second son.

Prince Enoch betrays not just Lord James and Helen, but his country, too, leading to an unnecessary war that claims millions of lives.

Villain No. 1: Lucan Silenas

Second in command of the Temple of Kronos, the Holy Deputy is motivated not by the religious fervor (however warped) of his superior, but by boundless personal ambition. Lucan makes it his job to do favors for those members of the Brotherhood of Kronos who are willing to play along with him, dig up dirt on those who are not, and always apply his influence in ways that advance his standing with the Holy One and thus his Temple career.

Amoral and cunning, Lucan will not let anyone or anything like mere principle stop him from achieving his aims.

As the series moves forward, Lucan begins to disagree openly with his superior over the question of what to do with half-breeds. While the Holy One wants to destroy any and all half-breeds, Lucan argues that the Temple should explore ways to harness and use the reputed powers and abilities of half-breeds to usurp the power of the Kingship and impose its will on all of Azgard and the world beyond. When Malachi won’t be persuaded, Lucan removes him to claim the Temple’s top post.

With a little digging into Azgard’s censored history, Lucan uncovers explosive secrets about the founding of Azgard, the abilities of half-breeds, and the true heir of Kronos, the God-King revered by the Toltecs as the founder of their nation.

Lucan disregards the curse of Kronos revealed in the secret writings. By doing so, and by injuring the hidden heirs of Kronos, Silenas invokes deadly wrath that ultimately destroys all trace of Azgard and its mighty civilization.

C.L. Talmadge is the author of the Green Stone of Healing® speculative fiction series, the first three novels of which are B.R.A.G. Medallion winners. More information is available at