Interview with Award Winning Author R.D. Vallier

R.D. Vallier BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree R.D. Vallier today. The highlight of R.D. Vallier’s award-winning career was when her 6th grade teacher threatened to call CPS over a story about a runaway and a magic wolf. She avoided government capture, but continued creating dark tales in secret. Now she’s living the cliché as a storyteller in the remote wilderness, handcrafting an off-grid homestead with straw and mud and whatever she scrounges from the landfill. She holds degrees in wildlife management and hard knocks, only feels at home on the road, and believes humanity illuminates the most brilliantly during darkness.

Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

I noticed books which had done well in the various writing contests I was researching had earned indieBRAG Medallions. I looked into indieBRAG, and was happy with what I discovered—an organization which seemed to honestly care about both authors and readers. I liked the concept and agreed with their vision, so I submitted Darkshine!

How did you get into writing in the Paranormal genre?

I adore both paranormal and reality, and my brain tends to naturally mesh the two. I find myself questioning and making up stories about what I see around me. What really goes on inside that storage unit building? Is that graffiti just graffiti, or is it some sort of code? What’s hidden in plain sight? I love bringing an element of magic to the mundane, and believe the fantasy genres in general have tremendous capability to explore humanity.

Please tell me about your award winning book, Darkshine?

Darkshine BRAG

Darkshine is a dark urban fantasy/paranormal. The main character, Miriam, has a mundane, adult life, and no social or family connections outside of her emotionally abusive husband. Her whole life she has been treated differently, but it isn’t until a chickadee speaks to her that she begins to understand she is a lost changeling. Two fae–who are complete opposites of each other–try to convince her where her true home is, and each insists the other is lying to destroy her. Miriam goes on a whirlwind adventure, both physically and emotionally, to discover who she is and where she belongs, while staying ahead of her enraged husband who is desperate to keep her silent about truths which can damage his political campaign. Along the way, Miriam needs to confront the preconceptions of dark and light, good and evil, and hopefully choose the answer which will deliver the home she’s always yearned for, instead of her demise.

Will this be part of a series?

Yes. Dark Ember, book 2 in the series, is currently in the editing and beta reader stage. It should be released soon, but I don’t have a date yet.

Tell me a little about Miriam. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Miriam is a changeling and an intentionally mixed bag, especially early in the story. I often see stories where changelings learn what they are at a young age. I wanted to see what would happen to a changeling discovering who they were after having a spouse, a job, a mortgage, an adult life (and what type of life that would be).

Miriam never excelled in anything, has low self-esteem due to emotional abuse, and is someone who people treat as a chore to deal with. I wanted to write an “average” character who suffered social ostracism, and who had never experienced much good in life. But I also wanted a character where the reader had to question whether her background was a weakness which hindered her (as she always believed), or a strength to build upon and draw conviction. Thus, her weaknesses are also her strengths, melded together, which I feel is closer to reality. As people, our failings and shortcomings, while they do hold us back in some ways, often drive us forward in others. I often see books where the characters have specific weaknesses or strengths, and those aspects are written throughout the book as solely weaknesses or strengths. I sought to break that concept of static attributes, and instead strove to create an amalgam where each was both simultaneously. Where a beaten down woman can stand up, fight back, falter and still strive to overcome where others would give up, all drawing upon the myriad of experiences which brought her to this point. Thus, her strengths are found in accepting her weaknesses, fighting the internal voices of those who insist she could never amount to anything and that she is an unlovable failure. Her strengths are found in discovering that her shortcomings do not need to hold her down, she can move forward despite pain and fear, and her weaknesses only overpower her while she allows it.

Did you face any challenges writing this story?

Darkshine is what I called “my throw away novel.” I went into it giving myself permission to break a lot of rules (well, what I then considered rules, anyway), to explore ideas and themes I had, and to see what would develop. As Darkshine started morphing into a novel instead of a writing exercise, I had to keep preventing myself from writing the story I thought I should tell, and keep on telling the story I wanted to know. I fought a lot of internal programming, and in doing so found my style and voice and a story I love. It is a challenge I will forever be grateful for.

In addition, I explored a lot of my own past suffering to capture the tone I wanted for various scenes, making myself relive the memories over and over. To this day I have trouble reading some scenes in Darkshine because it calls up those personal memories I used. But in the end, I love the result, which makes me feel gratitude for those past grievances. This is as uncomfortable as it is freeing, and a continuous emotional challenge.

Where can readers buy your book?

Currently, Darkshine is available as an e-book at all major retailers. I just took it off Kindle Unlimited, and I’m unsure when or if it will return in the future. As a paperback, Darkshine is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Most private bookstores will order it in as well.

What is your current writing project?

I’m currently working on Dark Cinders, book 3 in the Darkshine series. I’ve always seen the story as a trilogy, so I hope this will be the final book, but there is a possibility it will be split into two books.

I’m also working on a series of free Darkshine short stories, going more into the background and hidden drives of the various characters. I will be releasing these only to people who have joined my email subscription. http://www.tinyurl.com/darkshineemail

How did you get into writing?

I’ve always considered myself a storyteller in various forms. My early focus was on comic book story and illustration, but I eventually discovered my ideas were too in-depth for this medium, and I couldn’t explore the inner journey as much as I wanted. I then shifted my focus, learning how to write novels instead. And here I am!

Is there a message you would like to give your readers?

Darkshine can be read as a fun adventure, but can also be dissected as a fictitious analogy of cultural and sociopolitical viewpoints, and life under different governing bodies throughout history, through which the main characters gain their own independence and honesty. This is all crafted into the background to remain unobtrusive and out of sight for the reader who simply wants to be whisked away to a dark fairytale, and who doesn’t want to think about politics or governments or whatnot. (Books where such details are in-your-face have always turned me off.) Foremost, I wrote the book to be an entertaining fantasy. Yet it is also written to have deeper substance, and for those who want more, it is there. I’ve had numerous readers tell me they were surprised with what they initially missed, and that they enjoyed a “different” story the second time through.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview R.D. Vallier who is the author of, DARKSHONE, 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, DARKSHINE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

 

Male Protagonist with Award Winning Author Pam Lecky

Pam Lechy

I’d like to welcome Pam Lecky to Layered Pages today to talk with me about her male protagonist in her award winning book, The Bowes Inheritance.

Pam is an Irish historical fiction author and a member of the Historical Novel Society. She has a particular fascination with all things 19th century, from food and clothes to architecture and social history.

Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was published in July 2015 and has since been receiving excellent reviews. She is delighted to announce that it has been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion and was recently named as a ‘Discovered Diamond’ Novel. Last year it was short-listed for the Carousel Aware Prize (CAP) 2016 and long-listed for the HNS 2016 Indie Award. It achieved ‘Honourable Mention’ in the General Fiction Category of the London Book Festival Awards.

What is your male Protagonist name and who is he?

His name is Nicholas Maxwell. He is a landowner in his early thirties and is a highly respected local magistrate. When his neighbour, Jack Campbell dies, he sees it as an opportunity to get back Bowes Farm, which his father lost to Campbell in a game of cards. He is not pleased to discover that Jack has left the property to his niece, Louisa Campbell. He hated Campbell for many reasons but was also convinced he was involved in the recent Fenian activity in the north of England. When Louisa turns up to claim her inheritance he is not very pleased and does his best to chase her back to Ireland.

What are His strengths?

He is an honourable man; intelligent and has a sense of humour. He is protective of his family and does his best for them (even when they don’t want his interference!) When he eventually falls for Louisa he tries to do his best for her.

His faults?

Nicholas is quick to anger and holds a grudge. I like to think Louisa’s influence helps him overcome this as their relationship develops.

What is your personal opinion of him?

 I liked him very much. He was easy to write even though he was quite a complex character. I was greatly inspired by Georgette Heyer’s Max Ravancar from Faro’s Daughter; he starts out arrogant and self-assured only to be brought down several notches by love!

Does he ever do anything that surprises you?

 He was probably more forgiving than I would have been in his situation but I can’t tell you more than that as it would give the plot away!!

Synopsis

The Bowes Inheritance

 Romance and Intrigue in late Victorian England

Dublin 1882: When determined but impoverished Louisa Campbell inherits a large estate in the north of England, from an uncle she didn’t even know existed, it appears to be the answer to her prayers. Her younger sister, Eleanor, is gravely ill, and believing that the country air will benefit her, they decide to take up residence at Bowes Farm, situated on the Cumberland coast.

However, they soon realise that all they have inherited is trouble. Their uncle had managed to alienate almost everyone in the area and worst of all, was suspected of being a Fenian activist. His reputation leaves Louisa and Eleanor battling to gain acceptance in polite society, especially with Nicholas Maxwell, their handsome neighbour and local magistrate. His father was cheated out of the farm during a card game fifteen years before and he is determined to get the property back.

Louisa unearths secrets from their family’s past that threaten their future while the spectre of their mysterious benefactor overshadows everything. When a Fenian bombing campaign comes close to home, Louisa finds herself a chief suspect and must fight to clear her name. She must dig deep to find the courage to solve the mysteries that Bowes Farm holds before their lives are destroyed. And most importantly of all, will she be able to finally trust and love the man who is surely her sworn enemy?

Author Website

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Mike Kilroy

Mike Kilroy BRAG II

I’d like to welcome back award winning author Mike Kilroy to Layered Pages. Mike has been an award-winning journalist for more than twenty years. He first developed his love for writing when he was 8 and sculpted a story for a school projected called “The Venusians.” He has turned that passion cultivated at an early age into a successful and award-winning writing career.

His first novel, the post-apocalyptic fright-fest “Nine Meals” was recognized as one of the top indie books with several awards, including the B.R.A.G. Medallion, and reached No. 32 on the Top 100 Best Sellers list in Amazon’s Kindle store.

Kilroy currently lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Dahn, dog Fumble, two cats named Milo and Dexter and has twenty-four devices that can connect to the Internet.

Hi, Mike! It’s good to have you visiting with me again at Layered Pages! Congrats on the another B.R.A.G. Medallion! Before we talk about your book, Uncanny Valley, please tell me what you like most about writing Science Fiction?

Thank you. It’s an honor to be chosen again as a B.R.A.G. Medallion recipient. To me, there’s nothing quite like writing science fiction. I’ve dabbled in other genres, but science fiction is where my creative juices really flow. As a science-fiction writer, you have so much power. You can have your characters and the reader experience things they could never do in reality. It’s the ultimate form of escapism. And robots! Can’t forget the robots!

Do you think Science Fiction plays an important role in our society? Please explain why or why not. 

I think it does. People are always fascinated with the future as much as they are with the past. What’s the world going to be like in 20 years? Thirty years? Forty years? As science-fiction writers we can explore that and offer our own take on what’s to come. Most of the time it’s bleak, however. In Uncanny Valley, I tried to paint a future that isn’t all bleak, but not the most awesome place to be, either. I believe the future in Uncanny Valley is conceivable.

When writing science fiction, I think it is important to have elements of both fact and fiction. What are your thoughts on that and how do you blend the two? (This question might blend in with the previous one, Mike.)

I try to meld elements of fact with the fiction. I did quite a bit of research on Artificial Intelligence and robotics before I dove into Uncanny Valley. The technology that already exists is amazing. It won’t be long, I believe, before a real-life Addis is walking around. But you also have to stretch reality a bit. There’s no way around that.

Uncanny Valley BRAG

Why do you think Science fiction is so obsessed with the future rather than the present?

Because the future is yet to be written. It is full of so many possibilities and is ripe for storytelling. besides, who doesn’t want to take a swing at predicting what the world and society will be like in the future? The future is interesting.

Please tell me a little about your book, Uncanny Valley.

It’s really about three very flawed characters. One just so happens to be an android, but he may be the most human of all of them. Really, it’s about each of them wanting to find peace in a world that is losing its grasp on it because of the strain of social forces caused by a new face of android beings, who are basically slaves. It’s also an exploration of just how much can one human — or one android — take before he/she decides enough is enough.

What was the inspiration behind writing this story?

A key scene of the book came to me at 3 a.m. on night. I rolled over and typed a loose, very rough scene and then let that percolate for a while into a story. I wanted to explore the notion that these androids, who look very different and are shunned because of it, are just like humans, trying to find a place in the world. I think that’s very relatable.

Your character, Addis fascinates me. Tell me a little about him and a human trait he has.

He’s really a boy trapped in an android man’s body. When you first meet him in the book, he’s 10 and he very much acts like a 10-year-old when it comes to how he questions the world. He’s just then becoming aware of the injustices he experiences on an almost daily basis. He has a guide in Renae, a human girl who was disfigured in an accident, to be human, but she’s really a bad tutor, as the reader comes to discover. Addis is much different at the end of the book as he is at the beginning. Certain events shape him — some for the good, some for the bad. I think he’s the most interesting character in any of my novels.

If anything can be learned from your story, what would it be?

That we all have scars. Each character in the book has deep ones — not always physical — and each deals with them differently.

What are you working on next?

I just finished the second Uncanny Valley book of the trilogy. It is available now HERE

I am working on the third and final volume now. It should be out this summer or fall.
Where can readers buy your book

HERE

Readers can also visit my website to check out my other books.

Find out more about Kilroy by following him on Twitter @KilroyWasHere7, joining his Facebook fan page at KilroyAuthor7

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Mike Kilroy who is the author of, Uncanny Valley, 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, Uncanny Valley, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

Interview with Award Winning Author Helena Schrader

helena-schrader-bragI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Helena Schrader today to talk with me about her latest award winning book, Envoy of Jerusalem. Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in history and is a career diplomat, but far from writing dry historical tomes, she conveys the drama and excitement of the events and societies described and delivers her stories through the eyes of complex and compelling characters—male and female—drawn from the pages of history.

Helena was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the daughter of a professor, and traveled abroad for the first time at the age of two, when her father went to teach at the University of Wasada in Tokyo, Japan. Later the family lived in Brazil, England and Kentucky, but home was always the coast of Maine. There, her father’s family had roots, and an old, white clapboard house perched above the boatyard in East Blue Hill.

It was the frequent travel and exposure to different cultures, peoples and heritage that inspired Helena to start writing creatively and to focus on historical fiction. She wrote her first novel in second grade, but later made a conscious decision not try to earn a living from writing. She never wanted to be forced to write what was popular, rather than what was in her heart….

Helena, thank you for talking with me today, Helena! Please tell me about Envoy of Jerusalem.

“Envoy of Jerusalem” is on one hand the third book in a three-part biography of the historical figure Balian d’Ibelin, and on the other hand it is a stand-alone novel describing the Third Crusade through the eyes of the natives of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It covers the period from the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187 to the end of the Third Crusade in 1192. While the hero is Balian d’Ibelin, his wife, the Byzantine princess and dowager queen of Jerusalem, Maria Comnena, has an almost equally important role in this book. Furthermore, Richard the Lionheart, his queen and sister, and other more familiar historical figures are also important characters, while a host of fictional characters in “supporting roles” take the novel out of the palaces of kings and down onto the streets and into the taverns of Acre and Tyre. These characters together create a novel that is more than a description of historical events; it explores the human condition in the face of devastating set-backs and examines the fundamental values that define us all.  With radical jihad again challenging our security and our worldview, this book has particular relevance, reminding us that while technologies change human nature does not and the challenges we face today are not new.

envoy-of-jerusalem-brag

The story that Hollywood made can you give me some of the fictional aspects?

A character named Balian d’Ibelin was the hero of Ridley Scott’s film “The Kingdom of Heaven.” The film depicted selected elements out of the life of the historical Balian d’Ibelin (e. g. the mass knighting, the negotiations with Saladin), but changed his biography so significantly that it is questionable whether one can say the film is about the historical Balian. One of the major deviations from history is that the Hollywood Balian is a bastard born and raised in France, and ― after the surrender of Jerusalem ― he returns to France to resume his life as a blacksmith. There is even a scene in the film where Richard the Lionheart tries to persuade Balian to join the Third Crusade, but Balian refuses.

Historically, Balian was born in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the legitimate son of a local baron. Although a younger son, through a scandalously good marriage to the dowager queen of Jerusalem, Balian became one of the wealthiest and most powerful noblemen in the Holy Land by the time Saladin invaded in 1187. After the surrender of Jerusalem, he made his way to the last remaining city in Christian hands, Tyre, and Arab chronicles of the time refer to him as “like a king” ― largely because the bulk of the Christian nobles were in Saracen captivity. His power increased after the death of Queen Sibylla in November 1190 because the crown passed to her half-sister Isabella, who was Balian’s step-daughter (his wife’s child by her first marriage). Under the circumstances, Balian played a key role representing the interests of the local nobility while fighting alongside the crusaders throughout the Third Crusade. By summer 1192, he had won the respect of Richard the Lionheart to such an extent that Richard appointed Balian his envoy to Saladin. Balian negotiated the truce that ended the Third Crusade, and thereafter until his death he was the premier lord in the restored Kingdom of Jerusalem ruled by his step-daughter.

So, far from being in blacksmith in France, Balian was a key player throughout the Third Crusade, a man who fought with and later represented Richard the Lionheart.

How would you describe Balian d’Ibelin -the man?

We know little about the character of the historical Balian beyond what he did. He rose from being a landless knight to being “like a king” and he negotiated like an equal with both Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. That sounds like a ruthless and ambitious man ― until you realize that he was willing to risk his life and freedom to rescue his wife and children from Jerusalem, and that he offered himself as a hostage for the tens of thousands of Christian paupers unable to pay the ransom Saladin demanded. Medieval noblemen devoted to their wives were not that common, but those prepared to sacrifice themselves for the poor were very scarce indeed.  Furthermore, although Balian was an outstanding commander and courageous knight, he was a man who repeatedly served as a mediator and negotiator. This means he was a man who could get along with others, find common ground, could be persuasive and above all earned the trust of friend and foe. He married a Greek princess and clearly had Saladin’s respect, both of which suggest he was no bigot, but a man who respected other cultures. Yet he was the ultimate Christian nobleman, as his willingness to place the interests of the poor and helpless above his own pride and self-interest proves.

For those of who are not familiar with the Horns of Hattin, what are they?

Saladin annihilated the Christian army composed of about 1,200 knights, 5,000 light cavalry and 12,000 infantries at the Battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187. The battle took place on a plateau above the Sea of Galilee that is bordered on the east by two dramatic hills that rise up from the valley of the Jordan. From a distance, these hills look vaguely like the horns of an ox. The term “the Horns of Hattin” is nothing more than a synonym for the Battle of Hattin. When I say that Balian “escaped from the Horns of Hattin,” I mean simply that he was one of only three noblemen, a few hundred knights and 3,000 Christian fighting men who survived the battle as a free man. The vast majority of the Christian host was either killed or taken captive.

He lived an extraordinary life. What fascinates you the most about him?

The fact that he was both an extraordinary diplomat and a courageous commander, and the fact that he moved among royalty like an equal yet never lost his humility and humanity.  It doesn’t hurt, however, that as a landless knight he captured the heart of a princess – something straight out of a fairy tale, or that he organized women, children and clerics into a fighting force so effective that they fought off the victorious armies of Saladin for almost ten days. Perhaps it is the fact that Balian was so multifaceted that fascinated me most.

When the Christians were enslaved by the Saracens, what did they endure?

Slavery is one of the most abhorrent practices known to man. It is equally repellent in the Ancient world, the Middle Ages, pre-Civil War America or today.  Regardless of place or period, slaves are first and foremost dehumanized, they are subjected to extreme brutality, contempt, cruelty, overwork, malnutrition, sadism and torture. What struck me as particularly repulsive the context of this book, however, was a passage written by Salah ad-Din’s secretary Imad ad-Din in which he gleefully delights and glorifies in the humiliations to which Christian women and girls captured in Jerusalem were subjected, “bringing a smile to Muslim faces at their lamentations.” (Source: al-Fath al-Qussi fi-l-Fath al-Qudsi, paragraphs 47 – 69.)  Mostly, he gleefully describes how “well-guarded women were profaned… nubile girls married, and noble women given away, and miserly women forced to yield themselves, and women who had been kept hidden stripped of their modesty, and serious women made ridiculous, and women kept in private now set in public, and free women occupied, and precious ones used for hard work and pretty things put to the test, and virgins dishonored and proud women deflowered” etc. etc. (This goes on for nearly a page.) Although not specifically mentioned, Muslim practice at this time also often included female genital mutilation of slave girls. I would like to highlight, however, that women trafficked today suffer similar fates. I urge readers not to take my word for it, but to investigate modern slavery, particularly in the Middle East.

Did you have any changing emotions while writing this story? If so, what were they?

I generally identify very strongly with my characters, following them on their, often tumultuous, emotional journey. That entails a lot of ups and downs. One thing I felt strongly with this book, however, was that it was my best ever. I’ve often said that my books are my children and I love them all, while recognizing that they each have their faults. “Envoy of Jerusalem,” undoubtedly has its flaws too, but I nevertheless feel that it is the most mature, profound, and significant of the books I’ve written to date.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

Good question. I wish I knew! I’ve been writing since I was in second grade and the compulsion to imagine the lives of others, to write them down in a way that engages the interest of readers, and then share those stories publicly has been a constant of my life ever since. Nor can I explain why one story appeals to me more than others. There are probably millions of true life stories – much less fictional stories – that are fascinating, educational, uplifting, fun, amusing etc. I don’t know why one historical figure ignites in me a passion to write about him/her, and others don’t.

However, looking back over what I have written, I’m clearly attracted to by the idea of correcting common misconceptions about an age or society by writing an alternative but accurate depiction of that society/age via an inspiring character. For example, most people think of Sparta as a brutal, barren place occupied by a bunch of uneducated thugs who take orders like robots. Not true, hence my six books set in ancient Sparta. Likewise, it is still commonplace for people to dismiss the crusades and crusaders as religious fanatics, cultural imperialists and brutal aggressors. Again, none of that is true, so I chose the truly inspiring character of Balian d’Ibelin to tell the truth about the crusader states in a (what I hope) is an engaging and exciting way.

But there is another motivation at work as well: my overall goal to inspire people to go on living by providing real-life examples of humans (not aliens, super-beings, fantasy creatures or fictional characters) who have overcome adversity, resisted temptation, demonstrated courage and compassion, found and given love, made meaningful sacrifices and changed the world for the better.

What are you currently working on?

“Envoy of Jerusalem” does not end with Balian’s death because thematically the book is centered on the loss of the territory and people of Jerusalem and the price of recovering both. With the Treaty of Ramla, both these issues find a natural conclusion. But lives and history continues.

The historical record for the period 1193-1204 in Outremer is far less complete than for the Third Crusade.  Even scholars who have dedicated their lives to a study of the Holy Land in this period admit to having many unanswered questions. That is a gold-mine for a historical novelist since I can extrapolate and hypothesize based on the few facts we have, but weave a story that suits my own thematic goals.

My work-in-progress pieces together a plausible story about the establishment of the Lusginan dynasty on the island of Cyprus and how the Ibelins came to be so extraordinarily influential there. (It is far more complex than most superficial or condensed accounts would have you believe!) Suffice it to say that the Templars had abandoned Cyprus because they were not strong enough to put down a rebellion by the Greek population. Although Guy de Lusignan “bought” the island in April 1192, in a little over two years he was dead, and it was his brother Aimery and Aimery’s Ibelin wife Eschiva (who readers will recognize as a stalwart secondary characters throughout the Jerusalem trilogy), who founded the Lusignan dynasty on Cyprus. Thematically, the book is about “post conflict reconstruction” (in modern political jargon), in which Maria Comnena, as a Greek princess, plays a crucial role.

Where can reader buy your book?

“Envoy of Jerusalem” is available from either amazon.com or Barnes and Noble, or can be ordered at your local bookstore. I highly recommend the paperback, despite being somewhat more expensive, because of the genealogy tables, maps and glossary that can be hard to flip back-and-forth to in the ebook version.

Thank you, Helena!

Author Website HERE

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Helena Schrader who is the author of, ENVOY OF JERUSALEM, 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, ENVOY OF JERUSALEM, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

More about Helena Schrader:

Helena graduated with honors in History from the University of Michigan, added a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Commerce from Patterson School, University of Kentucky, and rounded off her education with a PhD in History cum Laude from the University of Hamburg, awarded for a ground-breaking dissertation on a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler. She worked in the private sector as a research analyst, and an investor relations manager in both the U.S. and Germany.

Helena published her first book in 1993, when her dissertation was released by a leading academic publisher in Germany; a second edition followed after excellent reviews in major newspapers. Since then she has published three additional non-fiction books, starting with “Sisters in Arms” about women pilots in WWII, “The Blockade Breakers” about the Berlin Airlift, and “Codename Valkyrie,” a biography of General Olbricht, based on her dissertation.

Helena has also published historical novels set in World War Two, Ancient Sparta and the Crusades. “St. Louis’ Knight” won the Bronze in both the Historical Fiction and Spiritual/Religious Categories of the Feathered Quill Literary Awards 2014. Her latest project, a biographical novel of Balian d’Ibelin in three parts, got off to a great start when “Knight of Jerusalem” earned a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was selected as a Finalist for the 2014 Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. The second book in the series did even better: “Defender of Jerusalem” took the “Silver” for spiritual/religious fiction in the 2015 Feathered Quill Awards, won the Chaucer Award for Medieval Historical Fiction, was a finalist for the M.M.Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction, and was awarded “Silver” by Readers’ Favorites in the category Christian Historical Fiction. It too is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Helena a career American diplomat, currently serving in Africa. In June 2010 she was awarded the “Dr. Bernard LaFayette Lifetime Achievement Award for Promoting the Institutionalization of Nonviolence Ideals in Nigeria” by the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria.

 

Interview with Best-Selling Author C.S. Harris

me-iiI’d like to welcome C. S. Harris today to talk with me about her new release, Good Time Coming, novel of the American Civil War. C.S. is the bestselling author of more than twenty novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series and the standalone historical Good Time Coming. Under her own name, Candice Proctor, she is also the author of seven historical novels and a nonfiction historical study of women in the French Revolution. As C.S. Graham she writes the Tobie Guinness contemporary thriller series.

A Former academic with a PhD in European history, Candice has also worked as an archaeologist at a variety of sites around the world and spent much of her life abroad, living in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans with her husband, retired Army intelligence officer Steve Harris, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

Hi, Candice! Thank you for talking with me today about your newly release novel, Good Time Coming. It is a true honor to be talking about what I think is the most important work of fiction of the American Civil War I have read this year and in a long time. Please tell your audience about the premise of your story?

c-s-harrisHi Stephanie, thanks so much, and thanks for having me! Good Time Coming is the story of Amrie St. Pierre, a young girl forced to grow up fast in Civil War-torn Louisiana. This is a side of war we don’t often hear about—the struggle faced by the women and children left alone to survive in the face of starvation, disease, and the ravages of an invading army. War looks very different when seen through the eyes of a child learning hard truths about personal strength, friendship, and the shades of good and evil that exist within us all.

Rarely do I hear people talking about what the women endured during this war. I believe many are uncomfortable talking about it for many reasons. Neither do many people realize the starvation that was taking place because of the blockades and soldiers taking food for their own needs. You really touched on this and I am glad you did. Were there any moments while writing about this that you thought that it might not be well received? Also, what were your own emotions about this while writing your story?

When I first started thinking about this book, I simply wanted to tell a story about a dramatic, compelling aspect of the Civil War I felt had been neglected for some strange reason. (Yes, you can call me naive!) I’d never lived in the South until I moved to New Orleans shortly before Katrina, so I had no idea just how horrible the war was for the women and children of Louisiana until I started reading their surviving letters, diaries, and memoirs. Although I’m a historian and therefore should have known more than most about the brutal realities of warfare, I was frankly stunned. I was also disturbed to realize just how effectively the truth has been glossed over and hidden.

All nations mythologize their past, but I have a sneaky suspicion Americans do it more than most. The brutal realities of our Civil War don’t fit well with the stories we Americans like to tell ourselves, so we tend to ignore them—or try to. Slavery was a vile institution, and anyone who tries to excuse it (as some, amazingly, still do) by saying most slaves were well treated hasn’t read the numerous extant journals and letters of the period, or the Slave Narratives from the Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project. The simple truth is that slaves worked because they were whipped. Full stop. And because a statistical percentage of any population has sociopathic tendencies, any institution that allows one group of people absolute power over others is a recipe for sadism. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the North did not go to war against the South to end slavery. Their war aim was to preserve the Union, and their motive was the same one that led to the Mexican-American War and the virtual extermination of the Native Americans. The army that marched against the South was the same army that perpetrated the massacres of Native American women and children at Sacramento River and Harvey and countless other sites, a well-understood reality that terrified Southern civilians. To turn the Civil War into a morality play in which one side equals good and the other evil serves only to distort history and perpetuate the dangerous divisions that still exist in our country over 150 years later.

But breaking that taboo and telling a story that portrays what really happened is dangerous for a writer. I knew the book would probably provoke discussion; I didn’t realize it would be so controversial that it would be hard to get published. As for its effects on me, writing this book was a wrenching, highly emotional experience. It’s a powerful story and I still cry when I reread it. I poured my heart and soul into this book, and I am not the same person I was before I started it—it was that life altering.

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I believe you have truly captured the diversity of people and social standings and showed different views of the war in a concise way. The attitudes of the war and government were so complex. It wasn’t as straightforward as people would like to believe. Without giving too much away will you tell your audience a little about how you portrayed people’s attitudes during that time?

I carefully studied the people who were living in St. Francisville and Bayou Sara before the war and made a determined effort to be true to their profiles (many of the minor characters in the book are real historical figures). A surprising number of residents were recent immigrants either from the North or Europe. There were a few wealthy, large plantation owners, but most people were small farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen who owned no slaves. Some, inevitably, were eager for war (as was the case at the outbreak of WWI, most people assumed the war would be over quickly and their side was sure to win). Many were swept up in a patriotic fervor that sounds eerily similar to that of the Revolution. Others, like Amrie’s father, opposed secession but felt compelled to step forward and defend their homes and families. And some, like Amrie’s uncle, a West Point graduate, made the agonizing decision to remain in the Union army and fight their own people.

And then there’s the fact that a huge percentage of the people in the area were enslaved. The antebellum South was also home to over a quarter of a million gens de couleur libres or “free people of color.” Louisiana, especially, had a large population of free African-Americans. Some owned plantations and slaves themselves. Some formed units that fought for the Confederacy; others formed the Corps d’Afrique and fought for the Union. As the war continued and more and more slaves walked off the plantations, those numbers increased.

The longer the war went on, life became increasingly desperate, and society simply broke down. What happened to the people of the area during those years had repercussions that lasted for generations. For many decades after the Civil War, the Feliciana Parishes (in Louisiana, the civil administrative districts known elsewhere as counties are called parishes) had by far the highest murder rate in the country—higher even than the wild, wild West! To be frank, in a very real sense I don’t think it has recovered yet.

What are some emotional triggers for Amrie and her mother and how do they act on them?

One of the things that made the war particularly hard on Southern women was the fact that nineteenth-century Southern culture really did treat women differently—and expected them to behave differently. For example, it was not unusual for women in the North to become schoolteachers and nurses, but that was not true in the South; in fact, it was powerfully discouraged. So when the men all marched off to war (and died at a shocking rate: something like a quarter of the male population) it was even more of a stretch for their women to take over the farms and start running shops. Amrie St. Pierre is what we would today call a tomboy, while her mother defied expectations as a young woman by attending medical lectures in New Orleans (women were allowed to attend lectures even though they could not be licensed as doctors). Yet despite these advantages, they still face enormous hardships in an increasingly dangerous world. And of course one of the truths this story confronts is the reality of rape in war and how Southern women handled that. Two important themes are women finding strengths they don’t know they possess, and the bonds that can form amongst a community of women undergoing hardship together.

Please tell us a little about the supporting characters.

One of the most interesting characters for me to write was Amrie’s mother, Kate St. Pierre. At the beginning of the book Amrie sees her the way all children tend to see their mothers, with little understanding of the hardships and strains Kate is facing. But as the war goes on and Amrie grows up, their relationship subtly shifts, and Amrie begins to realize just how much there is to admire about her mother—and the ways in which they are and are not alike. The mother-daughter dynamic is always a powerful one, and when it is played out against the strains of war and extreme hardship, it’s fascinating.

A very different character is Adelaide Dunbar, Amrie’s grandmother. Adelaide is a hard woman who has done some terrible things in her life (Amrie discovers just how terrible as the story progresses), and yet she has an inner grit that can’t help but inspire respect. She forms a distinct contrast to Castile Boudreaau, a freed slave who serves as something of a mentor to Amrie. He’s an evolved soul who has already lived through so much pain and hardship that he has the calm and wisdom that Amrie lacks—and sorely needs as the war progresses. I could go on and on, talking about Finn, Amrie’s childhood friend, and Hilda Meyers, the enigmatic German shopkeeper; they’re all so real to me that since I’ve finished the book I find I miss them the way you miss friends you haven’t seen in a while.

For those who are not familiar with Civil War battle sites like Port Hudson, Bayou Sara, and Camp Moore, could you talk a little about that?

It’s hard to overstate the strategic importance of the Mississippi River in the Civil War. The Union knew that if they could take the river, they would effectively cut the Confederacy in two and stop the influx of cattle, horses, and other vital supplies coming into the South from Texas. Once New Orleans fell, the last two Confederate strongholds on the river were Port Hudson and Vicksburg, which became the scenes of horrific sieges. The once prosperous town of St. Francisville and its port, Bayou Sara, lay in between the two, so they suffered grievously from the depredations of Union troops trying to overrun both those two fortifications and Camp Moore, an important Confederate training ground that lay just to the east. The entire area was constantly raided and burned, and guerilla attacks on Union supply lines led to brutal acts of retaliation against area civilians. The things done to the women and children of Louisiana were abominable.

This is a big leap from your Regency England St. Cyr series. What prompted you to write this story and will there be any more like this from you? I hope so!

One of the hazards of keeping a series going for years and years is that there’s a risk of the writer becoming complacent or bored working always with the same characters, setting, and types of stories. For a while I was also writing a contemporary thriller series (under the name C. S. Graham), but I’m a slow writer and it almost killed me trying to keep two series going at the same time. So for me, standalones like this are a better solution.

I’ve actually wanted to write this book for over a decade, ever since I wrote a historical mystery set in occupied New Orleans (Midnight Confessions: currently out of print but due to be reissued soon under my real name, Candice Proctor). That’s when I first learned something about how hard the war had been on the civilian population of Louisiana, and I started thinking about looking at those events through the unblinkingly honest eyes of a child. Then Katrina hit, and one of the ways I survived those first horrible months of living in a devastated city was by reminding myself of how the residents of other destroyed cities throughout history pulled together to survive and rebuild. And that experience put a new spin on the story I wanted to tell.

I’m currently writing a novella set in Kent during World War II that will be part of an anthology by four authors called The Jacobite’s Watch. This is a new venture for me in two ways: it’s a time period I’ve never tried before, and I’ve never written a novella. I do think it’s important for a writer to keep challenging herself.

How would your characters describe you?

Ha! That’s an interesting question. I guess it would depend on the character. Amrie and I have much in common—she has a lot of my faults along with a number of characteristics I’d like to have but don’t. Ironically it wasn’t until I was reading the galleys for the published book that I realized Amrie’s mother is in many ways a blending of my own mother and grandmother with parts of me, too. I suspect all writers do this—put parts of themselves in their characters, including parts they don’t have but wish they did.

How much time and research did you spend on Good Time Coming and what was the process in getting a publisher to take it on?

I researched this book for years. I read hundreds of letters, memoirs, and journals, along with countless histories on various aspects of the war. I visited the historic sites that are important in the story—Port Hudson and Camp Moore, Jackson and the site of the vanished town of Bayou Sara. I even bought a weekend house not far from St. Francisville, between Jackson and Clinton! I went to Civil War battle reenactments, toured plantations and slave quarters, and spent days and days in dusty museums learning everything I could about how things were done and what objects actually looked like. And then I sat down and wrote the manuscript in five months in a white heat of eighteen-hour days, seven days a week. I’m normally a painfully slow writer, but this book just came pouring out of me.

Because I’d never written anything like this before—a coming-of-age story told from the first person viewpoint of a young girl—I was more than a bit apprehensive about my ability to do the story justice. But I honestly believe it is the best book I have ever written, and my agent was so excited when I sent it to her. Then she sent it out, and we received the most glowing, lyrical rejection letters ever penned. The problem was the subject matter—the effect of the Civil War on Southern civilians, plus, oddly, the issue of rape. New York editors were afraid to touch it. There’s a reason this book was published in England.

What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

As a professional historian, I find it frightening how little so many people know about the past. History has so much to teach us, not only about past events but also about human nature. As the saying goes, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme (a truism attributed to Mark Twain although he actually wrote something slightly different). For those who may not enjoy reading nonfiction histories, well-researched historical fiction offers an accessible window to the past.

Who are your influences?

I’ve long believed that the books we read as children influence us the most, and as a child I read Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Alexandre Dumas. Plus we lived in Europe when I was young, and our weekends and summers were spent crawling around crumbling castles, abbeys, and Roman ruins. So it’s no surprise I grew up fascinated by history, and that when I started writing I gravitated to historicals.

Other writers that undoubtedly had an influence on this book are James Lee Burke, both because of his insight into human nature and his lyrically beautiful prose, and of course Harper Lee. It’s impossible to write about a young girl coming of age in the South without consciously or unconsciously referencing Scout.

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

I’ve never been one of those writers who makes collages with photos of characters, houses, clothes, etc. But I do like to go to the places I’ll be writing about and look at objects—a Civil War surgeon’s instruments, for example, or a real nineteenth-century homemade bow (I was so excited when I actually found one hanging on the wall of an outbuilding of a St. Francisville plantation house; they were common in the South in the years after the Civil War because former Confederate soldiers were not allowed to own guns).  I tramped all over the extensive battlefields of Fort Hudson, waded through the swamps of Cat Island, and stood in St. Francisville’s churchyard to watch the annual reenactment of what they call the Day the War Stopped (a commemoration of the time Federal and Confederate Masons joined together to give a Union captain a Masonic funeral). When I sit down to write, those are the things I draw on.

What is your writing process and how much time during the day do you write?

I do the bulk of my research before I start writing because I find my plots and characters grow out of what I’m reading and learning. I’ve heard some authors say they plot first and then research only what they need as they’re writing, so they don’t “waste time” learning what they’ll never use. The problem with that approach is that it risks turning history into mere window dressing. When I’m writing, if I come upon something I need but don’t know, I will stop and look it up. I’ve spent half a day chasing down information to get one word right—it’s the hazard of having been a history professor.

Ever since Katrina (when I had no choice) I’ve learned to love writing my books by hand in a legal pad. Recent studies have shown that there is something about holding a pen that stimulates the creative parts of your brain, so I’m not just imagining it. When I finish a chapter, I type it up, print it out, then find a comfortable chair to reread and edit. I constantly go back and edit the chapters I’ve written, so that by the time I finish a manuscript it is virtually in its final state. Yet I have a good friend who composes entirely on her computer, never edits until she’s finished, and never prints out her manuscripts. À chacun son goût.

As for how much of my day I spend on writing, I feel as if I’m always working, that I’m never free to just relax the way someone with a 9-5 job can. The problem with working for yourself is that you feel as if you should always be working. And yet because you’re operating on this long deadline—in my case, usually a year to write a 440-page manuscript—it’s all too easy to waste time, to tell yourself you need to think more about your plot or that the article about sociopaths you want to read is “research.” And then there’s the Internet. Publishers push their writers to be active on Facebook and Twitter, but I think it’s a mistake—soooo many writers I know are now locked in a constant battle against the distraction of social media. It’s a huge time sink.

There was a time I was rigorously self-disciplined. Now, not so much.

What is up next for you?

The twelfth book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, Where the Dead Lie, will be out in April 2017, and I’ve almost finished #13 (which unfortunately still doesn’t have a title). Then I’ll be moving on to #14, which does have a title: Who Slays the Wicked (love that title!). The anthology with the World War II novella I mentioned will probably be out in 2018. And I’ve also been revising four of my out-of-print historicals; they should all be available early next year.

Where can readers buy your books?

The Sebastian St. Cyr series is available in virtually all outlets in the States and online elsewhere. Good Time Coming is available in hardcover and e-book through various outlets online and can also be ordered through independent bookstores.

Author Links:

Website

Twitter:  @csharris2

Facebook

Amazon

 

 

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Lisa Brunette

me-iiI’d like to welcome back two time B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lisa Brunette today to talk about her award winning book, Framed and Burning. Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne du Maurier and Taylor Caldwell. 

A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.

Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.

With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…

Hi, Lisa! Thank you for chatting with me today. First, I HAVE to ask you how you came up with the name “Dreamslippers” for your series.

lisa-brunette-ii-bragThat’s a great question. Before I published the first book in the series, Cat in the Flock, I’d been mulling over what to call the psychic dreaming gift that my characters possess. I had used the phrase “slip into your dreams,” and one of my BETA readers, Chrysanne Westin, suggested I call it “dreamslipping.” When I released the first book with the old cover (which my husband and I designed) in July of 2014, it ran under the series title “McCormick Files,” after protagonist Cat’s last name. But when I updated with a professional cover, I decided at that point to call it the Dreamslippers Series. It’s perfect for a family of sleuths with the unique but limited ability to slip into other people’s dreams.

Tell me about Framed and Burning. By the way, I love the title.

Thank you. I agonized over the title for quite some time, testing a few with BETA readers. I settled on Framed and Burning because, like the title for book one, it contains a double entendre. Someone gets framed in the book, and there’s a lot of different kinds of burning in the book, that of the fire in the first scene but also burning ambition, passion, truth… The story opens with a fire in Mick’s studio, killing his assistant, Donnie Hines. The evidence shows its arson, and the police suspect Mick. His sister and grand-niece are PIs, and they work to clear his name.

By the way, it used to be part of my job description to name mystery games at Big Fish; I’ve named hundreds of games. It’s never easy, but it can be fun!

Will you give me a little background on Mick Travers?

Sure! He’s often the only dude in the room, since my series is very female-centric. Mick is a fellow dreamslipper, but he uses the images he picks up from other people’s dreams as inspiration for his art. His older sister, Amazing Grace, and his grand-niece, Cat McCormick, use it to solve crimes.

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How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?

Mick is very jaded after living most of his life in Miami, which can be a plastic-y, materialistic place. Grace is a dyed-in-the-wool Seattleite: politically liberal, spiritually open, self-directed, and very DIY. Cat is like a lot of people from the Midwest: practical, skeptical, grounded. But she’s also adventurous and curious, which draws her to the other two locations.

What are the habits of your protagonist?

Grace’s habits form the basis for much of Cat’s apprenticeship. Grace is a lifelong yoga devotee, a practitioner of several different spiritual paths, including Buddhism and New Thought, and she regularly meditates. In book three, she takes up a holistic, barefoot dance practice called Nia. And she does all of this in her 70s! You can tell I have a lot of fun with her. Cat is a Millennial who’s tied to her tech, never without her cell phone and adept at online research. But she allows her grandmother to take her under her wing, learning the value of yogic breathing, for example, and using it.

How long did it take to write your story, and what was your process? Did your process for this book change from Cat and the Flock?

Framed and Burning came out in a rush over two months. But that was just the first draft. I spent another six months polishing it. My process for Cat in the Flock was much different, as I took two years to craft the story, but I was working 50-70-hour weeks at my day job during that time and couldn’t concentrate on it as much as I did with Framed and Burning.

Tell me a little about the quirky Miami art world in your story. What does art mean to you, personally?

I didn’t grow up around art or museums, but as soon as I left home and was free to explore on my own, I made art discovery a priority, visiting museums in every city I went to and covering my walls with inexpensive art poster prints. In college, I made it part of my curriculum in American Studies, and I worked for a time at the St. Louis Art Museum (selling memberships), where I spent hours staring at paintings, especially in the modern and contemporary galleries, coming to think of them as my friends. My first husband was an artist who worked out of our home, so I was surrounded by paint and canvases for eleven years, with artists of all types traipsing in and out, and I acquired numerous pieces of my own through that experience.

That doesn’t really answer your question, though, does it? I guess you could say I fell in love with art on my own first—and then I fell for an artist. Even though the ex and I have been apart now for seven years, the art is very much still with me.

Who designed your book cover?

I work with Monika Younger, a super pro with more than a decade of experience designing covers for Harlequin (both their romance and mystery lines). I highly recommend her.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just launched the third book in the series, Bound to the Truth. It’s about the murder of a brilliant Seattle architect. Her widow hires Cat and Grace to investigate a man she suspects as the killer, a well-known conservative radio talk show host.

Thank you, Lisa! It was a pleasure chatting with you!

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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lisa Brunette who is the author of, Framed and Burning, 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, Framed and Burning, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Manic Monday & Bookish Delights

me-iiThis weekend was fantastic. It’s not often I can just totally chill and do what I want and I can’t say that I felt foreboding that Monday was drawing near. Though the first day of the week tends to be manic, I was quite looking forward to it. Why? This weekend I was able to get lots of reading time in, drank lots of tea, watched a few shows on Netflix, and set up a couple of blog posts. Now I know that we have to get back to the work week, which leaves us very little time for reading. But, at least we can talk about the books we’ve been enjoying! There is that. *smiles*

This past Saturday, I was checking my emails and saw that I got approved for a review copy of, Ruler of the Night by David Morrell (book description below). “David Morrell is a Canadian novelist from Kitchener, Ontario, who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He is best known for his debut 1972 novel First Blood, which would later become a successful film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. More recently, he has been writing the Captain America comic books limited-series The Chosen.” (bio from goodreads).

His Opium-Eater (Thomas De Quincey trilogy) a Victorian mystery trilogy, is truly brilliant. Every historical detail is impeccable; you hang on to every word. His characters are unforgettable and he transports to you the Victorian London streets with vivid imagery, as if you were really there. Murder mysteries at its finest!

The first book is, Murder as a Fine Art. The second, Inspector of the Dead. You can find these books on Amazon and goodreads. When the third, Ruler of the Night was announced, I was so very excited and wanted to get my hands on a review copy. Badly. Grateful I was able too! I am hoping to get to it this week. I highly recommend them.

Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today. It is always a treat to talk about bookish things with you all. Be sure to check out my interview with award winning author Lee Davis at indieBRAG. Today, I talk with him about his graphic designing and his process. I highly recommend you read the interview. It’s brilliant and insightful. You might learn something.

Oh, I almost forgot! A few of my fellow book bloggers and I are buddy reading, Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister-about the first female Pinkerton detective-and I discovered a show called The Pinkertons on Netflix! How cool is that?!

This week is going to be another great discussion in all things books and writers from my fellow bloggers and myself. On Friday, I will be sharing much about that. So stay tuned!

Cheers!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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The notorious Opium-Eater returns in the sensational climax to David Morrell’s acclaimed Victorian mystery trilogy.

1855. The railway has irrevocably altered English society, effectively changing geography and fueling the industrial revolution by shortening distances between cities: a whole day’s journey can now be covered in a matter of hours. People marvel at their new freedom.

But train travel brings new dangers as well, with England’s first death by train recorded on the very first day of railway operations in 1830. Twenty-five years later, England’s first train murder occurs, paralyzing London with the unthinkable when a gentleman is stabbed to death in a safely locked first-class passenger compartment.

In the next compartment, the brilliant opium-eater Thomas De Quincey and his quick-witted daughter, Emily, discover the homicide in a most gruesome manner. Key witnesses and also resourceful sleuths, they join forces with their allies in Scotland Yard, Detective Ryan and his partner-in-training, Becker, to pursue the killer back into the fogbound streets of London, where other baffling murders occur. Ultimately, De Quincey must confront two ruthless adversaries: this terrifying enemy, and his own opium addiction which endangers his life and his tormented soul.

“Ruler of the Night is a riveting blend of fact and fiction which, like master storyteller David Morrell’s previous De Quincey novels, “evokes Victorian London with such finesse that you’ll hear the hooves clattering on cobblestones, the racket of dustmen, and the shrill calls of vendors” (Entertainment Weekly).

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