Characters in Motion with Alison Morton

AURELIA BRAGMeet Aurelia Mitela – woman and warrior

Aurelia Mitela, archetype Roma Novan, came to life when I was writing the first Roma Nova book, INCEPTIO. Then, she was the clever, experienced grandmother of Carina, the book’s heroine.

Let Carina tell you in her own words of her first impression of Aurelia:

“She’d been so concerned for me, but not in a soppy way. Direct and ‘no-nonsense’ fitted her perfectly, but her smile had been warm. I couldn’t help speculating how it would have been to grow up with her instead of the Browns.

I started tapping the keys, surfing for Roma Nova while I was drinking and thinking. I couldn’t leave it alone. My grandmother’s name shot out at me. Fascinated, I loaded the English translation. The screen displayed a list of her business interests. Sketchy on detail, it gave some personal stuff at the end: head of the influential Mitela family, senator and government advisor, cousin to the current imperatrix. She really was a big hitter.”

In PERFIDITAS, we see Aurelia, the cool ex-Praetorian, holding the family together after they’d been falsely arrested:

“[Aurelia to Carina] ‘I’ve been through a great deal worse. I’m not a little old lady out of some genteel novel.’

No, she truly wasn’t. She’d been PGSF [Praetorian Guard Special Forces] in her time, even led the attack to retake the city during the civil war. Although now in her mid-seventies, she definitely belonged to the “tough gals” league.

She gave me a close description of the arresting party. What a difference it made when the victim was a trained professional and could give you precise, detailed information. She’d printed off her statement and signed it already.”

 Throughout the first three books, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO, we catch glimpses of Aurelia’s early life, but even more, a whole range of questions are thrown up. What did she do in the Great Rebellion nearly twenty-three years before the time of INCEPTIO? Why is she so anxious when she compares the villain in SUCCESSIO to Caius Tellus, the brutal ‘First Consul’ who instigated the rebellion all those years ago? Who was the great love of Aurelia’s life that Carina only learns about in SUCCESSIO?

In AURELIA, the fourth book which takes us back to the late 1960s, Aurelia is accused of murder while on a mission to Berlin, and while in remand undergoes a (hostile) psychological assessment. Here’s the report on her:

Subject is highly rational, quick-minded and a natural leader. She sees nothing is impossible given enough time and resources. Subject has the confident personality and willpower to pursue and implement her goals, easily bringing others with her. A dominant personality.

 Strategic thinker, curious, innovative, able to grasp and deal with problems with determination and precision. Energetic and excellent communication skills, happy to confront and negotiate with others. Intelligent enough to recognise other people’s talents, and work with them. Requires challenges and even failures, or her self-confidence could easily turn into arrogance and condescension.

 Personalities of this type cannot tolerate inefficiency or those whom they perceive as lazy or incompetent. They can be chillingly cold and ruthless when the situation arises, operating purely on logic and rationality.

 They interact very well with others, often charming them to their cause, and paying attention to other people’s feelings – or at least pretending that they do. Most mature and successful personalities of this type are genuine in this aspect to some extent, even though their sensitivity may hide a cold and calculating mind.

 This is a slant on the classic ENTJ personality profile from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric test system popular in business to indicate psychological preferences about how people perceive the world and make decisions. I needed to make the report negative for the story, but positive aspects of this type of personality are that they are conceptual and global thinkers, able to see connections where others don’t, and to think ahead. Couple this with the intuition and sense of fair play many ENTJs possess, it can make life frustrating for this personality when people around them don’t grasp things the way they do. Of course, this conflict is a gift for a writer…

In essence, Aurelia is a blood-and-bone Roma Novan whose values are based on traditional ancient Roman ones; tough, loyal with a strong sense of duty and fully aware of her responsibilities as head of a great family. But her desire to keep all the balls juggling in the air with precise timing leads to her being riven by guilt if she doesn’t perform a hundred per cent.

Aurelia has one vulnerability, her love for her frail daughter, Marina. This vulnerability, and willingness to sacrifice everything for Marina, is also her greatest strength, along with her determination to serve her country.

Is she sympathetic? Yes, because under all that resolution and toughness, she is still a human being who experiences fear, love, despair and grief. She bitterly misses the strong comradeship of her earlier military career, and is exhilarated when going back into action. And then, there is her devotion to her life-long love, elusive though he sometimes is…

AURELIA is the fourth book in the Roma Nova thriller series,  BRAG Medallion Honoree and currently a finalist in the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award

Watch the AURELIA trailer

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site

Facebook author page 

Twitter  @alison-morton

Amazon author page

About Alison

AURELIA BRAG MedallionEven before she pulled on her first set of military fatigues, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre all over the globe.

So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…

But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women.

Alison holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history. Her memberships include: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association. Represented by Blake Friedman Literary Agency for overseas and ancillary rights, Alison lives in France with her husband and writes Roman-themed thrillers with tough heroines.

 

 

My Guest, Author Anna Belfrage

Stephanie: Hello, Anna! Thank you for chatting with me today. It is always a pleasure and I am honored you have taken the time to visit with me again. With all the wonderful stories and articles you have written, you are one busy lady! I’m in the middle of reading your book, A Newfound Land and I’m enjoying it very much! The Grahams sure do keep you on your toes! Please tell your audience a little about your new book.

Anna: “A little about my new book” – you are a hoot, Stephanie! I have a problem abbreviating my books, but if I try, I’d say that A Newfound Land is a story about attempting to recreate yourself in a new land and realizing you can’t, as you are much more defined by your past than by the place you live in. It is also about the inherent conflicts between a 17th century man and a 20th century woman – as you know, Alex Graham is a time-traveler, having had the misfortune (or not, depending on what you think of Matthew) of being propelled three centuries backwards in time. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time…

Anyway, in A Newfound Land, the Graham family is struggling to set down roots in their new homeland, the Colony of Maryland. Religious strife forced them to leave Scotland behind, and while the life of a settler is harsh, Alex is hoping that life will become less fraught with conflict in their new home than it was in their old.

Things happen, as they say, and suddenly both Alex and Matthew have to confront spectres from their past. Old enmities blossom into new life, Matthew’s defense of the Native Americans make life-long enemies of the Burley brothers, and just like that Alex is yet again thrown into an existence that very much revolves around her fear that someone will kill her husband.

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Stephanie: What are some of the different challenges they face in America versus Scotland?

Anna: To start with, they have to settle land. Sometimes I think we have a very romanticized version of what it must have been like to ride out into unknown forests and attempt to create a home, a working farm. The sheer work involved was enormous, and while 17th century Scotland had little amenities compared to the present day and age, it was substantially more civilized than the Maryland hinterlands.

Further to this, we have the Native Americans – or Indians, as I call them in the book, just as the white settlers did. If you push people off their land, you cannot be surprised when they start to retaliate, and the threat of a native uprising was always there. In Maryland, things turned very nasty in the 1670’s, affecting Matthew’s and Alex’s life.

Then there was the isolation. Living out in the woods, with well over an hour’s ride to the closest neighbor, required that you be very self-sufficient. It also helped if you liked each other, as there was no other company to be had. Fortunately, Matthew and Alex do like each other. A lot.

Stephanie: How do Alex’s children adjust to the new world?

Anna: Having experienced what it is like to move around to various parts of the globe as a child, I can tell you that as long as there’s a mother and a father around, most children have no problem in adapting to new circumstances. If anything, they have it much easier than the adults, being unburdened with such emotions as nostalgia and homesickness.

Stephanie: That is true!

What is the research that was involved for this book? What have you learned about America that maybe you didn’t know before?

Anna: Well, I obviously learned a lot about the Susquehannock – much more than I knew before, but still very little, as the tribe left very few traces of their existence. My Qaachow, the Susquehannock chief that befriends Matthew and Alex, is a homage to a people that no longer is, but that once were, a powerful tribe that controlled a large part of northern Maryland into Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Then I had the pleasure of learning more about present day Annapolis, founded in the 1650’s by Puritans fleeing persecution in Virginia and at the time named Providence, which is the name I use throughout the book. I believe, you see, that the original Puritan settlers would prefer holding on to this name rather than that of Anne Arundel’s City, which was its official name. Not a name that would go down well with Puritans, as Anne Arundel was Catholic.

Stephanie: Why did you choose Maryland as the colony they moved too?

Anna: Maryland has the proud distinction of being the first place in the world that implemented an Act of Toleration.(One could argue the Muslim kingdoms in Spain were as – if not more – tolerant, but their tolerance came at a price, as Jews and Christians paid extra taxes to be allowed to practice their faiths) Maryland’s Act of Toleration was restricted to Trinitarian faiths – i.e. to such faiths that believed in Jesus Christ, and it was expressly forbidden, under pain of death, to question Jesus’ divinity. Not much of an Act of Toleration, you might think, but if you set it into context (a century marked by religious strife, where Catholics were persecuted in some countries, Protestants in others, and Puritans in very many) it is a remarkably foresighted piece of legislation, brought into place by Lord Calvert, who was a Catholic grandee that owned the colony outright. Maryland’s Act of Toleration is in many ways a precursor to the First Amendment in the American Constitution. In a world full of religious strife, it was an innovative attempt to heal rather than breach.

So when Matthew was obliged to flee his home country due to religious issues, Maryland would have seemed a good choice. Virginia was not an option, being fiercely Anglican (and Matthew would no more return to Virginia than he would have amputated his foot, having spent several humiliating months as a slave on a plantation), Massachusetts was far too Puritan, even for Matthew (who also had to consider his opinionated and vociferous wife) and besides, he had a friend in Maryland, Thomas Leslie.

Stephanie: Can you give us some background information on the Susquehannock Indians? A without giving too much away, their role in the story?

Anna: To write a novel set in Colonial America and gloss over the consequences of white man’s arrival to the original inhabitants would be to misrepresent history. In the area where Matthew and Alex make their home, the Susquehannock used to reign supreme, so of course this was the tribe they would encounter.
In general, the story of the Susquehannock follows the depressing pattern of what happened to very many of the indigenous tribes in the wake of European colonization, both in North and South America.
Upon the arrival of white man, the Susquehannock controlled most of the region round the upper parts of Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehannock welcomed the settlers and traded with them, but inevitably tension spread as the new arrivals claimed more and more land. Despite this, the relationship with the Susquehannock remained amicable – until the Indian wars of the 1670’s, when the Susquehannock were dragged into the conflict between the Powhatan and the Virginia settlers.
The colonist militia made no difference between Susquehannock and Powhatan: an Indian was an Indian, full stop. On one occasion, a band of militia snuck upon a group of unsuspecting Susquehannock and murdered them all in their sleep, and after that the previously good relationship deteriorated into open war.
Today, the Susquehannock are no more. Decimated by epidemics and forced to flee their homelands in the conflicts of the 1670’s, many of them joined the Mohawk. A small group of Susquehannock Indians settled in Conestoga Town in Pennsylvania and survived into the 18th century, but were brutally massacred in 1763 by the Paxton Boys in the aftermath of the French and Indian Wars. One of the little boys killed was called Qaachow, which is how my Susquehannock chief got his name.

In A Newfound Land, Qaachow and his tribe befriend Matthew and Alex, and a tenuous relationship is established whereby Matthew will keep Qaachow’s back and vice versa. I wanted there to be personal feelings involved and invested when Matthew interceded on behalf of the Indian women he saves from abduction. Why? Well, it will become clear as the Graham saga proceeds.

Stephanie: Matthew, never ceases to amaze me. He is always finding himself in danger. He is quite the character. What are his weaknesses and strengths in this story?

Anna: Well, in my book, Matthew has very few weaknesses.
“Hmph!” snorts Alex. “And what about that soft spot he has for rabid preachers, hey?” Yes, she does have a point. Matthew’s somewhat over-tender conscience sometimes leads him into the company of narrow-minded little bigots, such as Richard Campbell, and this, I suppose, is a weakness, as is his desire to revenge himself on Dominic Jones, the overseer who treated him so badly all those years ago on a plantation in Virginia.
Another little weakness – at least according to Alex – is his continued affection for Kate Jones, Dominic’s wife. Alex drowns in bright green jealousy whenever she sees this elegant and attractive woman anywhere near her husband – and even worse, Alex can understand what Matthew sees in her, given that Alex finds Kate quite likeable too.

His strengths are manifold; integrity, perseverance, courage – and a big heart, large enough to accommodate his sizeable brood of children and his wife, whom he loves to the point of distraction. A good fighter, an excellent shot, he is also intelligent, steadfast and generally good at keeping his temper in check, although his wife can at times rile him to the point where his rage boils over.
Mostly, though, I like his tenderness. Not a man given to grand gestures or endearments, Matthew loves quietly, patiently – well, except when the passion he feels for his wife surges through his veins, scorching him, but even then, he is mostly gentle.
Stephanie: Will there be a fifth book in this fantastic series?

Anna: Thank you for the compliment, dear Stephanie! There will be four more books in the series, all of them written, all of them planned for publication. And when the eighth is published I’m going to crawl up in an armchair and cry my eyes out, because how am I to survive without writing (or re-writing) new anecdotes from Matthew’s and Alex’s life?

Stephanie: Where in your home is your favorite place to write?

Anna: At my desk, especially purchased for this purpose. It sits in a corner of our living room, which means I can submerge myself in my writing while still keeping a fond eye on my husband.
Stephanie: Coffee or tea?

Anna: Tea. Real tea, not that rooibos stuff. I like it black, I like it green, I like it iced but I never, ever take milk.

Stephanie: I like green tea as well, with two sugars, no milk. I especially need it while writing.

Where can readers buy your book?

Anna: Anywhere where books are sold, Stephanie. It’s available on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble, and a number of other e-retailers, plus in quite a few bookshops.

Stephanie: Thank you, Anna!! XX

Anna: Thank you for hosting me, Stephanie. It is always an honour to pop by Layered Pages.

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I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, I aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

Interview with Author Clarice Williams

Clarice-Dec-2012

Clarice Williams whose pen name is C. JoVan Williams, was born and raised in Chicago, IL, but now resides in New Jersey as an Air Force spouse, with a blended family of six. She credits her writing inspirations from her experiences as a military spouse, mother, college graduate, Government worker, silly daughter, and an overbearing older sister to many.  She also writes for Military Spouse Magazine. Her books are available on Amazon. Email: clarice.jovan@gmail.com

Stephanie: Hello Clarice! Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Veggie’s Bully.

Clarice: Thank you! It’s the second book in my Chef ReCee Jay & Friends book series. This story is different from other bully books where everyone is shaking hands and becoming friends in the end. Veggie’s Bully children’s book shows the anger Veggie feels about being bullied, her friend who wants revenge, and the voice of reasoning who helps them see her situation a bit differently. For some events, I also sell Uncle Bear and Carb Monkey plush toys along with the book. I’m still searching for a vendor to help me with Veggie Bunnie.

Stephanie: I really admire the premise of your story and find it inspirational to many. You touch on a subject that is a serious problem in our world. When did you decide to write your book and to use the idea of animals for your characters?

Clarice: There were a series of stories that popped in mind when I began this series and I knew since the beginning I was going to touch on bullying. It’s not just happening in a children’s playground or a high school anymore. Social media has made bullying easier than ever, even in our adult lives, it continues to occur.  So, it’s my hope that, whoever picks up this book, will remember to value how they feel about themselves, versus obsessing about how others think of them. I’ve seen children gravitate towards animal stories and wanted to reach as many readers as I possibly could.

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Stephanie: Have you written other children’s books with important themes and morals?

Clarice: My first book, Our Picnic Surprise, talks about trying to balance life and really hits home with me, because I’m still trying to balance it! But the story focuses on Veggie Bunnie introducing healthier foods to Carb Monkey and Chef ReCee’s already sugar filled lifestyle! The third book in the series talks about another character in the series, Uncle Bear, who received a gift, but does not have any money to reciprocate his appreciation. So his friends help him make something for his mystery Valentine. I hope some readers can relate to having to be resourceful when you can’t afford to buy presents for everyone you would like too.

Stephanie: How do you promote your book and what are some of the ways you discuss your book to others? Such as, do you visit schools, libraries, bookstores and so forth?

Clarice: Currently, I’m in a few indie and professionally published author groups who travel and promote books at various fairs, bookstores, and libraries. Right now I’m putting myself out there to visit schools, whether it is in person or on Skype in the classroom, I’m available! So put it out there!

Stephanie: Have you had any reviews on your book? What are some of the positive things people have said about your book?

 

Clarice: I’ve gotten great feedback in person and from reviewers on Amazon. After winning the BRAG Medallion, the company sent me a letter with multiple reviews from a classroom who read the book, and it was very humbling. There were comments about what the story meant to them and also what they are currently dealing with now.

Stephanie: What book project is up next for you?

Clarice: I have a few in the works now. The next one in the series will be about Carb Monkey on a search to find the Tooth Fairy! There is an unexpected twist at the end about the mystery and magic behind the Tooth Fairy. I also have another children’s book, titled What IF…that is coming out and Miley Cyrus was my inspiration. It deals with questions my daughters had after witnessing a few things that has been popular on social media lately.

Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?

Clarice: Yes! It’s not for the faint of heart though!

Stephanie: What advice would you give to a writer who wants to write a children’s book?

Clarice: Join author/writer groups. Use the internet as you would an all-night open library. Read the kinds of books that you would like to publish. Read the author’s bios too. Look at their editors, publishing companies, and agents to get an idea of how they built their platform. Create a plan for yourself. Learn to accept criticism and apply it. I’d like to bring up something, Daymond John, the CEO of FUBU, said, When looking at trends I always ask myself basic and timeless questions about business, and the one I seem to always come back to is, ‘How is this different than anything else in the marketplace?

When I came up with Veggie’s Bully, I didn’t want to tell a story of how they all became friends at the end, because life doesn’t always happen that way. I wanted to talk about what to do when the Bully keeps teasing you and all you have left to figure things out is just you.

Stephanie: Before I forget. Does your book have illustrations and who was your cover artist?

Clarice: Jen Chappell is an amazing illustrator, who did the art for Veggie’s Bully, Uncle Bear’s Mystery Valentine, and also does my comics for my website and Facebook fanpage. She helped me out when the illustrator of Our Picnic Surprise could no longer illustrate for me. Her professional email is JenniferMChappell@gmail.com.

Clarice, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I have one more question. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Clarice: I’m always looking at other self-published children’s books that are doing well and stumbled upon ‘Bellyache: A Delicious Tale’ by Crystal Marcos with the BRAG Medallion on it. I was truly honored to receive the recognition from BRAG, especially after reading this book by Crystal Marcos. I appreciate what BRAG does for indie authors!

To contact the author, please visit:

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/iwrite_2
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chefreceejay
Website: www.carbmonkey.com

“This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed and I recommend it to anyone
who has small children. The bully situation has always been and always will be,
and having a book like this one will surely help children love themselves more
and have more confidence in what they do. And I can’t leave out the
illustrations; they are awesome and wonderful and fit so well with the story.
The vivid colors and adorable people will capture your children’s hearts and
keep them choosing this book over and over.” – Reviewed by Joy Hannabass for
Readers’ Favorite

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Clarice Williams, who is the author of, Veggie’s Bully, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Veggie’s Bully, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Review: The Luxe (Luxe, #1) by Anna Godsbersen

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When the Holland’s find out that their perfect 19th century New York high society, life is no longer secure. Everything depends on the eldest daughter, Elizabeth Holland to save what is left of their good name or will she follow her heart and choose true love instead.

There was so much scandal, romance and betrayal, I could not put the book down! This exiting period is filled with secrets and intrigue and is the perfect book for me. To the gorgeous gowns and stunning balls to the romance and mystery that surrounds them. The Luxe is well written and it appears to be historically accurate.

Reviewed by Savannah