Thursday, December 20, 2012

Free Audiobook: The Companion of Lady Holmeshire

Traveling soon? Commuting? With a free 30-day trial of (an Amazon branch) you can get a free audiobook copy of The Companion of Lady Holmeshire. Check it out HERE!

 Companion is also available at the iBookstore.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Interview of HisFic Author Laura Purcell

1) What moved you to become an author?

In my opinion, very few writers get to make a choice; they’re just born that way and can’t be cured! I honestly don’t remember sitting down and thinking “Yes, I’m going to be an author.”

Looking back, my first serious spate of writing began one summer when I was around fifteen. During the school holidays, I read the complete works of Bronte and Austen. I loved those books so much, I felt empty when I’d finished. I started to plug the gap by making up stories of my own.
2) Tell us about your work in progress.

I’m working on a series of books about the Hanoverian monarchs – that’s George I through to William IV – and the amazing women in their lives. My aim when I set out was to become a Philippa Gregory for the Jane Austen era. That’s a pretty high goal!

I’m currently preparing the first of the novels, God Save the King, for publication in September 2012. The story charts the progress of George III’s famed madness, showing how it affected his family. My focus is on his wife, Queen Charlotte, who had to cope with an unstable husband and a large brood of children. She was an incredible person with so much strength.

I also follow Charlotte’s courageous daughters, who were practically entombed in Windsor Castle. All six try to escape, but I concentrate on Royal and Sophia. Royal was a gauche Princess who never quite fitted her role. The world saw Sophia as a reclusive invalid, but rebellion was brewing behind her sick room door…

3) What did you find most challenging about this book?

I had to work hard to represent each character fairly. I was painfully aware that I was writing about real people who had to be treated with respect. It was just as difficult to show the bad parts of the characters I loved as the good parts of those I detested!

Other than that, my main challenge was ruthless self-editing. I was fascinated by George III’s family and a bit in love with each of them. I wanted to include every detail, but I had to make sure I didn’t overburden the reader. I also had to simplify the family dynamics. Some of the Princesses’ many brothers had to be removed from the mix. When your heroine has fifteen children, life starts to get complicated…

5) How did you choose your publishing method?

I think there are pros and cons with both the traditional and self publishing route. I would eventually like to be traditionally published, but unfortunately Georgian history falls into a “niche” area of the market at the moment. There simply aren’t many publishers and agents willing to take books set in a period that hasn’t proved itself as a popular era for historical fiction, such as the Tudors. I have, however, received great help, praise and advice from a number of agents and am very grateful for their input.

6) Tell us a little about yourself?
As I’m sure you have guessed, I’m a bit of a history nut. I belong to a Medieval re-enactment group and Tudor dancing society, so you might see me around the country doing a pavane in full costume!

I live in Colchester, Britain’s oldest recorded town, with my husband and nine guinea pigs. Yes, nine. We’re big animal lovers.

I adore reading, obviously. The house is full of bookshelves with all genres stacked up. One day I’d like to have my very own library room. 

Oh, and I drink lots of coffee. I mean a lot.

7) What is your next work?

I’m researching and planning A Forbidden Crown, about George IV and his bigamous marriages to Queen Caroline and Maria Fitzherbert.  I can’t wait to start writing! They are all vivid characters who survived a turbulent period in English history.

George was the ultimate playboy, but he certainly met his match in his two wives. Maria was a confident, driven woman who knew her worth. She certainly wasn’t going to let George mess her around if she could help it. As for Caroline, she went on to become one of the most notorious – although forgotten – Queens in history. She was a free spirit, wild and mischievous.  No wonder George was afraid of her influence rubbing off on their young daughter, Charlotte.

Charlotte herself is one of my favourite historical figures of all time. I hope by the end of A Forbidden Crown, you’ll come to love her as much as I do!

8) Who do you read?

I try to read as many authors as possible, because I feel it helps my artistic development. I like to absorb many voices, finding out what works and what doesn’t. My favourites at the moment are Kate Morton, Philippa Gregory and Sarah Waters. I also like to read classics when I get the chance; anything from Shakespeare to Fitzgerald.

9) Where should we look for your work?

I will keep you regularly updated about the progress of God Save the King on my website, You can also get a sneak peek at the opening of the book here. I hope to publish on 8 September 2012, which is George III and Queen Charlotte’s wedding anniversary.  The book will be available through Kindle on Amazon and other select distributors. Watch this space!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How to Ruin a Friendship

by Katherine Ashe

Simon de Montfort and King Henry III

All of God's Creation forms a line of power and greatness, from the hierarchies of heaven, through popes, kings, lords and common mankind, and so on down to the lowliest worm - so said Thomas Aquinas. It was a great relief to kings and the Pope who were seeing the Hand of God favoring the common people and their leader Simon de Montfort. It was indeed a happy thought Aquinas offered, and it prompted the Pope to make heretics of the followers of Montfort and his armies fighting for the common people's right to govern themselves.

That was in 1262. A lot has happened since then. But Aquinas succeeded in halting the rise of democracy for five hundred years, bolstering the power of kings to do as they pleased under a proclaimed Divine Right.

Who was Simon de Montfort, and how did he come to be fighting for democracy so very long before it freely blossomed?

Carcassone, where Simon was born.

Simon was the son of Simon de Montfort the Crusader, then much lauded, now much hated for his campaign against the Albigensian heretics of southern France. Orphaned and bankrupted by his father's wars, young Simon apparently grew up at the Court of Paris, close to the Regent Queen Blanche and her son King Louis IX, who was to be Saint Louis. But Simon's future was not to be in France.

While probably still in his teens, young Montfort went to England to try to gain his family's lapsed English titles, Earl of Leicester and Steward of England. King Henry III befriended him, but for years was coy about granting the titles. While waiting, Simon gained fame as a knight in warfare against the Welsh - and fell in love with the king's sister, who was a nun. Their secret marriage most likely was necessary.

Apparently Henry thought he only need ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to lift Sister Eleanor's vows and all would be well. Not so. The Archbishop flatly refused, and only the Pope could overrule him. Simon went to Rome - and came back with Eleanor's vows lifted, but in debt for the rest of his life. If this sounds like a romance, it is nonetheless actual history.

Debt can be a great dampener to even the most yearned-for honeymoon, and apparently the princess, relieved of her vows of poverty and chastity, had been spending like a tycoon, despite the new debt from Rome. (Romance fades for a moment, and chilling economics peep into the story. Letters from both Eleanor's and Simon's spiritual advisers warn then against shouting at each other - especially in front of the servants.)

Whatever the reason, research and rationality strongly indicated that, when the King and Queen visited Simon's home at Kenilworth on September 9 through 15th, 1238, the Queen, who had been thought barren, conceived a child. A few weeks later, to account for this pregnancy to her husband and the world, the Queen paid a physician who prescribed a herbal tea and prayers at the tomb of Saint Edward - with pregnancy to be the guaranteed result. And indeed, seven months later, a hearty full-term boy-child was born, to be Edward I, so named for he obviously was the result of Saint Edward's miracle - at least so King Henry and all England believed at the time.

Simon was King Henry's closest friend at this time -- until Henry seems to have been disabused of his faith in the saint's responsibility for the birth. The occasion was the Churching of the Queen, an event held to welcome the Queen back into the Church after the lying-in and birth. The ceremony was preceded by the Queen's first confession since her pregnancy was known, and she made that confession to the Archbishop of Canterbury - Simon's enemy who had even traveled to Rome to block his marriage to the nun.

The 13th century Chronicler Matthew Paris reports on the Churching with the precision of an eyewitness. Henry nervously paced back and forth across the dais as the Queen trembled at the altar. Simon arrived late with his wife. Seeing him, the King halted the proceedings, shouting, “So, you do dare show your face here, among decent Christians!” Simon fled, but was evicted by the King's bailiffs from the grand mansion Henry had lent him for the summer.

Returning to the church with his wife, infant son and baby nurse, Simon went forward through the parting crowd and knelt, weeping at Henry's feet, begging forgiveness. “Forgive you!” Henry shrieked. “My friend! Always so ready to serve! It seems your serving knows no end! You seduce…”

But Henry desperately needed this heir to curb the maneuverings of those who would overthrow him to put his far more capable brother Richard on the throne. He curbed himself, and accused Simon of seducing his sister the nun and bribing Rome to relieve her of her vows. Old news resolved more than a year past. He added a few more complaints about debts, also already settled, before he collapsed in tears into the waiting arms of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Simon fled for his life. So began a career that was eventually to make him the people's champion, founder of Parliament and creator of modern democracy. He was hailed as the Angel of the Apocalypse, bringing in the New Millennium that would see the Church, kingship and nations dissolve and a single World Order take form, guided by the common man through the power of the vote.

From his beginnings, no one could have seemed less likely than Simon de Montfort to come to such an end.

Katherine Ashe is the author of :

Montfort The Early Years 12229 to 1243

Montfort the Viceroy 1243 to 1253

Montfort The Revolutionary 1253 to 1260

Montfort The Angel with the Sword 1260 to 1265

Simon de Montfort: The Early Years is FREE on Amazon Kindle from February 11th through 15th, 2012.

Note by Katherine Ashe: Standard histories credit Henry III as the father of Edward I, ignoring the bill for the physician with the magic tea, recorded in the Great Roll of the Pipe for November 1238; the seven month pregnancy, which Henry himself believed was such a miracle that he renovated Saint Edward's tomb in gratitude; and the murderous attitude Henry had thereafter toward Montfort and, periodically, toward Edward. As for Henry's well-recorded accusations at the Churching, they're lightly dismissed by historians as mere madness. No one but myself, it seems, has taken the trouble to investigate the ancient Churching ritual, to find that it was preceded by a long delayed confession, and would, in the case of the Queen, be made to the officiating Archbishop.

Some historians, sensing doubt, claim Edward was clearly a Plantagenet because he had inherited deformities that ran in the Plantagenet line. They are confusing him with his hunch-backed brother Edmund Crouchback, who probably was Henry's son, for Henry went so far as to hock the Crown of England to gain the Crown of Sicily for him. Edward, called Longshanks, was extraordinarily long of limb, like the Montforts.

It was believed by many, in the 13th century, that Edward was Montfort's natural son. If so, then the royal line returned from the Montforts to the Plantagenets with Henry Bolingbroke, who was descended of Edmund Crouchback on his mother's side. The Tudors, however, proudly claimed direct descent from Simon de Montfort through his daughter Eleanor, who was wed to Llewellyn the Last, and whose daughter Katherine, in her marriage to the prince of southern Wales, united north and south under a single Welsh ruling house. Modern scholars don't think Owen Tudor had quite so fine a pedigree, but Henry VIII, on his family tree in Winchester Hall, blazed large the name of Simon de Montfort.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Award: Most Adorable Historical Trivia Posts Ever

I am endlessly amused at the fun posts put up by Grace Elliot on her blog-with-no-apparent-title. Therefore, I am creating the award Most Adorable Historical Trivia Posts Ever. It is awarded to Grace and had no other contenders.

Grace is the author of A Dead Man's Debt, Eulogy's Secret and Cat Pies: Feline Historical Trivia.

Purchase Cat Pies

Grace's Nameless Blog

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Going Macaroni

by Tim Queeney

“Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni”

This bouncy song from colonial America is now more apt to be sung by children in elementary school. At the time the song was written in the 1760s, however, it was used by British army officers to mock the crudely-dressed American men of the colonial militia. British officers, in America to fight in the French and Indian War, saw Americans as unsophisticated rubes who thought the addition of a feather to their ragged tricorner hat was sufficient to transform them into fashionable fellows.

But what does Italian pasta have to do with sophistication? The macaroni reference comes from the informal group of young men in London who had been on the grand tour of Europe and were said to indulge in their love of Italian pasta, a food largely unknown in England. These fashionable fellows were said to belong to an informal “macaroni club” as they would dub items of high fashion as “very Macaroni.” The term was the eighteenth century version of “cool.” Thus, the song laughs at the rude American attempting to become fashionable with a feather.

Clothes are said to make the man and in my novel George in London my characters George and Darius find themselves in cosmopolitan London, accompanying their very “macaroni” aristocratic German business partner, the Baron Mowenholtz. Naturally, the simple clothes the pair have on their backs when they arrive in the capital simply won’t do. George wears a very plain suit of brown homespun and worn boots, while Darius, a mariner, wears mariner’s work clothes called “slops”-- short, wide linen pants to mid-calf, a striped linen or cotton shirt and perhaps a round, low-crowned hat or wool cap. The Baron wants them to present a prosperous image, so he brings the pair to his fancy tailor. With their new-found monies, George and Darius buy themselves somewhat more “macaroni” outfits:

“My new suit of clothes was composed of a dark green wool coat with buff waistcoat and sedge green breeches, a white linen shirt, white wool hose and brown cowhide shoes with brass buckles. My cheap, bob wig was replaced with a proper rig with a cue and ribbon. A buff tricorn hat and canary neck cloth finished me most pleasingly. As my brothers in New York would say, 'I be smokin’ sharp.'

"The baron also chose well for Geo: a dark blue bombazine silk coat with crimson facing, basket buttons and crimson-piped mariner’s cuffs, a crimson waistcoat with silver filigree embroidery and silver buttons, a crimson cravat, dark blue velvet breeches with white linen hose and silver-buckled black dogskin shoes. On his head Geo now flew a well-made horsehair buckle wig and atop it rode a dark blue Kevenhuller hat with a spray of eagle feathers.”

George digs more deeply into his pocket for his new clothes, choosing silk, silver and velvet. In a day when most men wore wigs, George purchases a fancy “buckle wig” and tops it with a fashionable, broad-brimmed style of chapeau a tricorne called a Kevenhuller. Naturally, an American to the core, he finishes his ensemble off with some feathers stuck in his hat -- very “macaroni!”

Tim Queeney’s book George in London the newly discovered tale of 19-year-old George Washington’s adventure in London seeking his fortune is available at Amazon for Kindle and at Barnes&Noble for Nook