21 April 2017

New & Noteworthy: April 21

If you feel the need for some thrills and chills with your spring thaw, check out Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine's April issue. J. K. Knauss has a short story, "The Lake," set during the youth of Edgar Allan Poe. There's something for everyone in this issue! J. K. is also preparing for two exciting in-person events for her novel SEVEN NOBLE NIGHTS. On April 29, she will read a brief chapter and sign books at the library in Saint Helens, Oregon, as part of its Spring into Art event. May 3 will find her in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reading, doing Q&A, and signing at the Harvard Book Store. Please stop by and say hi if you're near either one of these bi-coastal events.



RUMORS AT COURT, Blythe Gifford’s third Royal Wedding story, is a May release from Harlequin Historical in the US and the UK. The print copy is available now. The e-version will be ready May 1. RTBookreviews gave it a 4-Star review, writing “delights on every level, from the sumptuous settings to the whispered…rumors spinning through the royal court.” The story is set in the 14th century, in the court of Edward III of England. 

The first two Royal Wedding stories are SECRETS AT COURT, which was a finalist for the National Readers Choice Award, and WHISPERS AT COURT, which placed first in the Historical/Regency category of the Book Buyers Best contest and finalled in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Historical category. For more information, visit blythegifford.com


RETALIO, the latest in Alison Morton's Roma Nova thriller series, is out on 27 April. The sixth in series, it concludes the trilogy started with AURELIA and INSURRECTIO. 
Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century. Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. Without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again. 
Look out for an excerpt on Alison's blog on 4 May, and an interview on 7 May. You can also watch the book trailer here.


Michelle Styles is taking part in the Conquer Me Instafreebie Giveaway, which features 12 Viking-themed adult romances. Her offering is a chapter from her novel SOLD TO THE VIKING WARRIOR.

In addition, her novel SAVED BY THE VIKING WARRIOR has just been published in Italian this month as Fra Le Braccia Del Guerriero. Congrats Michelle!

09 April 2017

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: TONY RICHES on HENRY – Book Three of The Tudor Trilogy

This week, we're pleased to welcome author TONY RICHES again with the final novel of his three-part Tudor Era series, HenryOne lucky winner will receive the novels in the series in Kindle format, which the author has kindly provided. Here's the blurb about the novel.

The final book in the best-selling historical fiction Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Henry Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.

Bosworth 1485: After victory against King Richard III, Henry Tudor becomes King of England. Rebels and pretenders plot to seize his throne. The barons resent his plans to curb their power and he wonders who he can trust. He hopes to unite Lancaster and York through marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth of York.

With help from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, he learns to keep a fragile peace. He chooses a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, as a wife for his son Prince Arthur. His daughters will marry the King of Scotland and the son of the Emperor of Rome. It seems his prayers are answered, then disaster strikes and Henry must ensure the future of the Tudors.

**Q&A with Tony Riches**

Our guest today is Tudor specialist Tony Riches, author of the best-selling Tudor Trilogy.

Where did the idea for writing the Tudor trilogy come from?
I began looking into the life of Owen Tudor, the Welsh servant who married a queen, and was surprised to discover his amazing story.  As my research progressed I began to collect fascinating details of the lives of Owen’s sons, Edmund and Jasper. I realised that if I planned it as a trilogy, Henry Tudor would be born in the first book, come of age in the second and become King of England in the final book.

Why do you think this is the first full-length novel about Henry Tudor?
Everyone from Shakespeare to Alison Weir has written about Henry, but this trilogy is the first time his full story has been told through historical fiction. Even at the Bosworth re-enactment you would hardly believe Henry was victorious, as ‘Ricardians’ outnumber Tudor supporters by more than ten to one. Schools and TV historians can’t wait to get on to Henry VIII and his six wives, and Henry has too often been dismissed as the ‘miserly’ king. The truth is, as so often the case, far more complex and his story deserves to be told.

What surprised you about the ‘real’ Henry Tudor?
Far from being ‘miserly’ I found Henry loved gambling with cards and dice and lost huge sums more often than he won. He also kept detailed records of who he’d played against (which included his wife, Elizabeth of York) and how much he’d lost. As well as lions and other dangerous animals, which he kept at the Tower of London, he kept a pet monkey, thought to be a marmoset, in his private chambers. (One day he discovered it had torn up his detailed diary, so there is a gap in his meticulous records.) I’m certain he loved Elizabeth of York but when the pretender Perkin Warbeck was finally captured, Henry was so enamoured of Warbeck’s wife, Lady Katheryn Gordon, he kept them both in his household – but wouldn’t let them sleep together. He also bought Lady Katheryn expensive dresses and she became a close companion and confidante, even after Henry had her husband executed!
  
What did you find most difficult about the research for this book?
Henry escaped to exile in Brittany at the age of fourteen and remained there until he sailed to take the throne with his invasion fleet at the age of twenty-eight. I struggled to understand how he spent those formative years (often described as ‘uneventful’) so decided to follow in his footsteps, all the way from Pembroke Castle to the remote Forteresse de Largoët, deep in the forest outside the town of Elven in Brittany.

The Forteresse de Largoët

Amazingly, I was able to climb the Dungeon Tower through a dark high stairway lit only by small window openings. Henry Tudor’s rooms were full of cobwebs and signs in French warned of a danger of falling masonry, but this first-hand research really helped me understand what Henry’s life there might have been like. Although it was called the ‘dungeon tower’, in subsequent research I discovered intriguing details at the National Library of Wales which suggest Henry Tudor enjoyed more freedom at this time than is generally imagined. The papers claim that, ‘by a Breton lady’, Henry Tudor fathered a son, Roland Velville, whom he knighted after coming to the throne.

What will you write next, now you’ve completed the Tudor trilogy?
I’ve moved on one generation of Tudors for each of the past three years, so thought it would be interesting to write about the life of Henry’s daughter Mary Tudor. Reputed to be a great beauty, Mary was only eighteen when she became Queen of France, married off by her brother Henry VIII to the fifty-two-year-old King Louis XII. I’m also looking forward to writing about her womanising second husband, one of the last true Tudor knights and Henry VIII’s lifelong friend, Charles Brandon. The Tudor trilogy may be completed – but the story of the Tudors continues! 


About the Author
Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.


07 April 2017

Strange Discoveries: Greek Fire

In the ninth century Emperor Leo of Constantinople wrote of Greek fire, “Such a weapon is fire prepared for siphons from which it is hurled with thunderous noise and smoke, burning down ships at which we direct it....” We know of Greek fire today because of its terrifying reputation among those who experienced the power of this incendiary weapon. The term developed during after the first Crusade in the twelfth century. The Byzantine Empire called the dangerous combustible substance 'liquid fire' or 'sea fire' because of the first usage in naval battles, where it burned on all surfaces, even water.
Credit for the invention has gone to a Jewish refugee fleeing Arab invaders, called Callinicus from Heliopolis of Syria, which is the region known today as Baalbek in Lebanon. Callinicus meant “bright victor” and is not likely to have been a personal name. At the start of Emperor Constantine IV's reign over Constantinople in 668, conflict began with an expanding Arab empire under Caliph Muawiya. When his son Yazid attacked Constantinople from the harbor in April 674, the Byzantines first used Greek fire against their enemies, the viscous liquid delivered from siphons mounted on the foredecks of fire ships. The Arabs must have been horrified at how rapidly flames spread, especially with exposure to water. After four years of repeated attacks, the caliph and emperor reached a truce.

Decades before, the Arabs had deployed their own combustion weapons as early as 630 with the use of red-hot clay balls like grenades that exploded on impact. Naphtha, or thick petroleum was known as highly flammable among the Persians whom the Arabs encountered. What made Greek fire such a potent weapon against them that they sued for peace with the Byzantines? The exact composition of chemicals in Greek fire remained a state secret within Constantinople such that any enemy who captured caches could not recreate the formula. Some sources say the“mixture was petroleum, sulfur, resin, and other components, which might include quicklime, were added to the former as thickeners.” Others believe saltpeter was the main component, the main cause for the explosive dispersal of squirting flames, and to the saltpeter, a mixture of sulfur, resin, and oil were added.
 In the centuries that followed, the devastation caused by Greek fire became legendary. The fleet of Igor, the prince of Kiev suffered its effects in 941. “...Stormy weather had changed to calm and the Greeks were able to throw fire. Stepping into the middle, they hurled fire all around them. Seeing this, the Russians began throwing themselves into the water, preferring drowning to being burned alive. Some of them, donned in heavy armor and carrying their shields, swam to the shore, but many sank to the bottom while swimming, and none of them had saved themselves except those who had reached the shore ….”

The Arabs adapted their own form of Greek fire, which they used in the Crusades, particularly at Godfrey of Bouillon's two year siege of Arsuf and King Baldwin I's blockade of Tyre. They also hurled it by hand from clay pots as in earlier periods, which shattered on impact. Their versions also varied; from naphtha mixed with olive oil and lime or tar, resin, sulfur and animal fat. The consequences remained the same. Battering rams and wooden siege towers went up in “...Unquenchable flames, surrounded on all sides and burnt with a great and unquenchable fire, along with a great part of the men, who had tried to shake off and put out the fire and were completely unable to escape.”

If water could not contain the flames of Greek fore, how did medieval armies counteract its devastation? From the Byzantine period, the Arabs learned how depriving a fire of oxygen could reduce the flames. The use of sand and stale urine reduced the violent strength of Greek fire. Arab doctors also knew the benefits of treating burns and preventing the occurrence of blisters with vinegar, which also became an effective tool against Greek fire. Its use as a weapon subsided with the development of powerful artillery, such as cannon, which led to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.


Sources: Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons by Konstantin Nossov (The Lyons Press – 2005), Creations of Fire by Cathy Cobb and Harold Goldwhite (Perseus Publishing - 1995) and Medicine in the Crusades by Piers D. Mitchell (Cambridge University Press – 2004)

Pictures are public domain, taken from Wikipedia. Video is from the History Channel's documentary series "Ancient Discoveries" in Episode 25 entitled Ancient Death Machines, available on YouTube.


Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. She is the author of two historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, The Burning Candle, based on the life of one of the first countesses of Leicester and Surrey, Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers before the Battle of Hastings. Lisa has also completed a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy, Sultana: Two SistersSultana: The Bride Price, Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree, and Sultana: The White Mountains, where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family. Her short story, The Legend Rises, which chronicles the Welsh princess Gwenllian of Gwynedd’s valiant fight against English invaders, is also available.

06 April 2017

Excerpt Thursday: HENRY – Book Three of The Tudor Trilogy by TONY RICHES

This week, we're pleased to welcome author TONY RICHES again with the final novel of his three-part Tudor Era series, HenryOne lucky winner will receive the novels in the series in Kindle format, which the author has kindly provided. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the series. Here's the blurb about the novel.

The final book in the best-selling historical fiction Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Henry Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.

Bosworth 1485: After victory against King Richard III, Henry Tudor becomes King of England. Rebels and pretenders plot to seize his throne. The barons resent his plans to curb their power and he wonders who he can trust. He hopes to unite Lancaster and York through marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth of York.

With help from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, he learns to keep a fragile peace. He chooses a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, as a wife for his son Prince Arthur. His daughters will marry the King of Scotland and the son of the Emperor of Rome. It seems his prayers are answered, then disaster strikes and Henry must ensure the future of the Tudors.

**Excerpt from HENRY – Book Three of The Tudor Trilogy**

New on Amazon UK  Amazon US and Amazon AU

April 1489
Reaching out with slender fingers, the latest gift from the King of Spain munched at the succulent grape as if it were an apple. Less than a foot high, with a long, thick tail, the monkey had brown fur except for a cap of black. It fixed Henry with a pleading stare and held out a hand for more.
He offered another grape, which it took and began to suck at the sweet juice. ‘Do you think it has too-knowing eyes?’ Henry smiled. ‘I feel it can read our thoughts.’
Elizabeth spoke in a hushed tone, as if frightened of alarming it. ‘Does it have a name?’
‘I thought to call him Rodrigo,’ Henry laughed at her surprised expression, ‘after our esteemed ambassador. I wonder if this little monkey has also been sent to spy on us?’
‘Will the ambassador not be... offended?’
‘He should take it as a compliment that I consider his name worthy for my new pet.’ Henry gave her a grin. ‘Others have given us presents of lions, yet I received a monkey as a gift from his master.’
‘You plan to keep it in our private apartments?’ Elizabeth frowned with concern as she watched Henry feed the creature another ripe grape.
‘It amuses me.’ He grinned at her discomfort.
Elizabeth studied the thin gold chain which ran from a leather collar around the monkey’s tiny neck to prevent it escaping. ‘It has sharp little teeth...’
‘I think Rodrigo is clever enough not to bite the hand that feeds him.’
‘The ambassador...’ Elizabeth lowered her voice so the ever-present servants could not overhear. ‘Has he made progress with his negotiations?’
Henry nodded. ‘It seems we’ve found a suitable princess for our son. I expect a considerable dowry—and if de Puebla’s word is to be relied on, Princess Catalina is a pretty girl and bright for her age.’
‘It must be difficult to be certain.’ Elizabeth looked doubtful. ‘I understand the princess is only four years old...’
‘Arthur is only two years old, yet you agree he’s as handsome as his father—and as quick-witted as his mother?’
Elizabeth smiled at the thought. ‘Of course, but then as you often remind me, he is a Tudor.’
‘Half Tudor, half prince of the House of York.’
‘And soon there might be another...’
Henry embraced her. ‘Elizabeth!’ He stared into her amber eyes. ‘You are with child again?’
‘God willing.’ She failed to prevent a giggle at his enthusiasm for the news.
‘I prayed for God’s blessing upon us yet it seemed to be tempting fate to ask for another child.’ His face became serious. ‘I haven’t forgotten the toll Arthur’s birth took on you.’
‘It is a small enough price to pay.’ A fleeting shadow drifted over her face, the fear of all parents, then the moment passed.
‘I will pray for your good health and that this time it goes easier for you. Now we must celebrate our growing family!’


About the Author
Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.