31 October 2008

Weekly Announcements - 31 Oct 08

Carrie Lofty's article "The Trials and Triumphs of Unusual Historicals" was published this week in the RWA's Romance Writers Report. You can read the article here.

If you're a new reader joining us for the first time after seeing the article, welcome! Our readership stats have doubled since this time last year, so we hope interest in unusual historicals is growing!

To our new readers, the site schedule is as follows: themed historical posts on Monday-Wednesday; excerpts on Thursday; announcements on Friday; and interviews with book giveaways on Sundays. You can see the calendar of our upcoming posts and guest spots here. Check it out and see if your favorite unusual historical author will be interviewed soon. If you have suggestions about who to interview, or if you're an author who writes unusual historicals, please email Carrie.

***

In addition, Carrie has just posted her November contest. Win a $25 gift certificate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, plus a copy of WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS when it's released on December 2.

***

Texty Ladies will be featuring a four-part workshop on plotting by Jacquie Rogers starting Monday, November 3rd, and lasting all through the month. Plot your book and win a prize!

Also, the Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues pet pictures contest final round begins November 1st, so drop by Jacquie's contest page and vote for your favorite!

***

Although it's not a historical, we're excited for Jean Adams as she releases A PLACE OF HEALING this week through The Wild Rose Press. Here's the blurb:
Holly Spicer has vengeance on her mind. She wants to get the men who murdered her partner and she'll see it through even if it kills her. She travels to a secluded beach to calm her mind and plan her revenge.

Sexy psychologist turned movie star, Adam Benedict, is determined to stop her. He must call on his old training to keep the courageous cop alive. But nothing, not even Adam's love can stop her.

Can Holly's troubled soul find peace? Can she find her healing place in Adam's arms?
***

Anna C. Bowling's Orphans in the StormAnna C. Bowling's March 2009 release ORPHANS IN THE STORM has a gorgeous cover. Here's the blurb:
The Hidden Countess: A black robe brought Jonnet Killey to the Isle of Man and a black robe would take her away to the noble English family she has never known.

The King's Man: All Simon Burke wants is to carry out his mission to return Jonnet to her birth mother and secure the funds to help finance Charles Stuart’s return to British soil.

An Adventure in Exile: A new life awaits Jonnet, with a mother on the brink of madness and a treacherous uncle who will stop at nothing to keep Jonnet's inheritance to himself. While the end of exile nears, danger mounts. Can Simon and Jonnet depend on their newfound love to sustain them while the storm of treachery rages around them?
***

THE BORROWED BRIDE by Elizabeth LaneJoin us Sunday when our guest author will be new Unusual Historicals contributor Elizabeth Lane. Elizabeth will be talking about her latest release THE BORROWED BRIDE, set in Colorado in 1899.

***

We'll also draw the winner of Terry Blain's KENTUCKY GREEN. There's still time to leave a comment for your shot at winning!

***

Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie. See you next week...

30 October 2008

Excerpt Thursday: Elizabeth Lane

Thursdays on Unusual Historicals means excerpts! Here's one from Elizabeth Lane's newest release from Harlequin Mills & Boon, THE BORROWED BRIDE, set in 1899 Colorado.

Elizabeth will be doing a Q&A and a giveaway on Sunday, so make sure to stop back.

***

Dutchman's Creek, Colorado,
March 2, 1899

Hannah felt the approaching train before she heard it. Her fingers groped for Quint's as the platform quivered beneath her feet. A mournful whistle pierced the rainy distance.

"It's coming!" Quint strained toward the sound like a tethered hunting dog, eager to be loosed and running. Hannah shivered beneath her shawl as the cold March wind whipped along the platform. Any second now, she would see the gray-white plume rising into mist above the bare cottonwoods. All too soon, the train would be pulling into the station. When it pulled out again, Quint would be waving goodbye from the window of the passenger car.

She gazed at his clean-chiseled profile, memorizing every feature--the chestnut curls that tumbled over his forehead, the tiny bump on the bridge of his nose, the alert hazel eyes, fixed now on the distant curve of tracks where the train would appear. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.

It wasn't fair, Hannah thought. Quint was happy, and her own heart was on the verge of shattering like a mason jar dropped onto a stone floor.

Hannah had loved Quint Seavers for as long as she could remember. They'd been sweethearts since their school days, and the whole town had expected them to marry. So why couldn't he have just let nature take its course? Why had he gotten this crack-brained urge to run off and seek his fortune in the Klondike gold fields?

At first she'd hoped it was just a whim. But the Klondike was all Quint had talked about for the past year. Only one thing had kept him in Dutchman's Creek. His older brother Judd had joined the Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and gone off to the Spanish American War, leaving Quint behind to tend the family ranch and look after their invalid mother. But that was about to change. After four months with the Rough Riders and five months in a Virginia military hospital, Judd was coming home. He'd be arriving on the train that had just appeared around the distant bend--the train that would be taking Quint away.

"Do you think he'll be changed?" Edna Seavers' white hands gripped the woven cane arms of her wheelchair. A cheerless wisp of a woman clad in widow's black, she'd been wheeled around in that chair for as long as Hannah could remember.

"War changes everybody, Mama," Quint said. "Judd's been through a bad time with his wounds and the malaria. But he'll come around once he's been home a while. You'll see."

"I wish it was you coming home and Judd leaving." Mrs. Seavers had never hidden the fact that Quint was the favorite of her two children. "Why do you have to go anyway? You're too young to go rushing off on your own."

Quint sighed. "I'm twenty-one, Mama. You promised me that I could go when Judd came home. Well, Judd's coming. And I'm going."

Hannah glanced from Quint to his mother, feeling invisible. She'd been Quint's girl for years, but Edna Seavers barely acknowledged her existence.

The train whistled again, its shrill voice a cry in Hannah's ears. She shifted her weight, conscious of the raw ache between her thighs. Her mother had lectured her about men's appetites and made her swear, with her right hand on the Bible, that she would keep herself from sin. But last night with Quint, in the darkness of the hayloft, her good intentions had unraveled like a torn sweater. She had given herself willingly. But the act had been so awkward and painful that when Quint had moaned and rolled off her, she'd been secretly relieved. Later that night, in the room she shared with her four younger sisters, Hannah had buried her face in her pillow and wept until there were no tears left.

Pistons pumping, the engine glided into the station. Half-glimpsed faces flashed past in the windows of the passenger car. For an instant Hannah held her breath, as if she could will the train to keep moving. Then the mail sack thumped onto the platform. The brakes moaned as the line of cars shuddered to a full stop.

There was a beat of silence, then a stirring inside the passenger car. A door swung open. The lone figure of a tall man in a drooping felt hat emerged onto the step. Veiled by misting rain he moved down onto the platform.

Hannah hadn't known Judd Seavers well. Eight years Quint's senior, he'd been too old to be counted among her playmates. She remembered him as a taciturn young man with somber gray eyes and hands that were always working. In the years Hannah had been coming around the Seavers place, he'd shown no more interest in her than Edna had.

Now he walked toward them, where they waited under the shelter of the eave. He moved slowly, heedless of the rain that beaded his tan coat and trickled off the brim of his hat. A battered canvas field bag, the sort that a soldier would carry, dangled loosely from one hand. He looked old, Hannah thought. Old before his time. Maybe that was what war did to people.

But why was she thinking about Judd? Minutes from now, Quint--her Quint, the love of her life--would be gone. Certainly for months. Maybe for years.

Maybe forever.
***

Judd clenched his teeth against the pain that shot through him with each step. Most of the time it wasn't so bad, but the long, jarring train ride had roused every shard of metal that the doctors had left in his body. He was hurting like blazes, but he wasn't about to show it. Not with his mother and brother looking on.

The nurse had offered him laudanum to ease the trip. Judd had turned it down. He'd had enough opiates to know what they could do to a man, and he'd sworn he was finished. Still, sitting up those long nights with the rhythm of iron wheels rattling through his bones, he'd have bargained away his soul for a few hours of relief.

But never mind all that, he was home now, walking down the platform through the soft Colorado rain. Home from the war with two legs, two arms and two eyes. He could only wish to God that some of his friends had fared as well.

***

©2008 Elizabeth Lane. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information, go to E-Harlequin.

29 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: From Empire to Commonwealth (The Short Version)

By Sandra Schwab

It is somewhat ironic that in the same century in which the British Empire reached the peak of its power, the slow process of its dismantling began as well. In a series of wars during the Victorian age Britain extended its empire until it had become the country on which the sun never sets. But such expansion of its territories came at a cost – and some considered the price to high. Especially towards the end of the century disillusionment spread. This is expressed in Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Widow at Windsor," in which the Queen is regarded as a spider which devours the male of the species:

Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
For 'alf of Creation she owns:
We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame,
An' we've salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars! – it's blue with our bones!)
The vast empire became more and more difficult to manage and the problems only increased in the twentieth century, when national movements grew in colonies throughout the empire and strove for independence for their countries.

In 1839 Lord Durham, the Governor-General of British North-America, recommended limited self-government for what is now Canada. The idea of "responsible government" spread quickly, and some colonies (such as parts of Australia, New Zealand and Cape Colony) were eventually allowed to manage their own affairs under governors appointed by the mother country.

In 1867 three of the colonies of British North-America joined in a confederation and were granted a new status within the British Empire: they were now known as the Dominion of Canada, and became increasingly independent from the UK. This process was repeated in other parts of the empire, namely in those with a larger (former) European population: for example in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These dominions were often referred as the British Commonwealth.

The independence of the dominions was recognized in the so-called Balfour Declaration of the Imperial Conference, which stated that:
They are autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any respect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
This relationship between dominions and former mother country was then formalised in the Statute of Westminster of 1931.


After WWII more and more colonies gained their independence, until the Colonial Office was finally abolished in 1966. With that, the British Empire officially ceased to exist, even though there are still dependent territories such as the Cayman Islands or Saint Helena.

28 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: I Was 11 During the Franco-Prussian War...

By Jennifer Linforth

I was eleven when I saw the first wrinkle of worry crack the well-crafted mask of indifference that was my brother's face.

All my younger years my brother, Philippe Georges Marie, the Comte de Chagny, was in charge. A philanthropist, womanizer and pillar of Paris, an outrageous risk taker and man of irreproachable conscience and heart—he was always smiling, always in control never--fearful.

Never, until the echo of Prussian boots fell upon the muddy streets of Paris, dull against the cobbles yet echoing loudly the change that was to come. The eighteenth of January was the day a new German empire was declared at Versailles, a place of revelry for my brother and his kin, a place where I, as the Vicomte de Chagny, longed to one day roam.

I would not be roaming there during the winter of my eleventh year.

The comte tried to explain to me best he could why several enormous armies were established in France's provinces--this in light of the German blockade of Paris. All I knew was I could not go to the city I so adored as a child. I could not taste youthful pleasure in the seat of a salon. I could not dine at my favorite cafés. My estate became my prison. Chateau de Changy became a tomb as we avoided being seen outside its marbled walls. The French troops were marching toward Paris, I was told, to attack the Germans from all sides.

The Germans were ill-pleased. They bombarded my beloved city, which only tightened our French resolve. "We will prevail, mon frere." My brother's words were the only thing keeping my youthful and rash head from leaping upon my horse and joining the ranks. Within a few weeks time war broke out across my country as the German armies lay scattered--for they were not prepared for an occupation the of the whole of France.

I thought we had prevailed. How wrong I was. My eleven-year-old mind could not comprehend the months that had passed since January, and by October 10th fighting erupted near Orléans. I remember the wrinkles deepening upon my brother's brow as he received word of the battle from Duc de Orléans. Would Chagny be next? The Germans were victorious as first--making my heart sink like a hunk of lead--until word came that my countrymen were triumphant at Coulmiers. At last! A light had cracked in the gloom of this war and November looked to belong to France. But the Germans--well-trained, numerous, with their needle guns--joined their forces from north to south and my countrymen abandoned Orléans by bleak and white December.

War continued until January of 1871. Paris was starving, innocent people--unprivileged, like I--were left in the cold streets, and my brother's ami, Jules Favre, traveled to Versailles to discuss peace with Bismark.

By now, I was approaching my twelfth year, and Bismark was a name I hated.

France was victorious in these talks--to a degree. Bismark permitted food convoys to enter Paris and I was left slightly guilty, for my belly was never empty through all this. Chagny had is secret stores--for didn't all nobility have secrets kept from the coffers of their governments? Bismark placed conditions on this aid--the Government of the National Defense was to surrender key fortresses outside of Paris to his Prussian army. Opposed, but realistic they could not defend Paris without their forts, the Government gave in. Our president resigned. Favre took over.

He surrendered two days later...

It would not be until 10th May that the Treaty of Frankfurt was signed and the war ended. Yet it would not be over not for those with titles to our name.

Paris was changed. Our government was changed. I watched The Commune rise. I avoided the dungeons, the anger, and the resentment of the lower class thanks to my brother. As I grew into my title, my title would grow to a fossil of a bygone era thanks to the first dull echoes of Prussian boots on muddy cobbles.

Many years later I would see the Communard dungeons deep below in the cellars of the Opera Garnier. I would not be placed there by the lower class Parisians resentful of my titled name. I would be shackled and chained there by a deviant madman--a Phantom of the Opera. But that is a story for another time. Until then, I would leave my legacy carved on the cold stone walls....

R. C.

It was then, the first wrinkle of worry cracked the well-crafted mask of indifference that was my face...

~Raoul Jean-Paul Marie, Vicomte de Chagny.

27 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: Colonising Australia

By Anne Whitfield

In 1770, Englishman Lieutenant James Cook charted the Australian east coast in his ship HM Barque Endeavoir. Cook claimed the east coast under instruction from King George III of England on 22 August 1770 at Possession Island, naming eastern Australia 'New South Wales'. This southern land would prove to be a dumping ground of England's unwanted--it's convicts--in an attempt to lessen the overcrowding of their jails.

The first European settlement in Australia was at Sydney Cove in New South Wales. Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet, comprising 11 ships and around 1,350 people, arrived at Botany Bay between 18 and 20 January 1788. However, this area was deemed to be unsuitable for settlement and they moved north to Port Jackson on 26 January 1788, landing at Camp Cove, known as 'cadi' to the Cadigal people. Governor Phillip carried instructions to establish the first British Colony in Australia.

The First Fleet was under prepared for the task, and the soil around Sydney Cove was poor. The young colony relied upon both the development of farms around Parramatta, 25 kilometres upstream to the west, and also trading food with local Aboriginal clans. The Second Fleet's arrival in 1790 provided badly needed food and supplies; however the newly arrived convicts were too ill, with many near to death, to be useful to the colony.

The Second Fleet became known as the 'Death Fleet'--278 of the convicts and crew died on the voyage to Australia, compared to only 48 on the First Fleet. The colony experienced many other difficulties, including the fact that there were many more men than women--around four men for every woman--which caused problems in the settlement for many years.

Between 1788 and 1850 the English sent over 162,000 convicts to Australia in 806 ships.

26 October 2008

TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE Winner!

We have a winner for Lynna Banning's TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE giveaway:

LEX!

Contact Lynna to give her your address. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Guest Author: Terry Blain

Happy Sunday to you! This wee we welcome author Terry Blain, whose first book KENTUCKY GREEN is being reissued by Wings E-Press. As Kentucky Dream this story finaled in the Golden Quill contest in both Best Historical and Best First Book category, winning Best First Book.

***

Kentucky Green by Terry Blain
In 1794, April Williamson, a young Philadelphia widow, is determined to return to her childhood home of Kentucky. She refuses to let her fear of Indians or the hazards of the journey deter her. She coerces Dan McKenzie, a civilian army scout, into escorting her although he believes the frontier is no place for a woman. As the son of a half-breed, Dan's only concern is to see the fighting between the Indians and the settlers stop. Amidst the dangers and the hardship of the journey, Dan and April fall in love. But a dark secret in Dan's past means April cannot be his.
***

What's so unusual about KENTUCKY GREEN?

It's the more the time frame, 1794, than the frontier stetting. It's after the American Revolution, but before what most people think of when they think of the words "frontier" and "the west" which conjure up visions of the Great Plains west of the Mississippi. But for the early settlers, the western frontier was the uncharted wilderness beyond the eastern tidewater, the land first glimpsed by frontiersmen such as John Finley and Daniel Boone. This was the first wave of the western expansion by the white settlers. And from the point of view of the Native Americans, an invasion of there territory.

Why did you choose this time and place?

Ahhh... The time period just spoke to me. I think it's the idea of the frontier, where it took a man and a woman working together to settle the wilderness and make home and family. Which is a lesson that Dan and April learn. And, now that I think about it, it's probably because of my family.

What do you mean by your family?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a large, extended Midwest family with a rich oral tradition. I remember sitting on the front porch listening to my grandparents tell stories of when they were children, and telling to stories their parents told them. This is where I got my love of history. I like to think that some of my ancestors lived just down the road from Dan and April.

How does the history figure in your story?

Well, since this month's theme on Unusual Historicals is Expansion and Invasion, it fits right in. The colonial American desire to expand into these lands, and the British restrictions against such expansion, added to the desire for American independence. With the start of the American Revolution in 1776, early settlers west of the Appalachians were attacked by British-backed bands of Indians. In the decade that followed end of the Revolutionary War, people wanting their own land swarmed into the newly acquired Northwest Territories. Both Dan's grandfather and April's father were some of the frontiersmen who crossed the Appalachians to home stead in Kentucky.

But for every expansion, from the other side it's an invasion. The various Indian tribes did not take kindly to settlers who came in droves to settle the hunting ground that had been Kentucky. Forming a loose confederation, they turned to their traditional allies, the British who, in violation of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, still occupied forts in the Ohio Territory.

To make the Ohio Valley of Indians safe for settlers, President Washington sent expeditions in 1790 under Hammer and in 1791 under St. Clair. Both armies were defeated. Washington then gave the task to Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War hero. Taking time to discipline and organize the army, Wayne moved his Legion, toward the British forts.

In the character of Dan, the son of a half breed, I have a character who can look at both sides of the conflict between the settlers and the Indians. He's serving as a civilian scout for Wayne's army. He wants to see the conflict stopped before any more Indians are killed as he knows the westward expansion can’t be halted. Because he can see both sides, he's very conflicted.

What sort of research did you have to do?

Because of my degrees in history, I already was familiar with most of the political, social and economic aspects of the story. In my academic career I'd written a lot of term papers plus a huge pre-thesis for my Masters so I wasn't intimidated in by tackling a story of 90,000 to 100,000 words. What I really had to research was the costuming--since it's a romance chances someone's clothes are going to come off so you have to know what they are wearing to start. And I'm one who really loves research, so looking for any little detail I needed was fun.

What lead you to write romance?

I'd always wanted to be a history major since high school, and to me, a history teacher is a storyteller. So when I was teaching I had all this academic knowledge and everyone said "you should write a book." My excuse was that I wasn't the best typist in the world--then my husband bought a computer and so I had to write a book. So I took a class at the local university and I learned that the chances of selling are better if you choose a genre: like mysteries, sci-fi or romance.

Also, I think knowing the past in important. You know Koko the gorilla who learned sign language? When she signs "the past" she motions in front of her, when she signs "the future" she motions behind her, as we can see what in front (the past) but can't see behind us (the future). So how can we know where we want to go in the future unless we have some idea of our past?

I'd always read historical novels, and when I started reading romance I discovered the one of the elements in those historical novels was a strong romantic thread although they weren't labeled romance. And the romance element is the universality of any story. Regardless of time or setting, social customs, economic conditions, politics, wars, crusades or whatever, there is always the relationship between men and women to be explored.

Any final thoughts?

Thanks to Unusual Historials for letting talk about Dan and April's story. This was my first historical romance and I'm very glad that it's available again. For more information, please visit my website.

***

Thanks for stopping by, Terry.

You know the drill, readers. Leave a comment for your chance to receive a free copy of Terry's novel, KENTUCKY GREEN. Or you can answer this question: what attracts you (or does not) to a colonial or early American frontier setting? I'm curious, myself, why we don't see more of these...

25 October 2008

Weekly Announcements - 25 Oct 2008

This week's announcements include good news from RT and two small changes to our Unusual Historicals format. First, we now have a public calendar via our Yahoo group to let everyone know when authors will be posting or stopping by for a giveaway. Second, Thursday will now feature excerpts from our authors' works. Monday thru Wednesday will continue to be historical posts, Fridays or Saturdays for announcements, and promotional features with giveaways on Sundays.

***

WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS by Carrie LoftyCarrie Lofty received four stars from RT for her December Zebra Debut release, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. "Lofty debuts with an adventurous romp that's a new take on the Robin Hood legend. The leading man will win readers' hearts as only a bad boy can. Lofty writes adventure romance like a born bard of old."

Carrie will be talking about her debut and giving away a copy here at Unusual Historicals on November 30. You can read an excerpt here.

***

VIKING WARRIOR, UNWILLING WIFE by Michelle StylesMichelle Styles also received four starts from RT for her newest US release, VIKING WARRIOR, UNWILLING WIFE. "A family in conflict, an ambitious hero bent on vengeance and a bold woman hiding a secret quest for salvation combine for a heady, tension-filled, passionate sequel to Taken by the Viking."

Here on Unusual Historicals, Michelle will be discussing her debut and giving away a copy on December 7. You can read an excerpt here.

In addition, Michelle conducted a well-received workshop on writing romance at the Berwick-upon-Tweed library as the National Year of Reading writer in residence. She also launched the Haydon Bridge High School Reading for pleasure reading group, again under the auspices of the National Year of Reading.

***

MADRIGAL by Jennifer LinforthJennifer Linforth's debut novel, MADRIGAL, a continuation of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, is now available for purchase. Congratulations on this wonderful accomplishment, Jennifer!

Unusual Historicals will feature Jennifer and MADRIGAL on November 9, so be sure to stop by for your chance to win a copy. You can read an excerpt here.

***

THE SCORPION AND THE SEDUCER by Bonnie VanakBonnie Vanak will be signing copies of THE SCORPION AND THE SEDUCER, her Egyptian historical, and her new werewolf Nocturne, ENEMY LOVER, at the Altamonte Mall Center Court, 451 E. Altamonte Drive in Altamonte Springs, Florida, on Saturday, November 1, from 2-5 pm.

Meet Bonnie and 18 other romance authors and stock up on wonderful holiday reading. Barnes & Noble will donate 20% of proceeds from book sales to Central Florida's non-profit Adult Literacy League. Be sure to shop early, because the first 75 book buyers will receive a FABULOUS goody bag stuffed with free books (most of them autographed), bookmarks, postcards, pens, and chocolate. For more information, check out the Central Florida Romance Writers' website.

***

Join us tomorrow when our guest author will be Terry Blain. Terry will be talking about her novel KENTUCKY GREEN, set in the American frontier in 1794.

***

We'll also draw the winner of Lynna Banning's TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE. There's still time to leave a comment for your shot at winning!

***

Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie. See you next week...

24 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: A Cunning Plan

By Anna C. Bowling

Setting: Unspecified location, long ago. Two historical personages survey the world beyond their borders and debate what must be done.

First Historical Personage: Hey, look at that place over there.

Second Historical Personage: Nice and roomy. Think they'd mind if a few hundred of us moved in with all our stuff?

First Historical Personage: They might. They have their own stuff already, and I'm fairly sure they're using their houses.

Second Historical Personage: We like some of their stuff. Think they'd share?

First Historical Personage: Given the right incentive, possibly. Got any ideas?

Second Historical Personage: We have things that make them go "ow" if used properly.

First Historical Personage: They have owie things, too.

Second Historical Personage: Hmm.

First Historical Personage: Hmm.

Second Historical Personage: What if we asked nicely?

First Historical Personage: That might work if any of them speak our language.

Second Historical Personage: Do they?

First Historical Personage: What do you think?

Second Historical Personage: Probably not the majority.

First Historical Personage: Probably not. What we'd need is a universal language.

Second Historical Personage: Good luck with that one. Are you sure you don't want to use the owie things?

First Historical Personage: If we use our owie things, they use their owie things, and that can't end well.

Second Historical Personage: True, true.

First Historical Personage: So, the question is, how do we get them to let us move in a few hundred of our nearest and dearest (or least desirable, depending on our motives) in a way that could end well? I mean, isn't the whole invasion thing not weighted in their favor? Except for the "them" that fight back and keep us out altogether. Which, I might point out, would not end well for us.

Second Historical Personage: Ending well is a must. They have comely wenches.

First Historical Personage: That's it!

Second Historical Personage: What's what?

First Historical Personage: They have comely wenches, we have strapping young men. I know it's a rather simplistic view, but that's the genius of the whole plan.

Second Historical Personage: We have a plan? I thought we'd send in the barbarians....

First Historical Personage: No. No barbarians. Maybe a few who look like barbarians, at least before a decent bath.

Second Historical Personage: Bath? I shudder at the thought.

First Historical Personage: That might be one of the reasons you were asked to leave in the first place. Work with me here. We send in some outwardly rough specimens, preferably with tortured pasts, and they will seek out the comely wenches. Or the wenches seek them out. It can go both ways. Keep them in close quarters, and given enough time, they'll get to know each other as individuals and nature will take its course. Which will cause the parties involved to cut through the preconceived notions and things can indeed end well. Or well-ish. Depends on who's in charge of actually writing things down.

Second Historical Personage: But surely there will be some collateral damage.

First Historical Personage: Sadly, yes, but that can depend on the writers again, and it does leave the door open for sequels. Which will also end well. Even in the darkest of times, love does find a way to turn things around.

22 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: Peter I & the Ottomans

By Christine Koehler

Peter I of Russia is more known for bringing his empire into the modern world. For the creation of a great navy and reorganizing his army along European lines; for learning Western ways, and for building St. Petersburg.

More importantly to him, he sought a sea outlet. At the time of his reign (1682-1725) Russia had only one port, Arkhangelsk's access to the White Sea. The Baltic Sea was controlled by Sweden, the Black Sea by the Ottoman Empire. Peter chose the Black Sea, though he didn't believe he could face the Ottomans alone.

Though he went on a Grand Embassy designed to ally the European monarch with him in his campaign, none accepted. Advantageous to his failed Grand Embassy were two things: he learned more of Western society and studied shipbuilding in Holland to the extent of building ships for the Dutch east India Company.

In the 1695, he organized the Azov campaigns. The 1st Azov campaign began in the spring of 1695. Peter ordered his army of 31,000 men (including Don Cossacks)and 170 guns to advance towards Azov. Meanwhile, a second Russian army of 120,000 men, (including Streltsy and Ukrainian Cossacks) marched toward the lower reaches of the Dnieper with the goal of diverting the Crimean Khanate's attention.

The siege failed. Peter returned to Moscow by spring 1696 built the Azov Flotilla consisting of about 30 ships. Calvary (70,000 men) marched for lower reaches of the Dnieper. On April 23-26, 75,000 men advanced towards Azov by land and by the rivers of Voronezh and Don. Peter and his galley fleet left for Azov on May 3. On May 27, the Russian fleet (two battleships, four fire ships, 23 galleys, and smaller support ships) reached the sea and blocked Azov. On June 14, the Turkish fleet (23 ships with 4,000 men) appeared at the mouth of the Don.

A short battle later, where the Turks lost two ships, they left. Peter besieged Azov from land and sea, and by July 17 the Ukrainian and Don Cossaks seized of the external rampart of the fortress. The Azov garrison surrendered on July 19.

These campaigns demonstrated the importance of having a navy, and marked Russia's turn into a maritime power. Russia's success at Azov strengthened its positions during the Karlowitz Congress (1698-1699), which concluding the Austro-Ottoman War of 1683–1697 where the Ottomans were defeated at the Battle of Zenta, and favored the signing of the Treaty of Constantinople (1700), ending the Russo-Turkish War of 1686-1700. This treaty allowed Peter to declare war against Sweden for possession of the Baltic Sea.

Azov wasn't convenient for the military fleet, so Peter chose a more appropriate site on July 27, 1696 at Taganrog.

Sources:
History.Com
Wikipedia
NMM.UK
History Learning Site

21 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: Surrender or Die!

Bonnie VanakBy Bonnie Vanak

They chose death over colonization. Suicide over assimilation.

Leaper's Hill on the Caribbean island of Grenada is a peaceful, lovely cliff overlooking a tranquil turquoise sea. Don't step too closely or you might end up below on the craggy rocks like 40 Carib Indians did in 1651.

For many years, the island was inhabited by the Carib Indians. In 1638, the Caribs faced invasion by the French, who decided they wanted to stay. The war-like, fierce Caribs said, ah, no thanks and drove them away.

The French built a colony in Grenada in 1650, after buying property from the Caribs for knives, hatchets, glass beads and two bottles of brandy. Sure beats today's real estate prices. The Caribs must have decided the price was too low, or the French too annoying, or they didn't like the French brandy, because they engaged the French a year later. However, the French, who now had a stronghold on the island and wanted to expand their territory, decided they weren't going away.

Make us, the French said.

The Caribs could not. The French decided enough was enough, and they were going to wipe out the Caribs. No more brandy or glass beads. Time to colonize to the max. Eliminate the enemy for once and for all.

Against the odds, the Caribs fought. On the northern part of Grenada, forty of the last Caribs made the decision to die. Instead of surrender and assimilation, they went to the cliff and jumped to their deaths.

The French named the hill "Le Morne de Sauteurs," or "Leaper's Hill." They went back to drinking their brandy, enjoying the island's pristine resources and trying to stave off the British, who also thought Grenada was a cool place to roost.

Unfortunately for the French, the British persisted, and they didn't want glass beads or brandy. So the French, instead of leaping, gave the island to the British in 1762.

Standing on Leaper's Hill gives you a sense of strong awe. At least it did for me when I visited Grenada. I envisioned the forty proud, brave Caribs, desperate and empty of hope, facing down the French. Unwilling to surrender their island, unable to hold it.

Unwilling to assimilate and lose their culture. The tragedy is interlaced with a touch of romantic heroism.

As writers, we can use the themes of invasion, expansion and assimilation to explore in our books. We can use our imagination to give them a different spin and twist. The themes don't have to be literal. What about the invasion of a strict parent admonishing an heir to act the part so he can assimilate into genteel society after a long absence? Or a heroine forced to marry and assimilate into a new culture or status?

I use these themes in both my historicals and the paranormals. The Carib's fierce independence that nudged them into making such a drastic and life-ending decision reminds me of Jamie, the heroine in Enemy Lover, my November Nocturne.

Jamie is an outcast who will not join the pack and become the mate of a strong Alpha werewolf. For her, it is better to jump off the cliff of her own loneliness than to assimilate into the dangerous world of the Draicon.

It's only Damian's gentleness, his fierce protectiveness toward her and the demonstrations of his love that enables Jamie to see differently. In Jamie's case, she does surrender and it is a sweet victory for both.

A victory far sweeter than the fate suffered by the Caribs, whose legend lives on in their namesake, the Caribbean islands.

Have you ever used an invasion, expansion or assimilation theme in your book and how did it play out?

20 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: I Will Fight No More Forever

By Jacquie Rogers

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce:

I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are--perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.
The Nez Perce was a peaceful tribe willing to co-exist with the white settlers in present day Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon. The Walla-Walla Treaty of 1855 ceded 6.4 million acres of Nez Perce land to the United States, leaving 7.5 million acres that was promised to be off limits to all non-Indians.

But then gold was discovered in 1860 and the white settlers moved in, so in 1863 the United States imposed the Lapwai Treaty, dubbed the "Thieves Treaty" by the Indians, that took 6 million acres of the remaining reservation land. Needless to say, many of the Nez Perce weren't thrilled about being kicked off their ancestral homes.

The Nez Perce were divided into two factions: the Christian group, which sided with the whites; and the Dreamer group, also called the non-treaty Indians, who refused to acknowledge the new reservation boundaries. Chief Joseph and Chief White Bird were Dreamers and members of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce. White Bird was the war chief and Joseph was the administrative chief.

Growing unease erupted into violence in 1877. The Battle of White Bird Canyon was a decisive victory for the Nez Perce, second only to the Sioux victory at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The army lost 34 men; the Nez Perce lost none. But the Battle of White Bird Canyon spelled the beginning of a four-month 1,500-mile escape by women, children, and grandparents, pursued by the US Army, and led by Chiefs White Bird and Joseph.

Finally, with the children and women both lost and dying, Joseph surrendered to General Nelson Miles. Chief White Bird refused, and took a small band to Canada, where they settled in Saskatchewan with Sitting Bull's people, never to return home again.

Princess Keely, Star of Faery Special RomancesDown Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues

Myspace *** Bebo *** Faery World

Faery Special Romances *** See the book video
Royalties go to Children's Tumor Foundation, ending Neurofibromatosis through Research

Available now: Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues

19 October 2008

THE DRAGON EARL Winner!

We have a winner for Jade Lee's THE DRAGON EARL giveaway:

COLLEEN M!

Contact Jade to give her your address. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Guest Blogger: Lynna Banning

This week, we welcome Harlequin Mills & Boon author Lynna Banning, who is celebrating the release of her Spanish medieval romance TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE, available now.

***

TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE by Lynna Banning
Hardened, battle-weary warrior Reynaud has forgotten what delight a beautiful woman brings. On his return to Granada from the Crusades, he is drawn to Leonor despite his Templar vows, sensing that she can heal his hidden wounds. Leonor, however, is set upon her own dangerous path. Together they travel to 12th century Carcassonne and a tournament, each day growing closer and struggling to resist their forbidden passion.
***

Tell us about yourself and your new book TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE.
I write as Lynna Banning. This is my fifteenth published historical romance and the second in my medieval series set in the 12th century. My interest in the Middle Ages stems from college. The third in the medieval series is in the works.

I was born in Oregon and have a special interest also in the Old West. In fact, my first 13 books were westerns. One of these, THE ANGEL OF DEVIL'S CAMP, was a RITA finalist. I live now in the Santa Cruz mountains and welcome visits to my website. Personal notes can be sent to my email.

How did you start writing?
Essentially, I just tiptoed up to the high dive and plunged off. I started a novel as a challenge from a friend. I knew nothing about writing fiction, much less historical fiction, but I was sooooo bored at work as a technical editor that I started scribbling on coffee breaks and lunch hours and typing the mess into my home computer at night. I read all kinds of how-to books (James Frey, Oakley Hall, Gary Provost, etc.) and found an author friend to critique with. Bit by bit, a book was born.

How long before you sold a manuscript?
I sold my second manuscript, a western based on the life of my grandmother. Harlequin bought it and published it in 1996 under the title WESTERN ROSE.

What other things have you done, career-wise?
I worked as a waitress during college and I've taught high-school English and journalism. I work mostly as an editor.

What do you do when you are NOT writing?
I do a LOT of reading for research and for pleasure. Also I am taking harp lessons (my teacher says I'm the oldest intermediate student she's ever had), and I perform in a five-person medieval music ensemble. I play the piano and the harpsichord, recorders, cortholt, and a mean tambourine. I belong to a book club and I bake brownies.

What advice do you have for would-be writers?
Lots. First, try to write consistently, every day if you can manage--even ten minutes. Try not to let life get in your way, but don't force it if you have a migraine or your child has the measles. If you wrote one single page each day for an entire year, you'd have a 365-page novel. If you wrote two pages per day, you could do it in six months. You have to start somewhere.

Second, join the most advanced, toughest critique group you can find. You may suffer, but you will learn a lot from the experts. Try to find published writers in your particular genre.

Third, go to workshops, writing classes, writing groups. Nothing spurs you on, or adjusts perspective, or teaches you writing craft or characterization, etc. like classes and workshops. Read how-to books as well: Dwight Swain, Debra Dixon (Goal, Motivation & Conflict), Linda Seger, Syd Fields, Donald Maass.

How do you "balance" historical details with the ongoing story?
Mostly I don't. I love using the historical details to flavor-up my stories. My editor says, "Great--it feels like I'm actually there." Then she adds, "But the reader doesn't really need to know about the 1886 blizzard in Oregon or who was fighting whom in the 12th century."

What are some of your career highlights?
RITA nomination and Barclay Gold First Place Award for THE ANGEL OF DEVIL'S CAMP; Willa Cather finalist for THE SCOUT; Holt Medallion finalist for PLUM CREEK BRIDE.

Any final words of advice?
Just one: If you want to be a writer, you must write!

***

Reviews:

"TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE is rich in history and visual detail that will enchant and inform without being pedantic. Ms. Banning is a consummate storyteller who writes exquisitely. Detailed, sensual and very entertaining. Highly recommended." --Suzanne Barrett, WILD IRISH ROGUE

"Lynna Banning has a lyrical writing style. One of my favorite lines from the book is: 'One should not leave this life without knowing, at least once, the peace of another's touch upon one's soul.' She captures the medieval time beautifully and builds a story in which you become invested in the outcome." --Bookaholics Reviewer

"Lynna Banning seamlessly blends human emotion and historical conflict in ways that leave the reader craving more. This is a must read Historical Romance--a true keeper." --Marianne van Gelder

"TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE is set against the backdrop of the Crusades and Banning's tale is rich with historical research that brings the period to life. It's a romance to the core. And when I finished the last page, the story left me wholly satisfied." --Kathrynn Dennis, DARK RIDER

***

If you'd like the chance to win a copy of TEMPLAR KNIGHT, FORBIDDEN BRIDE, leave a comment or question for Lynna. A winner will be drawn from the comments next Sunday. Best of luck!

15 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: La Malinche

By Elizabeth Lane

That a small force of Spaniards, under Hernan Cortes, was able to conquer Mexico in 1519 was due to several factors. The first was an incredible stroke of luck. They arrived a time of transition in the Aztec calendar, when momentous events had been foretold. For a time the Indians believed them to be gods. Also, the ruling Aztecs had many enemies among the tribes they'd conquered. Cortes was able to unite these tribes against their overlords. Diseases brought by the Spaniards played a major role as well. But the real outcome of the conquest hung on the abilities of one remarkable woman--the woman christened Marina and known as La Malinche.

Much of her life story relies on legend. She was born the daughter of a chief into a tribe whose people spoke Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. While she was still a young girl her father died. Her mother remarried and gave birth to a son. Wishing her son to become chief, the woman sold her daughter to some traders, who, in turn, sold her to another tribe on the coast. These people spoke a different language, similar to the one used by the Mayans. Thus she grew up with a knowledge of two languages.

Her new tribe was among the first to meet the Spaniards. As a gesture of friendship, the chiefs presented the newcomers with a group of beautiful girls, who were promptly baptized, given Christian names, and passed around to the conquistadors to be their mistresses. Marina, as she was named, was given to Alonso Puertocarrero, one of Cortes's young lieutenants. Her abilities went unnoticed until after the Spaniards picked up a castaway from an earlier expedition. Geronimo de Aguilar, a monk had lived among another Mayan-speaking tribe and spoke their language.

Marina's value became clear when Cortes received a delegation from the Aztecs. Only Marina could understand their language. With her translating into Mayan for Aguilar, and Aguilar translating into Spanish, communication became possible. Cortes took her for himself, and Marina rapidly learned Spanish, so she could translate directly between Spanish and Nahuatl.

The story of the conquest is far too long to relate here. Marina remained at Cortes' side while the Aztec empire crumbled. During that time she bore him a son, whom he later took to Spain. When her usefulness came to an end, Cortes married her to Juan Jaramillo, one of his loyal soldiers. About 1527, few years after giving Jaramillo a daughter, Marina evidently died.

Mistress of the Morning Star by Elizabeth LaneMarina's pivotal role is still open to dispute. Some view her as a traitor who turned against her people (even though she had no choice in the matter). Others view her as a heroine who protected her people and prevented the conquest from being even bloodier than it was. She is the figure behind La Llorona, the legendary weeping woman of Mexico.

Marina was the subject of my very first novel, MISTRESS OF THE MORNING STAR, which was published in 1980. The book has been reissued by ereads.com and is still available.

14 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: Vikings in York

By Michelle Styles

When I first moved to Northumberland, my sister who speaks fluent Norwegian came out to visit. She was surprised to hear people speaking what she thought was Norwegian or another Scandinavian language but with a very bad accent. Suddenly, she realized they were speaking Geordie or the dialect of Northumberland.

Despite the defeat of King Harldur Sigurdson at Stamford Bridge in 1066, the traces of Viking occupation in Northumberland and Yorkshire live on--for example in place names such as Thorngrafton, Tyne, or any village ending in "by". "By" is simply the Viking word for farmstead. The suffix "thorpe" means outlying farm. Any street name ending in gate is also derived from the Viking--gata. It simply means street. So in Hexham you have Gilesgate, or in York, where the central streets are still fundamentally the same as when the Vikings were there, there is Coopersgate amongst of a host of other "gate"-named streets. Coopersgate literally means the street of the coopers or wood workers. Today, it is the site of the Jorvik Museum, where the sites, sounds and smells of Viking Britain are recreated.

How and when did it happen?

The earliest form of Viking activity started in 793 with the raid on Lindisfarne. During this phase, the Vikings simply raided and left, returning each winter to their homeland. However, as population pressure grew in Scandinavia due to good harvests and increased wealth, plus the consolidation of power, so the nature of the raids changed. While the Norwegians concentrated on consolidating their power bases in Northern Scotland, the Danes suddenly appeared to have realized how lucrative East Anglia could be. Armies began to build camps and overwinter. In 830, the Danes overwintered on the island of Thanet in the Thames. In 865, the Anglo Saxon Chronicles record the first payment of dane geld and then in the autumn, the Danes were back.

In 866, they moved north and on 1 November 866, as the citizens of Eboracum celebrated All Saints Day, the Vikings rode in and took the city unopposed.

Northumbria at the time was in the midst of a civil war--between Osbert and AElla--and they appeared to have completely missed the Viking threat. The Vikings set about fortifying the old Roman fort. On 21 March 867, Osbert and AElla laid seige to the Vikings and the Northumbrian army was soundly beaten. Eboracum became Jorvik and eventually that name was corrupted to York.

Under Viking rule, York doubled in size and became the largest trading city in England with a population of around 30,000. It was the main trading outlet and the archaeological evacuations undertaken mainly during the 1970s and 1980s have shed new light on the Vikings as traders, artists and craftsmen rather than just warriors. They have discovered a tannery for making boots, an ice skate manufacturer (the Vikings fashioned skates from bone), and workshops for combs and other household utensils. One very exciting find was a set of Viking pan pipes. Apparently, it is possible to produce music from the pipes.

It should be noted that Vikings, rather than insisting that the Church at York be sacked and disbanded, allowed the Church and the archbishop to continue their work...for the most part. In other words, the Vikings settled down and began to rule. And the third phase of the Viking Age began--settlement.

Direct Viking rule lasted until 954. The Earl of York was created in 960 and many of the early earls were Viking. It is not until William the Conqueror builds castles in York that its independence as a Viking trading centre is truly brought to an end.

Michelle Styles's next Viking romance will be published in North America in December: Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife.

13 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: Conquest of Spain

By Lisa Yarde

In the seventh century, Arabian invaders swept westward and captured North Africa in a bold bid for Islamic control of the Mediterranean. In 711, an army led the Berber general Tarik ibn Ziyad amassed on the shores of North Africa and looked toward a prize looming across the Mediterranean: Spain.

Map of Islamic expansion into Spain

Spain at the time was a decaying country under the fractured Visigoths. After the sudden death of the Visigoth King Wittiza, a rebellious, powerful chieftain called Roderick seized the throne and proclaimed himself king. Roderick's cruel suppression of regions that did not support him sealed his fate and doomed his kingdom to collapse. The sons of the late King Wittiza conspired against him, in addition to a Visigoth nobleman named Julian, who allegedly hated Roderick for the rape of Julian's daughter. The Visigoth rebels appealed to the Muslims of North Africa for assistance against Roderick. The governor of North Africa, Musa ibn Nusair had other plans for Roderick’s beleaguered kingdom.

In the year 710, Musa appointed a Berber leader Tarik ibn Ziyad, as his general. Tarik's goal was to sail for southern Spain. When he landed on a rocky outcrop on the coast, he gave his name to the region as "Jabal Tarik", the mount of Tarik, known by its modern name of Gibraltar. Under Tarik, the Muslim army crossed to Gibraltar in 711 and easily overran Roderick's crumbling Visigoth kingdom, moving quickly up from the coast to Cordoba and Toledo. They met with little resistance as they established control over the coastline. Many non-Muslims, especially the enemies of Roderick Jewish residents of Spain, welcomed the newcomers as allies rather than conquerors and aided them willingly.

Gibraltar, site of Tarik's landing

The Visigoths were caught by surprise. Roderick quickly went to the south with a small band of men. They were easily overwhelmed and defeated in an ambush and Tariq's men killed Roderick on July 19, 711. In the following year, Tarik's lord, Musa, joined the attack, launching a three-month siege at Seville before he moved on to areas now in modern-day Portugal. In the north, combined armies of Musa and Tarik took the provinces of Leon and Castile, reaching as far as the Bay of Biscay. For his victories, Tarik initially became the governor of conquered Spain. Within seven years, the conquest of the peninsula was complete. The Muslims renamed the new land "al-Andalus" from which the modern name for the southern region of Andalusia derives. Under Islamic rule, Christians and Jews were called "peoples of the book" which meant they were free to practice their religion. But, the Muslim rulers imposed financial penalties and sometimes persecuted their non-Muslim citizens, which meant mass conversions to Islam.

The Cordoban mosque

Determined to expand further in Christian Europe, the Muslims crossed into France and in a decisive battle at Tours in 732, King Charles Martel halted the northern advance. But Spain flourished as one of the centers of Islamic civilization, and remained in part under Muslim control until 1492 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella completed the Reconquista.

12 October 2008

NIGHT FALLS DARKLY Winner!

We have a winner for Kim Lenox's NIGHT FALLS DARKLY giveaway:

SONJA!

Contact Kim to give her your address. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Guest Blogger: Jade Lee

This week we're pleased to feature Jade Lee, best known for her Tantric-theme Tigress series, set in turn-of-the-century China. Her newest release is THE DRAGON EARL.

***

THE DRAGON EARL by Jade Lee
A Chinese monk striding down the aisle was the first shock at countess-to-be Evelyn Stanton's wedding. To watch him dispatch three groomsmen, unarmed, and to learn that he was white and the long-lost heir to the Earldom of Warhaven, was the second. He would be her husband?

After the slaughter of his family in far-off China, Jacob Cato found sanctuary. In a Xi Lin temple he learned to be strong, but now he had a grander goal: to reclaim his English heritage and the woman he'd left behind.

Revenge. It poisoned everything he'd learned, everything he'd done, and yet every fiber of Jacob burned for it--just as he burned for the beautiful but very English Evelyn. Long ago, the conspiracy to kill his family had stranded him, lost Jacob in the exotic East and made him unrecognizable to his countrymen...and women. He had not forgotten that past. It was to make peace that he had returned. The manner was yet to be decided.
***

Here's a steamy excerpt from very hot THE DRAGON EARL:

Jacob Cato--aka Jie Ke, monk of a Xi Lin temple--has returned to England to claim his heritage and his bride Evelyn. But she thought he was dead. In fact, she was saying her vows to his cousin when Jie Ke interrupted her wedding. Now her future is in shambles as Jacob's parentage is sorted out. Evelyn is furious, and yet her curiosity won't let her leave the man alone. Why is Jie Ke different? What do the monks of Xi Lin learn?

"You are too familiar, sir!"

"And yet you want it." His hand drew higher to the inside of her knee and began stroking circles higher on her thigh.

"Stop!" she gasped.

He stilled his hand, but his mouth came closer. It was the danger of the moment that excited her so. No one had ever dared boldly slip his hand up her skirt, his fingers dancing up her thigh. Christopher never did such to her. He wouldn't dare, even if she begged. And she would scream if any other man tried.

But Jie Ke was different. Whenever he was near, she felt the pulse of the storm, a fire in her belly, and the blustering whirlwind of power that obliterated all thought.

"Have you ever touched yourself, Evelyn?" he whispered against her lips. "In the secret of your bedchamber when the sameness of your days sets your mind to screaming, have you touched yourself then and lost your mind to the sensations?"

"Yes," she answered, her mind completely absorbed in the feel of his hand on her thigh. She shouldn't let him. But oh how her breasts ached and her belly quivered.

"Boys at the temple are no different. We touch ourselves, we stroke ourselves, we peer at the women doing laundry and stroke our organs until the rush overcomes us."

She swallowed. She knew about the rush, and she knew how short lived it was. Would it be different with a man? Would it be different with this man?

"Imagine if your breasts were bared to the moonlight. Imagine how it would feel if I flicked your nipple with my thumb."

Lightning would flash through her system. Bright sharp explosions of light and color would pulse behind her eyes. She knew because she had done it before.

"Spread your legs, Evelyn. I won't take your virginity, but I will let you know what it feels like to have a man's hand deep inside you."

She opened her eyes and met his gaze. Now was the time to decide. She could step away from him, she could obey the dictates of society and flee these sensations. Or she could trust him to do what she had desired for so many years now. Did she obey?

She widened her thighs. "Show me what a monk can do."

He pushed her folds open, he slid his thumb slow and deep all around her moisture. She felt each ridge of his fingertip, each callous as he pushed fingers and knuckles against her wet folds.

"The Chinese write poetry about the taste of a woman. They believe it will bring a man long life if he drinks daily."

She arched her brows. "That is ridiculous. There is no magic there. Only... Only..." Her thoughts splintered as his fingers began moving, slipping in and out through her folds, dipping deep inside her, only to draw out in exquisitely long strokes.

"I think I would like to know," he said as he shifted between her thighs. "I think I should like to taste a woman's essence."

She blinked, the sensual fog slowing her thoughts. "What?"

He shifted his hands, his movements abrupt. He slid his hands beneath her buttocks and lifted her up. She gasped in alarm, but retained enough sense not to cry out. She didn't dare risk someone hearing her.

She felt completely disconnected from the world. Her legs were high and open, her back flat on the ground. It was like the storm had upended her, as if the winds had tumbled her head over heals. How appropriate then that the rain began to kiss her inner thighs. How wonderful to feel the wetness of his mouth as he began to drink.

His mouth was large as it pressed to her center. His lips were wet, his tongue broad as he began long sweeps across her body. Each stroke built the thunder in her blood, each probe of his tongue shot lightning through her mind. She was adrift in the storm, unable to resist and completely consumed. And this was exactly what she wanted.

Suction and stroke, thrust and caress, his mouth did it all to her. Nothing was left untouched, and all of her was spread before him. The tension built within her belly. She was familiar with this, but with him, it was so much more. And this too he controlled, slipping lower on her body to drink her essence while the higher spot throbbed and cooled. Then switching; a quick circle or sudden thrust high and her legs would tremble, her mind blanked white in a lightning flash.

Yes! Oh yes!

He pulled back just a bit just enough to murmur against her thigh. "I will drink all of you now. Be careful not to scream."

She pressed the back of one hand to her mouth as she sometimes did in her bed. A whimper of hunger escaped anyway, but that only added to storm. His tongue was so perfect as it stroked her. Again and again--thick and hard--while her blood roared and her back arched. Again. One last...

Yes!

The storm claimed her. The buffeting contortions of body and breath combined into ecstasy. Oh yes... Oh! Too much! He continued to drink her, his tongue stroking and pulling and exciting whenever the contractions began to fade. On and on he went, while her mind grappled with reality and lost. Her body convulsed while he drank. She wasn't a storm anymore; she was lightning--bright, electric, and wholly white.

Then he stopped.

Thank God, she thought. Then, oh no. It is ending.

"I am sorry," he said in a hushed and reverent tone. "I could not continue without you screaming."

He would have continued? The very thought of remaining longer in that blindingly bright place was both terrifying and so wonderful that she smiled. Her breath was returning to normal, her body lay boneless and sated on the ground. He adjusted her skirt, stretching the fabric out to cover her demurely. Or as demure as she could be stretched out on the ground like a wanton.

"How do you feel?" he asked gently.

Wonderful. Expansive. Cold. The air was cold.

"The joy...it is fading, isn't it?"

She nodded, trying to hold onto the experience as long as she could.

"Search inside yourself, Evelyn, deep inside. Your body is content, but what of your mind? What of your heart?"

She frowned, irritated that he was pulling her away from that glorious blank place she had become.

"Does the bliss extend inside that deep? Or do you still know restlessness? A vague discontent that even the best experience of body cannot erase?"

She swallowed, slowly pushing up onto her elbows as she stared at him. "How can you know that?" she whispered. Everything he said was absolutely true. Deep in her heart, she was still unhappy. And she hadn't even known it until this very moment.

"That is what it means to be a monk, Evie. To know deep inside that there is an emptiness and to search eternally for the way to fill it."

She shook her head, denying everything he said. "It's not true," she whispered. "Monks are at peace. They are filled with...with holy God or something like that."

He shrugged. "Perhaps that is so. I believe it is so for the masters. But for me..." His voice trailed away, and she saw a bleakness in his expression. "I am still searching."

"But..." She didn't know what she wanted to ask. She looked at him, at the bulge beneath his robes, and the sprawled openness of her own body. "But I was satisfied. For a moment..." For many incredible moments. "I felt wonderful."

He nodded and his hand trembled on her thigh. "And I would feel it too, if I listened to the demands of my flesh. I could bury my organ within you and find the same mindlessness. But in the morning..."

She shook her head, not wanting to think of the consequences she would face in the morning.

"The dictates of society would be difficult enough, but there would be something much worse: the emptiness in my heart. Physical bliss is all consuming until it fades. And then I am left with a discontent all the more stark because the sex did not fill it. The body cannot ever fill the heart and mind."

The picture he painted was so bleak she almost cried out. "How can you stand it? To live in such emptiness?"

"We all live in it. We simply deny it, suppress it, throw ourselves into the body to hide from it. To be a monk..."

"Is to see the truth with clarity," she whispered, startled to realize that she understood him.

"And to search for a better answer." Then he pushed to his feet, adjusting his robes with a rueful grimace. She pulled her knees tight to her chest, making sure her skirt covered all of her. He bowed before her, deep and reverently. "Good night, Evelyn."

She grabbed his hand, unwilling to let him leave just yet. "Can we speak more of this tomorrow?"

His smile was strange—mysterious and so alien—but it was a smile nonetheless. "Of course," he answered. Then he was gone.

***

*fans self* Would you like the chance to win a copy of THE DRAGON EARL? Just leave a question or comment for Jade! We'll draw a winner next Sunday. Best of luck!

11 October 2008

Weekly Announcements - 11 Oct 08

Jennifer Linforth's trailer for MADRIGAL is now available here.

***

Lisa Marie Wilkinson's work in progress, "Forget Me Not," just won first place in the Utah RWA chapter's "Heart of the West" contest.

***

Christine Koehler is being published in December with a new e-publisher, Ravenous Romance. Under her pen name, Isabel Roman, the story is set in 1882 England. Congratulations, Christine!

***

Join us tomorrow when our guest author will be Jade Lee, best know for her Tigress series. She'll present excerpts of her two newest novels, DRAGONBORN (a fantasy romance) and THE DRAGON EARL (a spicy Regency).

***

We'll also draw the winner of Kim Lenox's NIGHT FALLS DARKLY. Leave a comment for your shot at winning!

***

Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie. See you next week...

09 October 2008

Expansion & Invasion: Organized Crime in Chicago

By Delia DeLeest

Big cities have always had crime, it goes with the territory, but Chicago seems to be famous for its links to crime of the organized variety. How did a nice, Midwestern cattle town become the Crime Capitol of the United States? The answer is relatively simple.

Prohibition, the "noble experiment", was thought by its proponents to be the savior of the sinful and the protector of the innocent. Instead, it gave organized crime a firm foothold it has yet to relinquish and ushered in a wave of illegal bootlegging and gang rivalry that took years for the city to recover from. Chicago was a prime candidate for organized crime. Its location, close to the Wisconsin northwoods and the Canadian border, along with its access to Lake Michigan, made importing illegal liqueur relatively easy. Besides, its government was already handily in the pockets of the city's criminals, making it simple to encourage justice to look the other way when encountering its less savory, though very powerful, characters.

When Prohibition began, the unrefuted crime boss of of Chicago was Big Jim Colosimo. He controlled prostitution, racketeering and all other forms of vice in the Windy City. Big Jim was famous for his fancy clothes and love of the opera. When his love of opera transferred itself to love of a particular singer, the trouble began. He left his wife and focused all his attention on the young woman who was to become the next Mrs. Big Jim.

Not only was his first wife neglected, but so was his criminal empire. Much to the frustration of his second in command, Johnny Torrio, he refused to see the great profits that could be gained by exploiting Prohibition by building up a bootlegging empire in the city. It was during this time that a young kid from New York, Alphonse Capone, made himself known to Mr. Torrio and became indispensable to the organization. Legend has it that when Johnny Torrio finally became frustrated enough with Big Jim to take action, it was Al Capone who assisted. Big Jim Colosimo was found shot to death on May 11, 1920.

With Big Jim out of the way, Johnny was in business. A very methodical businessman, Torrio's plan was to organize the scattered pockets of bootleggers who had been fighting for control of the city. By dividing Chicago up into different areas, each serviced by a different gang, in which he would be the leader, he felt that not only could they all become rich, but stop the infighting so they could all live to enjoy it. A wonderful plan that just may have worked, but for one thing, all of the crime lords he was attempting to organize, became crime lords for a reason, they were as crooked as the day was long. Despite Torrio's efforts and threats, the group was plagued by cheating and double-dealing.

As Torrio's enforcer, Capone tended to take a fight fire with fire approach and blood flowed freely down the streets of Chicago. Since Torrio's whole concept was to incorporate to prevent bloodshed, he and Capone were soon at odds as to how to keep their fellow gangsters in line. Torrio had taught Capone everything he knew, so it should have come to no surprise to anyone when Torrio was gunned down in his front yard one day, much like Big Jim Colosimo had been five years earlier.

Unlike Big Jim though, Torrio survived. The shooting was traced to The Northsiders, the Chicago gang led by Deanie O'Banion and his fellow Irishmen, though there is ample suspicion that Capone had something to do with it. Nevertheless, Capone, good right-hand man that he was, had a ten-man guard outside Torrio's hospital door during his recovery and, when Torrio decided that gangstering business was getting too dangerous and retired, Capone gladly took his place at the helm of Chicago's underworld.

Under Capone's leadership, Chicago came as close as it was going to get to being under one rule. He systematically eliminated the competition, peaking with the wiping out of O'Banion's Irishers during the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. His spree only ended when he was finally put away in Federal prison for tax evasion in the early 1930's.

Capone's been gone for years, but his legacy continues. Though organized crime in Chicago isn't as blatant as it was during its Prohibition heyday, its claws are embedded deep in the very fabric of America.