Monday, April 30, 2012

The Burning Candle: Cover Art & Copy help

My next title will make its debut this summer. Just got the preliminary cover art ideas from Lance Ganey, who I may have mentioned is brilliant, at one or fifteen million other intervals. The Burning Candle is the fifth of my covers that he's worked on. Lance has an incredible talent for turning my rough ideas and blurred images with horrible resolutions into something that always brings tears to my eye when I first see it. This time was no different.

Now, I need the blurb and YOUR help. Please tell me here, on Twitter or my Facebook page which, if any, of the following versions you find most appealing:

Version 1 

Willful. Passionate. Scandalous.
Isabel de Vermandois, the spirited descendant of  French kings and Russian grand princes, becomes the wife of Comte Robert de Beaumont in the eleventh century. He is a hero of the Norman victory at Hastings and a loyal counselor to successive English kings. As his young bride, Isabel enters the decadent court of  King Henry I. Long-buried secrets in Robert's past threaten to shatter her world, as does the passionate interest of William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey.  

Based on the life of a remarkable woman, the ancestress of medieval Scottish royalty and English nobility, with a legion of living descendants, The Burning Candle is a story of duty and honor, love and betrayal.    

Version 2

Wife. Mother. Lover. 
In eleventh-century France on the eve of the First Crusade, Isabel de Vermandois becomes a bride. Her marriage to Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan offers a desperate escape from her cruel parents. But is the match the key to her salvation or damnation? 

When Isabel discovers Robert is hiding terrible secrets that could destroy their marriage, she must learn painful truths and gain the strength to survive. Can she also find the courage to love again? 

Based on the life of a remarkable medieval woman, The Burning Candle, is a story of duty and honor, love and betrayal.

Version 3

Love is for those who have choices. She has none.      
In eleventh-century France on the eve of the First Crusade, Isabel de Vermandois becomes the wife of a man old enough to be her father. He is Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan. A hero of the Norman victory at Hastings and loyal counselor to successive English kings, Robert is not all Isabel had expected. Cruel and kind by contrast, he draws her into the decadent court of King Henry I. As Robert's secrets are unraveled, Isabel finds her heart torn in two. Her duties as a wife and mother compel her, but an undeniable attraction to the young William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, tempts her. In a kingdom where love has no sway over marital alliances, Isabel must choose where her loyalties and her heart lie. 

Based on the life of a remarkable medieval woman forgotten by time, The Burning Candle, is a story of duty and honor, love and betrayal.

Still undecided? Join the club. While you're considering the versions of the blurb, here's that cover:

P.S. If the couple looks familiar, that's Francisco Hayez's Il Bacio (The Kiss) dated 1859, from artwork available in the public domain.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Burning Candle: Isabel de Vermandois

Isabel de Vermandois, the heroine of The Burning Candle, lived a controversial life. A descendant of French Kings, she became the wife of Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan, who loyally served Henry I, King of England. Robert's contemporary, William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey would also play a role in Isabel's final fate. Through her numerous children, Isabel is a common ancestress of English and Scottish royalty and nobility to the present day.

Facts about Isabel's life
Born: circa 1081 - 1085
Father: Hugh Magnus, Comte de Vermandois 
Mother: Adelaide / Adele, Comtesse de Vermandois 
Siblings:  Ralph, Henry, Simon and William (brothers) Matilda, Beatrice, Constance and Agnes (sisters) 
Titles: Comtesse de Meulan

Isabel's ancestry and her descendants linked her with the most prestigious bloodlines throughout Europe. Her father Hugh was a younger son of King Henry I of France and his Queen, Anne of Kiev. Hugh married Adelaide / Adele, daughter of Herbert IV, Comte de Vermandois and Adele, Countess of Valois. Isabel's heritage included the Capetian dynasty (from Hugh Capet, first King of the Frankish domain), Carolignian dynasty (from Charles Martel, royal grandfather of Charlemagne) and Russian royalty (through Anne of Kiev, daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Rus). Isabel was the second or third daughter of her parents. Some historians refer to her as Isabel de Crepi and she may have been born at Crepy-en-Valois, which was founded in the tenth century by the counts of Valois, just northeast of Paris. The dates for Isabel's birth vary; as early as 1081 or as late as 1085, making her between 11 and 15 when she married Robert de Beaumont in 1096. As early as 1094, Isabel's mother arrived at the Norman abbey of Bec, perhaps as an emissary for the negotiation of her daughter's union. Robert was several decades older than his prospective bride.

The marriage of Isabel and Robert faced an impediment before the union could take place. Bishop Ivo of Chartres raised an objection on the basis that the couple shared kinship within prohibited degrees; the exact connection is uncertain. It might pertain to a common ancestor among the Counts of Valois. As a condition of the Pope's dispensation regarding Isabel's marriage, her father Hugh participated in the first Crusade. He reached the Holy Land, aided in the capture of Antioch and should have gone to Constantinople with a request for reinforcements. Instead, he returned to France. Facing Pope Paschal II's threat of  excommunication, Hugh joined another crusade against the Turks in September 1101 and died of his wounds a month later at Tarsus. His actions did not affect Isabel and Robert; they may have married in 1096 without awaiting the papal dispensation. Their first child, a daughter Emma arrived in 1102, making Isabel either 17 or 22 when she became a mother for the first time.  Other children followed; see the previous article on Robert de Beaumont as well as my Author's Note in the novel for more on the couple's children.

A privileged pedigree did not guarantee Isabel's happy existence as Robert's wife. William de Warenne changed her perceived future. Find out how in The Burning Candle.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Burning Candle: Henry I, King of England

In medieval England, Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan and his counterpart William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey served King Henry I, viewed by many historians as the rex pacificus who 'made peace for men and beast.' After he claimed the throne, Henry governed a powerful and financially secure realm, promoted just laws, and united England and Normandy, which had been ruled separately for 20 years of his life by his brothers. The first of the Norman Kings born in England, Henry is also infamous for his conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church, especially Pope Paschal II and the Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm of Bec. Henry is equally notorious for the large number of illegitimate children acknowledged during his lifetime.

Facts about Henry's life
Born: circa May 1068 - 1069, near Selby, Yorkshire
Father: King William I of England, Duke of Normandy
Mother: Queen Matilda of Flanders, Duchess of Normandy
Siblings: Robert Curthose Duke of Normandy, Richard, William Rufus II King of England (elder brothers); Adela Countess of Blois, Cecilia Abbess of Holy Trinity at Caen, Matilda, Constance, Adeliza / Adelaide and possibly Agatha (sisters)  
Titles: King of England (seized the crown after the death of his brother, King William Rufus II in August 1101), Count of the Contentin (1088 - 1091)

It's likely that Henry came into the world at Selby, near Yorkshire. Around the time of his birth, his parents King William (also Duke of Normandy) and Queen Matilda were in the north for the dedication of a new Norman abbey.  A turbulent world awaited the young prince. His father had defeated Harold Godwinson at Hastings only three years ago and resistance to the Norman conquest of England would rage during Henry's formative years. Henry had five or possibly six sisters. As the youngest among his brothers Robert, Richard (who died young) and William Rufus, Henry cannot have reasonably expected to gain much at their father's death. His eldest brother Robert coveted Normandy and revolted against King William to gain it prematurely. The King had also designated William Rufus his heir in England and at his eventual passing, Henry received money only. There must have been a bit of rivalry between the brothers while growing up. Their mother had left Henry English lands, which William Rufus denied him. Robert and William Rufus also swore a joint pact that if either man died, Henry could not claim the succession to Normandy or England. Yet, due to Robert's mismanagement of his finances, Henry found a way to buy himself the title of Comte of the Contentin (peninsula encompassing Cherbourg, Valonges and Bayeux) for a few years.

Then in August 1100, King William Rufus died by a stray arrow, while hunting with Henry, his companion Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan and others. Some historians have suggested that Henry might have arranged the assassination during the hunt. The man who allegedly shot the arrow was Walter Tirel, who had married into the Clare family, a Norman baronial house that would benefit greatly during Henry's rule. Also, when Henry heard of his brother's death, he and so many others in the King's retinue immediately scattered. Henry and Robert de Beaumont rode for the capital and treasury at Winchester. Within days. Henry claimed the crown. At the time, his brother Duke Robert had gone on Crusade, but he soon returned. Henry settled down to the business of the kingdom and chose a bride, Edith (later Queen Matilda) who was the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and Queen Margaret. Henry married in November 1100 and became the father of Matilda / Maud and a son, William.

Henry is notorious for having publicly acknowledged at least 21 illegitimate children as his, more than any other English monarch has done. In fact, he did more than acknowledge them; his children became bishops and abbesses, earls and countesses, as well as the consorts of other powerful monarchs. The children all seem to have been fathered between 1090 and possibly as late as 1126. In The Burning Candle, one of the unnamed daughters of the King is a strong secondary character. It is possible there are others whom we will never know. My primary source for knowledge of Henry's children identifies 21 bastards, but another who was never named before is revealed in a primary source on the King. Henry's relationships with the mothers of his children were no casual relationships. His mistress Lady Sybil Corbet of Alcester bore him at least five children and might have been the mother of Robert Earl of Gloucester, a staunch supporter of his half-sister, Princess Matilda / Maud in later years. Another daughter of Sybil's, her mother's namesake, became wife of Alexander I of Scotland. Nest, the daughter of the Welsh King Rhys ap Tewdwr, also bore Henry a son. Yet another mistress in Henry's later years was Isabel, the young daughter of Robert de Beaumont. 

As remarkable as his relationship with his bastards might have been, Henry's passions did not govern him in the rule of England. His father had raised him with the idea of the divine right of kings. From the beginning of Henry's reign, he clashed with Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Paschal II over the right of kings to demand homage from clerics and invest laymen as clergy. Anselm accepted exile rather than tangle with Henry, but in all fairness, Pope Paschal seemed to have been more belligerent of the three. Henry warred with his brother Robert over the latter's claim to England. In 1101, the brothers averted a crisis by agreeing to similar terms as Robert had with their brother William Rufus regarding the succession. Five years later, Henry and Robert met at the battle of Tinchebrai. The King emerged victorious and kept his brother in custody for the rest of his life. As ruler of Normandy and England with an heir groomed for the succession, Henry seemed destined only for greatness. Learn more about his ending in my Author's Note of The Burning Candle.

Last, but not least, will be the final article on my heroine, Isabel de Vermandois. Check the blog next Sunday.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Burning Candle: William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey

Next up in my primer on the historical figures of The Burning Candle is William de Warenne, the second Earl of Surrey. William was one of the richest men in medieval England with an annual income of 1,165 pounds sterling; equal to the modern-day sum of 151 billion US dollars, a figure slightly dwarfed by the assets of his father and namesake, the first Earl of Surrey. To put the figure into better perspective, Carlos Slim Helu currently tops Forbes' Magazine's World Billionaire List as the world's richest man at 62 billion. William de Warenne would have been worth the equivalent of more than twice that amount in his day.

Facts about William's life
Born: date unknown
Father: William de Warenne, first Earl of Surrey
Mother: Gundred, sister of Gerbod the Fleming
Siblings: Edith, wife of Gerard de Gournay and  Dreux de Monchy (sister); Reynald / Reginald (younger brother)
Titles: Earl of Surrey (succeeded upon the death of his father in 1088)

Before I settle down to write any manuscript, the world of my primary characters requires intensive research, starting with the basics of who their parents were, when and where they were born and died, etc. So, it's incredibly frustrating to me that I can't find simple facts about William de Warenne's birth. The surname given to him by medieval convention suggests he was born in Varenne, Normandy. His Christian name came from his father, who served as a loyal companion of Duke William of Normandy, later King of England. In 1088, the Duke's successor King William Rufus made his father's loyal companion the first Earl of Surrey. Unfortunately, the title soon fell to the younger William, as his father died on June 24, 1088 of an arrow wound sustained during a siege of Pevensey Castle, when the leg turned gangrenous. Since William did not require a guardian and secured his inheritance as second Earl of Surrey upon his father's death, I assume he was born by at least 1070-1072 (sixteen being around the age of majority).

The history of William's mother Gundred is slightly convoluted. For centuries, she was referred to as a daughter of Matilda of Flanders, wife of Duke William of Normandy. The Burning Candle, in part, explores why that connection would have been  impossible. Gundred was most likely the sister of Gerbod the Fleming, the Earl of Chester in 1070, of no relation to Matilda of Flanders. Gundred might have married William's father in 1070 also. In addition to William, she gave birth to a daughter Edith and a younger son, alternatively referred to in period sources as Reynald or Reginald. Before Gundred's death in 1085, she and William's father founded the Clunaic monastic house at Lewes Priory (ruins of which are shown here), where the couple lies buried.

As the eldest son, William inherited great wealth from his father, including lands in over thirteen English counties and his father's seat at Castle Acre in Norfolk. In Normandy, the  family holdings of Mortemer and Bellencombre would have been his also. Within a few years, William had settled on a prospective bride. She was Edith, the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and his sainted queen, Margaret. Through Edith's birth, the blood of Scottish Kings and the old Anglo-Saxon royal line were fused; Margaret's grandfather was King Edmund II of England, called Ironside and Margaret's brother was Edgar the Aetheling, the last legitimate English claimant of the crown after the Norman invasion. Edith had spent most of her life from the time she was six in 1086 at Romsey Abbey, near Southampton, but apparently never took the veil. She rejected William's proposal (whether of her own initiative or on the advice of others).  Instead, in November 1100, she married Duke William's fourth son, Henry, who has just seized the throne of England. 

The death of King William Rufus while hunting in the New Forest in August 1100 threw England into chaos.  Henry along with several nobles, including Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan, raced to Winchester and claimed the treasury and crown. Henry and William Rufus' brother, Robert Curthose, had been the Duke of Normandy since their father's death and the Duke had every expectation (by pact with William Rufus) that he would have succeeded to the throne of England. The situation left Earl William of Surrey in a quagmire - he owed fealty to the King of England for his lands there, but he could not risk losing his Norman estates. William chose to support Duke Robert. In July 1101, a Norman invasion force of 200 ships and 260 knights landed at Portsmouth, with William as part of the retinue. King Henry raced from Pevensey and met his brother the Duke. The two sides came to an agreement, after which the Duke returned to Normandy with William, who cannot have been a happy man at his departure. His men had supposedly raided some of his neighbors in Norfolk. For his failure to control them, William lost the earldom of Surrey, which he regained in 1103. Afterward, William became a loyal supporter of King Henry and served as one of his commanders in 1106 at the battle of Tinchebrai, where Henry defeated his brother Robert and claimed the dukedom.

Perhaps around 1101-1103, King Henry might have been giving thought on how to placate William, bitter about the loss of his earldom and his prospective bride to the monarch. The King proposed a match between one of his unnamed bastard daughters to William. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, rejected the union for concerns about consanguinity, blood ties between William and Henry. Eventually, William did gain a bride of royal blood, just not one whom Henry expected.

Next week, more on Henry I of England.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lucky Seven Meme: Sultana II, Two Sisters

The lovely Alison DeLuca at Fresh Pot of Tea tagged me for another Lucky 7 post. Here are the rules:

*go to page 77 of your current WIP
*go to line 7
*copy down the next 7 lines/sentences as written and post them on your blog or website
*tag 7 other authors
*let them know they've been tagged

This time, I have a few lines from Sultana II: Two Sisters, which I hope will be out early 2013.

Esperanza whispered, I don’t think I can ….”
Sultana Leila’s stinging slap cut her off. Esperanza clutched her cheek, stunned into silence. No one had ever dared raise a hand against her before, not even Fra Rufino when she had once thrown his lavishly decorated Psalter into the Tagus River. 
Leila’s beatific smile taunted her. “You do not think, Butayna. You do not feel. You are a slave of this harem. Slaves have no thoughts or emotions. They live and die by the command of the Sultan and his family.”
Esperanza returned her attention to the brocaded weave. I swear, I won't be a slave forever.

Now for seven hapless victims authors, who WILL remains friends with me after I tag them: 
Kristen Taber
Anita Davison
Mirella Patzer
Michelle Gregory
Julie K. Rose
N. Gemini Sasson
Heather Domin

Show off your stuff, ladies!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Burning Candle: Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan

All month, learn more about the historical figures in my upcoming release, The Burning Candle. The novel's heroine is the twelfth century countess Isabel de Vermandois, a descendant of French Kings. Equally cultured and ruthless characters filled Isabel's world, but perhaps none so enigmatic as her husband, Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan.

Facts about Robert's life
Born: 1046
Father: Roger de Beaumont
Mother: Adeline de Meulan, sister to Hugh II, Comte de Meulan
Siblings: Aubree, Abbess of St. Leger de Preaux (sister); Henry, Earl of Warwick (younger brother)
Titles: Comte de Meulan (succeeded upon the death of his maternal uncle Hugh in 1081); Earl of Leicester (appointed by King Henry I of England in 1107)

To understand Robert's heritage, consider the Viking Age and the invasions of the Danes and Norwegians who carved out the Norman duchy in northern France after 911. Robert, like many of the magnates who would gain power in Normandy and later England, came from a baronial family. His great-grandfather Thorold held the lordship of Pont Audemer near the Risle River. Some historians believe Thorold was the maternal nephew of the Duchess Gunnora, wife to Robert I of Normandy (942-966). In the generation of Robert's grandfather, Humphrey, the family holdings increased, Vielles, Beaumont and Beaumontel came under their control.  Humphrey married the heiress of the forest of Brotonne, Aubree de la Haie. Of their daughter Dunelme and sons, William, Robert and Roger, the latter became a parent to Robert de Beaumont in 1046.

Medieval naming conventions have always interested me, especially among the nobility. Most took the names of their birthplaces or territories they seized or inherited. It's a fair assumption that Robert came into the world at Beaumont, where Roger had built a castle on the hill above Vielles. Roger had married Robert's mother Adeline a year before their eldest son's birth. Adeline was sister of Hugh, Comte de Meulan, a rich territory to the east in the French Vexin. Roger and Adeline also became parents to Aubree and Henry; the sons of Roger would grow to have a special closeness with each other. From an early age, Roger ensured his sons were literate and taught them about administrative functions. Robert witnessed his first recorded charter, a gift to the abbey of Marmoutier, when he was only nine years old. He also became acquainted with the ducal court from an early age.

When William the Conqueror invaded England in September 1066, Robert represented his father's interests, while Roger maintained the ducal court. Robert would have been twenty years old, newly knighted by William, when he led a devastating cavalry charge and feint at the battle of Hastings. After the defeat of the English, Henry arrived from Normandy a year later and by 1068, held the newly-constructed Warwick Castle. Robert gained honors as well; the worth of some eighty English manors. Above all, he prized the title Comte de Meulan, which came to him after the death of his maternal uncle Hugh. Robert often styled himself as "Comte de Meulan, by the grace of God."

Keep in mind that when the Normans claimed the duchy, technically, they owed fealty to the Kings of France, a fact that would have personal consequences for Robert later in life. With the accession to Meulan, Robert moved into the sphere of the French court and owed the King of France homage for the county, as he owed loyalty to the Dukes of Normandy. Despite his riches, Robert wanted more. In 1088, he appeared outside the abbey of Bec and demanded of Abbott Anselm a pledge of fealty. It would be the first of many troublesome encounters between Robert and Anselm. The new Duke of Normandy arrested Robert for threatening the abbey and without his father's intervention, Robert would have remained imprisoned. After Roger's death in the 1090's, Robert became lord of the most important castles in his family's holdings; Beaumont, Pont-Audemer, Vatteville and Brionne. Robert also served successive Norman Kings of England William Rufus and Henry I as chief counselor. Only one thing remained glaringly absent.

Nearing his fiftieth year, he had no wife despite a proposed match with Godehilde de Toeni. Since she married Baldwin, son of Comte Eustace de Boulonge and died in the Holy Land, Robert sought another bride. He chose Isabel, daughter of Comte Hugh de Vermandois. On her father's side, Isabel was a granddaughter of King Henry I of France. She would have been a teenager when Robert married her around 1096, at least forty years younger than her husband. With the births of their children, Emma (1102), the twins Waleran and Robert (1104), Hugh (around 1106), Isabel (1107-1113), Aubree (1108-1109), Adeline and Maud, plus the newly created earldom of Leicester, Robert's future seemed bright....but of course, things changed. Find out how in The Burning Candle, coming summer 2012.

Next Sunday, more on the historical figures, with William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey.   

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...