Monday, January 21, 2013

Meet the Characters of Sultana: Two Sisters - Sadiya

In the house of Juan Manuel Gomero, the newly captured slaves Esperanza and Miriam meet with Sadiya, a beautiful French slave who loyally serves her master. While her relationship with both arrivals could best be described as rocky, Sadiya's role is to aid their transition to new lives. Unfortunately for her, Esperanza has the most trying time and gives her would-be guide to Moorish life a difficult time - what else is my heroine expected to do? Here's how their first meeting occurs:

From the shadows, a young woman materialized as though plucked from the air. She crept across the tiles on bare feet and unfurled the other shutter. Esperanza closed her hand around the brooch while the stranger turned to her and sat down cross-legged. Her lovely features were in stark contrast to Esperanza’s plain-faced appearance. Pale yellow curls shimmered like gold with an almost iridescent glow. Almond-shaped eyes sparkled like emeralds against a face the color of heavy cream, coupled with a thin nose and lips upturned in a smile. A scant distance separated them. How long had this woman waited in the shadows, quieter than a mouse?
“You did not understand me? My master said you spoke his native tongue. You are in the home of Juan Manuel Gomero, the House of Myrtles, within the city of Granada. All here live by my master’s command, including you. He will take the brooch away. You cannot keep it.”
Esperanza realized Castillan was not the woman’s natural language. While she spoke well and without hesitation, her high-pitched nasal tone betrayed a heritage far beyond Esperanza’s birthplace.
The young woman cocked her head. “Those slavers must have frightened you out of your wits. No one will hurt you now. My master would never permit it. Why do you not speak? Are you afraid of me?” A trilling laugh bubbled up and softened the glow of her piercing gaze. 
She mistook the reason for Esperanza’s silence. Rather, her physical appearance caused more uneasiness than her unexpected presence. The moonlight fell on voluminous fabric, which exposed instead of concealing the skin. Layers of a gauzy floor-length tunic suggested the curves beneath the cloth. The garment fastened from the neckline to the waist, with billowing sleeves sewn with tiny pearls at the wrists. Beneath the white tunic, Esperanza discerned another gold one, which skirted her generous hips. Neither garment obscured the woman’s breasts as they rose and fell, or the dark circles encircling nipples visible beneath the cloth. The pale pink material covering each leg disappeared beneath the shorter tunic, but ballooned at the knees only to tighten at her ankles. Small pearls encircled her throat and ankles. For all her finery, she might as well have gone naked.

Sadiya is also one of several secondary characters who varying purposes in the narrative. She acclimates readers to society and culture in Moorish Spain, with her education of Esperanza, and shows how  captives adapted to their circumstances. Sadiya represents the countless captives abducted throughout Christian Europe for several generations and forced into positions as servants regardless of their origins or former circumstances. Many such slaves were never ransomed or returned to their homelands.

As Sadiya prepares Esperanza and Miriam for the future, none of the women can guess at the dangers awaiting them. They are about become embroiled in a formidable rivalry between two royal ladies of the Moorish kingdom, the ruler's sister Leila and his mother Safa.       

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New from Anita Seymour: Royalist Rebel

I'm thrilled to annouce the upcoming release of my dear friend Anita's title, Royalist Rebel. Can't wait until it's available. Congratulations, Anita!

Royalist Rebel by Anita Seymour
Intelligent, witty and beautiful, Elizabeth Murray wasn’t born noble; her family’s fortunes came from her Scottish father’s boyhood friendship with King Charles. As the heir to Ham House, their mansion on the Thames near Richmond,
Elizabeth was always destined for greater things.

Royalist Rebel is the story of Elizabeth’s youth during the English Civil War, of a determined and passionate young woman dedicated to Ham House, the Royalist cause and the three men in her life; her father William Murray, son of a minister who rose to become King Charles’ friend and confidant, the rich baronet Lionel Tollemache, her husband of twenty years who adored her and John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Charles II’s favourite.

With William Murray at King Charles’ exiled court in Oxford, the five Murray women have to cope alone. Crippled by fines for their Royalist sympathies, and besieged by the Surrey Sequestration Committee, Elizabeth must find a wealthy, non-political husband to save herself, her sisters, and their inheritance.
Royalist Rebel by Claymore Books, an imprint of Pen and Sword, is released on 17th January 2013

For a little background on the novel, see Anita’s Book Blog

The National Trust Website of Elizabeth Murray’s former home, Ham House, at Petersham near Richmond, Surrey

Anita’s Blog

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sultana: Two Sisters - The Cover

It's that time again! You would think it might be easier with each successive title to decide on a cover for my next, Sultana: Two Sisters - wrong! Finding the right artwork to represent the Moorish period in Spain has meant hours on Wiki Commons searching for Orientalist paintings in the public domain and even more time with GIMP. Thanks to the patience and intrepid eye of my writing buddy Mirella Patzer, I've narrowed the choices down. Can you help me decide?

Here's the story: In fourteenth-century Moorish, two lifelong friends become captives, sold into the harem of Sultan Yusuf I of Granada. A young woman with a hidden heritage becomes Butayna, the Sultan’s beloved wife, while her counterpart Maryam enjoys a life of pleasure and luxury at Yusuf’s side. Each woman bears the Sultan a son and finds diverging paths in a dizzying rise to power. When only one heir may inherit the throne and only one woman can claim the revered title of Mother of the Sultan, can the bond between Butayna and Maryam survive?

The title Sultana: Two Sisters refers as much to the close bond between the pair of women, who being the novel almost like sisters, but it also alludes to a common faith and heritage they share. Three paintings seemed to represent various elements of the characters and mood of this latest title:
Aimee, A Young Egyptian, by Emile Vernet-Lecomte -1869
There's something especially striking about the figure in Emile Vernet-Lecomte's Aimee, A Young Egyptian, innocence and sensuality combined.
Oriental Beauty, by Emile Vernet-Lecomte - 1869
Equally beautiful, but somewhat more pensive and prideful is the figure in Oriental Beauty, also by Emile Vernet-Lecomte.

Two Musician Girls, by Osman Hamdi Bey - 1880
Lastly, these two figures in Osman Hamdi Bey's Two Musician Girls easily captured a scene of two young women, one clearly learning from the other, which is an important aspect of the story.

Each painting is beautiful, but neither was a perfect match for what I had in mind. While I wanted both women from the story represented on the cover, either the backgrounds were dull, the hair was wrong, or as in the case of the first two images, a single figure wouldn't be right. Thank God for GIMP! If you're willing to learn about layering images or have a wonderful buddy / tutor like Mirella to help, GIMP can be one of the best tools for an author trying to design the right cover.

Royalty-free images that provided alternate backgrounds for each picture came from With GIMP, each images from the paintings became a layer on a new background. With a few tweaks to the appearances of the duo, especially the hair, and Mirella's alignment of the two separate figures in natural poses to suit the backgrounds, new cover ideas were created! Which one do you think should be the cover of Sultana: Two Sisters?

Version 1

Version 2
Version 3

Version 4


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What I'm Reading: The Cross and the Dragon

I bought Kim Rendfeld's The Cross and the Dragon in late summer, but didn't get to read it on Kindle until the Christmas holiday. If you know anything about me, you know how much I love the medieval period so this title was right for me. I discovered just how much once I got into the story.

"In Kim Rendfeld’s debut novel, set in eighth-century Europe, the heroine Alda faces a dilemma common to many marriageable heiress of the Middle Ages: submission to a husband chosen for her by others. Alda is a spitfire with a sharp wit and keen intelligence to match her spirited personality. She relies on an inherent strength and a charmed dragon amulet to fortify herself against the proposed husband, the ruthless Count Ganelon, and protect Hruodland, the proud Breton warrior who has likewise claimed her affections. Her commitment never wavers, although the rigid expectations of medieval, male-dominated society often stand in her way. Ganelon angrily refuses to accept her rejection. His dogged pursuit ensures trouble for Alda and Hruodland’s marriage.

Although Hruodland claims Alda for his own, their mutual devotion remains threatened, thanks to the connivance of his family. As the relation of King Charles the Great, better known throughout history as Charlemagne, Hruodland faces grave responsibility for the protection of his domain and the duty to sire heirs. Has he married a woman who is incapable of helping him fulfill the latter task? Before Hruodland and Alda can become parents, warfare takes him far from her and leads her to desperate choices that affect more than just her future.  

Part of the enjoyment of this novel comes from the author’s ability to create an authentic sense of time and place. She weaves a powerful tale out of a few strands of history, encapsulated in the epic poem The Song of Roland. Despite scant details mired in legend, there is great emphasis on a vivid portrayal of the medieval period. The author truly brings it to life. Alda and Hruodland’s mutual courage is equally inspiring. Both are representative of the viewpoints and attitudes of people in the Middle Ages. The Cross and the Dragon is a great debut from an author who clearly understands the period and its myriad personalities well."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Submit flash fiction / short stories for Women's History Month

Do you admire strong female historical figures? Do you write historical fiction? Tara Chevrestt over at the incredible Book Babe blog is offering a great opportunity to include your work in an anthology, published by Pagan Writer's Press.  

Tara says: Short stories/flash fiction for Women's History Month needed for an anthology to be published in March with Pagan Writer's Press. Each story needs to be historical, any era, time. No more than 3K words a piece. Flash fiction/shorties is a brief look into someone's life. The story can be about an ancestor of yours, a woman in history who did something awesome, a woman you make up. Perhaps she's standing up for herself, arguing an issue, rebelling against society. She can fight with a sword or her words or her silence. A woman's strength comes in many forms. She may be trying to improve her life or that of her children. She may be fighting for women's or civil rights. 

Romance is fine, but no sex scenes. Author bios will be at the end of each story. This will be published as an ebook and print if it reaches 50K. Royalties will be paid. Authors share 40% of print royalties, 50% of ebook royalties.  I shall update information as I receive it, but get writing! I'd like to have all these stories no later than the first week of February. 

Send stories to Tara at tchevrestt (at) yahoo (dot) com for consideration. Thank you. *Original work only, please. These are not to be excerpts from previously published or about to be published material.

Thank you, Tara, for including me. I'll be submitting an original piece on Gwenllian, the Welsh daughter of Prince Gruffydd ap Cynan of Gwynedd. Noted for her beauty, Gwenllian was the tomboy of her and a fierce northern Welshwoman. She married for love to the Prince of Deheubarth, Gruffydd ap Rhys and would have likely been content as the mother of their children, if the English Marcher lords hadn't continued encroaching on Welsh territory. Gwenllian decided to make her stand and her bravery inspired other patriots. I plan to write more on Gwenllian in a future title Lady of Legend, but my submission to the anthology will be an original chapter that will not appear in the story.

If you're interested, get your submissions ready and forward them to Tara. Don't miss out on a chance to be included in the anthology. ETA: Learn more about fiction honoring heroic women at the HerStory blog.

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...