January 28, 2015

Spotlight on John Sadler's Blood Divide {Giveaway}

Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Lion Fiction
Paperback; 352p
ISBN: 978-1782640899
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Gripping, visceral, and accessible historical fiction.

The Battle of Flodden in September 1513 was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on British soil, in which James IV, King of Scots, and virtually the whole of his nobility and gentry were annihilated in an afternoon along with 15,000 soldiers. Five centuries later, the slaughter still occupies a core position in the Scottish nationalist debate and in the pantheon of heroic failures. This novel puts you in the heart of the action; you’ll feel the sweat and the fear, the curtain of red mist.

The narrative covers April through September 1513, focusing around a handful of key characters: John Heron, Bastard of Ford, swaggering, violent, and disreputable, the black sheep of a good English family; Sir Thomas Howard, leader of the English forces and skilled strategist; Alexander, 3rd Lord Hume, leader of the Scots, bold but impetuous; Isabella Hoppringle, Abbess of Coldstream, hub of a web of influential women throughout the Scottish borders, a woman of significant influence and charisma.

Laced with dark humor and fascinating period detail, Blood Divide reminder readers that political intrigue and human folly are timeless.

About the Author
John Sadler is an experienced military historian, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and the author of more than two dozen books. He is also a much traveled battlefield tour guide covering most major conflicts in the UK, Europe, and North Africa.

For more information please visit John Sadler’s website.

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January 15, 2015

Caddy Rowland - Making History, Bohemian Style (Part 13)

Please welcome back historical fiction author and artist, Caddy Rowland, our monthly contributor here at Historical Fiction Connection.

Suzanne Valadon

I bet many of you have noticed I haven’t brought up women artists during any of my posts about nineteenth-century Montmartre. There a very good reason. One had to search high and low to find a female painter during those times. Life was hard for these artists, and would have been even more difficult for a female. Plus, even though Paris was more forward thinking than most of the world in regard to females and their roles, they still were primarily thought of as wanting to be wives and mothers. Anything else they did beforehand tended to be seen as something they did to pass the time until Mr. Right came along.

There were a few, though. Berthe Morisot is considered one of the original impressionists. She was very much part of the inner circle of the great artists of the time. I will perhaps do a post on her later, though. Today I want to talk about Suzanne Valadon. You see, although she was far from perfect, I greatly admire this woman. Here was a female who came from nothing. She struggled her whole life, yet she refused to be put in her place sexually, socially, or in regard to her painting career. Color outside the lines? My dears, for Suzanne there simply were no lines to begin with!

She was the bastard child of a French laundress, and her birth name was born Marie Clementine Valadon born 1865. She was working by age eleven in a milliner’s workshop. From then on she worked at various jobs: waitressing, selling vegetables, and even making funeral wreaths. For an unwed mother life wasn’t easy, and her daughter learned early she’d have to make her own way.

When she became a teenager she made friends with some of the artists in the area. They helped her get a job as an acrobat in the circus. Circuses were big around that time, and many circuses performed around the area. Her circus career didn’t last long, as she fell from a trapeze and hurt her back. She healed, but didn’t work as an acrobat anymore.

Her next job was artist’s model. I mentioned in a previous post how being an artist’s model was only one step above being a whore. It was long hours of sitting still, and then many times satisfying the artist’s sexual needs. Everyone assumed Suzanne had sex with the artists she sat for; as it was common knowledge the artist’s considered sex with the model their right. They were correct in regard to Suzanne. She had affairs with many of the artists she posed for, including Chavannes, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec. As you can see from her photo, she was a beauty. It isn’t hard to understand why these men coveted her sexual attention.

She was also known for being unruly and without restraint. Suzanne would often come home in the early hours of the morning, drunk and screaming obscenities into the night. Sometimes she washed clothes outside while topless. She routinely frequented Au Lapin Agile and Chat Noir, and once slid down a staircase banister completely naked except for a mask at another club.

She became pregnant at eighteen and bore a son: Maurice. He would become a famous painter himself, and was actually the only artist from that era who was born and raised in Montmartre.
She was never sure who Maurice’s father was. People guessed, naming Miguel Utrillo, Renoir, Puvis, or another artist name Boissy. Miguel Utrillo later gave Maurice his name, but no one ever knew if he really was Maurice’s father. Suzanne continued her wild lifestyle and counted on her mother to raise her son. When she did take care of Maurice she would give him whiskey in his bottle to get him to go to sleep. She became a better mother later, but motherhood was not her strong suit.

What made her different from most sleep-arounds was this: Suzanne dared to dream. During this whole time she was studying. She studied the techniques of those she posed for and soon began painting. Degas befriended her in 1890 and took note of her talent. He worked with her, teaching her how to further develop her painting skills. He even bought several of her paintings and got her career started. In fact, because of him she became the first woman to ever show in the prestigious Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

Before Degas her work was all pastel or pencil. After working with Degas she began using oils. She did a portrait on Eric Satie, a famous composer. After a very intense affair, he asked her to marry him. She turned him down. Next she became involved even more heavily with a stockbroker named Paul Mousis. She did marry him, which gave her the financial freedom to paint and draw full-time. Her style was full of energy, very frank and raw. She was unfettered in regard to style or technique since she’d had no formal training. However, once they left the city she really struggled to find a balance between being a wife and a painter. Then her son, Maurice, developed alcohol problems (before he was a teenager) and also suffered from mental illness.

At age 44 she met one of her son’s friends. His name was Andre Utter. They had a hot and heavy affair, even though he was only 23. He encouraged her to begin painting more. Once she did, her painting career really took off. “Adam and Eve” was a portrait of herself and Utter. It was the first to show a fully nude couple together done by a woman. Since she wasn’t careful about the affair, her husband found out and they divorced in 1910.

She moved in with Utter, along with her son and continued to paint. She had some shows, but was becoming less noticed than her son and other artists in the area, like Picasso. Utter married her in 1914 before leaving for the war so she could get an allowance from the military. He got injured, and she left to be closer to him. After the war, they came back to Paris. He marketed his, Suzanne’s and Maurice’s work. Maurice sold the most of the three.

Suzanne received positive critical acclaim and had several showings at different galleries, but sales were moderate. She signed a contract with an art gallery in 1914 and had enough money to live comfortably and buy a country estate. She stayed there frequently, painting. Things were blowing up between the three of them, due to jealousy over Maurice’s popularity and Utter’s drinking and womanizing. Suzanne simply continued to paint and had two major retrospectives of her work shown.

In 1935 Maurice married and moved out, and her husband also left, although they never divorced. Her health deteriorated, but she continued to paint and see friends. One day in 1938 she was painting at her easel when she had a stroke. She died only hours later at age 72.

During the later twentieth century there was finally an increased appreciation for women artists, but still—as always—it’s the men that still garner the majority of attention. Those men were great, no doubt about it. They deserve their recognition and I admire them very much.

Still, I can't help but feel as a women myself that part of the reason Suzanne wasn't (and isn't) talked about as much was because she dared to live life as fully as a man during a time when that was deeply frowned upon, even in Montmartre. When she is brought up, her sexual activities are mentioned much more often than her almost 500 paintings (not counting those destroyed or lost). In fact, none of the females that painted during that time are ever discussed as much as their male counterparts and that's unfortunate. Suzanne and others who dared to "paint with the boys" were important contributors to the bohemian art era.

So, today I want to thank Marie Clementine Valadon aka Suzanne. You had balls during a time where having balls made you an outcast, girl. And, by the way, your work ROCKS. Despite your flaws as a mother, I respect you talent and nerve, and hope to do a historical fiction novel featuring you one day. Until then, may you rest in peace, in harmony with “The Color”.

Historical Fiction by Caddy Rowland: 

Contact and Social Media Info. For Caddy Rowland:

Author Email: caddyauthor@gmail.com
Twitter: @caddyorpims

December 30, 2014

Spotlight on William Peak's The Oblate's Confession

Publication Date: December 2, 2014
Secant Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Set in 7th century England, The Oblate’s Confession tells the story of Winwaed, a boy who – in a practice common at the time – is donated by his father to a local monastery. In a countryside wracked by plague and war, the child comes to serve as a regular messenger between the monastery and a hermit living on a nearby mountain. Missing his father, he finds a surrogate in the hermit, an old man who teaches him woodcraft, the practice of contemplative prayer, and, ultimately, the true meaning of fatherhood. When the boy’s natural father visits the monastery and asks him to pray for the death of his enemy – an enemy who turns out to be the child’s monastic superior – the boy’s life is thrown into turmoil. It is the struggle Winawed undergoes to answer the questions – Who is my father? Whom am I to obey? – that animates, and finally necessitates, The Oblate’s Confession.

While entirely a work of fiction, the novel’s background is historically accurate: all the kings and queens named really lived, all the political divisions and rivalries actually existed, and each of the plagues that visit the author’s imagined monastery did in fact ravage that long-ago world. In the midst of a tale that touches the human in all of us, readers will find themselves treated to a history of the “Dark Ages” unlike anything available today outside of textbooks and original source material.

About the Author
William Peak spent ten years researching and writing The Oblate’s Confession, his debut novel. Based upon the work of one of the great (if less well known) figures of Western European history, the Venerable Bede, Peak’s book is meant to reawaken an interest in that lost and mysterious period of time sometimes called “The Dark Ages.”

Peak received his baccalaureate degree from Washington & Lee University and his master’s from the creative writing program at Hollins University. He works for the Talbot County Free Library on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Thanks to the column he writes forThe Star Democrat about life at the library (archived at http://www.tcfl.org/peak/), Peak is regularly greeted on the streets of Easton: “Hey, library guy!” In his free time he likes to fish and bird and write long love letters to his wife Melissa.

For more information please visit William Peak’s website.

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December 29, 2014

Spotlight on Marie Savage's Oracles of Delphi

Publication Date: October 15, 2014
Blank Slate Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 324
Series: Althaia of Athens Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

All Althaia wants on her trip to Delphi is to fulfill her father’s last wish. Finding the body of a woman in the Sacred Precinct is not in her plans. Neither is getting involved in the search for the killer, falling for the son of a famous priestess, or getting pulled into the ancient struggle for control of the two most powerful oracles in the world. But that’s what happens when Theron, Althaia’s tutor and a man with a reputation for finding the truth, is asked to investigate. When a priest hints that Theron himself may be involved, Althaia is certain the old man is crazy — until Nikos, son of a famous priestess, arrives with an urgent message. Theron’s past, greedy priests, paranoid priestesses, prophecies, and stolen treasures complicate the investigation, and as Althaia falls for Nikos, whose dangerous secrets hold the key to the young woman’s death, she discovers that love often comes at a high price and that the true meaning of family is more than a bond of blood.

Praise for Oracles of Delphi
“Mysticism, murder and mystery in ancient Delphi: Marie Savage weaves intrigue and suspense into wonderfully researched historical fiction while introducing the reader to Althaia, a spirited Athenian woman with a flair for forensic detection.” (Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice)

“Oracles of Delphi is an original and compelling mystery. Savage’s complex characters and deft writing shine as she pulls readers into the fascinating world of fourth century B.C. Greece. A wonderful debut!” (Sarah Wisseman, author of the forthcoming Burnt Siena Flora Garibaldi art conservation mystery and the Lisa Donahue archaeological mystery series)

“It is hard to make a female character both strong and vulnerable, but Marie Savage has done just that with Althaia of Athens. Well done!” (Cynthia Graham, author of the forthcoming Beneath Still Waters)

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About the Author
Marie Savage is the pen name of Kristina Marie Blank Makansi who always wanted to be a Savage (her grandmother’s maiden name) rather than a Blank. She is co-founder and publisher of Blank Slate Press, an award-winning small press in St. Louis, and founder of Treehouse Author Services. Books she has published and/or edited have been recognized by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), the Beverly Hills Book Awards, the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction, the British Kitchie awards, and others. She serves on the board of the Missouri Center for the Book and the Missouri Writers Guild. Along with her two daughters, she has authored The Sowing and The Reaping (Oct. 2014), the first two books of a young adult, science fiction trilogy. Oracles of Delphi, is her first solo novel.

For more information visit Kristina Makansi’s website and the Blank Slate Press website. You can also follow Krisina Makansi and Blank Slate Press on Twitter.

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December 26, 2014

Spotlight on Jay W. Curry's Nixon and Dovey

Publication Date: November 14, 2014
eBook: 369p
ISBN: 978-1-3117280-3-6
Genre: Historical Fiction

Before he met Dovey, it was just a heated feud. Now, in the backdrop of southern antebellum slavery, it’s a deadly game of passion, murder, and revenge.

Facts: In 1818 Nixon Curry became entangled in one of the most sensationalized murder/love stories in early American history. As a result, Nixon Curry became arguably the most notorious and widely publicized criminal in America’s first half century. His fame derived not from the brutality or number of his crimes but from the determination of the Charlotte aristocracy to hang him. His remarkable talents, undying love for Dovey Caldwell, and the outright audacity of his exploits made him an early American legend.

Story: Set in the antebellum south of North Carolina, Nixon Curry, a talented son of poor Scot-Irish immigrants, accepts a job at a racing stable. Soon, his riding skills rival those of his mentor, Ben Wilson. The fierce rivalry becomes confrontational when Ben frames Nixon’s childhood, slave friend, Cyrus, for the Caldwell plantation fire. When both Nixon and Ben win invitations to the 1816 Race of Champions, the stage is set for an explosive faceoff. During prerace festivities, the dashing, young Nixon meets the beautiful Dovey Caldwell, daughter of the state’s wealthiest and most influential senator. Finding Nixon unworthy of Dovey’s affection, Senator Caldwell betroths his daughter to Nixon’s nemesis, Ben. The announcement sets in motion a clash of cultures, talents, and passions leading to murder, mayhem, and revenge.

How far will Nixon go to have his love? What price is he willing to pay and what will be the consequences?

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About the Author
Jay W Curry is a former Big-4 consulting partner, business coach, and award-winning author. When he is not coaching, fly-fishing or writing he facilitates a Vistage CEO roundtable in Houston. Jay has co-authored three internationally successful books and has won honors for both his short fiction and non-fiction work. When the heat of Texas summer arrives, Jay and his wife, Nancy, head to their Colorado home (http:/CurryBarn.com) or visit their three children and seven grandchildren. Nixon and Dovey is the first of a three-book passion to bring the 200-year-old story of Jay’s relative, Nixon Curry, back to light.

For more information, please visit Jay W. Curry’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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