April 21, 2014

Caddy Rowland - Making History, Bohemian Style (Part 4)

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

Eugene Manet and His Daughter, Julie, in the Garden 
By Berthe Morisot

Making History Bohemian Style (Part 4)
By Caddy Rowland

Please allow me to introduce the people who began the whole impressionistic movement in painting. There’s so much I want to say about each of these people that I could write for days.

Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, and Berthe Morisot are usually thought of as the core of the group. Although Edouard Manet was friendly with them and painted with them in the beginning, he didn’t exhibit with them and didn’t want to be labeled an Impressionist. However, his style was a huge influence on all of them. Because of his influence and the fact that he sometimes painted with them, many include him when mentioning the first Impressionists.

Boulevard Montmartre Morning, Sunlight and Mist 
By Camille Pissarro

Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne both also painted with these artists and actually did exhibit with them early in their careers. However, they are both now considered Post-Impressionists—as is Vincent van Gogh.

There are others who are well known Impressionists as well. Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Georges Seurat come to mind.

Each of the five, though like-minded, had distinct personalities reflected in their work. You can see that by looking at the paintings I have included in this post. Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, and Morisot are considered the “purest” of the Impressionists because they all consistently strived for spontaneity, sunlight, and color. Degas, on the other hand, believed drawing to be of more importance than color, and looked down his nose at painting outdoors. Renoir left the group for awhile. When he returned he never did completely embrace their ideas. Manet insisted on using a lot of black, didn’t exhibit with the others and continued to submit works to the Salon, which the rest had rejected after being shunned in earlier years.

The Artist’s Garden at Giverny 
By Claude Monet 

Some of these artists would submit their work to the Salon at a later date, and then stop exhibiting in the Impressionist exhibitions. They also argued hotly about who should and should not be allowed to join their group and enter their exhibits. Sounds exactly like how people disagree today, regardless of what group it is! We even argue now about which artist belongs in what category. I find it puzzling that so much emphasis is put on trying to pigeonhole people who were so free-spirited.

These artists did all have some techniques in common. In general, these painters followed at least the majority of these guidelines that have now come to be known as the techniques of Impressionism:
  • Short, thick strokes of paint often applied impasto (so thick the brush or palette knife marks show, and many times the paint is mixed right on the canvas). It is applied quickly to show the soul of the subject rather than its details.
  • Very little mixing of colors. Instead they are applied side by side, forcing the viewer’s eyes to mix the colors. 
  • Black paint is avoided. Dark tones are instead made by mixing complementary colors. 
  • Wet paint is applied on or next to wet paint without allowing the first to dry. This allows the colors to marry, and produces softer edges. 
  • Artists often painted in the evening to show the shadowy effects of twilight. 
  • The transparency of glazes is not used. Instead the painting surface is usually opaque. 
  • How light plays on the surface of objects is extremely important, as is the reflection of colors from one object to the next. 
  • When painting en plein air (outdoors) shadows are shown with the blue of the sky. It is shown how it’s reflected on the various surfaces.
Dancer with a Fan 
By Edgar Degas

Many of these things had been done previously, but the Impressionists were the first to try to use all—or most— of them together consistently.

As you’ve probably guessed, although there are certain characteristics that mark Impressionistic works, even the originals had their own way of doing it, making them each different in their own way. It was a time of great exploration in the world of painting, and these bohemians paved the way for others to try even bolder things in the future.

Where did they hang out? What was their lifestyle like? How about their living quarters? When did they get the name “Impressionist”? I’ll be sharing a peek into their lives in future posts. Perhaps at times we’ll even dwell on a single artist. That might be fun. I’ll keep future posts a secret for now, though. I’m talking about my favorite subject, and don’t want to paint myself into a corner.

The Rowers Lunch 
By Pierre-Auguste Renoir

For now, I tip my beret as I retire to make love to the color—or write another novel. Words and pictures. Both so important, I can’t choose one over the other.

Historical Fiction by Caddy Rowland: 

April 17, 2014

Carol Strickland's The Eagle and the Swan - Guest Post and {Giveaway}

The Greek Key

Remember the old saw: “We study history so we’re not doomed to repeat it”? As a reader and writer of historical novels, I’ve been studying Greek history—especially the period of Greece’s golden Age (480-430 BCE). It’s a society worth studying, not to avoid their mistakes so much as to ponder their triumphs.

Life was short, hard, and brutish throughout Greece. But within the space of a few decades in one city-state, Athens, an extraordinary flowering of creativity occurred. Some would argue this outburst of originality in art, architecture, literature, law, government, philosophy, science, and mathematics is unequalled in human history—although Renaissance Italy and Elizabethan England are strong runners-up.

This ancient society, with a population of 400,000, not only invented geometry, logic, and democracy but produced these immortals: the philosophers Socrates, Democritus, Plato, and Heraclitus, the historians Thucydides and Herodotus, the physician Hippocrates, sculptors Phidias and Polykleitos, and architects whose crowning work, the Parthenon, incarnates a pinnacle of imperishable art.

How did they do it? What did this technologically primitive society have that we—with our computers, smart bombs, and satellites—don’t? How might we learn from them and point our civilization towards a cultural peak?

They had a leader well endowed with vision. The statesman Pericles, an idealistic reformer with boundless faith in humanity, set the tone. Under his authority, from 461-429 BCE, Athens achieved a balance between duty to state and freedom of the individual. The humanism of the age encouraged innovation, risk-taking, and free inquiry. There was no fear of change, only of stagnation.

Because of this confidence in the power of the individual, optimism became achievement rather than self-delusion. It led to a roster of accomplishments that still dazzle. Of course, Golden Age Greeks also emphasized rationality and moderation to check disorderly passions, but they insisted that compassion, tolerance, and humor infuse reason with feeling. (Always excepting slaves and suppressed women—they weren’t that far removed from the Neolithic Age.)

The nineteenth-century British writer Thomas Carlyle believed great individuals shape history more than political or socio-economic forces. We’ve seen powerful leaders drag countries into conflicts, yet those in authority can do more than unleash military campaigns. A great leader, like Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt, can inspire citizens to positive action. President John Kennedy’s call for unselfish action (“Ask not…”) spurred citizens to forsake self-interest for the Peace Corps’s altruism.

A Periclean leader—someone to harness an empire’s energy not for destruction
but construction of a dynamic society—is rare. The sixth-century Constantinople of my novel, steeped in Greek culture mingled with Roman practicality and Christian aspirations, desperately needed such a leader. Empress Theodora tried to persuade her husband, Emperor Justinian, that tolerance and faith in each individual’s potential would create a humane society. Although those two leaders left a legacy of increased rights for women and children, law reform, and glorious church architecture, Justinian never agreed with Theodora that diversity outweighed uniformity.

In a funeral oration Pericles delivered, he cited the main ingredients of a just society. Athenian government “favors the many instead of the few,” he said. “We throw open our city to the world,” he added, welcoming foreigners and never excluding them from opportunity. Advancement was earned by merit, not inherited based on social class. Equal justice was meted out to all. Happiness, Pericles declared, is “the fruit of freedom.”

Coincidentally, Pericles had his equivalent of Theodora. His mistress was the renowned courtesan Aspasia, an intellectual and a philosopher who influenced Socrates as well as Pericles.

I wonder if the Byzantine Empire would have risen to the heights of Periclean Athens if Justinian had heeded his consort’s counsel as Pericles did nearly a millennium before.

History provides no answers, but it does hold out hope.

About the book
Publication Date: November 7, 2013
Erudition Digital

For 1,500 years she has been cruelly maligned by history. Labelled as corrupt, immoral and sexually depraved by the sixth-century historian Procopius in his notorious Secret History, the Byzantine Empress Theodora was condemned to be judged a degenerate harlot by posterity. Until now. Due to a conviction that its contents would only be understood by generations of the distant future, a manuscript that has remained unopened for a millennium and a half is about to set the record straight. It will unravel the deepest secrets of a captivating and charismatic courtesan, her unlikely romance with an Emperor, and her rise to power and influence that would outshine even Cleopatra. This historical novel traces the love affairs, travails, machinations, scandals and triumphs of a cast of real characters who inhabit an Empire at its glorious and fragile peak. It’s the tale of a dazzling civilization in its Golden Age; one which, despite plague, earthquakes and marauding Huns, would lay the foundation for modern Europe as we know it.

Listen to an interview with Carol Strickland

Praise for The Eagle and the Swan

“It’s a book rife with detail and passion. If you like historical fiction this book hits on all cylinders. The level of detail in terms of prose and historical relevance is engaging. And THEN the plot is what’s moving. The love and lust combined with a compelling story, taking on universal themes from a cross section of history, makes for a gripping work.”

“Carol Strickland has written a masterful epic. It is beautifully crafted and impossible to put down.”

“Beautiful storytelling. Fascinating and well-developed characters. What an interesting time in history! This book was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The Eagle and the Swan is a must-read!”

Buy the eBook

About the Author
Carol Strickland is an art and architecture critic, prize-winning screenwriter, and journalist who’s contributed to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Art in America magazine. A Ph.D. in literature and former writing professor, she’s author of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in the History of Art from Prehistoric to Post-Modern (which has sold more than 400,000 copies in multiple editions and translations), The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture, The Illustrated Timeline of Art History, The Illustrated Timeline of Western Literature, and monographs on individual artists.

While writing on masterpieces of Byzantine art (glorious mosaics in Ravenna, Italy featuring Theodora and Justinian and the monumental Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul built by Justinian), Strickland became fascinated by the woman who began life as a swan dancer and her husband, an ex-swineherd.

Knowing how maligned they were by the official historian of their era Procopius, who wrote a slanderous “Secret History” vilifying them, Strickland decided to let the audacious Theodora tell her story. She emerges not just as the bear-keeper’s daughter and a former prostitute who ensnared the man who became emperor, but as a courageous crusader against the abuse of women, children, and free-thinkers.
Author Links

Author Website
Book Website
Facebook Page

Visit the other tours for more guest posts, reviews and giveaways - HFVBT TOUR SCHEDULE
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April 14, 2014

G.K. Holloway's 1066: What Fates Impose - Book Blast and {Giveaway}

Please join G.K. Holloway as he tours the blogosphere for 1066: What Fates Impose, from April 14 - May 2.

1066 What Fates Impose

Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Matador Publishing

King William then utters the following words to the room: ‘I appoint no one as my heir to the Crown of England, but leave it to the disposal of the Eternal Creator, whose I am and who orders all things. For I did not attain that high honour by hereditary right, but wrested it from the perjured King Harold in a desperate bloody battle.’ England is in crisis. King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own. There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland. Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies will stop at nothing to gain power. As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold. Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny – or does he have to bow to what fates impose?

Buy the Book

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository
Troubador Publishing

GK HollowayAbout the Author

I have been interested in history since I was a boy, which I suppose explains why, when I came across a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University that looked tailor made for me, I applied right away. In my first year at Coventry I lived in the halls of residence within a stone’s throw of the Leofric Hotel. In the opposite direction, just a short walk from my halls, is the bell tower that houses a clock, which when its bell chimes the hour, produces a half size model of naked Lady Godiva riding a horse for the titillation of tourists. Above her, Peeping Tom leans out of a window for a better view. In all of the three years I was there, it never once occurred to me that I would one day write a book featuring Earl Leofric and his famous wife, as key players. After graduating I spent a year in Canada before I returned to England to train as a Careers Officer in Bristol. Later, I lived and worked in Gloucestershire as a Careers Officer and then in Adult Education as an Education Guidance worker. After I met my wife, I moved back to Bristol to live and I worked at Bath Spa University as a Student Welfare Officer for a number of years. It was about this time I read a biography about King Harold II which fascinated me so much I read more and more about the man and the times. I found the whole pre-conquest period of England so interesting I couldn’t understand why no one had written a novel about it. So, I decided to write one myself. Now, after many years of study and time spent over a hot keyboard, I have finally produced thatnovel. 1066: What Fates Impose is the result of all that study and hard work and is the first book I’ve written. I am now working on a sequel.

Virtual Tour and Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 14
Book Blast at Kincavel Korner
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection  
Tuesday, April 15
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Book Blast at Let Them Read Books  
Wednesday, April 16
Review at Svetlana's Reviews and Views
Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read  
Thursday, April 17
Book Blast at Closed the Cover
Book Blast at Historical Tapestry
 Friday, April 18
Book Blast at Time 2 Read
Book Blast at The Bookworm  
Monday, April 21
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Book Blast at Griperang's Bookmarks  
Tuesday, April 22
Review/Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Interview at Flashlight Commentary  
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Interview at The Maiden's Court  
Thursday, April 24
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Book Blast at Reading the Ages
 Friday, April 25
Review at Impressions in Ink
Book Blast at Ink Sugar Blog
Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer  
Monday, April 28
Review at Kinx's Book Nook
Book Blast at Just One More Chapter  
Tuesday, April 29
Review at CelticLady's Reviews
Book Blast at Historical Readings and Reviews  
Wednesday, April 30
Review at Historical Tapestry
Book Blast at Book Nerd  
Thursday, May 1
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes  
Friday, May 2
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Book Blast at A Book Geek
Book Blast at Layered Pages


To win a copy of 1066: What Fates Impose please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on May 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on May 3rd and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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