Knife of Dreams, Part VII

JordanKnifeOfDreamsBannerWelcome everyone to Book 11 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to Knife of Dreams over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, Liesel’s at Musings on Fantasia, home of the cool non-spoilery fan art, is our host. Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, can be found in the comments over there. Check out Sue’s post at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers for insights and deft reasoning and.

This week, we covered Chapters 27-31. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) Why do you think Semirhage’s disguise of the Power failed? Did you see the Rand-losing-his-hand thing coming?

I am guessing that one of Cadsuane’s angreals counteracted the glamor. Cadsuane was there for that scene, right? Or am I just making that up? I guess there could be some innate power about Rand that allows him or Lews Therin to see through glamors. It wouldn’t be the first time that some character suddenly sprung a new ability as they gain in power.

I did not see Rand losing his hand at all. That completely surprised me. We haven’t had any of our main characters so permanently and detrimentally wounded before. Yes, Rand does have those irritating never-healing wounds in his side, but they don’t slow him down. Mat has that scar on his neck, but it just gives him an excuse to wear lacy scarves. Thom has a limp, but not bad. Perrin lost his family to Trollocs (which was harsh and he is definitely emotionally scarred from that), but again, he isn’t physically hindered. So, yes, I was quite surprised.

2) Do you think Mat’s plan against the Seanchan is a good one? Will it turn the tide?

I really am not sure if it is a good one. Tuon seems to think he is a lion in the field, and I expect she was trained in military tactics. Mat’s military leaders also think he is pretty hot shit in the field, so that bodes well too. But I think Tuon and her actions/orders to the Seanchan army are going to way in heavily on the outcome. Even if Mat totally rules the battlefield, there will be another battle, and another battle, etc. The Seanchan don’t really have a motto that allows them to retreat or surrender as a whole. Plus, we as the readers know that their homeland is totally screwed. So if they can’t go home, and if they can’t dominate Randland, what choice does that leave them with? I fear it may be fight until the last Seanchan warrior is dead.

3) Tam showed up! (Yea!) What did you think of his reaction to confirmation that Rand is the Dragon Reborn?

Wow! Another thing I wasn’t expecting. And I was a little surprised that Mat put him high up in the pecking order of his army. I know Mat can trust Tam, but Mat hasn’t seen the badass military Tam that we all suspected lurked under that sheepherding, moonshine brewing farmer that we met way back in Book 1.

I think Tam took the news pretty well. But then, he had heard about it before confirming it with Mat so I suspect he had plenty of time to go through all the emotions.

4) Masema shows up at an inconvenient time to (somewhat) ruin Perrin’s plans. What do you think he’s doing? What’s his endgame?

I think Masema was confirming with his own eyes how ‘evil’ Perrin is by working with Channelers, etc. But I also suspect he was giving final instructions to Aram (see next question).

If crazy Masema has an endgame, I think it is Randland domination via religious fervor. But if he were to ever achieve such a victory, Rand would have to be dead. Hence, Masema would have everyone, including himself, dirnk the Kool-aid to join the Dragon Reborn in some afterlife utopia that caters to crazy mass-murderers.

5) All kinds of crazy stuff in this chapter! Aram tries to kill Perrin and dies himself. Tylee captures Sevanna. And Galina ends up in Therava’s clutches, headed for the Waste. What did you think  of all these twists? Did you wish for other outcomes? How do you think they’ll affect the story going forward?

I was pretty sad to see Aram go in the way he did. I thought he would go out in the fight protecting Rand or someone else in some senseless act of heroism that would torture Perrin’s soul forever. Nope, instead he turns on Perrin, per Masema’s influence, and tries to kill him. Is it just me, or has there been an undercurrent of bromance going on for several books (Aram digging on Perrin, though Perrin is totally oblivious to this)?

I was very satisfied with Sevanna being captured and lugged around as a trophy across Tylee’s pommel having her ass slapped. Originally, I had hoped someone would kill Galina, but her punishment is ever so much better. She gets to live, but it is not the life she wanted at all. Haha! I wish there was a side story about her life of drudgery.

I think that Aram’s death will affect Perrin’s psyche going forward, of course.

6) Elayne encounters some black Sisters and, in her haste, ends up in hot water. We had a cliffhanger on this. What do you think will happen next? Were you surprised that it was actually Careanne that was Black Ajah, contrary to Elayne’s suspicions?

Elayne may be an efficient administrator for a country, but she sucks at espionage, battle, and winning her throne. She already owes Rand a very big kiss for keeping her throne warm for her. Now she needs saving. Rand might have to do it, but he just suffered a nasty injury and has his own worries. So maybe Brigitte and crew can save her? Did all of Elayne’s aes sedai get captured in this folly or are there more that Brigitte can call upon? There’s the Warders, so they might be able to pull it off. Either way, Elayne is going to owe her life and possibly her throne to someone else, again.

Quite frankly, the cast of characters in the Black Ajah/suspected Black Ajah category have run together for me. So I wasn’t particularly surprised, but then I was just going with the story, not having made up an opinion on it.

Other Tidbits:

I get that Min is doing a lot of keep Rand human and connected to the human race, but should she really be on the front lines of what turned out to be a nasty fight? While I respect her knife skills, that’s all she’s got going for her in a fight and this one had one of the biggest, nastiest Forsaken of them all.

Why didn’t Faile & crew pack water for their escape? Why didn’t they have a bit of water to drink before they became trapped? Of course, we couldn’t have Megden drinking the forkroot, but it nagged at me a little.

Didn’t anyone else shed a little tear for the lost Rolan?

Treasure of the Silver Star by Michael Angel

AngelTreasureOfTheSilverStarWhy I Read It: Space opera that combines treasure hunting, archaeology, and space chase – can’t miss that!

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For light space opera junkies.

Narrator: Lee Strayer

Publisher: Banty Hen Publishing (2013)

Length: 5 hours 34 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a far flung galaxy, we have a disgraced starship captain (Drake) and an independent archaeologist (Tally) who must join forces to save the galaxy and perhaps earn a little money. Drake’s command crew made me think of Star Trek (Sebastien, Kincaide, Ferra, etc.) and the space battle scenes were reminiscent of Star Wars battles. Definitely a mix mash of pulp fiction and space opera.Drake struggles through the book to regain his former polish and glory after wrongly being placed in the Losers box with a bunch of Loser rejects on a Loser ship.

Then we have the treasure hunter/archaeology aspect thrown in. Tally made me think of a female Indiana Jones; she was very focused on her goal and not afraid of the physical effort it would take to get it. She had some of the most interesting scenes because they had to do with history, and therefore, had the most detail.

The plot was pretty straight forward and the characters, once established, didn’t change much. The bad guys were stereotypical and our heroes are 100% good guys. Normally, I enjoy a bit more variation in all of that, but for a fast paced, short space opera, it was decent. If you have some task where you need your hands and a bit of concentration, then this would be good braincandy for the background.

We had more men than women and I would have enjoyed seeing that a bit more balanced. But the few females we had in the storyline added to the plot and weren’t just scenery. The one sex scene came off as a bit awkward and didn’t engage my libido. I like my sex scenes and if one (or more) are going to be thrown in, they should count.

Narration: Lee Strayer did a good job of keeping the characters distinct. There were a few passages where the sentences were repeated, so not the cleanest on final editing. Still, the actual narration was well done with clear feminine and masculine voices, different accents, and proper emotions.

What I Liked: Fast-paced; fun; archaeology, hurray!; space battles!; treasure hunting; the ending.

What I Disliked: Only a few female characters; awkward sex scene; no character growth.

Interview: Aaron Paul Lazar, Author of the LeGarde Mysteries

LazarTheLiarsGalleryFolks, please welcome Aaron Paul Lazar, author of the Gus LeGarde mystery series, to the blog today. We chat about side characters, surviving a desert island misadventure, the influence of family, and more. Sit back and enjoy!

Who are your non-writer influences?

Hi, Susan. Thanks for having me here today. When I read through your questions in advance, I was thrilled to see they are not your usual collection of “where do you get your ideas?” or “how do you find time to write?” Thank you in advance for making this a unique and interesting interview!

Re. your first question about non-writer influences on my writing…I would say my family is probably the number one influence in everything I do, including the characters I create and the struggles they must get through. In the beginning, when I was a young man poring through all the books in my parents’ collection, they were exclusively mysteries, which definitely nudged me into my primary genre.

Now, later in life, my wife Dale and I have had a wonderful, but challenging life as a couple (33 years!), with frequent bumps in the road due to health issues and more. Getting our three daughters through the teenage years was harrowing, and it’s when my silver hair started to sprout at my temples. But now they’re grown and having families of their own, so the joys and problems have shifted. Many of our life experiences filter into the books, including some of the funny stories created by my beloved grandchildren. There was one hilarious story about my two-and-a-half-year-old Grandson that inadvertently made it into two of my series. He must have been a chef in his past life, because he started to make a twelve-egg omelet and a pot of soup in our kitchen while everyone slept at 5:00 AM! (I’ll tell you about that if you ask, LOL!)

I’m also, I must admit, influenced by the world around me in the form of friends and media. When a friend’s wife contracted a mysterious heart virus and she almost died, I couldn’t help but imagine how he felt, and of course, I’d put twists on the scenario in my constantly whirring imagination. Or when my boss’s daughter died of cancer, I couldn’t help but empathize with his pain. When I hear about horrible events on the news, after suitable sighs of dismay, my mind tucks away the possibilities of turning it this way or that, and what if… So in truth, there is nothing that happens in my world that doesn’t present possible ideas for the next book in the works. ;o)

LazarDevil'sLakeIn writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

In general, I haven’t progressed to the lofty ideals of turning my bad guys into good guys at the end of a story. Most of my character arcs occur with the “regulars” in my series who can be seen in each book. There are featured characters that come and go, and the villains usually just have one appearance in one book of the series.

But I do see the evil character redeeming himself more and more in literature and in the movies, and I’m in awe of people who do it well like S.W. Vaughn in her House Phoenix series (the Jenner character) or like the Korean man (I think his name was Jinn-Soo Kwon) in Lost who turns from a mafia type killer to a helpful, loving man.

My bad guys are admittedly evil, nasty creeps and I want my readers to stand up and cheer when I dispatch them, like I always do. In my most recent book release, DEVIL’S LAKE, I created a monstrous guy who kidnaps and hurts young women. I hate him. Oh, do I hate him. And it felt SO good to deliver a nice chunk of “payback” to him. I was cheering myself at that point. LOL.

LazarLadyBluesAs a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

I often get asked questions by fellow writers about how to deal with writer’s block, and my answer for that is similar to my answer to this question about what non writing/reading activities can help an aspiring author. I tell them to go out and simply live their lives, but with their eyes wide open. Go hiking in the woods. Grow a lush garden and revel in the tastes and fragrances it produces. Wander through a small town festival. Observe details, including all the sounds and sensations in the environs. Try to enjoy (instead of dread) a trip to the grocery store where a multitude of character types and conversations wait patiently for you to take notice. LISTEN to these voices so your own dialog can sound authentic.

Living life is how we absorb the sensual beauty of the world around us as well as collecting new characters and situations for books to come. It’s all about watching and listening to everything with awe and wonder, paying attention to the details, tucking these observations away for later, and letting them come back out in your next book.

How did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

Oh, gosh, Susan. You’d think I would remember. It was in 2004 when I first received a contract for Double Forté. I remember being exhilarated, feeling almost like a “real” writer, and telling my wife, who was quite calm about it. She’s still very blasé about my writing, which does take time away from our life together. But when The Seacrest paid for our vacation this summer, she smiled. So I’m making progress. I especially remember, however, when the first print copies of Double Forté arrived on my doorstep and I opened the box. Now, that was a thrill!

The Desert Island Collection: what books make it into your trunk and why?

I’m going to include audio books in this collection, and I will make sure to bring plenty of batteries or chargers so I can listen, because some of my favorite books in recent years have been in audio format:

All of the Alan Bradley books featuring Flavia DeLuce. (six in the series so far)
All of John D. MacDonald’s books, hardcover or audio by Robert Petkoff.
All of Dick Francis’s novels, particularly those read by Simon Prebble.
A selection of titles by these authors, who I just love: Polly Iyer, Ellis Vidler, Michael Prescott, Laurie R. King, Jenny Milchman, Joan Hall Hovey, and so many more!

LazarSpiritMeAwayWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Okay, don’t spread this around, but there is one really funny argument my wife and I always have. She’ll wake up and find me already working on a book at the crack of dawn. After our good mornings to each other, sometimes she rolls her eyes and says, “What else did I expect.” She shakes her head and goes for her coffee, mumbling, “Aaron and his computer.” I always rise to the bait. I say, “It’s not me and my computer! This is just a tool. It’s me and my WRITING.” But it never fails. It’s like she thinks I am having an affair or obsessed with a electro-mechanical gizmo every time. I admit. I am obsessed with my parallel universes and there’s no question about that.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

One of my new favorite authors is Polly Iyer. She writes great books and her characters just jump off the page. In a recent book, Hooked, I fell in love with many of the minor characters. Hooked is a slick, sassy, sexy thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I fell in love with the characters, who in spite of their failings were incredibly memorable and unique. Not for those seeking pure and wholesome stories, this examines the seedy underbelly of the call girl world in New York City, but it isn’t what you might expect. This book was full of humor, intrigue, and romance, but who would expect to take a liking to a whorehouse owner? I did! I loved Polly’s character, Benny, and recommend the story to thriller lovers everywhere.

In my recent work, it seems folks have fallen in love with octogenarian Kip Sterling, the gentlemen featured in Lady Blues: forget-me-not, who has lost his memory, but with the help of a new Alzheimer’s drug, is beginning to remember things about his life. Most important, he’s remembering the long, lost love of his life, Arabella DuBois, a black nightclub singer he had a torrid affair with in 1946. Gus LeGarde tries to help him find out if she’s alive, and if she is, if she still remembers Kip.

AuthorAaronPaulLazarFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’d love to share two new books I just released last week – here are the details.

Devil’s Lake – Synopsis
After two years of brutal captivity, Portia Lamont has escaped and returned to her family’s Vermont horse farm—only to find her parents gone to New York attempting an experimental treatment for her mother’s cancer, and her childhood friend Boone Hawke running the place. The man Boone has become frightens her to near paralysis, but she’s too traumatized and physically devastated to keep going.

Like the rest of her family, Boone has never given up hope that Portia would return. But when she turns up battered, skeleton-thin, afraid of everything and unable to talk about where she’s been, he does the only thing he can—try to help her heal. He summons the town doctor and Portia’s parents, and sets out to put this beautiful, broken woman back together.

Through her family’s love and Boone’s undemanding affection, Portia gradually begins to come back to herself, and to fall for her old friend in a whole new way. But a dark stain threatens her fragile hopes for recovery: The man who took her promised that if she ever escaped, he’d kill her. Slowly. And someone is definitely watching her… waiting to make a deadly move.

The Liar’s Gallery: a Gus LeGarde Mystery
The last place Gus LeGarde expects to find his old friend Byron Cunningham is in a plane that crashes in a field near his farmhouse. But that’s just the first surprise in a series of shocking events beginning with the discovery of a Monet painting crammed into the plane’s fuselage. Is it real? Or fake? The trail leads Gus into a twisting trio of dangerous art world conspiracies.

Gus fends off some very pushy collectors and soon realizes he may have crossed paths with treacherous criminals, putting his family at risk. As if that isn’t enough, he must also contend with a problem that’s close to his heart: his daughter, Shelby, is growing up too fast. She’s determined to sing professionally and is now under the spell of a wolf in tenor’s clothing, handsome Greek student, Dmitri. When she vanishes with the family car, her frantic parents desperately chase the fading trail.

A slew of Facebook messages on Shelby’s computer lead them to The Eastman School of Music, where both Shelby’s new flame and Gus’s old friend have been hiding secrets linked to the art scandal. There’s a real Monet out there somewhere, and nothing—including murder—will stop the desperate man who wants it.

All of my books can be found at www.lazarbooks.com, and I love to hear from readers and writers who want to connect with me.

Thank you, Susan, for having me here today. It was a pleasure being here and I wish you and your fans/friends well – happy reading and writing!

Places to Stalk Aaron Paul Lazar

A little more about Lazar & his books!

 
Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming releases, SANCTUARY(2014) and MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA(2014).
AWARDS:
The Seacrest
  • 2014 Best Beach Book Festival WINNER, Romance category
  • 2013 ForeWord Book Awards, Romance, FINALIST
Double Forté
  • 2012 ForeWord BOTYA, Mystery, FINALIST
Tremolo: cry of the loon
  • 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Grand Prize Short List
  • 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Honorable Mention, Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction
  • 2011 Global eBook Award Finalist in Historical Fiction Contemporary
  • 2011 Preditors & Editors Readers Choice Award – 2nd place Mystery
  • 2008 Yolanda Renée’s Top Ten Books
  • 2008 MYSHELF Top Ten Reads
For the Birds
  • 2011 ForeWord Book Awards, FINALIST in Mystery
  • 2012 Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top 10 Reads
Essentially Yours
  • 2013 EPIC Book Awards, FINALIST in Suspense
  • 2013 Eric Hoffer Da Vinci Eye Award Finalist
Healey’s Cave
  • 2012 EPIC Book Awards WINNER Best Paranormal
  • 2011 Eric Hoffer Book Award, WINNER Best Book in Commercial Fiction
  • 2011 Finalist for Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice
  • 2011 Winner of Carolyn Howard Johnson’s 9th Annual Noble (not Nobel!) Prize for Literature
  • 2011 Finalists for Global EBook Awards
 Terror Comes Knocking
  • 2013 Global Ebook Awards, Paranormal – Bronze
For Keeps
  • 2013 Semi Finalist in Kindle Book Review Book Awards, Mystery Category

Reich by Drew Avera

AveraReichWhy I Read It: Odd as it sounds, I have never contemplated a world where Hitler and/or the Reich lived on, so this book intrigued me.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy your speculative fiction doused with a political or mildly moral bent, then check this out.

Narrator: Kieth L. O’Brien

Publisher: Drew Alexander Avera (2013)

Length: 1 hour 52 minutes

Author’s Page

Set roughly ~150 years after Hitler’s death, the citizens of Germany still live under the Reich, the Aryan Nation reigning supreme within her borders. Life is orderly, a little too orderly, and plenty of people stomp around in big boots and ill-designed uniforms. The average citizen of Germany lives in a tyrannical hell, and those that keep the order abuse it. Without giving away a huge plot twist, this book is more than the back cover description gives it credit for.

We open with a boy who runs afoul of authority. I have to say that the first three jumps, or was it four?, in point of view through me in a creeped-out-by-the-viciousness-of-authority-gone-astray kind of way. Folks die in this book people, hence some of the shifting POVs. Yet, everyone is a hero in their own heads. I definitely enjoy a tale where everyone believes that they aren’t really all that bad. So it was good to show that through the shifting POVs.

At under 2 hours, the plot has to move along pretty quickly. So we start with the view of the average citizen born and raised this in this new Germany, then learn the BIG SECRET, which is followed by a rebellion of the citizens. A young mother ends up leading this rebellion and we end up following her for most of the book. While I found her character a bit lacking in military leadership skills (she is chaperoned around everywhere by chivalrous men), I can see her as a very efficient administrator of a country.

There wasn’t much in the way of character development once the character was established, but then, this isn’t a very long piece. I was more fascinated with the plot and the idea of a world where Hitler and/or the Reich are worshiped and carried on in some way. Other than that very questionable movie about Nazis setting up a long-term camp on the moon (oh and it was short story from the 1950s too, I think), I have never really contemplated this. Toss in Avera’s twist (which has something to do with misplaced authority on a very large scale) and you have an ever deeper level of contemplation.

All in all, Drew Avera is an author to keep an eye on, specifically his writing pen, to see what he turns out next.

Narration: O’Brien did a good job narrating this story. His German accent and little bit of German was well done (to my ears which have only had 2 years of school German). His little kid and female voices were believable and each character was distinct.

What I Liked: Interesting story premise; very interesting plot twist; enjoyed the shifting POVs at the beginning; everyone is a hero in their own heads.

What I Disliked: Could use more women.

What Others Think:

Christoph Fischer (review & interview)

Mich’s Book Reviews

Edwin: High King of Britain by Edoardo Albert

AlbertEdwinHighKingofBritainWhy I Read It: I knew little about this time period in England and wanted to begin my exploration through this book.

Where I Got It: A review copy via the blog tour hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone who enjoys old English history from before England was one united country.

Publisher: Lion Fiction (2014)

Length: 351 pages

Series: Book 1 The Northumbrian Thrones

Author’s Page

Set in the 600s AD in what would some day be called England, the various small kingdoms jokey for supremacy. We enter the story with Edwin, who is a grown man with a deceased wife and two sons. He has also lost his father and his kingdom to the never ceasing political intrigues and warring kingdoms. This time and place is undergoing change. The Anglo-Saxons hold to the old ways, in language, politics, and religion, while the Britons are introducing ideas, language, and religion from the European continent. As you might guess, the culture clashes this causes adds to the grief and consternation of many of our characters, and makes for a riveting story.

The story is well-paced, keeping the reader engaged and moving the story forward without shorting the reader on plot or character development. As Edwin struggles to gain rulership and then hold it, he has to pay price after price. Some of those prices haunt him in the ghosts of the deceased. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this book: travel by sea was often safer and quicker; having a private room was a luxury reserved for the ruler of the hall and his lady; a war between two kingdoms could have been as little as 100 men (the total of the trained, fighting forces of both factions). Life was gritty, hard, and for many, way too short.

The religious aspect was presented in context, the author showing the mistrust and misunderstanding inherent on both sides. Since each side claims to speak for some supreme being(s), and each side has their rituals (often viewed as magic or casting curses by the other), there were often misunderstandings and sometimes outright competition for supremacy. Edwin, in his rulership, has to learn to walk a fine line trying to keep all happy and from killing each other.

Now here comes my one criticism. The women are few and far between. They occasionally play some pivotal point, but those scenes were sometimes cut short. For instance, Edwin must take a second wife and she suggests he allow her to sit in on his council meetings. He grants her this, even allows her to speak, but before we get to hear her persuasive words, the scene cuts to the hall singer. Once we return to the council, the decision has been made and the meeting is breaking up.  The women have limited roles in this book, so I would have liked to see those roles flushed out and made whole in living color.

Even with that one fault, I often found myself staying up way too late reading this book. It’s engaging, educational, gripping at times. Many of the characters are neither good nor bad, all of them being heroes in their own minds, and all of them doing some harm to another. I like my characters like that as I find myself able to connect with nearly all of them at some point throughout the book. This book is a worthy read and I look forward to the second in the series.

What I Liked: Plenty of history with accuracy; conflict due to culture clashes; very interesting characters.

What I Disliked: Could use more women.

Places to Find Edoardo Albert

 Website

Twitter

Facebook

Follow The Tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Monday, August 25
Review at Princess of Eboli
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Interview & Giveaway: Edoardo Albert, Author of Edwin: High King of Britain

AuthorEdoardoAlbertIt is my pleasure to have Edoardo Albert on the blog today. His novel, Edwin: High King of Britain, is the first in the series chronicling the Christian kings of England of old. Come enjoy our chat on historical figures, Tolkien, how the Anglo-Saxons took their swearing seriously, and more! Scroll down for info on the Giveaway!

Who are some of your favorite historical villains? Who are some of your favorite historical heroes? In general, are these villains and heroes misunderstood by the modern public?

Of course, Aristotle was right: all men act according to what they see as good – even the worst men in history do not get up in the morning to twirl their mustaches and cackle, “What is the evillest thing I can do today?” But yet, men do evil, and great evil at that. A favorite villain must be one with a certain style and panache, so I suppose someone like Napoleon would rank at the top of the tree there: a man whose vanity and energy plunged Europe into a decade and a half of war, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and a world remade, yet whose charisma was such that he is still regarded as a hero as much as a villain. Such was his personal magnetism that I’m sure if I’d been in his orbit I would have ended up circling the Napoleonic sun along with all his other satellites. As for heroes, you’d be hard put to do better than William Wilberforce and the others who campaigned, and succeeded, in ending an institution as old as humanity and one that no one could really have imagined could be ended: slavery. But, since evil lacks imagination, slavery and human trafficking is on the way back, for what better way to demonstrate pure power than to own other human beings.

As to these and other historical figures being misunderstood, it depends on where you stand on the debate as to whether one can enter into any other age in any real way. The cultural and historical relativists have strong arguments, but in the end, as a writer, I plump for the belief that the fundamentals of human existence unite us through the ages. Besides, all men consider their time to be normal, and in writing historical fiction that is one of the great rules to bear in mind when dealing with the strangeness of past cultures.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

To be honest, mostly by ignoring them. Bathroom breaks are the common lot of humanity and although the toilet difficulties in pre-modern times are quite interesting they are better dealt with a non-fiction book (in fact, that could be a whole new book right there – Toilet Habits of the Past!). Anglo-Saxon swear words have transferred all too well to modern English, so I haven’t felt any particular need to include them, and a characteristic of pre-modern and barely literate peoples was a far greater reverence for language, so even the cursing was better done. There’s quite a bit about travel in Edwin: High King of Britain, for with roads being generally poor, rivers and sea were more highways than obstructions.

AlbertEdwinHighKingofBritainMyths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

At the most surface level, it has spawned various fandoms, from Harry Potter to Tolkien geeks to Trekkies. The writers of the golden age of science fiction were indirectly responsible for the space race, their writing inspiring many of the scientists and engineers that worked on the Apollo missions. Modern fantasy fiction seems to have had a more diffused effect; it’s probably stepped into the void left by the decline of religious belief in some countries of the old West, although in that case its more placebo than anything else. I suspect the jury is still out as to whether its long-term effects will be for good or ill.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The Lord of the Rings. It still stands head and shoulders above all modern fantasy, and to read it again would be to enter Middle-earth afresh – who wouldn’t want to do that?

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

For the world of Edwin – a very real but only dimly perceived world – the two foremost documents are Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Without them, we would have only archaeology, which is vital for a deep understanding of a world but leaves us without names or actors within that world. Apart from these foundational sources, there has been a great deal of excellent scholarship on the period, notably by James Campbell (a different Campbell to the one who wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces), Peter Hunter Blair and Nick Higham. I’ve also hugely benefited from my conversations with my archaeologist co-writer of Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom, Paul Gething, who shared his expertise, knowledge and passion for the period with me through many long conversations.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Apart from Paul, my wife and children. Harriet is my first reader, my best critic and, as an actress and voice teacher, the perfect person to read my stories out loud to me; there is no better way to learn if something works or not than to hear it read to you. And having a family has simultaneously reduced the time I have available to write by half but increased my productivity when I do write by something like fiftyfold – I have reason to write other than myself now!

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Thucydides and Herodotus are on my to read list, along with the Aeneid, from the Classical period. The lack of sources for the early Anglo-Saxon era means that it’s really not that difficult to read everything that’s survived from then, and Bede is such a pleasure to read that I return to him frequently.

With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I would hope it means that people will read more widely; I suspect that little of the self-consciously literary fiction of the second half of the twentieth century has any lasting value, but some of the genre novels will survive as long as people read – Stephen King is a better chronicler of our times than the vast majority of literary novelists. As to me, I read widely as a matter of course, so I’d be delighted to be lured out of my comfort zone.

If you could go enjoy a meal in a historical setting (time travel, here we come!), where/when would that be, and what would you eat? Who would you invite from that time and place to sup with you?

Gosh, that’s a tough question! Part of me would like to attend the Last Supper, but I’m not sure I could bear to be present for the events of the day afterwards. Apart from that, I’d like to invite Dante and Boccacio to a high medieval feast in Italy – days of feasting, song and conversation – and then to drop into the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford in the 1930s when Tolkien, Lewis and the Inklings were all in full flow.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Read! Bring up children. Day job – the usual stuff writers do when they’re not writing.

I snooped around on your website. You have written in several genres: SFF short stories, history books, a biography of Tolkien, a children’s book, historical texts on Islamic philosophers. Which do you find more challenging: the non-fiction or fiction works? Are there genres you would like to branch out into even further? Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Non-fiction and fiction present different challenges. With non-fiction the first and greatest challenge is to tell the truth. Of course, that’s also the challenge of fiction, but the templates of truth are different in each case. Non-fiction requires adherence to sources, proper understanding and sifting of contemporary scholarship – with its enthusiasms and biases – and synthesis; there’s always more you could write! Fiction demands the writer remains true to the story and its characters, removing himself from them as far as is possible. I think working in different areas has benefited me hugely as a writer and I’d definitely hope to write in further genres; in fact, a book I’ve been commissioned to write on the spiritual history of London is turning into something of a new genre in itself: part history, part travel, part spiritual autobiography, I’m making it up as I go along! When writing, I usually just write one book at a time, but I’ll probably be reading and researching the next at the same time.

Thank you for your questions; they really made me think hard!

About the Book

Debut historical fiction series vividly recreating the rise of the Christian kings of Northumbria, England.

In 604 AD, Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure–the missionary Paulinus– who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point.

Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life.

This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade–and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.

The dramatic story of Northumbria’s Christian kings helped give birth to England as a nation, English as a language, and the adoption of Christianity as the faith of the English.

Places to Find Edoardo Albert

 Website

Twitter

Facebook

Giveaway!

Edoardo Albert has one paperback copy of Edwin: High King of Britain. The giveaway is open to US, UK and Canada residents. In order to enter, leave a comment answering this question: What historical figure would you like to read a historical fiction on? I’ll select at the end of the book tour (midnight September 19th, 2014). Leave me a way to contact you in the comment (email, twitter, etc.). Good luck!

Follow The Tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Monday, August 25
Review at Princess of Eboli
Review at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

Tuesday, August 26
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, August 27
Review at Dab of Darkness

Thursday, August 28
Interview & Giveaway at Dab of Darkness

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 3
Review at The Writing Desk
Review at The Mad Reviewer

Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 8
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, September 10
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Thoughts in Progress

Friday, September 12
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Layered Pages

Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Friday, September 19
Review at Book Drunkard

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Interview: Hazel Woods, Author of This Is How I’d Love You

AuthorHazelWoodsFolks, please welcome New Mexico author Hazel Woods to the blog. She’s just released her debut novel, This Is How I’d Love You, a tale set in 1917, on the brink of WWI. Sit back and enjoy!

Who are your non-writer influences?

My non-writer influences are all of the ghosts from the past.  I think family history is really compelling.  Trying to imagine the people who lived and laughed and grieved and struggled long ago, but without whom we would not exist, is exhilarating.

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Oh, man.  Two of the most shameful omissions are Beowulf and The Travels of Marco Polo.  I’m sure there are many others.

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I think it’s important to try to have a distinct time when I stop researching, and just write.  My imagination needs space to incorporate what’s been learned.  If I keep going back to the research, I end up being too literal.  For me, if I don’t have a hard and fast end date, I will just keep researching and never write the novel.

WoodsThisIsHowI'dLoveYouIn this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I love being able to connect with readers.  Writing is such a lonesome endeavor.  It’s fun to finally have a dialogue about the work.  It’s tough for me, on the other hand, to be a salesperson.  There are so many amazing books published and never enough hours in the day—I find it difficult to insist that my book be on the top of someone’s list.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

As a kid, I was solely a reader.  I loved books more than anything else.  But it wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I realized all of those books that I loved were written by actual people.  I suppose I was a bit dense.  But the library was such a magical place filled with so much goodness, that I’d never stopped to consider what preceded the library in the supply chain–that place where the books were actually written.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in historical fiction literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

To be honest, I don’t have a very extensive list which is due to the fact that I don’t seek out historical fiction exclusively—I simply read for great characters and compelling drama.  That said, I’d recommend anything by Hilary Mantel; I loved  The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman and The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer.  Two other favorites are Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.

What do you do when you are not writing?

My biggest joy is my family—my two kids and my husband.  I am still an avid reader. I love to play tennis, eat cookies, and sew.

About The Book

As the Great War rages, an independent young woman struggles to sustain love—and life—through the power of words. It’s 1917 and America is on the brink of World War I. After Hensley Dench’s father is forced to resign from the New York Times for his anti-war writings, she finds herself expelled from the life she loves and the future she thought she would have. Instead, Hensley is transplanted to New Mexico, where her father has taken a job overseeing a gold mine. Driven by loneliness, Hensley hijacks her father’s correspondence with Charles Reid, a young American medic with whom her father plays chess via post. Hensley secretly begins her own exchange with Charles, but looming tragedy threatens them both, and—when everything turns against them—will their words be enough to beat the odds?

Places to Find Hazel Woods

Website

Twitter

Follow the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour

Monday, August 25
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, August 27
Interview at Dab of Darkness

Friday, August 29
Interview at Book Babe

Monday, September 1
Review & Interview at Closed the Cover

Tuesday, September 2
Review & Interview at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 3
Review at The Bookworm

Thursday, September 4
Review at Booktalk & More

Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Monday, September 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Tuesday, September 9
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, September 10
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

Friday, September 12
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review & Guest Post at Bookish

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Book of Secrets

Wednesday, September 17
Review at Book Nerd

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