Updates: Growth Spurts, Graduation and Gloucester

The Lascaux Cave paintings came up for discussion & we talked deep into the night.

Not too long ago, my son asked as he surveyed his Blu Ray collection of over 500: “Remember when I opened my desk drawer and said, ‘This is where I’ll keep my DVDs’?” Indeed, at the time he had just a few DVDs, and I suppose we both didn’t think beyond the point when what he owned would no longer fit in that drawer. Since then, the collection grew, and one day he decided the DVD was a reviled thing of the past. “Dirty Vile Disks,” he called them. He set out to replace every single DVD he owned with the Blu Ray version, while simultaneously growing that collection. He now has difficulty fitting them in his room, though in my opinion this is because his shelving is inefficient.

But who am I to talk? I’ve shifted furniture every so often for his entire life and between my ideas and his, we’ve found some pretty clever ways to create more storage, especially for books. And yet I’m still running out of space. We both have a lot of books. His most recent purchase was John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed.* Mine was How to Be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman, and Digging for Richard and…well, never mind, we don’t have to get all into that. At least not now. The point is, I, uh, well, I’m in the market for an additional bookshelf, as of last Sunday at about noon when I left the library book sale a few dollars poorer and a lot of books heavier. I’ll just leave it at three boxes – some of them might have been super fat books, hey?

I’m not quite ready to divulge how much I spent, or exactly how many books I came home with. Let’s just say I had a bit of a growth spurt. Keep an eye out for more details.

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A couple of weeks ago my son graduated from high school. I’m not exactly sure how this happened, because twenty minutes ago I was standing in the kitchen holding his little face as it peered up at me, telling him I won’t be able to do that much longer. He refused to believe me, but here we are, him towering over me and laughing because I can’t get my Swiffer to reach the top of the wall. Hey, it’s a cathedral ceiling! No matter, he still demands hugs, and that works.

Here is what I wrote the night he walked:

I am severely overdue for this: gratitude of the day.

I am so grateful for my son: a fine young man at eighteen, he always tries to do the right thing. He is smart, sensitive, hard-working and likes to move in sport. He has always enjoyed reading, is very into film history and can solve a Rubik’s cube without blinking, the latter portion of it with his hands literally behind his back. He has chosen at various times to immerse himself in lots of different learning: languages (Spanish & German), music (baritone & tuba), oceanography, studies of Ancient Rome and history of the Americas, theater, trigonometry, African literature, was “Swedish for a day,” loves animals and children (and is compassionate, playful and wonderful with both), attempts to understand politics thoughtfully and honestly, loves to bicycle and play basketball. We often reminisce about a research project he did in first grade about otters – he is still quite proud of that experience. He earned over $5,000.00 one summer for a trip to Europe and continued to hold down that job – in which he got a promotion within the first month – through the rest of high school, which he just graduated from with honors and as part of two honor societies, one of which he volunteered for on numerous occasions. He has written two books (one for very small children, the other young adult) and self studies techniques and other about film making. His friends are terrific and I am so happy for him that they’ve all met and shared as much as they did.

I know I’ve left a lot out, but even just that small bit above is more than I accomplished at his age, and I am so blessed, truly blessed that he is in my life. I am so excited to see where he goes! ~

I know I used which a lot at one point in there, but bear with me. I’ve got something in my eye.

You know what else is about to graduate? One of my wips is soon to be published in an anthology. It’s a short story about Richard III and you probably remember me mentioning it here. I’ve contributed to another anthology in the past, so I guess I could already call myself an author, but it wasn’t original work in the sense this is. Of course this draws on established history, but what historical fiction doesn’t? Here I create a character – or she brought herself to my attention would likely be more accurate, informing me in a rather dignified manner that she would be telling the story from here on out, thank you very much. She discovers something she wants to talk about, and ohhh is she talking. I suppose I should be grateful because when I was first recruited for this project, I recall thinking, “Sh**! I don’t think I can do a battle scene justice!” I don’t know why my first anxiety went to the need to write a battle scene, but Persephone sort of rescued me because now she does the heavy lifting. I just have to type it all!

There have been a lot of great things about this project, and the tip top is the group of people I assembled with. Scholars and researchers of many levels, they share information as opposed to hoard it, and are encouraging; they celebrate each other’s successes. Our team leader, author Joanne Larner, also lucky for me, is inclined to appreciate even the very teensy details of things like punctuation and grammar, and she both accepts and dispenses constructive criticism with grace. The project definitely lives up to the stereotype (or should I call it the reality?) that every time you look at your manuscript, you’ll find something else wrong with it, so it’s good that in my experience with this fabulous group, everyone’s attitude seems to be “it is what it is” as we plod on. Now we’ve plodded a lot together and the book awaits the completed foreword by Matthew Lewis, Chairman of the Richard III Society. Our book too has experienced its own share of growth spurts, as it went from idea to reality to contents bulging and soon – July 6, to be precise, it will be released.

The updated cover for our anthology, as presented by Joanne Larner, with Riikka Nikko’s illustration. I love everything about this cover!!! Mwah!!!!!

It’s good that my first published work of historical fiction is a short story. I mean it makes the process a little less painful because it’s a smaller sum total to have to weave together, and I suppose it’s good practice for a longer tale, which I actually had been working on before I put it down for this. I don’t regret it, though, because it was sort of overwhelming before, and now I have a better idea of where to go with all the details and ideas swimming in my head. Swimming is said to exercise every muscle in the body, so hopefully that will help me pull it all together more effectively as my storytelling grows, in spots and spurts, and see where it takes me from there.

*You may recall Green from his video included in my blog post about

The Catcher in the Rye.

The Road Not Travelled may be pre-ordered from Amazon and Amazon UK. Paperback option to be added.

Browsing Books: Ricardian Reading Edition

It’s happened! Our local library has re-opened for limited browsing, though I haven’t yet been in. I’ve had the good fortune, however, of receiving lots of reading recommendations, most online, and today I share a few, including a couple of the lesser-known titles. Here’s to bulging bookshelves!

Death and the Chapman by Kate Sedley – In truth, I’m not quite sure who recommended this one, though I can guess. I ordered it from the library, received it, forgot about it and then just yesterday started to read it. I haven’t gotten terrifically far in yet, but it’s enough to see this isn’t precisely Ricardian reading as we tend to define it. Still, I include it here because the narrator, Roger Chapman, an old man who looks back into his youth when Richard III was king, mentions Richard and a few pages later gives a lengthy enough explanation of how the seeds of the dynastic wars of his era were sown – with Bolingbroke usurping Richard II’s throne – and how Richard III became king. Lengthy enough, that is, to make me wonder if more of this will come into play within Roger’s own story. So this I have yet to see, but even if it doesn’t, it appeals to me because I’m terribly interested in the ordinary people of the day, how they made their living, what their struggles were, their thoughts about the monarchs and those in their courts. 

The Rose in Spring: The Fascinating Story of Cecily Neville (Book I in the Cecily Neville quartet) by Eleanor Fairburn – Based on one review, this looks to be the story one wishes to read about Proud Cis: not a bodice ripper, it is said to present a reasonable story of the early years of the Rose of Raby, through her engagement to Richard Plantagenet (father of Richard III), and concluding at the time of her husband’s exile to Ireland. Every Ricardian has heard much about Cecily Neville: her strength, her will and determination, that she outlived every one of her sons. Some, however, myself included, know very little about her up close, and this historical fiction series seems to present a great opportunity to begin changing that.

Garland of the Realm by Janet Kilbourne – Presents Richard III in the last years of his life and, interestingly enough, written when the author was just fourteen. This knowledge may bias any conversation regarding the book’s worth, having read a quite glowing but fair review, as well as commentary about it being filled with clichés and “one of the worst” of Ricardian fiction. The reviewer maintains her position, citing examples such as individuality bestowed on characters and a “childlike animosity” from Prince Edward and conversations “done nicely” between this heir and Richard, at the time Lord Protector. The ending described also seems quite fascinating and I am intrigued to read how Richard’s realizations, as the reviewer mentions, play out in his mind. 

I, Richard Plantagenet: The Road from Fotheringhay by J. P. Reedman – It’s a bit tricky here because not only has Reedman written a boatload of books, I also want just about all of them (and you may as well, so fair warning). A reconstruction of Richard Plantagenet’s early childhood, it opens with Richard in later life musing about those days as he makes a notation into his Book of Hours. This story draws me to it because for years I’ve read that we know very little of Richard’s earlier years, but here the author draws upon recent research and DNA – and of course other, already-established documentation – to piece together a tale said to be worthy of a king. For instance, the death of Richard’s father and older brother Edmund, and Richard’s own subsequent exile as his mother is captured by Margaret of Anjou’s army. The childhood story continues in Tante le Desiree, and I don’t plan on missing either of them.

The White Rose and the Red: A Narrative Poem about the Battle of Wakefield by Bard of Burgh Conan – This entry perhaps jumped out at me the most because of its presentation. I’ve never before come across a full Ricardian story in verse, a genre ideally suited not just to any Ricardian tale, but specifically the one it does concern itself with: the Battle of Wakefield. This is where Richard, Duke of York and his son Edmund, mentioned just above, were brutally killed, the former’s head displayed on a pike at Micklegate Bar and further mocked with the placement of a paper crown. Less than forty pages, it is chancy to say this is an evening’s read, as I’m unsure how dense the writing is or is not, or how much reflection might be involved. Nevertheless, it strikes me as a must-read piece, and I look forward to adding it to my collection. Note: Upon searching for the poem online, I saw that it appears only to be available as an e-book. However, I did stumble upon a notation that it was to be included in a collection: Conisbrough Tales: A Canterbury Tales for Conisbrough by Christopher Webster, Bard of Burgh Conan. 

Previous Browsing Books Entry:

35 + Books Everyone Lies about Having Read

Book Release Announcement – The Road Not Travelled: Alternative Tales of the Wars of the Roses

It is a simply beautiful day outside and I’m even happier than that because I have a fabulous announcement to make.

I am so proud and humbled to be part of a fantastic group of writers recruited by author Joanne Larner to contribute to an alternative historical fiction short story anthology set in the Wars of the Roses era. Each author looks at a specific moment in this period of time and explores circumstances had they been altered a bit, or had some historical figure made a choice different to what they actually did in history. 

Joanne provides a great example: “[W]hat if Richard’s father, Richard Duke of York, had not been killed at Wakefield but had defeated Margaret of Anjou’s army and claimed the throne (HE would have then become Richard III).” 

She named the book The Road Not Travelled, a nod to the times in life when a fork in the road appears and remains unchosen. In our stories, that side of the various branches are traveled, and we see what might have happened had time marched forward on those bifurcations. One single decision, one momentary happenstance can transform someone’s entire life and that life, history. How might history had played out if we spoke of Richard III, formerly the Duke of York, and his Queen Cecily? We might never have heard much of the younger Richard Plantagenet, or he might have risen to great heights indeed. Would he have been influential in laws to benefit English society that later informed our own? Would the United States even have been founded? Would there be a Shakespeare? 

I feel so lucky to be part of such a fabulous writing group of individuals from so many walks of life and various parts of the world, all with this one passion in common, to put together such an anthology. I’m also absolutely chuffed—as the English like to say—to have had my story copyread by two skilled editors with fantastic observations and wonderful constructive criticism to help make it the best it can be. I’m really grateful to them both, as well as to Jo, under whose eagle eye it will pass for a final exam. 

To think I never would have begun this journey had I not chosen one particular pathway—out of sheer curiosity, mind you—by reading a book about Richard III, one I had no intention of following up on. I did, in fact, do just that, owing to my great surprise at the outright bias plaguing the entire piece of work, frequently finding myself re-surprised at why it even mattered to me – and yet it did. Once I knew more about Richard, I understood he cared about the people whom he served as king, and I believe, despite his tragic end all too soon, echoes of this consideration passed down through time, perhaps even touching our own age.

I recall feeling awe and admiration at his fighting abilities and the courage he displayed, even when he might have experienced intense pain from the scoliosis he’d suffered from since, probably, adolescence. While such a condition never affected me personally, I did know someone in elementary school who’d had to wear a back brace to correct her own curvature. Of course, this means nothing to my own situations in life, but it left some sort of imprint on me, I suppose, given that I remember my classmate’s struggle. Other contributing factors were the back issues I had following injuries sustained in a car accident, an experience of my own that later enabled me to thoughtfully consider Richard’s experience. On some days I struggled to stand up in the morning; Richard took it to a battlefield and fought for his country. 

So it is with great pleasure to also say here that the book will be sold in aid of the Scoliosis Association UK

The publishing aim is July 6, the 538th anniversary of Richard III’s coronation. Also hoped for is the ability to pre-order very soon – watch this space because I will most definitely be announcing news as I receive it!

Oh! My story is called “Episodes in the Life of King Richard III,” and I hope you will enjoy it – and the others – come July.

Click here for a sneak peak at the cover for

The Road Not Travelled,

drawn by talented artist Riikka Nikko.

Reading 2019: Better Late Than Never, Right?

I know, I know – it’s nearly March 2020. Hey, it just about matches last year, since that month was when I started to read again. Though there is a bit of an uptick this year, since I did actually blog on January 1, whereas 2019 didn’t see any of that activity until the third month.

Yes, things are still not quite as fast as they once were, but improvement does come, slow as it may be. Happily, I did finish my first book of 2020 just a few days ago and our approach toward March indeed brings my mind back to this time last year, when illness preoccupied my days and ghosts visited at night. As mentioned here, I slept a lot, but by the month of Mars, I’d sat up a bit more and began to reach for the world again.

As has been customary for me, I write a tad about that world, found in such a large portion in the books I read, and my first from last year, I am super excited to say, is coming up for review here pretty soon:

A true story based on a 1680 ballad, The Ghost Midwife is book two in Annelisa Christensen’s Seventeenth Century Midwives series.

Not long after I began to look at books I’d been wanting to read (catch up on the Alexander McCall Smith series) or re-read (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China), and there was also some familiarity in store with authors established in my repertoire (Joanne Larner, Lars Hedbor). I did some reading about ravens, given a group of them had a longtime habit of hanging out in my back yard, and one used to perch on my window to watch me as I typed. Another curious animal showed up in The Inquisitor’s Tale and I encountered a new portrayal of old favorites (The Retreat to Avalon).

Recommendations seemed to dominate this last batch of reads, which started with Karen Maitland’s The Owl Killers, in follow up to this same author’s Company of Liars, read in 2017. In reading this second novel, I knew I was safe from dangerous events within, but Maitland’s narrative kept me on the edge of my seat and to this day I still use the word scary as one descriptor for this un-put-downable tale. Gone Girl and Little Fires Everywhere have both been made into movies, and The Midwife’s Tale came to me from someone who knew of my attachment to Annelisa Christensen’s midwives and fondness for mystery. I’m looking forward to more from both authors.

It wouldn’t be a real follow-up to my January blog entry if I didn’t mention 1066, gifted to me years ago by the same sweetie who sent this fabulous stash. It’s important because events discussed in this book are a significant reason for my current WIP, a story being partially dictated to me by someone who lived at the time of the last ubiquitous palindrome before 2020-02-02 – over 900 years ago. She’s called Adela and I bet you can easily spot the two books below that more than strongly hint at which former kingdom she called home – and that I’m perfectly smitten with.

So, I’ve only read one book so far this year, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – extra lovely given it was a Christmas present. I’ve got a few more going and, though I know it will stay slower owing to my research reading, I’m getting there, aiming to end up with another one for your shelf. In the meantime, Adela is looking forward to it.

Book Review: Hearts Never Change (Plus Giveaway)

Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change
by Joanne R. Larner

The author is so generously gifting a signed paperback copy of
Hearts Never Change to one lucky winner! To get in with a chance to
win, simply comment below OR at this review’s Facebook thread, located here.

Drawing extended to December 22

Warm wishes for a Happy Birthday to Joanne & Rose  

May the best be yet to come!

Every so often readers come across a tale in which it is easy to sense the author had a blast writing it. This doesn’t negate the hard work, long hours and research that went into it, but the story contains so much that buoys the spirit and excites the imagination it is infectious. Hearts Never Change, third in Joanne R. Larner’s Richard Liveth Yet series, is one such captivating yarn. From first page to the last, its energy moves the reader and, quite simply, the book is difficult to put down.

Larner’s first installment in the series sees Rose Archer meeting up with a time-transplanted Richard Plantagenet, who by necessity quickly adapts to his new surroundings, though is challenged by his expectation of how he believes Rose should address him – he is an anointed king, after all. Nevertheless they get on well and develop a plan to return him to his time, armed with information he gains from historical studies and physical training, to face and survive the 1485 Battle of Bosworth.

The series goes on to bring Rose to the fifteenth century, which she mostly gets a feel for, though the news that she is to be a mother frightens her and she returns to her time for the birth of her twins. Hearts Never Change picks up some years later, following Rose’s desperate attempts to get back to Richard. The narrative alternates between his time and hers, and we see them at times so close, but never quite making it. Will they ever?

As with the other two installments, this one’s chapters are called after song titles, and this delightful imaginative twist can work directly, or on another level. For example, Rose decides to leave England for Norway in a chapter entitled, “Farewell, My Homeland.” Here we also learn that “[i]dentity information was stored on microchips implanted into their wrists these days—now the records associated with their chips were false.” Rose lives in this time so perhaps she is used to it, but for readers it is an embarkation to another world. Driverless cars, too, are advanced enough to make their way across Europe (through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and then to Norway). With savvy aplomb, Larner brings readers forward in time, and though the leap of years is not as great as within Richard’s travel, the technological changes are somewhat unnerving, “leveling the field” at least a little bit.

Larner knows when to let up on us, though, and the novel is sprinkled with humor of different sorts: Richard calling out using his medieval verbiage during a modern football match, for example. Having booked tickets online, which he initially suspects is a manner of witchcraft, he later attends, wearing a scarf with the team’s “cognizance” on it. At a foul he shouts, “You misbegotten cur! Our man was about to kick a goal!” Not long after: “Referee! Thou hast need of some eyeglasses, methinks!” Nevertheless, he has a good time:

“’Twas much better than I expected, Andy. As you know, I am used to the thrill of battle where winning or losing is a matter of life or death, so I did not think I would find football so exciting, but ‘tis very fast-moving and unpredictable—quite thrilling!”

 “Well, as the great manager, Bill Shankly, said, of course football isn’t a matter of life and death,” Andy said. “It’s much more serious than that.”

 As the story moves along, Rose is shown to be as mobile and adventurous as in past novels, and Larner’s skill in getting us to a variety of places is evident as the reasons to go there develop naturally. The reading flows smoothly and the characters, even cameos, are realistically portrayed. By necessity, some events or changes move quickly: the novel covers a number of years and depicting too many steps along the way would make the book massive and likely alter its light nature and fluid movement. The author definitely knows where to compress time and infer details for the sake of the story and its smooth progress.

Larner’s ability to blend the varying emotion and style of passage—poignant, humorous, distressing—rests largely on transitions, and these she handles as expertly as with her time management. Historical figures appear and are discussed, and the author’s economical prowess is evident in how much history is relayed in short amounts of passage, all while engaging readers who are hungry for more.

Rich in detail and vivid in descriptions, Hearts Never Change is an addicting read people will be sorry to put down. Its re-readability factor is high, however, and the same is true for all three. While all three novels are stand alones, we recommend reading all, not because of anything missed without them, but rather their fabulous answer to the human desire to be told a story and the feel of someone telling it directly to each individual holding a copy of the book. The third then wraps it all up—or does it? Once you start reading, you won’t rest until you find out.

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See our reviews for other great Joanne Larner books:

Richard Liveth Yet: An Historical Novel Set in the Present Day,

Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country and

Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Luff of King Richard the Third (with Susan Lamb)

 

About the author …

Joanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She has wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded. After she began writing the story that was in her head, she found that there was far too much material for one book and, in fact, it finally turned into a trilogy consisting of Richard Liveth Yet (Book I); Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change. The final installment takes place mainly in Richard’s time and Joanne found that many actual historical elements seemed to match serendipitously with her requirements. For example, the characters who were contemporary to Richard, the date of Joana’s death, the fact that Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice, had twins that didn’t survive the birth, etc.

In the event you simply cannot wait for the drawing and possibly win a free signed copy of Hearts Never Change, you may purchase Richard Liveth Yet (Book I) at Blurb, Amazon or Amazon UKRichard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK.  Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third is available on Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK. The pair will again team up for a second volume, and Joanne  is working on another Richard book, which will be called Distant Echoes and will involve a fictional technology, Richard’s DNA and his story in his own words. Joanne is pleased to add that she has recently had a story published in The Box Under the Bed: An Anthology of Scary Stories from 20 Authors, available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

To follow Joanne Larner and her writing, sign up or follow her at Facebook, Twitter and her blog.

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Author image courtesy Joanne Larner

The blogger received a gratis copy of Hearts Never Change in order to write an honest review

Yorkist Rose image by Booyabazooka at English Wikipedia 

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Freebie Friday: Giveaway Bonanza!

Need help filling up your shelf? You’ve come to the right place! I think it was last month I started somewhat of a flurry of reviews that came one after the other, many of which have giveaways attached. Typically I hold drawings one to two weeks out, but this time Thanksgiving and upcoming Christmas kind of darted in and out of my schedule and plans, and dates became sort of wonky.

So, for your ease and mine, I decided to post a blog with links to all the drawings in one spot. Simply click on the link (book title) to the review for any book you like the look of and comment there – fancy schmancy not necessary – to get your name in the drawing. (And be sure to leave current contact info in the event you are our winner!) Since some peeps have difficulty commenting at WordPress, I’ve also linked to respective Facebook threads where you can comment instead. You do not need to comment at both; one works perfectly well. Unless otherwise indicated, blurbs are from Amazon and author names link to their websites and/or blog.

There is no limit of books you can enter the drawings for – enter them all if you like!

Drawing to be held December 16 

So without further ado, here are the prizes up for grabs:

Half Sick of Shadows: A Historical Fantasy by Richard Abbott (One paperback copy available, and this author also has December Deals from December 10 – 17)

Who is The Lady?

In ancient Britain, a Lady is living in a stone-walled house on an island in the middle of a river. So far as the people know, she has always been there. They sense her power, they hear her singing, but they never meet her.

At first her life is idyllic. She wakes, she watches, she wanders in her garden, she weaves a complex web of what she sees, and she sleeps again. But as she grows, this pattern becomes narrow and frustrating. She longs to meet those who cherish her, but she cannot. The scenes beyond the walls of her home are different every time she wakes, and everyone she encounters is lost, swallowed up by the past.

But when she finds the courage to break the cycle, there is no going back. Can she bear the cost of finding freedom? And what will her people do, when they finally come face to face with a lady of legend who is not at all what they have imagined?

A retelling – and metamorphosis – of Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott.”


Lars D. H. Hedbor is offering our winner a choice of any one of his books in paperback. In this case, review links are below and blurbs at author website; click author name to access. (He also has a promotion for free e-copy of The Declaration; click book title to get yours straight away.)

The Light (Tales From a Revolution: New-Jersey)

The Smoke (Tales From a Revolution: New York)

The Break (Tales From a Revolution: Nova-Scotia) 

Excerpt from The Break

The Wind (Tales From a Revolution: West-Florida)

The Darkness (Tales From a Revolution: Maine)

The Path (Tales From a Revolution: Rhode-Island)

The Prize (Tales From a Revolution: Vermont)

 

 

 

 


Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Woolley (Blogger is gifting one paperback/hardback copy direct from online retailer)

Among the first to look at the story of Camelot through Guinevere’s eyes, Woolley sets the traditional tale in the time of its origin, after Britain has shattered into warring fiefdoms. Hampered by neither fantasy nor medieval romance, this young Guinevere is a feisty Celtic tomboy who sees no reason why she must learn to speak Latin, wear dresses, and go south to marry that king. But legends being what they are, the story of Arthur’s rise to power soon intrigues her, and when they finally meet, Guinevere and Arthur form a partnership that has lasted for 1500 years.

This is Arthurian epic at its best-filled with romance, adventure, authentic Dark Ages detail, and wonderfully human people.


Insurrectio and Retalio by Alison Morton (Two prizes: one e-copy of each book)

In Insurrectio

‘The second fall of Rome?’ Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and imperial councillor in Roma Nova, scoffs at her intelligence chief when he throws a red file on her desk. But 1980s Roma Nova, the last province of the Roman Empire that has survived into the twentieth century, has problems – a ruler frightened of governing, a centuries-old bureaucracy creaking for reform and, worst of all, a rising nationalist movement with a charismatic leader. Horrified when her daughter is brutally attacked in a demonstration turned riot, Aurelia tries to rally resistance to the growing fear and instability. But it may already be too late to save Roma Nova from meltdown and herself from entrapment and destruction by her lifelong enemy…

And Retalio

Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century. Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.


There is Always A Tomorrow by Anna Belfrage (One e-book available)

It is 1692 and the Colony of Maryland is still adapting to the consequences of Coode’s Rebellion some years previously. Religious tolerance in the colony is now a thing of the past, but safe in their home, Alex and Matthew Graham have no reason to suspect they will become embroiled in the ongoing religious conflicts—until one of their sons betrays their friend Carlos Muñoz to the authorities.

Matthew Graham does not leave his friends to rot—not even if they’re papist priests—so soon enough most of the Graham family is involved in a rescue attempt, desperate to save Carlos from a sentence that may well kill him. Meanwhile, in London little Rachel is going through hell. In a matter of months she loses everything, even her surname, as apparently her father is not Master Cooke but one Jacob Graham. Not that her paternity matters when her entire life implodes.

Will Alex and Matthew be able to help their unknown grandchild? More importantly, will Rachel want their help?


Hearts Never Change by Joanne R. Larner (One paperback copy available)

Richard III as you have never seen him before! Richard has been King of England and France and Lord of Ireland for over twenty years and he is beginning to question his life. He misses his secret wife, Rose, who had to return to the twenty-first century when she found she was expecting twins, both for her own and the babies’ safety. Everyone around the king seems to be happily in a relationship. The realm is at peace and his son and heir, Richard junior, is of an age to take over the reins of government, so Richard makes a decision…


Good luck to all!!!

Update: Some of the older reviews for the Tales From a Revolution series are unlinked as they were done before the drawing was planned.

Feel free to comment there anyway OR at any other review from that series OR below on this post OR at this post’s Facebook thread, located here

Whichever is easiest for you; we’ll be checking them all. 🙂

Book Review: Dickon’s Diaries (With Giveaway)

We present this review on this, the 565th anniversary of the birth of Richard Plantagenet,

Duke of Gloucester and,

Dei Gratia Rex Angliae et Franciae et Dominus Hiberniae

by the Grace of God, King Richard III of England and France and Lord of Ireland.

800px-King_Richard_III
Late 16th-century portrait, housed in the National Portrait Gallery, London. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third
by Joanne Larner and Susan Lamb

See below for details about winning a free, signed copy of Dickon’s Diaries!

A few years ago I had opportunity to see a bit of social media shenanigans in which a well-known image of King Richard III was shopped to include the monarch wearing a Santa hat. It was Christmas, after all, though one person was not amused and demanded it be removed for the king to keep his dignity, wintry wonder or not.

But why should it be undignified? Can a person not stand tall while simultaneously engaging in mirth, something that will bring pleasure to others? One of the reasons I didn’t see it quite the way the lady who doth protest is because in my estimation it was drawing Richard into our activity, sharing our joy with him by him becoming “one of us” for the moment.

Joanne Larner and Susan Lamb do similar in Dickon’s Diaries, though I would add that the effect is greater because their inclusion moves in both directions. While Christmas in Richard’s time was not observed in the way we do now, keeping a diary or some sort of recordkeeping encompasses all ages. Moreover, all people have some thoughts they generally keep to themselves or within a circle of confidantes, so the concept would not be completely unknown to people then or now.

As the title gives away, Dickon’s Diaries presents a year in the life of Richard III; the book takes us through Sprynge, Summer, Autumne and Wynter, all of which encompass their attendant activities and a group of modern ladies quite fond of the king, who heretofore had shared his words of wisdom on Ye Book of Faces, and now “hath wryttn down alle Oure thoughts and anecdotes for your pleasure.” See? Even the king wills it. For our enjoyment he draws us in to share his modern experiences and bids us read on.

Dickon’s Diaries is an entertaining, light-hearted look at a medieval king who, via a bridge spanning time, engages in modern activities and responds to them, often hilariously. The Dames who dote on him make their appearances, showing affection and often providing explanation and links between what he knows of the world and that presented to him in this modern age. With a fondness for Jaffa cakes, a Capp of Chino on occasion and a growing collection of “My Little Destrier” (chronically missing a difficult-to-acquire prize piece on Ye-Bay, the “Murderous Mustang”), Richard makes his way with aplomb from episode to episode, documenting each and even advising others in an “agony uncle” column established for that purpose.

Shortly before a cake-baking competition, one nervous subject, Miss Cilla Goose, writes in for a solution to her nail-biting habit, especially given that her Grace will be judge. Assuring Miss Goose of his impartiality, Dickon then directs her to a local nail spa, where its proprietor will ensure that her nails “verily do shine and sparkle.” In his post script: “We suggest thou maketh a fruite cake—Oure currant favourite. (Didst thou see what We did there?)”

One of the best elements of the book is within its nuance, in that its wit is diversified and even subtle at times. The women who often surround him occasionally appear themselves as subject of his comments, wound into self-deprecating humor that keeps the king likeable while still able to pull off the occasional conceit. Catching sight of a particular Dame in the stands at a tournament, he bows and asks her favor. “Of course, she swooned. (We doth have this effect on alle female creatures, with the exception of Oure wyff.)”

The king is indeed hotheaded, silly or serious at times; wrapped within these (and other) emotions and elsewhere through the book are historical references that range from the obvious –

“Nay, manne! ‘Tis not the rhymes! Thou didst say: ‘Roses are redd!’ Surely thou didth meaneth ‘Roses are whyte’! Now get thee hence and changeth this treasonous verse forthwith!”

—to the artful:

‘Twas a few weeks ago that We didst consult Our box of lights [computer] … Then, lo, We didst espy a sett of changes of apparell for [My Little Destrier] also. Ye knowest fulle welle that destriers canst be caparisoned in Oure coloures and Oure standard; welle, now can ye buyeth various different cognizants, useful for ye Stanleys, We suppose, who hath always been known for changynge their coates! (Smirks.)

The narrative is also cunningly sprinkled with Shakespearean references, telling given the real playwright’s relationship to Richard Plantagenet as his protagonist. After the long-suffering Lovell devises an entertainment plan to shake off the winter blues, an “interesting manne” shows up, stating that he “is within this tent to writeth a goodly storie of us, but the musick shall bother him not, for he is a tadd hard of hearynge.” This opens up for readers to imagine or concoct a variety of comical possibilities as to how the bard got it so wrong.

As the event opens the “welcomynge speech … read[s] thus”:

Now is the winter of Oure Dis-co-tecke, made glorious summer with sandwiches of pork, and crisps, subtleties and fancies.”

Before starting the book, I’d wondered if I would have difficulty reading extended amounts of dialect, but this proved not to be a worry. The fancy font most of the book is written in may appear to be problematic when first starting out, but one gets used to it rather quickly, and it is large enough to be reader friendly. Speaking of friendly, the aforementioned woman on the social media would be happy to know (one would hope) that Richard always does maintain his dignity, even if he must engage in a series of frowns, glowers and shakes of his head in disbelief to get his point across.

Of course, we don’t know precisely what the real Richard was like in his own time. Would he have laughed at ribald jokes or seen the sparkle in silly word play? Would he be amused at the authors’ portrayal of Shakespeare, who disparaged him in a manner that echoed through the centuries? Since he was found in 2012 – within the book a topic addressed to which he queries the ability of a nation to lose its king, and the authors treat with perfect balance of the comic as well as reverence within jest – a number of “certainties” have been debunked. So why not the possibility that he had a rollicking sense of humor as well!?

If joking around for some doesn’t include modern words used within medieval speech or activities, or medieval English employed not exactly in the way it would have been in the fifteenth century, well, there’s a reason for that. Especially given the rowing over where to re-inter the king, as the authors mention in their end notes, there certainly seemed room for a bit of cheer, and that’s what this is meant to be: a light-hearted expression of Richard presenting the possibility that, indeed, he too liked to get away from the stress at times and have a bit of laughter and merriment. The diaries never claim to be what they are not, and what they are not is not its aim.

Sometimes naughty, occasionally fantastical, always clever and filled with exuberant energy, Dickon’s Diaries is the anecdote for a rough day or object of an evening’s pleasurable reading. Anyone who even periodically enjoys social media funniness, those interested in Richard III or even the uninitiated would get a great kick out of the diaries, since the “prior knowledge” involved in some of the jokes tend to be the sort most know about already (e.g. Shakespeare). Its narrative brings everybody into the moment because we all find ourselves in the midst of hilarious misunderstandings and funny fusion of cultural habits familiar and foreign, even when they are from our own time.

Despite its lack of strict adherence to period speech, the authors most definitely show themselves in a variety of ways to be keen observers of language, and we are given ample opportunity to verily bathe in the freewheeling frolics within the narrative as well as dialogue. Additionally, what the characters seem to be thinking and feeling shows up in illustrator Riikka Nikko’s drawings wholly, and the impression of them entices us into events depicted. One gets an inkling not just for the characters’ experiences, but also the environment in the actual moment, the sense of what is happening and a feel of involvement within it all. I actually would have loved to see more of these pictures included and hope that in the second volume there will be.

Dickon’s Diaries is a whirling, laugh-out-loud experience of a read that is easily re-enacted, given its light hilarity and easily digestible segments (chapters within each season). Filled with flavor, fun and individuals – some of whom are real, including writers and musicians! – readers will want to get to know even more, and can participate in on Ye Book of Faces or even within their own experimentation. With a place for everyone, Richard comes to us and we to him; together we can stand and celebrate the best parts of life.

Now readeth ye on!

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Would you like to win a free, autographed paperback copy of Dickon’s Diaries? Of course you would! Simply comment below – even a quickie hello works! – and you are automatically entered into the drawing, which will occur in three weeks. Please make sure we have a way to contact you! Alternately, you may comment at the pinned post in the blog’s page on Ye Book of Faces, located here

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Click here to see my review of Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day,

and for my review of Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country, click here.

Stay tuned for my review of Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change

About the authors …

Joanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She has wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded. After she began writing the story that was in her head, she found that there was far too much material for one book and, in fact, it finally turned into a trilogy consisting of Richard Liveth Yet (Book I); Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change. The final installment takes place mainly in Richard’s time and Joanne found that many actual historical elements seemed to match serendipitously with her requirements. For example, the characters who were contemporary to Richard, the date of Joana’s death, the fact that Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice, had twins that didn’t survive the birth, etc.

In the event you simply cannot wait for the drawing and possibly win a free signed copy of one of Joanne’s books, you may purchase Richard Liveth Yet (Book I) at Blurb, Amazon or Amazon UKRichard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK.  Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third is available on Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK. The pair will again team up for a second volume, and Joanne  is working on another Richard book, which will be called Distant Echoes and will involve a fictional technology, Richard’s DNA and his story in his own words. Joanne is pleased to add that she has recently had a story published in The Box Under the Bed: An Anthology of Scary Stories from 20 Authors, available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

To follow Joanne Larner and her writing, sign up or follow her at Facebook, Twitter and her blog.

Susan Lamb writes …

I am a staunch Ricardian, I love to visit places associated with Richard III, and I’m convinced that he was not responsible for the disappearance of the boys in the tower. I also love reading, I’m a passionate supporter of the Redwings horses too, and the Greyhounds. I live in the West Midlands with my husband Ray, my mom, and not forgetting Beauty the Greyhound.

Dickon’s Diaries came into being because originally I wrote (and still do) a Facebook page called “Dickon for His Dames,” where I write as him. I was talking to Joanne one day, and both Joanne and myself felt that too much was written about the seriousness, duty, and cares of his life, and we wanted to inject  a little humour into an otherwise sad story as we felt that too much was written about his ultimate demise. So our book started there, and it’s not making fun of him at all, far from it, we’re having fun with him and not at his expense, unlike some other books we’ve seen.

So, Muddleham is a euphemism of Middleham,  a kind of alternative universe, a little like Brigadoon I guess! Where he lives happily with his wife Anne, son Edward and Lovell, his trusty sidekick. His dames who visit him are all more than a little in love with him! White Syrie his horse has a mind of his own, and his staff and neighbours adore him, especially the buxom baker lady. Edward gets into many scrapes with the blacksmith’s son, and his essay for school left a lot to be desired! We are currently working on book two, where Anne will voice her opinions occasionally, so will Lovell, and there will be a lot more fun to come!

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A copy of Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third was provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review. 

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Author photo courtesy Joanne R. Larner

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Illustrations used with the gracious permission of Riikka Nikko

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Book Review: A Foreign Country (With Giveaway)

Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country
by Joanne R. Larner

See below for details on how you can win a free, signed copy of

A Foreign Country!

… as well as how to get your FREE Kindle edition of 
Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third.

Not having recalled reading in the past any alternative history, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I picked up Joanne R. Larner’s debut work, Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day. To its credit, the book doesn’t take itself overly seriously, though it does present us with a marvelous package of imagination and poignant insight. Moving forward now to its sequel, A Foreign Country, we delve deeper into Rose’s brush with time travel and the last Plantagenet king.

Previously we witnessed King Richard’s appearance in our modern times; now, as the novel’s title implies, we—along with Rose, of course—journey to a land that has simultaneously fascinated and been ignored: the past. Following a year spent with the king in which he trains and they plan for his success at the “next” Battle of Bosworth, Rose marks the first anniversary of Richard’s departure by attempting renewed contact through a time fault. After some failure, she makes her way to Richard and his court, where by necessity he introduces the time traveler as “Princess Rose of Norway.”

I was pleased to see Larner repeat her pattern of using song names as chapter headings. As before, titles, not necessarily any song’s words, reflect each chapter’s events, and the author matches marvelously. An early section, titled “The Court of the Crimson King,” shows Richard as Rose first sees him on the night of a formal event:

His doublet was of a deep, dark blue, crossed with gold thread, with a thin, golden collar and edging, the fastenings down the front jeweled with pink rubies and sapphires. It enhanced the deep blue of his eyes.

 We catch further delightful glimpses in phrase, such as “sleeves slashed with lemon silk,” as Larner takes us through a wide array of songs and artists accompanying Rose and King Richard’s experiences, passages winding their way through the pair’s beings as well as the storyline, in much the same way we, too, recall movie or music lines within certain real-life contexts.

As the narrative moves forward, Richard and Rose have opportunity to get to know each other better, now in his own time, though still with the limitations he has placed on their relationship. By now he is married with children and loves his wife deeply, while maintaining a strong bond with Rose. However, suspicions arise and there is recognition that something is afoot, and while fears color ideas regarding what it all may be about, the details are clear to none, characters and readers alike. Mixed in with this are Rose’s own personal anxieties that grow stronger as time passes, until she can no longer dismiss them.

While not falling away from the plot, the author digs in a bit deeper as well, referencing mutual deals and the Hanseatic League’s stranglehold on European business interests, as well as Rose’s wry observation that bureaucracy in the fifteenth century is just as convoluted and outlandish as in her twenty-first. Even as citation, Larner’s mention of various historical trade and further political doings adds substance to her story as well as life in this era, a time many seem to perceive as made mostly of various narcissistic wars.

Brought into this mix is Leonardo da Vinci, who very much plays his own part while also mirroring the old and the new, and the mixing of the two, within the tale. We see both Richard and Rose’s roles reflected within his persona: an acceptance of other, and retention of attitudes prevalent in his own time, the contrasts creating new layers of each individual as they explore, directly or via proxy, someone else’s world. Rose and Leonardo, too, come to know one another better as Larner sketches in the artistic angle with proficiency and grace while the great polymath seeks out the new and different to examine. During one journey da Vinci

was often in a litter too, because he enjoyed looking out over the countryside and sketching in his notebook, occasionally making a caricature of one of the company. He particularly liked drawing subjects with interesting faces: those with exaggerated features, such as prominent noses, bushy eyebrows, large moles or deep wrinkles … She learned by watching him[.]

 While on one level a lighthearted and unpretentious tale, A Foreign Country works on and within others, too, that examine the world and its strange attractions, the division and meeting of these and the complicated manners in which humans respond to a variety of stimuli. Like the actors between the novel’s covers, events are typically more complicated than they appear. Still, Larner’s aim for an entertaining yarn more than succeeds as we read through the smoothly-written narrative, easily transported from one scene to the next and reluctant to put it down at any point. With a larger cast than the first book and multiple plotlines, one is eager to see where the author could possibly take this story next in the series’ final installment, Hearts Never Change. That readers mightn’t be able to conceive the path forward for Richard and Rose is not a worry, for Joanne Larner has established herself as a proficient storyteller. Given her passion for Richard III, there is also a great eagerness to travel to wherever she may wish to take us.

For your chance to win a free, signed copy of A Foreign Country, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page, located here. All names will be entered into a giveaway and a winner drawn in two weeks.

About the author …

Joanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She has wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded. After she began writing the story that was in her head, she found that there was far too much material for one book and, in fact, it finally turned into a trilogy, of which A Foreign Country is the second part. This takes place mainly in Richard’s time and Joanne found that many actual historical elements seemed to match serendipitously with her requirements. For example, the characters who were contemporary to Richard, the date of Joana’s death, the fact that Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice, had twins that didn’t survive the birth, etc.

In the event you simply cannot wait for the drawing and possibly win a free signed copy, you may purchase Richard Liveth Yet (Book I) at Blurb, Amazon or Amazon UKRichard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK.

Dickon’s Diaries

will be FREE on Kindle this Wednesday and Thursday, July 19 and 20. 

Click one of the Amazon links below to get yours!

Joanne has also collaborated with Susan Lamb to write a humorous book about Richard called Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third, also available on Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK. The pair will again team up for a second volume, and Joanne  is working on another Richard book, which will be called Distant Echoes and will involve a fictional technology, Richard’s DNA and his story in his own words.

To follow Joanne Larner and her writing, sign up or follow her at Facebook, Twitter and her blog.

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A copy of Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

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Author photo courtesy Joanne R. Larner

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Richard and Anne: Painting and Passion by Karen King

Rather by accident the work of California artist Karen King came to my attention via her magnificent painting, Richard and Anne. Inspired by a passage from The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman’s epic novel of Richard III, it depicts the then Duke of Gloucester and his future queen, Anne, in a private moment as they attempt to forge their future. This is complicated by Anne’s previous tortured relationship with Edouard, her late husband and son of Richard’s enemy, Margaret of Anjou. They make their way outside, where Richard had

found for them a secluded retreat within a wall of willow and whitethorn; the sky was darkening into a delicately tinted violet and a crescent moon silvered the circling clouds over their heads. It was very quiet. She heard only the soft trilling of the night birds, was becoming aware of the heavy honeysuckle scents of spring. She should have been able to draw comfort from such surroundings; somehow, it didn’t help at all.

Anne begins to speak of Eduoard and just as quickly attempts to banish him and any reminders from their lives. “[S]he felt [Richard’s] fingers on her throat, caressing, tilting her face up to his. She let him kiss her, and rather timidly, put her arms around him as he drew her into a closer embrace.” It is this moment King captures on canvas, interpreting through her imagination the image she sees and all its vibrancy, including that felt by all the senses. Her Richard and Anne stand on a precipice, between the thick tension and surging relief of the moments that follow; not only can this be seen in the figures’ postures, but also felt. The lock of Anne’s hair falling over her cheek mirrors the ease and cascading looseness of her gown, yet the viewer can sense her stiffness and anguish as she leans into Richard. He, only somewhat relaxed, holds her in a comforting embrace, yet his eyes above her head, viewers can imagine, roam their surroundings, as if seeking elusive relief for the suffering she has endured.

I had the opportunity to chat with Karen, who so graciously shared with us some of her techniques, inspirations, personal favorites and passages as an artist.

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I would like to thank Lisl for giving me the opportunity to have a chat about the painting of Richard and Anne. While I was preparing for this interview I found just by chance a notebook where I had jotted down some notes regarding research for the painting. Chance? I think not. The first page was titled: “Understanding Richard III for a Portrait/Painting.” I had just finished reading Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour and was so heartsick at the travesty that Shakespeare foisted upon the world regarding Richard Plantagenet that I wanted to read more. The first book referenced under the heading was Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard III. I wrote down one of his quotes, in which Kendall references Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Richard III:

What a tribute this is to art; what a misfortune it is to history.

I’d hope that my painting would be seen not so much as a tribute to art, but surely a tribute to the true Richard III.

Could you give us the basic technical information of the painting and tell us how you chose the materials for this particular piece?

The painting is done in acrylics. My pallet colors are Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red, Raw Sienna and White. I don’t use pre-mixed colors such as green, orange, purple etc. because I like to create my own. I also never use black. If you’re wondering about Richard’s hair, well I made my own black. I prefer acrylics to oil because I’m not fond of using toxic products such as turpentine, which is needed to thin down the oils. The only down side to using acrylics is that they dry quickly. I keep a spray bottle of water handy to keep my pallet from drying out. I have a mixture of nice brushes (red sable) and cheap ones, which tend to lose bristles. I use the good ones for detail work and the cheap ones when I need to cover a lot of the canvas. When you have a 48 x 35 canvas, as is the case with Richard and Anne, there’s a lot of canvas to cover! I use masking tape to help me keep a straight edge. Really don’t know what I would have done without it on this painting.

I had wondered about the edges and other difficult parts away from them. I’d just assumed it was a dilemma only a non-artist such as myself would think to have.

I’m being constantly challenged by difficulties presented when painting something new. There are instructors that teach technique, but my main teacher thought it best to learn by trial and error. That way I’d know what to do the next time I was presented with the same problem. She also encouraged me to develop my own style rather than create paintings that are carbon copies of the instructor’s style, e.g. Bob Ross. I understand the principal of that philosophy but sometimes I think that I would have benefited by being an apprentice to a master painter and learned to paint the way one was taught during the Renaissance. I really don’t even know if they teach that way any longer. I probably would have been very impatient though. I remember when I first started painting I was given the assignment to pick a very simple object, divide the canvas into six equal parts, then paint the object in different ways in the six “panes.” Well I picked a light bulb. It was very challenging to make a cohesive painting using a light bulb for inspiration. Well after I completed that painting, the next assignment was to paint three more paintings using the six-paneled grid painting as their theme. So I had to paint three more light bulb paintings before I could paint something that I actually wanted to paint! Let me tell you I have not painted anything resembling a light bulb since!

This painting is inspired by a scene from Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour in which Richard and Anne find a private space, away from the pressures bearing down on both of them, and work through some troubling history. What were some of the thoughts or feelings you had when reading the passage that eventually led to the painting?

What could be more peaceful and private than a priory garden for two soul mates to comfort one another? I was anticipating beautiful moments of shared love and intimacy, but it soon became apparent that as much as Anne wanted to give herself to Richard, she was incapable of doing so because of her horrific relationship with Edouard. My heart bled for Richard as he came to the realization that he and Anne had a long road ahead them. Unable to vent his anger against Anne’s tormenter, all he could do was be patient, and hope that his steadfast love would eventually heal her emotional wounds. Anne felt awful as well because although she loved Richard with all her heart she felt emotionally handicapped. The bittersweet scene touched me deeply. I truly felt their frustration and anguish.

How long did it take to complete?

To tell you the truth I don’t remember. At the time I was taking a painting class once a week for three hours. At that rate I believe it probably took me at least three months.

Is this the first scene to have moved you in such a way? Were there any others (in Sunne or elsewhere) you have brought or would like to bring to canvas?

That is an excellent question! There are quite a few scenes from other books that I wanted to paint, however whenever I really thought about actually doing them, I’d get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the endeavor. I really wanted to paint Ranulf’s marriage proposal scene from Sharon’s When Christ and His Saints Slept. It takes place in a lantern lit barn. Ranulf and Rhiannan are sitting on a bale of hay. She with a kitten curled up in her lap and he with his hand gently tilting up her chin to kiss her. It was such a moving scene but there was no way I could pull it off. Where would I find anything remotely resembling a medieval barn, and even if I could there’s no way that I’d be able to find two willing subjects to pose for me! I thought about finding pictures to use as references, but with such specific requirements they’re very difficult to find even with the Internet at your fingertips.

All that being said, I did paint a scene from an Edith Pargeter novel, Afterglow and Nightfall. Here’s the scene (I apologize for its length, but it’s one of the most moving passages that I’ve ever read. Just retyping it almost made me cry):

Lying as it does in a cleft of the northern hills, with the great mountain mass of Penmaenmawr to the east, Moel Wninon to the west and Foel-Fras to the south, the morning sun never enters Aber. But to look out at dawn to the north over the narrow salt marshes to Lavan sands and the sea, that is wonderful. The deepening light first tinted like feathers of doves, then flushing into rose, then glowing like amber, comes sweeping westward from Conway over the sea, to strike in a glitter of foam and sand on the distant coast of Anglesey across the strait from us, as if a golden tide had surged across the sea green tide, and flooded the visible world with light. That was such a morning. The only time that Eleanor’s eyes left Llwelyn’s face was to gaze at the morsel of sky seen through the open doorway, and he divined the last thirst that troubled her, she who loved the sun. If he could not take her where it would shine upon her, at least she might still look upon its beauty from the shadows.

He sat down beside her on the edge of the brychan, and lifted her against his shoulder, and carefully gathering the blankets of the bed about her, took her up in his arms. She made no sign of pain, but only a soft sigh and with his cheek pressed steadyingly against her hair he carried her out on to the guard-walk, and the few yards round the stony bulk of the tower to the northern parapet, and stood cradling her as the sun rose, their faces turned towards the sea.

There in the open the air was sweet and cool, and below us, beyond the shore road, the reeds and grasses of the marsh stood erect like small, bright lances, every one separate, going down in lush, tufted waves to where the sands began, with a great exultation of sea birds filling the air above. The level sunrays made all the surface of the strait a dance of darker blue in the centre, and the shallows where the sand showed through were the colour of ripening wheat. Along the horizon ran the purple line of the coast of Anglesey, and in the centre of that distant shore was the Franciscan friary of Llanfaes, the burying place of the princesses of Gwynedd. In the morning light it appeared as the distant harbour of desire, absolute in beauty and peace.

She lay content in his arms and on his heart, her cheek against his cheek, and her eyes drew light from the picture on which she gazed, and grew so wide and wise in their hazel gold that there was a moment when I believed he had won the battle. He knew better. Very still he stood, not to jar or hurt her and softly still he spoke, of Wales, that she had taken to her heart and that loved her in return and of a future when there would be no need of war, when this land would be free and united and honourable among the countries of Christendom, and kings and princes would pledge peace and keep it, and her child’s children, the descendants of Earl Simon, would walk at large as heroes among their own people, and equals among the monarchs of the world.

Her lips moved, soundlessly, saying: “Yes!” It was right that she should take her leave of the world, as she had greeted it in passing, with a cry of affirmation. The sun was just clear of the horizon, and the sky to eastward the colour of primroses, and to westward of cornflowers, when the faintest of tremors passed through her body, and her head turned slightly upon his shoulder, her lips straining to his cheek. One word she said, and this time not silently shaping it, yet on so feeble a breath that neither he nor I could have caught it but for the great silence in which we stood. But hear it I did, and so did he. We never spoke of it but I know.

“Cariad!” she said, and her breath caught and halted long gently began again, and again sank into stillness. He held her for a great while after that, but there was no more sound, and no more movement, and that was all her message to him. She did not leave him without saying farewell. Yes! Cariad!

This passage moved me deeply and I really wanted to capture the sense of tragedy. What I couldn’t capture was the beauty of the sunrise depicted by Mrs. Pargeter, for I’ve never been to that part of Wales to see it for myself. But I did try to get a feel as to what the area looked like by using Google maps. I also found pictures of the area on the Internet, but I could never get a true picture in my head. It also occurred to me as I was trying to compose the picture that Mrs. Pargeter was describing what they were seeing and so doing, does not involve the figures at all! So I had to combine the two; the figures and what they were seeing. In the end I think the figures are the true focal point of the painting and the sunrise had to suffer for it, All in all I’m pleased with the colors I used and never tire of looking at it. A magical thing happened though after I hung the painting up in my living room. One afternoon I was sitting across the room from the painting and happened to glance up at it and caught my breath. A beam of light from the setting sun was shining on the figures and it seemed as if they were lit from within. Yes! Cariad! So, Lisl, is there a favorite passage from a book that you’d like to see painted?

Well, with some exceptions I generally tend to see moving pictures in my mind when passages evoke images. For example in Sunne the night before Richard’s first battle, Sharon describes his facial movements in one particular instance, and I remember being struck by how easily I could see the exact movement of expression in his eyes and face based on her words. It’s an expression I’ve seen many times before in real life, but it’s the sort you never really stop to comment about. I was amazed at how such a small moment, an “insignificant” movement could leap out at me. I think it was made significant because, strange as this may sound, helped me to see more into this Richard.

I find it interesting that when you read you see moving pictures in your head. Don’t you love the way Sharon can describe facial expressions? There is so much subtlety in describing human emotions that it takes a very special author to bring the character to life; make them so real that as you said, “helped me see more into this Richard.” Writing, painting and music are very similar, in that when done well, evoke emotions that touch the heart.

Oh, I totally agree. Even small details can move hearts. Tell us about your Anne’s hair. If I recall correctly, it was described in the book as chestnut, yet you painted a rich red. How did you come to envision Anne in this way?

As a writer, have you ever had a chapter you were writing take on a life of its own? Your careful outline, suddenly gone astray? Well that happens with painting as well. I believe that I began to paint Anne’s hair a rich chestnut, but when painting the highlights I got carried away turning it red. I let it be because I liked the way it looked, knowing that I could easily change it later, but as the painting progressed I found that the color worked with the painting as a whole.

Close Up Richard and Anne
Solace, by Karen King. (Image courtesy and ©2013 Karen King, all rights reserved)

Also, I’m very aware that Anne should have been wearing a headdress. In fact I wanted to paint a headdress lying on the cloister wall, seemingly carelessly cast aside in the heat of the moment, but my art instructor at the time advised against it for she felt that it fought with the overall composition, so I left it out.

The painting and the way it came to be is a bit reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites, whose work was influenced in part by Romantic poetry. There is a great deal of detail in your painting, yet it is much more subtle than in most of the PRB’s works. Is there any particular influence in your artistic background that informs this piece?

As a teen I discovered Botticelli. I loved his linear style of painting. Fell in love with his portraits of young men. If you look at Botticelli’s Madonna and Angels, they are just exquisite, very ethereal and captivating. Later on I discovered the Pre-Raphaelite movement and became a fan of Sir Edward Burne-Jones. I wasn’t surprised to find out that he was influenced by Botticelli! If you are familiar with Burne-Jones’ work, it’s very linear as well. Lately though I’ve been drawn to the Pre-Raphaelite artist J. W. Waterhouse.

I have this fantasy of someday having the means to buy an old Tudor Style home in the English countryside where each room’s focal point and inspiration is a Waterhouse painting. We can dream can’t we? I believe that my style is a combination of Burne-Jones and Waterhouse. On a side note, the only painting that I’ve ever sold was a study I painted of the head of Venus in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. I always found that pretty ironic. Lisl, do you have a favorite artists, or movement?

Well, I must confess I am not very artistic, and growing up tended to run into information on movements that really did very little to inspire me. (Sounds terrible, I know.) However, in high school I read a lot of Arthurian literature and simultaneously discovered the greeting card companies’ attraction to paintings by Burne-Jones and others. They were simply magnificent and the styles completely captured me. I loved Keats and tried to imagine “La Belle Dame sans Merci” brought to canvas in a similar fashion—which was a departure for me because my entire life until then had been spent focused on words. I happened to mention this to my English teacher, who possessed a treasure trove of books, and she showed the Waterhouse to me, which delighted me to no end.

I love the Arthurian Legend myself and I never cease to marvel over the magnificent art and superb literature that it has inspired. When I was in high school I read the book The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart and just fell in love with her version of Merlin.

I am still in love with those books.

Of course I read the next two books that followed and found myself smitten with one of the minor characters she developed for the series. I would literally daydream about going back in time and meeting this character. Well eventually I put my daydream into words and wrote a complete story about me and this character. One day in my art class I mentioned my story and one of the students suggested that I try to get it published. I told her that it wasn’t possible because I used Mary Stewart’s story as a base for my story. Her character was one of my main characters. She then suggested that I write to Mary Stewart to see if she could give me permission to use her character. Well I did just that, not expecting to her hear from her. About two months later I get an “air mail” letter from Scotland in the post and could not believe that Mary Stewart sent me a hand written reply! She was extremely nice about it but, unfortunately her publisher advised her against my request. I wasn’t too disappointed because I really don’t think that I’m that great of a writer and even if she had given her permission, I doubt that it could have been of interest to any publishing house.

I have a small story somewhat related you may find amusing. The Crystal Cave was actually on a list of books we were required to read the summer before school started. I was in my “don’t-tell-me-what-to-read” phase and resisted. I thought I knew all I wanted to know about Arthur, and my mother despaired, but she bought the books anyway. One day when cleaning my room I picked one up and gazed at the cover illustration of a strapping and rosy-cheeked Merlin—he even had reddish hair. Or it may have been a teenaged Arthur. In any case the image intrigued me so much I began to skim through the book. I remember placing the cloth on the floor and sitting there as I actually began reading. That moment re-directed my life.

Speaking of direction, Richard and Anne are located away from the central spot in the painting, and there is not much view to the sky, which is described magnificently in the passage it depicts – is there a statement within that choice, or intent to use these visual cues to signify mood or other energies within the scene?

Regarding the composition, I’m very fortunate to have had some very good art instructors who’ve taught me a lot about composition. There’s a mathematical formula called “The Golden Mean” which will tell you precisely where to place the focal point of your composition. Strangely enough, it’s not the center of the painting. There are also ways you can move the eye around the painting in a way that leads the viewer to the focal point. If you look at the cloister wall at the right hand side of the painting, it leads the eye to the figures. Also notice how the arch above the figures leads the eye to them. Remember earlier when I talked about the difficulties involved in painting a scene from a book? Well, this scene is not an exact replication of the scene from the book. The scene takes place in a priory garden with an arbor. When I sketched out the figures in an arbor, I just couldn’t get the feeling I wanted. But I knew that priories had cloisters so I used my artistic license and went the with cloister setting. Perhaps this scene is a last embrace, their last moment alone before they have to return to the hall after they left the garden and walked through the cloisters? When I made the choice of the cloisters, I chose a setting that gave me very little opportunity to paint a beautiful sunset. Perhaps I’m not meant to paint sunsets or sunrises for that matter. I was hoping to get the feel of the beautiful sky in that little bit you get to see through the arch. I remember that there was mention of a sliver of a moon, so I enjoyed putting that in there along with the pink tinged clouds. I also liked the way the dark cloister roof and walls contrasted with the brilliant blue sky and clouds and the subdued colors of the cloister garden, giving the viewer a feeling of dusk. Do you find it easy for your eye to move around the painting?

I do, and your reference to “The Golden Mean” brings back some memories of art history class. I recall being astounded at these techniques, because I thought artists were these talented people who simply painted something and there it was. Beautiful at the first. Looking at the painting again, it is as if the arches not only lead the eye, but perform a double duty in actually framing the top of the painting. There also seems to be what I might call a “balance” to it. A framing seems to work at the bottom as well, but without a lot of detail to distract from the figures of Richard and Anne. Emotionally there seems to be much around them not necessarily seen by the eye.

It is very gratifying to hear your comments, Lisl. Such a lot of love and hard work went into this painting that it’s very satisfying to know that someone else can see and feel its meaning. Being an amateur, I always fear that my efforts will be seen as corny and simplistic. Your appreciation of this painting inspires me to keep painting.

How would you describe this painting to someone unfamiliar with Sunne in Splendour or Richard III?

Oh my. This is the best question of all for this would give me the opportunity to enlighten the viewer whose only exposure to Richard III has been from Shakespeare. First of all I would highly recommend that they read The Sunne in Splendour. But if they balked at reading the book, I would tell them of the real Richard, his unfailing loyalty to his brother Edward, his courage and valor in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, and his brilliant administration of his duties as Lord of the North. His motto says it all “Loyaulte Me Lie,” Loyalty Binds Me.

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Note: Entry updated to include new book cover image and links to social media.