Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Glutton for Punishment (Blog Tour #2)

Overlapping my current blog tour, I started a second one. I'm already exhausted. I'm also frightened because this tour includes several book blogger reviewers taking a look at my book. Other than a snafu with the wrong version getting uploaded and some Smashwords weirdness (since corrected), early reader reviews have been good, but there's not a single author out there who doesn't sweat reviews. 

Anyway, for those of you following along at home here is the schedule. 

Also note that giveaways of my e-book are occurring at several of these stops, so if you want to win a free copy, stop on by. I'm guest blogging about all sorts of things.

March 2 - Guest Blogging & Giveaway at Books Are Cool 
March 5 - Interview & Giveaway at BK Walker Books Etc
March 7 - Guest Blogging with Cindy Vine 
March 9 - Guest Blogging & Giveaway at B'Tween Prose
March 13 - Review & Giveaway at Jaclyn's Musings
March 15 - Reviewed at Persephone's Winged Reviews 
March 17 - Interview at Brewster's Bookshelf 
March 19 - Guest Blogging at AZ Publishing Services
March 21 - Interviewed at Reviews & Interviews
March 23 - Reviewed at Words I Write Crazy
March 27 - Review & Giveaway at This Author's Life

Tomorrow, though, I return with some regularly scheduled historical blogging.

Also, though I'm probably not going to do the promotional blitzkrieg, I'm very close to having my Regency paranormal romance,  A WOMAN OF PROPER ACCOMPLISHMENTS ready for release. Woo hoo!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Emerald City On Tour (But Not On Ice)

Today I began my first blog tour to promote THE EMERALD CITY. It was graciously organized by Julie Ann Dawson over at Positively Published.

Monday 2/27: Interview at 21st Century Author
I discuss my admiration for Rushdie and my struggles with too many ideas among other things.

Tuesday 2/28: Guest Blogging at Samantha Warren, "Fiction is Truth"
My defense of fiction.

Wednesday 2/29: Guest Blogging at Jerry Hanel's Blog, "Fairy Killer"
Why would a die-hard skeptic enjoy stories about magic and the supernatural so much?

Thursday 3/1: Guest Blogging at Fantastic Adventure, "Our World Versus Their World"
Contemporary/urban fantasy versus second world fantasy

Friday 3/2: Ten Random Facts at Bards and Sages Group
Ferrets and North Korea!

He May Be Blind, But He Can See: An interview with YA paranormal author Emlyn Chand

Today, I'mm talking with Emlyn Chand about her YA paranormal novel, FARSIGHTED.


1) Tell us about your book.

FARSIGHTED tells the story of Alex Kosmitoras. Here’s my mini teaser: Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider.

2) What inspired this book?

Everything started with a single image—my face in these tacky oversized sunglasses reflecting out at me from the car’s side mirror. I was daydreaming while my husband drove us across Michigan for my sister’s wedding. Something about my image really struck me in an almost horrific way. I felt the glasses made me look blind but found it so weird that there was still a clear image within them; it seemed so contradictory. At the time, my book club was reading THE ODYSSEY, which features the blind Theban prophet, Tieresias. I started thinking about what it would be like to have non-visual visions of the future and began forming a modern Tieresias in my mind. Lo and behold, Alex Kosmitoras was born. I didn’t want him to be alone in his psychic subculture, so I found other characters with other powers to keep him company. Thank God for my poor fashion sense. 

3) Main characters are important, but all excellent books have a great supporting cast. Can you tell us about your favorite secondary character in this story?

Shapri is definitely my favorite character even though she plays a more secondary role in Farsighted! Not only is she the most fun, but she’s also the kind of the person I wish I could have been like back when I was younger. She’s strong, always true to herself, and won’t let anyone disrespect her. Sure, she has fears, but we all do. Shapri is the kind of girl I would love to be friends with. You know she’ll always go to bat for you when you’re too tired to step up to the plate.

4) YA Paranormal books are quite popular, but the huge number can make it hard for a book to distinguish itself. What makes Farsighted different from other YA paranormal books out there?

FARSIGHTED is different because of its characters. I didn’t set out to make Alex a fawned-over romantic lead. I want my characters to feel true to life and, yes, to be flawed. The fact that so many readers have dubbed Alex their “book boyfriend,” just flabbergasts me. I guess he’s pretty alright when push comes to shove. He is willing to risk everything to protect the girl he likes, so that’s not too bad.

5) Humans and human cultures are very visually driven. Even the relative complexity of the visual cortex speaks to the fundamental importance of sight. A sighted person might close their eyes, but they still carry with them the fundamental experience of having experienced the world through vision. With all that in mind, what sort of challenges did you face in trying to write from the perspective of a blind character?

Everyone seems to think writing blind was harder than it actually ended up being. I almost didn’t write FARSIGHTED, because I, too, was intimidated by the task. Yes, it required strenuous proofing and beta-reading to rid the manuscript of my visual snafus, but mostly, it wasn’t so bad. To connect with Alex, I read books about coping with blindness in a school setting and spent a great deal of time pondering how I might behave if I couldn’t see. In the story, Alex has always been blind; he’s always known the world to be a certain way. Not everyone understands that, and they have trouble talking about it with him. I gave Alex a tendency to overcompensate. He knows who he is and what he’s capable of, and he wants the world to know it too, so sometimes he overdoes things a bit.

6) There's been a lot of talk about the relative diversity of characters in YA. There can be a tricky balance between representing diversity and avoiding tokenism. How did you approach this issue in your book?

I’ve always been interested in multiculturalism. I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s a huge part of who I am. I did my master’s in quantitative sociology, focusing on the sub-topic of race. I married a man from India and sometimes forget that I’m not an Indian myself. I don’t believe FARSIGHTED descends into tokenism, because multiculturalism is the norm, not the exception, in my books.

7) You've stated in the past that Farsighted is to be a 5-book series. How will book two compare to book one?

While FARSIGHTED is decidedly not a romance, OPEN HEART is. You can expect much more mushy gushy stuff piled on top of the paranormal and suspense elements. OPEN HEART also deals with an issue that is very important to me—body issues and self-esteem in teen girls. Simmi wears a size 14 and has an eating disorder, which is a big struggle for her throughout the novel. I hope many girls can relate and be inspired by Simmi’s journey.


Thanks, Emlyn.

You can find more from Emlyn at

FARSIGHTED can be purchased at Amazon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bringing Back The Noble Science Fiction and Fantasy Hero: Interview with author Kevin Domenic

Today I'm talking with science fantasy adventure author Kevin Domenic about his book, KEY TO THE STARS, the first in his Fourth Dimension series.


1) Tell us about your series.

The Fourth Dimension is a story that has dominated my imagination since I was fourteen. It started after playing Final Fantasy III, a video game for the Super Nintendo. It was such an amazing and fantastic story, with themes more in-depth and emotional than most movies. When the game was over, I was disappointed because I wanted more. So I figured I'd make my own story. After writing a brief sequel to the game, I decided to try to write something original. I took the sword and sorcery of Final Fantasy and combined it with the interstellar excitement of Star Wars to write three books: THE FOURTH DIMENSION, THE FOURTH DIMENSION II, and THE FOURTH DIMENSION III (how I came up with such creative titles is anyone's guess). After toiling with other stories for a number of years, I decided to rewrite the original Fourth Dimension back in 2007. The book became the three volumes currently available for sale: KEY TO THE STARS, ALLIANCE OF SERPENTS, and EYE OF THE TORNADO.

More than anything, I wanted to bring back the traditional hero. Over the years, I've noticed a severe decline in the morality and integrity of protagonists in everything from books and movies to video games and anime. I wanted to write a hero that, while not without conflict, knew right from wrong and stood up honor and nobility. That's what The Fourth Dimension is about. It's about growing up, taking responsibility for your mistakes, and doing the right thing for no other reason than it's the right thing to do.

2) What are some of the central themes your series explores?

Responsibility, love, sacrifice, justice, forgiveness, and redemption to name a few. As I said, honor and nobility are a central focus. Eaisan Lurei fights for truth and justice. Kindel Thorus fights for peace no matter what the cost. Sartan Truce fights for the survival of his race and will trample over anyone who stands in his way. Lines of morality are blurred as each side fights to see their agenda succeed.

3) You've said that your series is influenced by anime and manga. A casual review of your cover certainly is reminiscent of anime and manga. That being said, anime and manga are mostly visual media, whereas your work is a prose novel. Could you elaborate a bit on how those sources influenced your work?

Justice and honor have always been big themes in anime. In Dragon Ball Z, for instance, the main character is a hero who wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice his life standing up for what's right. That's the kind of hero I think should be presented to readers. The character you're rooting for should set a positive example for others to follow. I actually wrote a blog entry about this subject on my website  last November. Too often, I think we underestimate just how much our characters and stories can affect people's lives. Storytellers have the ability to inspire, uplift, and encourage through their work. Whether it's a movie, a video game, a book, or a cartoon, many people draw strength from watching our characters struggle and grow through the trials set before them. Because of that, it's important to me that I put a positive and uplifting message out there.

4) You've said you were inspired to write your own stories after playing the Japanese role-playing video game, Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI in the Japan). Tell us about that.

Final Fantasy III was amazing for its time. Nowadays, people might look back at that game and feel it was cheesy or poorly translated from the original Japanese, but I still adore the story for what it achieved back then. Remember that this was a time when video games were still seen as nothing more than kids toys. There was no life-like CGI or in-game voice acting to bring the characters and stories to life. But Final Fantasy III managed to be more than that in spite of those limitations. The characters all had distinct personalities, conflicts to overcome, and even musical themes that played during their parts of the story. Each character's journey was woven together with the main plot so perfectly and beautifully that you really felt as though you knew them by the time the game was done.

And Kefka, the game's villain, was far different from any villain I'd ever encountered. You know how most evil-doers are out to destroy the world? Well, in Final Fantasy III, Kefka succeeds. Halfway through the game, he succeeds in unleashing such destruction and devastation upon the planet that when the smoke clears, you don't recognize anything anymore. Continents are spit, mountains crumble, land masses sink, and millions die. For the rest of the game, you travel through the broken world trying to help people pick up the pieces of their cities, towns, families, and lives while preparing for the final confrontation against Kefka. The themes of perseverance, redemption, and brotherly love run strong as the story heads for its final conclusion.

I love the story so much that I wrote a novel version of the game's introduction last year just to see how it would come out. You can read it here if you'd like.

5) People can be leery of series for a variety of reasons. Can your books be enjoyed as stand-alone works? Are the various books separate adventures or episodes in a more tightly linked plot?

The three books that are out now can be read as one stand-alone story. Because the story grew so much from original conception to final manuscript, I split the original one book into three. I took a cue from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time in that each book ends with a climactic showdown, but the overall story continues. And even though the third book wraps up most storyline threads, the story is left open for future volumes. I'm actually working on the story for Volume IV now. The Fourth Dimension itself, which isn't introduced until the third volume, will play a much larger role in the future.

6) Your book, BUILDING BLOCKS, is extremely different from The Fourth Dimension series. Instead of an anime-influenced science fantasy tale, it is a intense contemporary exploration of personal relationships and Christian theology. What inspired this story?

BUILDING BLOCKS was something completely different for me. It's the first book I've written that is set on Earth, and it's also my first attempt at writing a book in first person. The biggest difference, of course, is that it's the first Christian novel I've ever written.

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding Christianity is "Why does God allow bad things to happen if He's all-powerful and all-knowing?" That became the theme for BUILDING BLOCKS. I wanted to show first and foremost that I COMPLETELY understand this question. The events of my own life have left me asking this question on countless occasions. But with each tragedy comes experience, knowledge, and strength. What would any of us learn if our lives were nothing but sunshine and rainbows? How would we grow? BUILDING BLOCKS attempts to answer those questions by examining the life of Herbert, a fictional character loosely based on myself. Many of the things that happen to Herbert in BUILDING BLOCKS have actually happened to me, so I used my own experiences as a blueprint to show how good can come from bad, how triumph comes through struggle, and how perseverance breeds success.

7) What should we expect to see in your future work?

Right now, I've returned to the universe of The Fourth Dimension. I'm currently writing some short stories set a few years after EYE OF THE TORNADO while I plan Volume IV. As it stands right now, the entire Fourth Dimension series is set to go for nine volumes. That may change depending on how I feel and what I come up with, but my overall ideas span about nine books. I will likely take breaks to do other things; I have a fantasy book on the backburner called THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT that I'm eventually going to rewrite, and several other ideas I'd like to explore. I'll probably stick to the sci-fi/fantasy realm, but I won't rule out anything - including more Christian novels. It all depends on what God calls me to do!


Thanks, Kevin.

If you want to see more from Kevin, you can find him at and

KEY TO THE STARS is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Age of Tranquility and Peace: Heian Japan #15: Genji's Dreamer, Murasaki Shikibu

This is another in my continuing series on Heian-era Japan. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please check out my overview entry.


As autumn advances, the Tsuchimikado mansion looks unutterably beautiful. Every branch on every tree by the lake and each tuft of grass on the banks of the stream takes on its own particular color, which is then intensified by the evening light. The voices in the ceaseless recitation of sutras are all the more impressive as they continue throughout the night; in the slowly cooling breeze it is difficult to distinguish them from the endless murmur of the stream.

--The Diary of Lady Murasaki

In an earlier entry, I discussed the large contributions of women to Heian literature, including the creation of Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji), a book some would give the title of "world's first novel." What about the woman behind this masterpiece, Lady Murasaki?

We perhaps know more than one would expect of a woman born over a thousand years ago but still not tremendously much. Despite the highly literate and records-obsessed nature of Heian society, our direct evidence of Lady Murasaki is limited to fragments of her diary (which is really a collection of writings, some autobiographical observations, some other materials like poetry) and a small number of indirect historical references. If Lady Murasaki had been born a man, we'd probably know a lot more about her, but at the time women were mostly viewed as a means to an end: children. The names, even of many high-status women, were often not recorded. Instead, when referenced, they were given titles that related them to male relatives.

Indeed, the "name" associated with Lady Murasaki, Murasaki Shikibu, is a nickname of sorts referencing the color lavender and the government ministry employing her father. Do we have no clue of her real name? There's some circumstantial evidence from historical records that suggests she may have been one Takako Fujiwara.

So, what do we know? She appears to have been born around 973 to the northern Fujiwara. She had a brother and two sisters, along with several half-brothers and siblings. Her family line, in general, was known for their poets, something that in Heian society was quite well respected.

In a somewhat unusual move, she was allowed a decent amount of education in Chinese and Chinese literature alongside her brother. As I mentioned in my mistresses of literature entry, one of the reasons Heian women contributed so much to classical Japanese literature was because they were often both simultaneously denied a Chinese education (the prestige language at the time) and Japanese itself was somewhat devalued compared to Chinese in terms of its alleged literary value. These otherwise educated and intelligent women thus produced vernacular works to sate their creative and intellectual needs.

Initially, Lady Murasaki learned Chinese by listening at the door when her brother was receiving lessons. After her father realized how keen her mind was, he apparently allowed some more direct instruction and was even said to have lamented she was not born a boy. While her brother was not particularly stupid, the evidence suggests he wasn't as intelligent as Lady Murasaki and lacked a certain ambition. As much of this evidence comes from some comments in her diary, one cannot help but suspect some bias. That being said, she was very honest in her diary about her own perceived faults, so it'd be a mistake to dismiss her observations out of her hand.

She would be married around 998 to a distant cousin. What is interesting about this marriage is that it took place so late, relatively speaking, in her life. Normally, aristocratic women of this period were married off as soon as they hit puberty. It's unclear how she felt about her husband, but he didn't last long, dying in 1001 from cholera. She did manage to have a daughter with her husband before his death.

Sometime between 1001 and 1004, her already burgeoning talent as a storyteller was becoming known and, combined with the political connections of her father, it allowed her to be brought to the imperial court to serve as a lady-in-waiting for the Empress Shoshi.

Fujiwara succession politics actually resulted in a period of two empresses under one emperor, Shoshi and Teishi. Lady Murasaki seemed to have literary disdain for Sei Shōnagon, a poet and servant of Empress Teishi, and author of another famous work from the period, The Pillow Book. 

It's hard to sort out how much of this bad blood was merely political (Teishi actually died before Murasaki even came to court) versus literary, but Murasaki's own words seem to suggest she found Shōnagon an aggressive and arrogant woman. Unlike The Tale of Genji, The Pillow Book was a collection of personal observations and thoughts. Lady Murasaki, again judging by her diary, didn't seem to really think that highly of that type of work for general public consumption. Her diary also reveals that Murasaki was aware that many found her perhaps too aloof and intense. Given that Shōnagon had a reputation for more general ease about people, one wonders how much of Murasaki's feelings were just an indirect clash of personalities.

The diary (at least what we have) appears to have been started in 1008 and was maintained for at least two years. Her diary entries indicate she was a keen observer of court society, but somewhat disdainful of what she felt were the excesses of court.

Interestingly enough, her diary also reveals she somewhat concealed her knowledge of Chinese from many, as she feared it would be considered unfeminine, though apparently some other ladies-in-waiting thought she was flaunting her knowledge at times with the empress. Given that much of what we know about her life at court is from her own words, it's again hard to filter for the bias, but it should be stressed that Lady Murasaki was unusually educated even for a aristocratic woman. This was likely to cause jealously no matter how she presented herself.

Empress Shoshi's husband, Emperor Ichigo, died in 1011. So she retired from court, and this in turn meant her ladies-in-waiting had to retire with her. Although there are some records indicating that Murasaki was still around the empress in 1013, things get somewhat less clear by 1014. There's varying indirect evidence that she may have died in 1014, but other evidence suggests she may have lived for another decade.

It's unclear her seminal work, The Tale of Genji, was actually written. It may have at least have been started during her marriage, and large portions of it were read to Emperor Ichigo, so it must have been at least mostly complete before 1011. A 1021 diary entry by another noblewoman confirms its completion by at least that date. Given a possible death in 1014, one might think that it was definitely finished before then, but there is a certain amount of controversy about the last section of the book that is somewhat different in style and character focus. It's possible that someone else, perhaps even Lady Murasaki's daughter, may have written those chapters, so the mystery of the timing of authorship remains somewhat cloudy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Torn Between A Lost Love Returned and a New Love: An interview with author C.G. Powell

Today, I'm talking with C.G. Powell about her paranormal/sci-fi romance SPELL CHECKED.


1) Please tell us about your book.

SPELL CHECKED is about Beck, who is waiting for the return of his eternal love, Helen. When she does return, it is in a body she can’t overshadow. As Beck gets to know Helen’s host, Mae, he falls in love with her and must choose.

2) What inspired you to write this book?

I always felt that the explanation of witches and vampires were not logical, so I decided to write them the way I feel made sense to me.

3) Paranormal romance is a popular genre right now, but it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. What makes your book different than others in this genre?

Spell Checked is more Sci-Fi / Fantasy than paranormal. The characters are written as human/alien half-breeds and their powers are more logic-based than magical. Future books will take them to other planets.

4) Your book is set in Ireland. Why do you choose to set it there? Have you had a chance to travel there at all?
I went there on my 10th anniversary. I had the privilege to go on the pub and folk tour, I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to share it with others. I’ve always felt a connection there and would go back in a heartbeat. Plus the place fit Beck’s rustic, but technologically advanced mentality perfectly. I really could see him spending his life there.

5) Paranormal fans all have their preferences in regards to what sort of supernaturals they find appealing. What type is your favorite and why?

My favorite are the Jinn (Genies). Their allegiance is neither good nor bad. I love that they can shape-shift, create fire and travel on the air. I wish there were more stories about them.

6) What supernatural would you like to see just disappear forever and why?

All supernatural beings have their own merit...I would not want to see any of them go away.

7) This is the first in the No Uncertain Logic series. What can we expect in the sequel?

The sequel, EXILE BYTES, will be a much darker book than SPELL CHECKED. There will be more traveling. We get to meet Mae’s parents. Plus I introduce the Nephilim (Demons).

There will be some interesting hook-ups and Beck is going to finally tell us the story of how he almost destroyed the world.

Before the sequel, there is another Terra Stellar novel called IMMORTAL VOYAGE that will be out first. It is the story of Aiden Fitz Thomas’ parents and is set in the Neolithic time period and the city of Atlantis.


Thanks, C.G.

If you'd like to find out more about C.G., you can check out her blog at

SPELL CHECKED is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mr. Beard's Regency Tour Day 16: Jane in 855 words--A Brief Biography of Jane Austen

Welcome to my continuing series on late Georgian/Regency England. If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, please check out this post.


In recent decades, many people's interest in the Regency and late Georgian period has been kindled by exposure to the works of Jane Austen. Many people, even if they haven't read her work, have at least seen a movie or television adaptation.

Who was the woman behind Darcy, Lizzie, Emma, Elinor, and so many other characters who have fused themselves into the cultural consciousness of the English-speaking world (and Colin Firth's career)? Here, I present a brief biographical sketch of Miss Jane Austen.

Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775 in the village of Steventon in Hampshire to George and Cassandra Austen. She was the seventh of eight children, and the second girl. Jane's father was a clergyman and scholar of modest means but still of some gentility. Much like Lizzie Bennett, Jane was close to her father and he encouraged her, along with all of his children, to be proud of learning and reading. Unlike Mrs. Bennett, however, Jane's mother was a woman of wit.

In 1783, Jane and her sister (also named Cassandra) were sent off for education at the hands of one of their aunts. Though they briefly returned home, they were again sent off, for a year, to a boarding school in Reading, Berkshire. As girls, they were instructed in the subjects considered appropriate for their gender, such as French, music, and dance.  

Jane and Cassandra were very close. Both would remain unmarried throughout life. Some of their letters to each other have survived, allowing unusually direct insight into the mind and personality of Jane Austen. Many more could have perhaps survived, but unfortunately for us, following Jane's death, her sister destroyed and edited many letters, apparently in an attempt to protect the privacy of her beloved younger sister.

When the sisters returned home from boarding school, their education was not as limited in scope. Their father had access to a rather sizable library, which he encouraged all his children, including his daughters, to utilize. The family amused themselves with the writing of stories, the performance of plays, and other creative endeavors. Jane grew up in a near perfect environment to encourage her interest in writing. 

By 1793, she'd already produced a collection a work, now commonly called her Juvenilia. Though the various pieces of work in this collection lack the sophistication of her later work, her wit and keen eye for the social foibles of the time was already obvious.

Over the next several years, she would also produce First Impressions, the original draft of what would later become Pride and Prejudice.

Jane's father retired somewhat abruptly in 1800 and moved the remaining non-married family to Bath. The city would play a key role in two of her later works, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Given how she didn't always present the social elites of Bath in a positive light, one wonders about the kind of people she encountered. Surviving evidence from her letters clearly indicates that Jane had a very low tolerance for superficial, pompous, and witless people. Her disdain for at least some aspects of the Bath social scene is quite in evidence in a letter she wrote on May 21, 1801:

"... Our party at Ly. Fust's was made up of the same set of people that you have already heard of -- the Winstones, Mrs. Chamberlayne, Mrs. Busby, Mrs. Franklyn, and Mrs. Maria Somerville; yet I think it was not quite so stupid as the two preceding parties here."

As noted above, Jane Austen remained unmarried her entire life. This is not to say she never had the opportunity. In 1802, there's some indication she was to marry a man of decent means, but for some reason never went through with it. There's not clear evidence of why she decided not to marry the man, but some evidence in her letters suggests that she may simply have not wanted to marry a man she did not genuinely love.

Her beloved father passed away in 1805. Without his income, Jane, her sister, and mother were forced to rely on the Austen brothers for support until the Austen women were finally settled in a cottage near the property of one of the Austen brothers (the living arrangement has echoes of the Dashwood women in Sense and Sensibility).

Though Jane, with the aid of her brother Henry, had sold a copyright for an early work to a publisher, the man made little effort to actually publish her work. Thus, her first attempt at publishing a novel was a failure and the work remained tied up in copyright issues due to her inability to pay the publisher back the initial advance due to her precarious financial situation at the time.

Despite the issues with her initial publishing attempt, the publishing of Sense and Sensibility in 1811 went more smoothly Again, her brother Henry helped facilitate her contact a publisher. The book was released to favorable reviews and commercial success. First Impressions was fully reworked into Pride and Prejudice and published in 1813. Mansfield Park followed in 1814 and Emma in 1815.

Jane became ill in 1816. To this day, it's not clear the nature of her illness, and a wide variety of diseases have been suggested. Her health would decline over the next year until she finally died on July 18, 1817 at the age of forty-one.

Henry and Cassandra would see to it that her completed Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were posthumously published. Ironically, Northanger Abbey was completed years before in 1803, making it the first Austen novel completed publication. When I mentioned an "early work" being tied up in copyright, it was the earlier version of the novel, then called Susan. The copyright was reacquired for a modest sum in 1816.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dancing, Ghosts, and Jane Austen: An interview with author David Wilkin

Today I'm talking with David Wilkin, an author who normally specializes in Regency period novels. For this latest work, he satirically takes on the Jane Austen/monster mash-up trend in JANE AUSTEN AND GHOSTS.


1) Tell us about your book.

JANE AUSTEN AND GHOSTS is a story about the making of the classic works of Jane into a movie with the twist that has recently come these last few years of including everything Jane with some type of monster. The novel is set in the here and now at a movie studio. Jane, being deceased, now falls into a category that we could include with zombies and vampires, werewolves and other monsters that Hollywood has done to death, so to speak. Jane now would be a ghost.

And were Jane a ghost, from the other side, she in my interpretation would not like at all what so many have done to her stories. Thus a haunting by Jane who most assuredly has been rolling over in her grave seems in order.

2) What inspired this book?

I actually have a cousin at the studios whose job is much like my protagonist, Ellis Abbot. Elizabeth, I mean Ellis Abbot is a finder for the studio. He looks for works that would make a great movie, and when he sees PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND Z*****s it was only natural for him to think that this would make a great camp movie. I played with that idea in my mind and what my cousin does, but I thought Jane would hate to see these movies made. She would probably hate to see these books having been written. (Though I never read one until I had finished the first draft of JANE AUSTEN AND GHOSTS, I was then very much surprised that the first seemed a graft onto Jane's writing.)

Playing with the idea that Jane had rolled over in that grave in Winchester Cathedral (I visited her grave in 2007 and also looked for the God Begot House then as well which my cousin Arnold once ran a store out of just a few feet away) I thought what other Ghosts might accompany Jane to set things to right. What could come of that, and then how to link my knowledge of Hollywood (I worked at Dick Clark Productions when younger and taped every single American Bandstand there ever was) to that of Jane Austen.

3) For over two hundred years, people have been reworking Jane Austen. Besides simply mild setting time shifts, we've had modern updates, such as EMMA being reworked as CLUELESS and more extreme cultural transformations such as the Aishwarya Rai-lead Bollywood take on Austen, BRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Why do the works of an English woman who wrote so long ago about a fairly narrow socio-economic range of characters still appeal to so many people all over the world today?

I think that we have a love story in this and it is a little complicated. Thank you, Wickham, Lydia and Georgiana. That love story is a key to why we return to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE as perhaps the favorite of the tales. (I have to admit to liking PERSUASION at this time of life more.) The characters and the stereotypes we find in the work are all well detailed and where some parts of Jane's writing would be far from considered a great novel today, her ability to spin a good stroy endures.

I look at the Regency Romances I delve into, including COLONEL FITZWILLIAM'S CORRESPONDENCE, my Jane sequel, as a dance with the beginning our seeing the Hero and Heroine. Then one or the other takes a fancy to the other, but that can not be returned. Boy meets Girl. Boy likes Girl, and of course Boy loses Girl. The next part is critical, Boy endeavors to get Girl back. Wentworth shows up in Bath and crosses paths with Anne, or Darcy after Elizabeth is found at Pemberly goes to London to make things right between Lydia and Wickham. Our Heroes must then do something heroic to show their love. In Jane Austen and Ghosts, Ellis has to do something to show his affection has something behind it as well.

4) Despite the various direct updates and the re-imaginings, it's only in recent years that it's become popular to try and fuse Jane Austen's work directly with rather discordant elements such as zombies or sea monsters. Do you feel this nothing but a gimmick, or does it imply something deeper about our interface with Austen's work?

I have to think that the mashups of the Austen stories with Monsters are gimmicks. Not a deep exploration of the theme of Love and love in a society where arranged marriages were normal. I can not speak to having read the first of the monster mash-ups beyond the Assembly Ball scene. With that book showing so much in the way of using Jane’s own writing and not original from the author, I think that highlights that it is riding on Jane’s work. Kudos to the author for a creative idea, but perhaps more kudos if the story had been completely written by the author and not grafted onto Jane’s writing.

For JANE AUSTEN AND GHOSTS, I hope those who read it find that I have been very creative in telling a light hearted romp that plays up Hollywood, Jane, B-Movie actors, and Hollywood legends, and the books that are in this recent trend. I think that the tale will bring a smile to the face of Janeites and others who read it.

5) What is the most common thing you feel people misunderstand about Jane Austen's work?

I think that Jane is not the be all and end all of what the Regency period was about. Jane’s work gives us a great glimpse of country life for the edges of the Ton, where she was firmly ensconced. But so many Regencies talk of Dukes and Earls and with Jane we do not see that lifestyle at all. We have to look elsewhere to glimpse it and even when we look at someone like Darcy, or the Elliots, we do not see the members of the first stare.

6) You became interested in the Regency by studying period dance and teaching it. My own dance knowledge is fairly limited compared to yours, but I've noticed more than a few times, for instance, a film tossing the waltz in before it'd been introduced to England. Do you feel film and television adaptations of Regency, Georgian England, and Austen works tend to get the dance right, completely wrong, or something in-between?

They get dance wrong. Mr. Beveridge's Maggot is one of our favorite dances, and the one done in the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle P&P where they dance together. Choreographers of the period had to redo the steps that were on film because so many had done what they had done on screen and it was wrong. (The real version is better IMO) There is a lovely piece choreographed in Paltrow’s Emma, again beautiful on the screen but wrong. Or in the Olivier/Garson P&P, the Assembly Ball is filled with dances that come after the period.

There are plenty of great dances for the period, but the movies are just not correct. And waltzing is just out. Jane Austen died in 1817 and waltzing, as I wrote in an article at in an article on waltz in the period, would have been about 3 years done. It would seem a stretch for Jane to have learned it, decided to have her characters master it, and then be able to dance it in such a short period of time.

7) Which do you prefer: contradancing or the waltz?

I like them both. I had been known a few decades ago, to dance 4 nights a week, several of that contradancing. (Great exercise, lost lots of pounds) But for wooing and it is Valentine's Day, nothing beats the waltz, and after a couple years of waltzing, I was able to be proud of my waltzing. A sought after partner here in Southern California at the local balls we have.

8) You've written several works set directly in the Regency. Can you briefly describe those for us?

I have 3 Regencies currently available. COLONEL FITZWILLIAM'S CORRESPONDENCE, THE SHATTERED MIRROR and THE END OF THE WORLD. I consider all three a little different. The first of course is a continuation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. We look at the war through the Colonel’s eyes, and we look at society through Kitty’s. As the Colonel is away in Portugal and Spain, letters are sent back and forth and we catch up what is happening with our favorite characters as life moves on. That this lasted sometime, we have developments in all the lives of the characters continuing even as our heroes in this story become united, and parted, in their own ways. And of course we can not forget Lady Catherine. She is present as well (Though my interpretation is more that of Edna May Oliver)

In THE SHATTERED MIRROR, I deal with the effects of the war on our hero, and how a man wounded in the war, as so many were, might think that there can never be love again for him. As a Regency, we know that somewhere along the way there will be love, so our Heroine is young and vivacious and wanting to find love with a real hero of the war. Not realizing that our wounded hero might very well be that man.

Last I have THE END OF THE WORLD, where our heroine does not expect to find love being in the shadow of her sister. Here my hero also is not looking to fall in love as he runs from his own demons only to find the girl and her family beset by neighbors and those who once were friends.


Thanks, David.

If you want to see more from David or are interested in his other titles, you can find him at

JANE AUSTEN AND GHOSTS is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

All Roads Lead to the Same Battlefield but Different Perspectives: An interview with fantasy author Craig Comer

Today I'm talking with Craig Comer about his co-written fantasy book, THE ROADS TO BALDARIN MOTTE.


1) Tell us about the book.

The Roads to Baldairn Motte is a mosaic fantasy novel centered around the conquest for an empty throne. The novel consists of three novellas, each written by a different author, and each telling a different point of  view of the same battle.

The captain of the Black Wind is forced into the service of the powerful Earl of Gaulang. Ensnared in a tangle of bargains and betrayal, the captain and his crew fight for survival, finding allies in the unlikeliest of places.

To the north, the commander of the Titan Guard, the elite fighting force of Lord North, travels to the edge of civilization to enlist the help of barbarian giants known as the Marchers. But such aid comes at a cost, and the price of victory may spell doom for all.

From simple crofts, farms, and villages come the ranks of the engaging armies. A crofter hunts for his missing sons at the peril of his life and honor, while a miller follows his lord to battle, eager to rattle spears against enemy shields. Hungry and exhausted, both men will find they are but dander upon the wind in the great game of the Passions.

Yet struggle as they might, all roads will lead them to the ruins at Baldairn Motte.

2) Why did you and your co-writers decide to write linked novellas?

The whole idea started with Ahimsa Kerp wondering what the men fighting with Sauron, in The Lord of the Rings, thought they were fighting for. We batted that nugget around for a while and really liked the notion that no one is the "bad guy" in their own story. So we decided we'd create a world and scenario, and each tell a different point of view. Part of the fun was not knowing what the others would come up with, as far as our characters' rationale and motivation.

3) The appeal of fantasy often lies in its well-developed alternative worlds. Tell us about the world of this collection.

All the power in our realm resides in the southern city of Fairnlin, which has established its dominance over the prior few centuries. It is the center of commerce, where access to the northern mines and southern timber and farming lands converge. In what we call the North, which is actually the middle of our realm, we have a pair of duchies. But these regions were once the seats of kings, so there is a seperation of culture and authority which still resides. In the far north are a race of barbarian giants known as the Marchers. They are largely dismissed by the southern lords, perhaps a bit too much...

The northerners all believe in the Green People, who lived in their lands long before them, while the southern Passions have spread across the realm as the dominate source of faith. These are a notion of compultions that drive men to act, made tangible through Orders. The Order of Balin, for instance, focuses on compassion, and is largely made up of leeches who tend the sick; while the Ordained are an order who fight to maintain what they consider the natural status quo.

When the realm is thrown into chaos by the death of the king, all the animosity between north and south, the Passions and their Orders, secret societies, feuding lords--it all erupts into war.

4) What went into creating the world? Fantasy world-building can be a complicated affair. Internal consistency is vital for verisimilitude. How did you manage this with three separate authors?

Each of our novellas is a journey story, and it worked out nicely that each of us chose a different region of the world to populate. Our stories all wind up at the same place, the ruins of Baldairn Motte, so we started with a shared description of the battlefield, but the rest largely came out of our writing.

It was in the revision phase that we were able to add in details from each other's novellas, so that the whole was kept consistent and felt lived in.

5) This collection centers around different people touched by battle. Is there a central theme linking the collections, or do they each explore warfare and the setting in unique ways?

Besides wanting different vantage points, one of the key ideas we wanted to explore was the notion of the everyman being caught up in this war, where they had very little they could control. We don't focus much on the movings of the high lords or the actual players vying for the throne. Insted, our stories are about the conscripted ship captain, the soldier, and the farmer.

For my novella, THRALLS OF THE FAIRIE, I really wanted to focus on what it would be like if you were a local peasant and all these armies came crashing down onto your fields and villages, putting your life in jeopardy not only for the course of the battle, but its total effect on your way of life. Your livestock is gone; your crops are gone; you're worrying over your wife and kids, and your liege lord is asking you to shut up and stand there with a spear.

6) Is the world of The Roads to Baldairn Motte one you'll be revisiting? If so, do you want to explore a different aspect of the world?

We definitely have considered revisiting. There are so many more stories we could tell, so many side characters that pop up during the course of this book who warrant an investigation of their own. For myself, I'd like to see how the destroyed harvest, the diseases spreading from the dead and dying, the influx of wandering brigands, how do these affect the men of Burn Gate and the other villages near the battlefield? It's one part of the fantasy genre that fascinates me--just because the hero has won and/or the new king crowned, doesn't mean the smallfolk have food on the table!


Thanks, Craig.

If you want to see more from Craig please check out his webpage at:

THE ROADS TO BALDAIRN MOTTE can be purchased in physical or electronic format at Amazon.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Schedule Change: Historical Thursday

My finite time pie is being sliced up more and more finely these days. Due to that, I've been thinking about the best way to handle certain things. I really enjoy sharing my historical tidbits with you, and the bulk of the time is spent on research I've been doing anyway. That being said, producing a half-way coherent blog post from my notes still requires time. After several weeks of messing with scheduling, what I've realized is that it doesn't seem too bad to get out one historical entry a week, but two is a bit of a strain.

People seem to be enjoying both my Heian entries and Regency entries, so I don't think I want to stop posting about either. In addition, I actually want to start a series on Joseon Korea soon.

So, what's the solution? Instead of having discrete days where I'm doing Regency or Heian (or Korean) material, I'm going to now post on historical matters once a week (on occasion two when I have time) with a general target of having the posts go up Thursday evening. As my last historical post was Heian, this upcoming week will be a Regency post. I'll then just alternate by week. The Korean entries probably won't be starting for a month or two.

Thank you for continuing to read my blog and leaving comments. I hope you'll continue to enjoy my historical entries.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Age of Tranquility and Peace: Heian Japan #14: General Layout of the Heart of Harmony--Heian-kyō

Welcome to my continuing series on Heian-era Japan. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, just click here for an overview of the Heian era.


As mentioned in a previous entry, the heart of Heian Japan was the capital, Heian-kyō (modern day Kyoto). Though there's some debate about the reasons for the move, most scholars think that the key motivation was a desire to diminish the political influence of Buddhist temples located near the old capital and the influence of regional aristocrats antagonistic to the then imperial regime.

The city was created on the order of the Emperor Kammu. This was not a situation where an existing city or set of villages was adapted. This city was built up in a very deliberate, planned manner in conscious imitation of the Chinese Tang Dynasty capital. Geomancy and other related techniques influenced the design. Although we now view such techniques as supernatural, at the time they were treated with the respect we'd grant skilled engineers and architects.

Due to such considerations, the selected site had nearby mountains and flanking rivers. Although one can see the practical transportation value of rivers or the defensive values of mountains, these natural features were also believed to help contain evil influences.

The careful design of the city allowed for easy navigation. The overall borders of the city formed a rectangle (about 5.5 km north-south/4.7 km east-west). The Imperial palace complex was not centered in the city, but instead in the north center. It lay at the end of the city's main road, Suzaku Avenue. This road was extremely wide, about 85 m/280 feet). So, you can easily imagine the dramatic impact of walking down this huge road and seeing the palace grounds looming in the distance:

A model reconstruction

At the lowest level, jo (a little over three meters) made up square cho (the rough Heian equivalent of a city block). These cho were about 120 meters on each side (about 400 feet). The cho were further organized into groups of four with one group arrayed east to west and another north to south (jo* and bo, respectively). These were also numbered. In the end, given the square units involved, this allowed for an addressing system that was close to a coordinate system for major locations. 

*Without getting bogged down in Japanese writing, the kanji (Chinese character) for this jo is different than the more basic jo.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Duty, Responsibility, and Freedom: An interview with historical fiction author Lauren Gilbert

Today I'm talking with Lauren Gilbert about her Regency novel, HEYERWOOD.

Lauren Gilbert has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a minor in Art History. She has continued her education with classes, work shops and independent study. An avid reader, she is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She has presented several programs to JASNA chapters. She lives in Florida, with her husband Ed.


1. Tell us about your book. 

HEYERWOOD is a historical novel, with romantic overtones, set in the late Georgian/Regency era. A woman who has been a chattel and pawn finds herself free, wealthy and able to do whatever she wants. The novel is about choices and growth.

2. What kindled your interest in Regency/Georgian England? 

I have always loved history, and historical novels set in all periods. The late Georgian period and Regency era seem to have an additional glamour. They also remind me alot of our own time, in their political turmoil, class and income divides, and sharp clashes between conservative and liberal values.

3. What went into creating your heroine? 

A line in EMMA, where Emma is explaining to Harriet that wealthy women don't need to marry, caught my attention, and I started thinking about what such a situation might be like. I've also done some research about women's daily lives during the time, and (even for upper class women) there were a lot of duties and responsibilities. I wanted to create a rounded character, with a full life, finding her way.

4. How has your membership in the Jane Austen Society of North America informed or helped your writing? 

It has deepened my understanding of Jane Austen's life, her time and her writing. Jane Austen's writing is amazing, in that she created so many layers of meaning and had such a light touch. Just listening and reading discussion and interpretation of her writings has given me an ideal towards which to strive.

5. What do you think is most commonly misunderstood about this period? 

A significant issue is the brevity of the Regency itself, and the fact that it is part of the Georgian era, not a completely separate and unrelated time. (The Regent did become George IV, after all!) The Georgian/Regency era was when the industrial revolution really began, and saw the middle class beginning to rise in wealth and status. It's the point where the very decadent earlier Georgian period begins the shift to the more conservative climate that ultimately characterized the Victorian era.

On a more mundane note, the daily cares and responsibilities of running a home or estate are frequently ignored, as if having servants or works relieved the master or mistress of all involvement. (It may have done so for the uber-wealthy, but there was a lot more involved for most, and even the uber-wealthy needed to pay some attention!)

6. Georgian and Regency books are popular all over the world, but particularly in North American and the UK, particularly among women. Why are modern women so interested in period where women were far more limited in their rights? 

When we think of these periods, we think of a time of grace, beauty, glamour and sparkle. Women in beautiful gowns and jewels, dashing gentlemen, adherence to rules of courtesy, a time of elegance. This offers a total contrast to one's normal way of life, and provides entertainment and escape.

7. What is your favorite Jane Austen book?

PERSUASION. I love the way the characters evolve with the seasons, and the romance of the hero's and heroine's second chance at love.


Thanks, Lauren.

You can find more from Lauren at : and

HEYERWOOD can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Author House.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Look, I released a book!

Followers of my blog might have noticed I was a bit quiet last week. I spent last week finalizing the release of my young adult urban fantasy, The Emerald City:

Young Adult Urban Fantasy

In this loose re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, Kansas teen Gail Dorjee has tried to escape from the pain of her parents' death by retreating into a hard shell of anger and sarcasm.

When her aunt and uncle ship her off to an elite Seattle boarding school, Osland Academy, she spends her first day making enemies, including the school's most powerful clique, the Winged, and their leader, the ruthless Diana.

Social war and the school's uptight teachers are only mild annoyances. Mysterious phone outages, bizarre behavioral blocks, and strange incidents suggest Osland is focused on something much more sinister than education.

Gail has to survive at Osland with a pretty pathetic assortment of potential allies: her airhead roommate, a cowardly victim of the Winged, and Diana's cold, but handsome, boyfriend, Nick.

The Emerald City is currently available in ebook format at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. I hope to have it available soon at other outlets.

Just so you know, I have several other novels that will be coming out over the next few months. I've done a lot of writing in the last few years, but the editing, proofreading, and all that takes time.

At the end of February, I'll be releasing a sweet Regency paranormal romance, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments. No bodices are ripped. That may make you more or less likely to want to read it depending on what you want out of your romance.

At the end of March, I'll be releasing a fantasy novel, Mind Crafter.

For those who are fans of my Heian entries, please note that this autumn, I'll be releasing a non-fantasy thriller set during the Heian era.

With that release handled, I'll be returning to my regularly scheduled themed content this week along with some nice author interviews.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How far would you go for your family? An interview with thriller author Andy Hollomon

Today I'm interviewing Andy Hollomon, author of the thriller Shades of Gray.


1) Tell us about your book.

Shades of Gray is a thriller/suspense novel that revolves around the theme of crossing the line into criminal activity in order to save someone you love. My protagonist is a single father who's daughter has a serious medical condition that requires him to come up with a plan to smuggle drugs aboard cruise ships in order to earn the money quickly. Furthermore, his travel agency is struggling due to 9/11 and this factor is also pushing him to this extreme option.

2) What inspired this book?

For 12 years (mostly in the 90s) I was the owner of a travel agency. One of my sales agents reported a situation to me where one of her clients was purchasing airline tickets in a legal, but unusual manner. Not too long after this, the woman was found murdered inside her burned out home. This solidified our suspicion that she must have been a drug dealer. After 9/11 and the subsequent downturn in the travel industry, an idea grew in my mind “What lengths would a business owner go to in order to save his company?” So this is how the novel was formulated.

3) It's been over a decade, but the pain of 9/11 still lingers in the American national consciousness. Were you concerned about having that as a background element of your plot?

Great question!! I was for a while when I first started writing but that concern faded as i progressed in the construction of the story (this was approx. 2003- 2006) as it became a small plot point. Furthermore, as time as passed, 9/11 has been something that has been used more and more in books and films.

4) What's the fundamental thematic question your novel explores?

How far will would a desperate father go in order to save his child's life? Would he break the law?

5) What drew you to that theme?

My experience as a travel industry owner during the tumultuous period for the industry just after 9/11 had me in a dire situation and anyone that has faced the closure of a business knows that their desperation can become overwhelming. I never turned to drug smuggling or anything illegal, but the closing of my business was traumatic and painful. Plus, I feel that this theme is one that many folks can relate to.

6) Your main characters make some hard choices; choices that some readers may find morally questionable. Did you ever worry that readers would have difficulty identifying with your characters?

Not really. I'm certain that almost everyone has had desperate financial situations and has contemplated illegal activity as a means to an end. I think readers will enjoy the morally questionable choices that are made by these characters and find that they can relate.

Part of the title, Shades of Gray, to me, represents the fact that the world is a "gray" place and very few of the decisions that we all make (especially when we are up against a wall) are black and white.

7) Can you give us any insight into any current works-in-progress?

Right now I just have a very, very rough idea and outline of my next novel. For the time being, I'm just describing it as a "Irving-esque romp through the 1990's as seen through the eyes of two Irish brothers coming of age just as the Internet is coming of age.


Thanks, Andy.

If you'd like to see more from Andy, please visit his blog at

Shades of Gray can be purchased at Andy's website or Amazon.