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Tuesday 30 October 2018

Tuesday Talk - Helen Hollick on Friends (not exclusively Romans or Countrymen...)

Friends. Friendship.

Some people have dozens of friends - best friends, good friends, see-occasionally friends, friends on a Christmas card list, old friends, new friends,.. Others have only a few friends, maybe one or two best friends, and a handful of acquaintances who are only 'sort of' friends. Some people were popular at school - always had a group of friends, others had one or two, or even no friends.

I'm interested to know how many authors had friends at school, or as a child. I'm curious because I didn't have friends. I had other children I'd play with in my pre-teens but we lost touch when we went from junior school to senior -  because they went to a different school, and then two moved away. There were a couple of girls I'd hang around with at secondary school, but looking back why on earth was I friends with them? Neither of them liked the things I liked (horses and reading) because of one, I remember being in tears on several occasions because of her over-the-top (cruel) teasing, which is not good when you are shy, lonely and completely lacking in self-confidence. (Yes honest! That is me until around my mid-twenties!) 

It wasn't until I left school and went to work in 1969 (I was 16) that I made a few friends - although all these (many) years later most have fallen by the wayside. I 'lost' a few friends when I moved from London to Devon. I miss them because we used to laugh a lot ... I don't regret moving to Devon though!

My 'best' friend, totally unexpectedly, passed away in 2001. And that's partly why I'm writing this (no it's not a 'feel sorry for me' article! Read on!)  She died on October 31st the date when we remember 'the departed' (let's forget about all the rather ridiculous, and purely commercial, ghouls and monsters nonsense - Halloween is a time for remembering friends and family who have passed on. It isn't a time of vampires, trolls or blue-painted monsters.) She went to sleep, never woke up. I miss her. A lot. I need to move on and stop missing her, but it isn't as easy as that is it?

The reason I wonder whether authors often didn't have friends as children is because I did have friends, but they were all fictional ones. My friends were the characters from books, some remain friends to this day: Jill from Ruby Fergusson's Jill's Gymkhana, Will Stanton from Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, Tamzin and Rissa from Monica Edwards' Romney Marsh and Punchbowl Farm series and a plethora of  other horsey friends I met in various pony story adventures. They were all real to me, good friends who didn't tease or deliberately get you into trouble with a teacher, or arrange to meet and then not turn up. Fictional characters usually don't let you down. 

My friend, Anna Belfrage and moi
I've moved on to adult novels now, of course, and to me a good novel is one where you instantly make friends with one or more of the characters. I'll name a few from authors who are, in real life, dear friends... Alex Graham from Anna Belfrage's Graham Series, Aurelia and Carina from Alison Morton's Roma Nova series, Sam Plank from Susan Grossey's murder-mystery series set in 1800s London... note that these are all fictional characters. I enjoy reading semi-biographical novels about real people, but somehow they never actually fit the category of friend - I wonder if this is because they were real people once?

Roma Nova Series by Alison Morton

My own characters are my best mates of course - although again the real people of the past from Harold the King (I Am the Chosen King in the US) and A Hollow Crown (The Forever Queen in the US) were not on quite the same level of 'friends' as Arthur (King Arthur - who probably wasn't a real person) or Jesamiah Acorne, my pirate (who I adore, even when he does grumble and nag!)

I had a best friend who turned out to not be a best friend, I have a best friend who has been a best friend for many years and who now runs my website and has a heart of gold. I have a best friend who lives in North Carolina and is a very special best friend, I have other friends who I met and 'friended' through my writing (not mentioning any names - you all know who you are!) 

So there are two things that puzzle me:
One is that recently the friend who died has been in my dreams and in each dream she's telling me to 'go away'. Is this because sub-consciously I am wondering if we were 'best' friends... maybe she didn't feel that I was her best friend? Or is she trying to tell me to 'let go' and move on? 

My second curious puzzle: are authors of fiction 'good' authors because we  didn't have many friends, so we became adept at making them up and making them very real? Or is it just me feeling a tad over-emotional because I miss the real people who were friends but now aren't, and it's nearly halloween? 

Weird things friends, aren't we?

Thursday 25 October 2018

Novel Conversations With Lorraine Devon Wilke and Dan McDowell

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...

Dan McDowell

Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Lorraine Devon Wilke’s novel HYSTERICAL LOVE. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: Hey, Helen, nice to meet you and thanks for taking the time to talk with me about my role in HYSTERICAL LOVE. My name is Dan McDowell. I am the “lead character,” as they say. I’m thirty-three, a photographer; I live in Los Angeles, have an older sister, Lucy, and two parents living nearby, and share a home with my—well, I was sharing a home with my fiancée, Jane. Until recently. When she—though a wonderful person with a big heart—greatly overreacted to a relational blip in my past and kicked me out. But more on that later…

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about? (What's on the back cover blurb!) 
A. I’d put it into the upmarket literary fiction category, with a mix of humor and pathos, and a focus on “what’s true love and how do you know when you’ve found it?”  As for what it’s about: I’ll take your suggestion and go to the “back of the book”; it does a pretty good job of laying it out:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won't be long. It's long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his... soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father's life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona. But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Lorraine Devon Wilke, author of the acclaimed debut novel, AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH, brings her deft mix of humor and drama to a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist. HYSTERICAL LOVE explores themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: Good question… guess it depends on who you ask and when you ask them! I’m basically a good guy who’s just trying to figure things out, but there are people who might say I’m a tad self-focused, maybe a little obsessive; even narcissistic at times (though I’d take exception to that last one!). But in my defense, and for whatever reason, this age—thirty-three—is a real bear. It seems like you should have the basics figured out by thirty-three, but I feel like I still haven’t got a clue. I’m floundering. This applies to my career (working at a mall-based family portrait center is not exactly inspirational), my family (ho, my dad… there’s a piece of work!), and my currently blighted love life.

On top of that, I clash regularly with my overachieving sister, Lucy, who is as unvarnished and candid a person as could possibly exist (which can be skin-scraping for a laid back guy like me), and certainly my girlfriend, Jane, who hates me throughout the bulk of the story (but not really, you know?), would not likely have much good to say about me. My best friend, Bob, on the other hand, is not only a general hoot, but takes me as I am without a lot of judgment, which I appreciate. There’s another woman who comes into the picture, Fiona… ah, Fiona. She thinks everyone is good. And then there’s my parents. Wow. My mother’s convinced the sun shines down on me, while my father pretty much thinks I’m an ass.

But whatever I am or am not, this story puts me on a journey—both literally and figuratively—that lays out some truths I can neither deny nor dismiss, and somewhere in all that I honestly think I become a better person. Though you’d probably have to ask the others to get that verified.  

Q: Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: My sister Lucy is a bit of a challenge for me. Sometimes I feel like we’re really close, really in sync, other times we’re on different planets and she’s viewing me through a filter of her own making… and it ain’t rose-colored! She’s a couple of years older, currently single, and though her version of growing up was actually a lot more lackadaisical and chaotic than my own, she always manages to trip upon the golden tickets out there. For example, without even trying that hard, she magically attracted the funds to open her own restaurant and is now one of the most popular chefs in Los Angeles. Not sure how any of that happened. Especially since I put years, I mean years, into the study of my craft—photography—and the best I’ve been able to do (so far… I hope) is a gig at some family portrait store in a mall. But whatever it is, I also feel like Lucy’s my touchstone, the person I most rely on, the person I can always expect truth from; the person who’ll kick my ass (even when I don’t think I deserve it) and the person who’s walking this crazy maze with me regarding our parents. I’m in awe of her and she drives me nuts. And, frankly, she’s the catalyst at the heart of my romantic dilemma: after all, she’s the one who threw out the idea that Jane might not be my soul mate. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?    

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: Nope, this is it. My big literary moment. No series, no sequels. I take you on a ride, I leave you with hope, and you get to take it from there. I trust your imagination will do me justice! 

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: I can’t really talk about any of my least favourite scenes, because they’d all be spoilers and I don’t want to do that to your readers. So let me go with my “most earth shaking revelation.”  

That’s the moment when I read this story my father wrote decades earlier. Wait—let me lay some groundwork first: my dad is a true curmudgeon (and how many people can you honestly say that about?), a bigger-than-life “man’s man” (pretty much the exact opposite of me), and a guy who thinks good parenting involves soul-crushing your idiot son in hopes it’ll make him stronger. I’ve always felt he was disappointed in me—never said it, but sometimes you just feel these things. And certainly he can’t relate to much about my life or who I am; bit of a generational gap… he was an “older father.” Anyway, that’s the foundation. So he freaks us all out with this stroke, and while I’m rolling around in existential panic that my weird, enigmatic paternal role model is quite possibly going to die, I find this story he wrote when he was in his twenties. There I discover he’d been madly in love with this woman who wasn’t my mother, a woman who literally set his heart on fire, a woman who inspired him to write in a way that sounded nothing like the man I know, and a woman who unceremoniously and cruelly dumped him. I then realize that everything he is, every way he looks at love and relationships, his ideas about marriage and men and women are all products of this one singular, seminal event. It shakes me to my core. Makes me wonder who the guy really is, how my mom fits in; how much this event is still impacting his life today. So tell me: if you then heard him say her name in a drug-addled moment in the hospital, and later you discover she is still around and living in your state, wouldn’t you set off on a journey to find some answers to it all?   

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: Easy: When I get back home after this cathartic, life-changing trip and discover that Tomas’s beloved ice cream truck is finally back in the neighbourhood after an inexplicable and horrifying absence. Yeah… I got a thing for his toffee ice cream bars—though Bob tells me the depth of my joy might just be a bit of projection.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: She has. First off, she’s a long-time screenwriter, had one of her films produced as an indie feature back in the 90s (To Cross the Rubicon), she then added editorial writing to her resume, spending the last decade building her own “arts & politics” blog (Rock+Paper+Music) as well as maintaining a regular column at HuffPost. In terms of writing novels, she began that chapter in 2010. Her first book, AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH, came out in early 2014, and my story, HYSTERICAL LOVE, was published a year later. Both have done well: awards, book clubs, well reviewed by readers and editorial writers, so be sure to check them out… I’m not even partial to which one you decide to try first, but definitely do check out my story before you’re done. I think you’ll find it pretty darn fascinating... at least I hope so!   

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: Yes. Her third novel, THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE, which is kind of a departure in that it’s a more dramatic, topical novel than either of the previous two, is set for publication on April 9, 2019. This go-around she’s actually working with a publisher, noted hybrid publisher, She Writes Press, who brings traditional distribution to the table, so that’s very exciting for her. Hopefully—and even if this makes her next book ineligible for a BRAG medallion—BRAG readers will still show a fellow “medallioner” some love and seek the book out when it launches. If anyone wants to know more about it, you can just check the “Coming Soon” page on her website.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?
A: Any kind of networking, marketing collaboration, reviews, conversations, introductions, etc., adds to the critical mass of support for an author and their book(s). Some people really enjoy the camaraderie and interaction of writers’ groups on Facebook, some prefer to connect in person at book clubs, public readings, and writer’s co-opts; there are lots of ways to make it work. I’d say my author falls somewhere in the middle of all that. She has belonged (and still belongs) to several Facebook writers’ groups, but finds she keeps more to herself in regards to her progress, her process, her research, etc. Often, however, ideas come up that inspire an article and then she’s as forthcoming as can be (you can find her catalogue of publishing-related articles on her blog, Rock+Paper+Music)! I’d say her favorite outlets for networking connections are book readings and book clubs, where she can personally interact, discuss, answer questions, etc., with people specifically interested in her work.  

Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else he/she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?

A: I think it’s always helpful for a book to be acknowledged and honoured by a prestigious organization. The promotional support (president Geri Dunlap Clouston does a fabulous job of supporting her writers), the sharing of information about the book and the author, are extremely helpful, as are their newsletters, which are full of referrals, networking possibilities, reviewers open to IndieBRAG honorees, that sort of thing. It’s hard for any book to stand out in the ever-increasing supply of titles out there in the marketplace, particularly the indie market, so every step that shines a little specific light on a book is valuable. As for what, additionally, they might offer: the best thing IndieBRAG can do for its authors is to raise its own profile, its own brand, because any advancement of the organization is advancement for their authors. Win/win!  

Helen: Thank you, Dan, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? While our visitors are reading it, though, would you like a refill of that drink…?
Dan: Thanks right back to you, Helen; I appreciate your interest in my story and look forward to your readers getting to know me a bit. I hope they’ll be kind. And sure… I’ll have another refill!

Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!


I AM FLUMMOXED by relationships.
That is not a glib statement; it’s the frank admission of a man who can’t seem to get it right, even under what would seem to be the very best of circumstances. Relationships bewilder me. They knock me to my knees, and leave me baffled as to why something as essential as love is so damn fraught with confusion. At least for me. Which is disappointing. I don’t think I’m an anomaly, but I did think I’d have it figured out by now. 
It’s not that I don’t fully appreciate the value of a good relationship. I do. I’m the guy who wasn’t a player in school, high school or college. I always had a girlfriend and was always loyal and faithful to that girlfriend. Not because I’m so good, but because I’m not good at chaos. I hate the complication of it, the balancing of opposing forces (i.e., more than one girlfriend), and I’m a horrible liar, all requisites of a successful player.
And, truth be told, I like being in a relationship: the comfort, the dependability, the shared meals and regular sex. These are all good things for a man who wants to avoid complication. So why, you may ask, am I flummoxed?

Because, despite my affinity for the state of being, relationships tend to explode on my watch. I’m not sure how or why, but it’s typically things like her deciding I’m not motivated enough, or me deciding she’s not fun enough (I had one who “hated the outdoors”…what do you do with that?), or both of us deciding the other is unexciting enough that moving on would be more exciting than staying put. But it’s always messy, it’s always painful, and it usually involves weeping, tossed closets, and new sets of keys. So as I’ve attempted to evolve in life, I’ve tried my best to choose better and do it right. More right. At least as right as I can.

Which I thought I’d done over these last three years. Thought I’d gotten it really right on both the choosing and the doing. But as I sit on the edge of a strange bed in a strange bedroom and reflect on the very strange night that has just ensued, it’s clear I miscalculated. Misjudged. Regardless of good intentions, I once again set the whole damn thing on fire. Or she did. I’m still not sure.

Even more disheartening, this relationship had gone much further than any previous. It lasted longer, had less drama, and we’d actually embarked upon those iconic discussions of the future, that gaping, wide-open, impossible to imagine place I’d been assured was both warm and welcoming. I thought, I think we both thought, we were out of the danger corridor, that weird zone after the early hot years where relationships wander to get battered by irritation and boredom. We were past that, we’d transcended, we were golden.

We were f***ed. By love-smugness. It gets you every time.

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Monday 22 October 2018

Tuesday Talk - and Roma Nova Extra by Alison Morton

So what has Roma Nova, that wonderful series of thrillers set in modern times, based on the idea that Rome had survived, have to do with my interest in the year 1066? Well, one of Ms Morton's stories in her latest book Roma Nova Extra is set in 1066 with the original forming part of the 1066 Turned Upside Down compilation of 'What If' short stories ... (read the others in the collection buy here)

Roma Nova Extra: A collection of short stories from the fourth century to beyond the present for all Alison Morton fans or new readers ... 

Suppose Roma Nova, the last remnant of the old Roman Empire, had struggled through to the 21st century – a tough little country with tough, resourceful people? Apulius, a young tribune sent to a backwater in 370 AD for having the wrong religion, encounters the fiery Julia. What does his lonely descendant, Silvia, labouring in the 1980s to rebuild her country, make of the Italian architect supervising the reconstruction? Can imperial councillor Galla stop the Norman invasion of England in 1066? And will Allegra, her 21st century Praetorian descendant fighting her emotions, find her way to her own happy ending? 

The Girl from the Market AD 370
Lucius Apulius, a young Roman military tribune, is posted to the back end of empire as Rome struggles to keep the barbarians behind the Danube. There, Apulius meets the fiery Julia Bacausa under most unusual circumstances.

Victory Speaks AD 395
In real history, the disappearance of the Altar of Victory is an ancient mystery.
Victory served as the pagan symbol of Rome’s endurance, the guarantor of the empire’s existence. But as the official imperial cult of Christianity swept all before it, Victory’s fate was condemned to historical  obscurity. In the Roma Novan timeline, Victory herself tells us the story of how two senators and a small child step in.

A Roman Intervenes 1066
Galla Mitela, eleventh century imperial councillor, is sent by the imperatrix under pressure from the Eastern Romans of Constantinople to stop William of Normandy invading Saxon England. Could she have succeeded?
(Previously published as part of the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection)

Silvia’s story  1983 (Set just after the end of RETALIO)
Re-building Roma Nova after Caius Tellus’s tyrannical rebellion is pulling on every Roma Novan’s personal strength and resources. Young Imperatrix Silvia devotes herself to her country, but she’s eighteen, exhausted and lonely. Sent by her councillor, Aurelia Mitela, for a few days’ holiday to the spa at Aquae Caesaris, she encounters a young Italian, Andrea Luca.

Games  (Set just after the end of INCEPTIO)
Newly minted Praetorian officer Carina Mitela and her buddy Daniel Stern, a seconded officer from an allied force, love challenges. Dangerous ones. It’s a game to them. But real life gives them a challenge that is anything but a game.

Conrad and Carina’s Roman Holiday  (Set between PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO)
Legate Conradus Mitelus, commanding the Praetorian Guard, doesn’t get out in the field very often. Neither does his wife, Carina Mitela, a newly promoted Praetorian major. But a personal quest from the imperatrix sends them on their own ‘Roman holiday’. With a difference.

Saturnalia surprise  (Set after a few years after SUCCESSIO)
When Carina and Conrad’s son Gillius nearly blows himself up just before the Saturnalia winter holiday, he’s sent to Sextilius Gavro, Conrad’s ‘mad inventor’ cousin. Carina is dubious, having met Gavro in New York nearly twenty years before (INCEPTIO), but she is in for several surprises on the first day of Saturnalia.

Allegra and Macrinus  (Set several years after SUCCESSIO)
Highly intelligent, efficient and dedicated to her career in the military, Carina and Conrad’s eldest daughter, Allegra, is losing her grip on her life. Her introverted character prevents her from acknowledging her feelings for a man she has known all her life, let alone doing anything about it. Macrinus has grown up in the Mitela household. His mother was a comrade-in-arms of Aurelia Mitela during the Great Rebellion and tells him Allegra is out of his reach.

"One of the reasons I am enthralled with the Roma Nova series (aside from the skilfully written plots, excellent writing and professional standard of production) is the concept of the whole thing."

"All of them brought different aspects of Roma Novan society from throughout the ages vividly to life, and add further substance to the existing novels, but they'd also work as a stand-alone introduction to the concept of Roma Nova."

"She brings the strict discipline of the Pretorians to life and weaves gripping action into the many field operations and spying sorties,"

"As a disclaimer, I must issue this warning. After reading Roma Nova Extra, you may experience some side effects; such as, the overriding compulsion to reread the Roma Nova series."

The collection is available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook and in print through your local independent bookshop or favourite online site.

Published by Pulcheria Press
ISBN 9791097310080 (ebook)
ISBN 9791097310103 (print)

The Roma Nova thriller series
buy from Amazon
Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is available now.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Novel Conversations with J.L. Oakley and Jeannie Naughton

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...

Jeannie Naughton

Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in J.L Oakley’s novel Mist-chi-mas: A Novel of Captivity. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role? 
A: I am Jeannie Naughton late of Fort Victoria in the Colony of British Columbia and I would like tea very much.  You have chocolate, you say? Such a rarity in these parts and very dear to buy. When I lived in England as a girl, I loved going to Fry and Son’s French Chocolate in London. And yes, I am the lead character.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: Mist-chi-mas: A Novel of Captivity is historical fiction set in the Pacific NW 1860s. It’s a love story too. Forgive me, if I blush.  Comportment, you understand, is very important in my time. Here’s what the story is about:

In Mist-chi-mas, everyone is bound to something.Jeannie Naughton never intended to run away from her troubles, but in 1860, a woman’s reputation is everything. A scandal not of her own making forces her to flee England for an island in the Pacific Northwest, a territory jointly occupied by British and American military forces. At English Camp, Jeannie meets American Jonas Breed. Breed was once a captive and slave — a mistchimas — of the Haida, and still retains close ties to the Coast Salish Indians.
But the inhabitants of the island mistrust Breed for his friendship with the tribes. When one of Breed’s friends is murdered, he is quickly accused of a gruesome retaliation. Jeannie knows he’s innocent, and plans to go away with him, legitimizing their passionate affair with a marriage. But when she receives word that Breed has been killed in a fight, Jeannie’s world falls apart. Although she carries Jonas Breed’s child, she feels she has no choice but to accept a proposal from another man.
Twenty years later, Jeannie finds reason to believe that Breed may still be alive. She must embark on a journey to uncover the truth, unaware that she is stirring up an old and dangerous struggle for power and revenge…

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: I am one and twenty and what you call, a goody. I have tried my very best to  be a good and honest young woman, but life has not always treated me that way. That is why I found myself here in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.  I came alone from England with my young son and enjoyed the protection of my Uncle Archie who was a trader at the Hudson’s Bay trading fort in Victoria. But it was when I made a trip to the Royal Marine encampment on San Juan Island to attend a tea given by the wife of the assistant surgeon that I found the place where felt at home for the first time.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: would be remiss not to talk about Mr. Breed—my dear Jonas—who opened my eyes beyond the stiff rules of my English society to societies of the Salish Sea: the Songhee, Lummi and other Coast Salish peoples and Kanakas—know them as Hawaiians—who worked at the Hudson Bay farm. Mr. Breed was born in Hawaii and after he went to sea with his father, he was captured by the Haida to the north of Vancouver Island. He was a mistchimas then, but gained his freedom when he saved the life of his master. Back in white society, he worked many trades, spoke native tongues and Chinook Jargon, which he taught me. Mr. Breed scared me at first meet, but I began to regard him highly. He is very handsome, a kind, capable man, but not afraid to stand up for what was right, sometimes with violence.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: For now, it is the only novel I am in, but sometimes I hear stirrings that I may appear in something in the far future, if my author is inclined.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: Oh, dear, that would be when my little boy took ill. The variola major is such a terrible thing. When the scourge arrived in Victoria in the early 1860s, after felling many in our little town, it was carried home to Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian communities to the north. Later I learned that it wiped out 80 per cent of those people. I feared for the life of my sweet Jeremy.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: So many, so many, all with Mr. Breed.  I suppose the one that sticks out the most is the time we danced on the ramparts above the American encampment. At the time, I was not allowed to dance or show delight in things. At a joint party with both Royal Marine and American officers attending along with local guests from Victoria and Washington Territory, I had to sit and fill up my dance card with only conversation. Secretly we left and went up to the ramparts and danced to the music coming up from the parade ground. At first, he just wanted to find out what was upsetting me, but after showing the beautiful view under moonlight, he guessed my heart, that I wanted to dance. He told me he knew how and would not step on my feet. I knew then that I was falling in love in him. When he put his hand on my waist...

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?

 J.L. Oakley

A:  My author lives in the Pacific NW. She writes award-winning historical novels and mystery novellas in Hawaii with a touch of history in them. Outside of the stories in Hawaii, most of the novels are set in the Pacific NW. A single one takes place in Norway during WWII. When she is not writing, she enjoys weaving, gardening and doing local historical projects.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: My author is working hard on the sequel to her award-winning novel, The Jøssing Affair, set in Norway during WWII. Last fall, she made a trip to Norway to do research. Presently, she has around 60,000 words. In addition, my author is preparing for presentations at several conferences this fall, one at Pacific Northwest Writers and another, a gathering of Civilian Conservation Corps historians and alumni in Portland, Oregon. The CCC built our beautiful parks across the US and in Hawaii and Alaska during the Great Depression.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for him/her personally?
A: Write a review, most importantly on Amazon. My author would appreciate that. Then share the book with your book club, reminding your members that authors would love to chat via Skpe or Google chat during the discussion.  Ask your local library to carry the novel. Put the book in a tiny library if your town or neighbourhood supports the program.

Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else he/she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?
A: The beautiful IndieBRAG Medallion stands out on the cover of Mist-chi-mas. Readers see it immediately on the shelf at my author’s indie bookstore, but they also see it means something, that the novel is worth buying and reading. My author is very grateful and honoured to have it. It’s important to always to grow as a writer and aim for this seal of approval. This conversation is a fun addition to writers with the medallion. (Thank you very much for interviewing me). The medallion is also helpful in getting a spot on Bargain Booksy and Free Booksy. Novel. I’m looking forward to IndieBRAG’s forays into conferences.

Helen: Thank you Jeannie, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? Meanwhile, chatting is thirsty work, so would you like more to drink?
Jeannie: More tea, please and did I see some little ginger cookies? My favorite.
Helen: Indeed you did - I'd forgotten about them! Cheers! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!

Excerpt from Mist-chi-mas
There! Something grunted, the voice edged in pain. Her horse began to tremble and put its ears back. Jeannie looked behind her, but saw nothing. She tapped the horse with her riding crop and went forward. The trees thinned out. She could see the stony beach below where someone had pulled a small dugout canoe up on the shore. Water lapped at the canoe’s stern.
   Jeannie was so focused on the canoe that she missed the crashing black shape of a boar charging through the woods, its red mouth open with curled yellow tusks aimed at her horse’s legs. By the time she heard its shrill squeal, it had hammered into her horse, knocking her off her perch. The horse neighed and reared, tearing her last hold on the reins away. A final buck and she was falling down the ledge, rolling over and over again. She screamed as she frantically tried to grab onto anything to stop her tumble, but it was over fast as she started when she landed hard on the ground. Dazed for the moment, she finally staggered to her feet. Her sleeves were torn, her skirt ripped so that she could see her mud-stained petticoats. Her hair fell out of its pins.
   Gasping, Jeannie limped away toward the safety of the canoe. Above her the horse and the boar continued to thrash around. Suddenly, the low ridge exploded with broken branches and pebbles and the roan fell down just feet from where she had been standing. Close behind came the biggest black boar Jeannie had ever seen. As the horse and boar untangled, she saw for the first time that the horse was hurt badly. The skin on its cheek was torn, leaving patches of bloody flesh beneath; its legs were bleeding from gashes. Both horse and boar squealed with hurt and anger as they righted themselves.
   A peculiar feeling of lightness came over her. The pit of her stomach became cold. She could barely think, but she knew she was in extreme danger. Shaking, she backed up against the canoe and pushed it out into the water, ignoring the chilly water of the channel soaking her boots and skirt. When it was afloat, she turned in time to see the horse separate from the boar and buck its way down the beach.
   “Go, go,” Jeannie shouted as she pushed the canoe back further, then realized that only the horse was making its escape. The boar was now trotting back, its little eyes trained on her.
   There is blood all over its face and tusks, she thought. She hopped and scrambled into the canoe, her skirt catching at the gunwales. The boar charged.

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