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Friday 30 November 2018

Novel Conversations With Florence Osmund and Marie Marchetti

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

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

Marie Marchetti

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 Florence Osmund’s novel The Coach House. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: Hello, Helen. Thank you for taking time for this interview. My name is Marie Marchetti, and I am the lead character in The Coach House. Born in 1925, I was twenty-one years old when my story first began. And for the record, my drink of choice is red wine.

Q: [Hands Marie a glass of fine Merlot] What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: My story’s genre is literary fiction. It takes place in Chicago in the 1940s and is about my life before, during, and after my marriage to Richard. We started out having the perfect life together. Or at least it seemed until I discovered his involvement with some very shady characters in suspicious activities. After I accidentally got caught up in one of his harrowing escapades, I ended up running for my life. But Richard wasn’t about to let me go so easily, and he continued to try to seduce me into his world. Long story short, it was the unexpected discovery of my real father and his heritage that changed my life more than Richard ever could.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: I may not have always made the best decisions, but I am definitely a “goodie.”

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: My husband was one of those men who could charm the pants off anyone, so I learned the hard way to always be on high alert for a hidden agenda with him. And he was a master at playing into my emotions, making matters even worse. Money was more important to Richard than anything else—including me—and unfortunately that took a while for me to figure out.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: There is a sequel to The Coach House titled Daughters in which the story continues with my endeavor to get to know my father and his family—which was not easy for any of us, especially my father’s wife.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: I had such a difficult time with a scene in Daughters when my father went with me to South Carolina where he grew up the son of a slave. It was extremely upsetting to hear him tell his story, observe the racial prejudice that still exists there, and witness the agony on my father’s face as he re-lived painful segments of his life.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: My favorite scene was the first Christmas I spent with my new family. I don’t want to give away this moment, as it would lose much of its meaning without knowing what led up to it.

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

A: The Coach House and Daughters were my author’s first two books. Since then she has written five more novels—all literary fiction, although I believe one could also be classified as a cozy mystery.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: Her current project is about two women from completely different cultures who lose their fathers at the same time. It’s the story of how their lives intertwine and the secrets they realize they have about each other’s father.

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: With the right editor, indie-written books are every bit as good as those traditionally-published—the number of award-winning and best-selling indie authors increases each year. If an indie book has been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion, you know it has gone through a rigorous review process and considered to be well worth the reader’s time and money. Give us a chance.

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 indieBRAG organization has been a great resource for vetting and promoting quality indie books. Just keep up the good work!

Thank you Marie. It was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add anything? While she is finding something suitable, would you like more wine? And do have a chocolate or two. Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!

Florence says: I am so glad you were able to meet Marie—the first main character of my own making. I have come a long way since then and share my writing experiences—successes and mistakes made along the way—on my website. So, if you’re a new or aspiring writer, please come for a visit. You’ll find writing tips, learn what self-publishing is all about, how to get started writing, book promotion ideas, and much more.

Twitter: @IndieBrag

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Twitter: @HelenHollick


full guest list: click here

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Tuesday Talk: King Arthur... Man or Myth?

...Does the truth really matter?
by Helen Hollick
On Amazon
The truth? Where fiction is concerned - historical fiction in particular, but you can apply the accuracy of 'facts' to any genre - are the details and the facts essential? Necessary even? The plain answer is yes, because getting a known fact wrong can undermine the believability of  a story. Henry VIII had seven wives. Immediately the reader is suspicious ... hang on, he had six: 'Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived." Or for science fiction: "The starship pulled out of warp drive and hovered, her crew admiring the green sky of Earth.' OK you might get away with that one as a method of drawing a reader in... 'Hang on, Earth's sky is blue - what's the twist here?"

The facts when writing anything about King Arthur, though, are about as easy to pin down as a West Country morning mist! The simple truth is... there aren't any facts about him. 

The legend of King Arthur
Knights and Camelot

There is no proof that he ever existed - although stoic Arthurianites will counter argue that there is no proof to show that he didn't!

Hollywood and Broadway perceive him, and his wife, Guinevere, as the Medieval Tales wrote about him: an elderly, devout King ruling over his castle and kingdom from a round table, surrounded by various saintly-type chivalric knights: Bedevere, Percival, Gawain, and that Lancelot bloke who was far from saintly or perfect because he had a torrid affair with the Queen, our Gwen. 

Julie Andrews and Richard Burton
as Guinevere and Arthur
in the Broadway stage production of Camelot
(I think most of my readers who have enjoyed my trilogy about Arthur, know by now that I don't particularly like Lancelot. Or the knights, or the Holy Grail or, well, all those Medieval very unfactual tales.)

MY Arthur sits very firmly in the mid-fifth century, between the going of the Romans and the coming of the Anglo-Saxons. Which is where, IF he, or someone like him did exist would very firmly belong.  There are arguments that the monk, Gildas, obliquely referred to Arthur in his rants against the collapse of Christianity in Britain, it's also possible that the early Welsh poems and tales are genuine,with the references to Arthur not added in at a much later date (as is often argued). To be honest here, anything about Arthur has that additional tag of 'perhaps', 'maybe', possibly'...

The sword from the stone - or the sword from the saex?
In Old English, the words are quite similar
maybe Excalibur was a trophy of war
taken by Arthur from a Saxon warrior not a stone?
I saw Arthur as a British warlord, who tried his best to keep the rapidly crumbling chaos of post-Roman rule at bay. I called him 'King' because that is how I felt most comfortable with him, and because it is a more familiar title than the (possible) Roman one of Dux Bellorum. No, he would not have been a king ruling over a kingdom because 'King' is an English, Saxon word, not a British one. And let's add one more important 'fact' here ... before circa 550 AD England was Britain, the English were British or Britons, 'England' only came into being after the Anglo-Saxons  had settled in large enough numbers to dominate and begin to call it 'Angle-land' (something like 'Englalond'). 

Don't ask me why it didn't become 'Saxalond' ... I don't know!

Either way the idea of 'England for the English' is annoying - the English were immigrants who came in their thousands from Germany and the Lowlands of what is now the Netherlands and thereabouts. They over-swept the Romano-British. (And yes, I agree, the Romans over-swept the Native Britons, who very probably over-swept the Native whoever-they-were who settled here as the great ice-flows melted - the Stone Age peoples.)

I researched, as best I could, given that this was in the days before the InterWeb and computers, looking into the historical side of mid-fifth to early sixth century Britain, taking the last vestiges of the Roman world as my foundation. Arthur has always been associated with knights and horses, so I made him a cavalry officer with a vision of forming a vast cavalry force - the Artoriani. I had his predecessor as Vortigern, which might have been a title, not a personal name, but all the same it seems very likely that there was a Vortigern. I also had Ambrosius Aurelianus - another very probably real chap - although many stories place him before Arthur. I made him a character who lived alongside our legendary king. I used the early Welsh stories, the ones that do not depict Arthur as a saintly Christian King - the opposite in fact. We see him stealing cattle from a monastery, hitting a woman, killing his own son ... well I couldn't have that sort of cad as my lead character... or could I? These scurrilous reports about him were written down by monks who were somewhat biased. Let's assume these tales were factual but their meaning had become twisted: he didn't steal the cattle he took them as tribute (taxes) in return for keeping the monasteries safe. He hit a woman - well just maybe she was trying her utmost to kill him, or one of his sons.

Ah, did I see your brows raising at the word 'sons'? These early legends also mention that Arthur and his wife, Gwenhwyfar, had three sons: Llacheu, Gwydre and Amr. One died in a battle. One was killed by a boar, and one was killed by Arthur... Accidents happen! (I'll not mention how I interpreted these events, that would be giving away spoilers.)

So how do we, as authors, make very unfactually corroborated tales and legends sound like believable facts? The simple answer is to use what facts are known! The style of building, the food that was eaten, the clothes that were worn. The horses they rode, the way battles were fought. Weave it what IS known with the made-up bits!

For much of my research I followed the ideas and speculations of historian Geoffrey Ashe - because what he said made sense.

One of the things he mentioned was the tricky subject of Arthur leaving his kingdom and going off to fight abroad. (In the Medieval tales, going off in search of the Holy Grail, being gone for several years, during which his kingdom disintegrated into chaos due to the machinations of his illegitimate son, Mordred, and the fact that Lancelot couldn't keep his 'manly bits' inside his codpiece whenever Guinevere was around.) 

Ashe suggested that the Arthur of the early sixth century went to Brittany and northern France to give assistance against the encroaching post-Roman hordes (Vandals, Visigoths et al). That made sense. Brittany, after all, at that time, was still regarded as part of Britain, (there's very little difference between the Breton and Cornish language.) Add to that, and something which I found highly interesting, but many people seem to completely ignore, there is a place called Avallon about 50km south-southeast of Auxerre, 

I seized on it, wrote my story around it - although this is Part Three of the Trilogy, Shadow of the King, so you'll have to read the other two, The Kingmaking and Pendragon's Banner first.

To add what 'believability' I could, I went to France and Brittany to see for myself. I visited Avallon and Vézelay ... I have wonderful memories of sitting on the wall that is in this image below, admiring the walnut trees that were baking beneath a hot sun and seeing a lizard scurry along the stones... The memories are especially treasured as I was with my best friend, Hazel, who passed away not long after that wonderful holiday.

Vézelay Abbey

Then there is Glastonbury. Sorry, I don't buy the chestnut of King Arthur's grave being discovered there - at a time when the monks were about to go bankrupt? How convenient. They found a grave, yes, but they were very good at marketing... Glastonbury itself, however, is a very mystical place because of the Tor, which along with Stonehenge and the like, is a genuinely spiritual place.

The Tor - the Isle of Avalon
To stand at the top of the Tor and hear the wind as it whispers past ... magical indeed!

So does the truth matter? Yes for writing the background details for historical (or other) novels, but for Arthur... well, if the many authors who have written the many, many stories about him throughout the centuries, if we stuck to the facts there would be very, very few stories wouldn't there?

King Arthur.
Does it matter whether he
was a man or is just a myth?
Excerpt: Shadow of the King (written after a visit to Vézelay)

Leaving Britain and her young daughter, Archfedd, behind, Gwenhwyfar and a few loyal men have travelled to northern France (Gaul) to find Arthur.. to discover whether he is truly dead or still alive...

The stone wall to the east of the convent was low, the hillside, dropping as it did, almost vertically downward on the other side, creating seclusion and protection. The storm had grumbled through most of the night before taking itself off northward, but had done little to dispel the uncomfortable heat. Two days later the air still hung as heavy as lead, a persistent haze muffling the expanse of sky. Gwenhwyfar sat on the wall, watching a lizard scurry from one hiding-place to another, pausing, hesitant, between its chosen places of safety. Archfedd would have delighted in the creature, its yellow-green skin, darting swiftness and reptilian beauty. A stab of longing for home and her daughter shot through Gwenhwyfar. Perhaps it was the height, the permeating contentment of the convent that reminded her so of Caer Cadan, the looking down the hillside and out across the valley and up the winding track that straddled the steep, rising ground. Archfedd was safe with Geraint and Enid, happy running as one of the pack with the children of Durnovaria’s stronghold. She had no worries for the child, although occasionally, when thoughts wandered homeward as on this day, she missed her dreadfully.
   Reaching forward, Gwenhwyfar picked a cluster of leaves and fruit that would, before long, ripen and reveal the hardened shell of a walnut. The slope was dense with the trees, the nuts self-seeding over the years, creating a massed forest that tumbled downward, forming an impenetrable natural barrier. Absently, she pulled the leaves off one by one, tossed the fruit away, watched as it rolled down the hillside, became lost among the tangle of grass, fallen dead leaves and young saplings. She stood, wandered along the path, her fingers idling across the cracks and splits on the wall, brushing the softness of mosses and the intricate patterns of lichens. Beyond the wall, the unmanaged trees became clearer as the slope gave way to less hostile ground. Vines were planted here, southward-facing to catch the full benefit of the sun. Below, way below, the valley floor was cultivated with scattered fields and pasture for grazing, the meandering river an oasis of fresh green against sun-baked brown. Further away, as the land began again to rise, the cultivation gave way again to trees, those dense forests that dominated so much of Gaul. The track, winding upward cutting like a white scar through the dark foliage. That was the track she would need to follow, tomorrow or another tomorrow. To ride up, between the sentinel trees, upward to the crest of those hills, to find on the other side…
   Gwenhwyfar closed her eyes. All this way, these weeks and miles of journeying. One last track to follow. A few more miles, a morning’s ride. She wanted to go home, to turn around and ride away. Courage had failed, the need to know dispelled by the desperate desire to not find out.
Horsemen, riding along the valley, crossing the river, turned to take the track that led up to this high place. She recognised the four riders as her men by their red cloaks and white tunics, distinguishing Gweir’s dun stallion at the forefront. They led a pack-pony, a deer straddling his withers. They had been hunting then, successfully, it seemed.
   She rubbed her hands. The wind was chill up here at this great height. She would soon have to find the strength to discover what lay on the other side of those wood-covered hills. If not for herself, for the men who had faithfully followed her here. And for all those who awaited their return.

Friday 23 November 2018

Novel Conversations With Charlene Newcomb and Sir Stephan l'Aigle

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

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

Sir Stephan l’Aigle

Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations.
A: Lady Helen, [bows] a pleasure to meet you. I am Sir Stephan l’Aigle.

Q: Please do make yourself comfortable. I believe you are a character in Charlene Newcomb’s novel Men of the Cross (Battle Scars I). Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or in a supporting role?  
A: I am in King Richard Lionheart’s mesnie. The chroniclers write about our kings, but I have a lead role in Ms. Newcomb’s story. This is my life . . . and Henry’s. [Stephan runs his hand along the arms of Lady Helen’s wingback chair. He is used to oaken chairs with hard, straight backs and wooden arms and has never sat on so soft a chair.]

Q: Before we get started, 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.
A: Wine will be fine, my lady, as long as it isn’t from old King Henry’s stores. Nasty stuff, that. [He wonders why this lovely lady has set out a box of animal turds of various shapes and sizes - strange customs here in Devonshire. He chooses a strawberry from the bowl.] Mayhap later you can tell me about this . . . tea? And coffee? I’ve travelled from England to Outremer and back, but don’t know these drinks.
Helen: they are indeed foreign-grown, but from far away - further than the far end of the Silk Road.

Q: What genre is Men of the Cross and what is it about?
A: My story is historical fiction with a strong romantic subplot. [Sips the wine Lady Helen hands him, and nods agreeably, impressed.] It takes place near the end of the 12th century when many men answered the Pope’s call to take the Cross. I am not so devout myself, but followed my king on this pilgrimage . . . or “crusade” as your people refer to it now.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: I’m good. Very good. A great swordsman, an excellent horseman, and even good with a bow. They claim I brag too much, but my friends, and even the king, will agree that I am good. Oh…forgive me, Lady Helen, you want to know if I’m an evil person in the book! [Laughs] I am not. I fight for King Richard and look out for my friends. I even take two homeless camp followers under my wing.

Q:  Well, [laughs] 'good' has several meanings! Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: Henry de Grey. What can I tell you about this man? [sighs] Meeting Henry changed my life, my lady. He was twenty summers when we met in Southampton, knighted only a few months earlier and untested in battle, and so naïve about war. But in every word he spoke you could hear his passion for the crusade, about serving God and the king. Henry has the kindest soul, and I worried for him. We became best of friends and eventually lovers.

You look surprised, Lady Helen - yes, lovers. Historical fiction often ignores the story of men who preferred the physical company of other men, but we have been there throughout history. Readers need not worry - the love scenes are passionate, but aren’t graphic.

Q: Not surprised, just interested that men like yourself are prepared to talk about matters that were (and, alas, still are in places) how shall I say? 'Hushed up', or even regarded as unlawful.
A: [Exhales sharply.] For certes, Henry and I are discreet. We are fortunate that during the Lionheart’s reign there are no civil laws in his dominions that might harm us. And the Church’s judgment? [grunts] I never had much use for the Church, my lady, but if there is a God, I'll let him judge. How can loving another person be a sin? 

Q: I completely agree with you sir, the bigotries of some should have no place where the joy of love is concerned. [reaches for a chocolate...] But we must move on with our interview: is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: Men of the Cross is Book I in the Battle Scars series. Henry and I return to England in Book II, For King and Country, and stop a plot by the king’s brother John to usurp the throne. In Book III, Swords of the King, we follow the king from England across the Narrow Sea - I believe you call it the English Channel now - and fight his enemies there.

Q: Quite an adventure! What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: That scene on the River Lyon after the bridge collapsed was not fun, but the one that tore my heart was an awful argument with Henry after he received bad news from England.

Q: And your favourite scene?

The siege at Acre
A: You would think it would be that first kiss I shared with Henry, but . . . I can’t say more else I’ll spoil the story. Scenes with Henry - talking, laughing, fighting alongside him - oh, Vienna . . .  So many are favourites, but there is one after the massacre at Acre. Henry has disappeared, and after a search I find him, still bloodied from the fight. He is standing at the water’s edge staring west towards England. He is confused and horrified by what we’ve seen, what we’ve done in God’s name. He didn’t take the Cross to kill innocents. It’s a pivotal moment for both of us.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: She tells me she currently lives in a place called Kansas, but says it’s not Dorothy’s Kansas. Mayhap you and your readers understand what she means by that. I only know that it’s even further from England than the Holy Land. She has three grown children, works at a library, and is a former veteran of the U.S. Navy. She wrote numerous short stories for a role-playing game magazine, the Star Wars Adventure Journal. Her first novel is a contemporary drama called Keeping the Family Peace. The main character Nick Peace is the youngest - and only boy - in a large Navy family. He is certain that family secrets are the cause of a rift between himself and his father.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?

A: Ms. Newcomb is penning a short story called “A Knight’s Tale,” about my first years in Richard’s mesnie before he became King of England. She is also researching King John’s reign for another medieval novel that will focus on secondary characters introduced in the Battle Scars series who apparently become legend in England. Mayhap you’ve heard of this “Robin Hood”? Whilst she works out the plot arc for that tale, she is revising a second draft of a manuscript she calls “science fiction.” I don’t think Henry and I will be in that one.

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: I love (and the author loves) readers and groups who recommend books like the Battle Scars series to their friends, families, colleagues, and other book lovers. These days it is so easy to share what you enjoy about a book and the characters and world the author has created. Word-of-mouth, even short reviews on blogs, Amazon, and other social media sites are critical for indies. Add your favorites to book lists on sites like Goodreads because that allows others to discover books they may have missed otherwise. Repost or retweet reviews you see. Spread the joy!  

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 she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?
A: For certes, my lady! The Medallion is a sign that several independent readers have given Men of the Cross a “thumbs up.” Accolades like this help it stand out amongst the tens of thousands of new books published every month. And IndieBRAG provides opportunities for authors to contribute blog posts, participate in themed events, and do interviews like this! They’ve created groups on Facebook and Goodreads where authors and readers can interact and share news of Medallion honorees.  

What else could IndieBRAG do? My author tries to share news, but with the glut of social media individual items often get lost. It would be great if indiBRAG provided a monthly list of honorees by genre that authors could easily share on their own blogs and social media sites.

Q: Thank you, Sir Stephan, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? And while she does so, I think chatting is thirsty work, would you like a refill of that drink? And try one of these chocolates - they taste better than they look, I assure you!
A: Thank you for inviting me to speak with you, Lady Helen. You’ll find useful links and an excerpt down the page a bit. As for another drink? The wine is as good as any from Aquitaine, but let me have a taste of your tea.

With milk, not lemon, I think Sir Stephan, maybe a small spoonful of sugar.  [Helen laughs at his puzzled expression, and offers him one of the brandy liqueur chocolates...Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!

EXCERPT from Men of the Cross, Chapter 17
(Stephan finds Henry after the massacre at Acre)

Stephan rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, his mind racing. He hurried south along the water’s edge.
    Encircled by clouds, the sun hung on the horizon like a teardrop. Nearly set, it splayed fiery reds and oranges across the water and against the sky, like blood splattered across a canvas. Stephan would welcome the darkness grabbing hold of the coastline.
    At a loss, he was thinking of turning back to the city when he saw Henry staring at the sea. Henry’s face was drawn and pensive, his brows pinched. Stephan drew towards him, and each step closer revealed all traces of Henry’s youth and innocence had vanished.
    “You are a hard man to find,” Stephan said.
   “I have been standing here a long while.” The wind whipped Henry’s dark hair into his eyes. He combed it back with trembling fingers. He’d not shed his bloodied mail and boots.
    Stephan shuddered. He’d walked through battlefields where men lay sprawled, eyes blank, staring at the sky with lance, bow, or sword at their sides. He’d never really seen those men, never felt their deaths or thought twice of the carnage until he’d met Henry and felt Henry’s pain.
   Henry tipped his head to the south. “We will head to Jerusalem along the sea. ” He sounded matter-of-fact, almost casual.
    Stephan knew the look in Henry’s eyes. Putting on a brave face when, in fact, he was trying to make sense of it all, wanting to justify what was to come. 

Men of the Cross on Amazon:

Battle Scars series on Amazon:

Twitter: @IndieBrag

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full guest list: click here

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Tuesday Talk with my guest: Cindy Fazzi

Why Is Romance Maligned So Much?
     Three Ways to Overcome the Bias
          By Cindy Fazzi
Let’s face it, romance is the most maligned genre today. Some critics have called the genre beloved by women as “crap” and “moronic.” If you’re a romance writer or reader or both, let me share a few thoughts about overcoming such prejudice.
    I mulled over the prevalent anti-romance sentiment when I wrote my first romance book in 2013. I have written two romance novels so far and both were published traditionally. I decided to use the pen name Vina Arno for my romance books because I was too aware of the anti-romance bias. I was afraid my non-romance novels would not be acquired by traditional publishers unless I separated them from my genre work.
    The real test for me has arrived with the publication of My MacArthur, my first “serious” novel using my real name. It’s a fictionalized account of General Douglas MacArthur’s interracial, May-December love affair with Isabel Rosario Cooper, a Filipino actress, in the 1930s. Sand Hill Review Press, an award-winning small publisher in the San Francisco Bay area, published it on Nov.1. How will My MacArthur fare given my previous genre work? It remains to be seen.

Anti-Romance Bias
First, let’s explore the reasons why some people love to hate romance. At the height of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, critics described the book (and romance genre as a whole) as a “moronic craze,” a “preponderance of crap,” and “Mommy porn.”
    It takes just one book like Fifty Shades to denigrate all romance writers and readers alike. The immense popularity of romance also drives the haters nuts. The romance-novel industry is worth $1.08 billion. You can criticize Fifty Shades all you want, but the trilogy sold 100 million copies. I’m not a Fifty Shades fan, but I respect its success and I don’t judge the people who like it.
   Women love romance novels—82 percent of romance readers are female, according to the Romance Writers of America. It’s not surprising that insults hurled at the genre are similar to insults associated with women. We all know the “dumb blonde” stereotype. Well, romance suffers from the “dumb and glib genre” stereotype.

Overcoming the Bias: Three Ways
If you’re a romance reader or writer or both, you are likely to encounter the anti-romance bias in one form or another, if you haven’t already. It’s particularly hard for new romance writers like me, who must contend with such prejudice on top of other publishing and marketing challenges. For what they’re worth, I’d like to share some tips.

#1 Write well. In the “high brow versus low brow” debate, the romance genre gets pummeled because of the writing quality. Again, it takes one Fifty Shades to affect the entire genre. The best way to overcome such prejudice is to write your very best romance book. Take your craft to the highest level by attending writing workshops or courses, getting meaningful critiques, and revising like crazy until your writing shines to the point of blinding the haters!
    I will never forget what Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo, one of my favorite literary authors, said at the 2017 WritersDigest Annual Conference: “The best genre fiction is as good as the best literary fiction.” If you write well, you will never have to apologize for writing romance. I certainly don’t.

#2 Embrace the risk. There’s a lot of similarity between writing and gambling, perhaps more than writers are willing to accept. Like gamblers, we take a chance every time we write a new manuscript. Like gamblers, we’re addicted. Otherwise, why do we endure years of rejections and heartaches? 
The anti-romance bias is just one of the risks we face. Once we accept and embrace such risk, we can face it with aplomb and focus on writing well (read #1 tip again).

#3 Nurture your creativity. Romance books are often criticized for their lack of creativity and originality. As authors, we have to follow the HEA/HFN formula because that’s part of our agreement with the romance reader. Apart from that, there’s no excuse for sticking to cardboard characters and tired tropes. Don’t just mimic the latest fad; find your unique voice.
    To paraphrase Russo, romance is just as creative as literary fiction, so prove it and take your craft seriously. Never mind the haters. They don’t know what they’re missing.

© Cindy Fazzi

About the Author
Cindy Fazzi is a Filipino-American writer and former Associated Press reporter. My MacArthur, published by Sand Hill Review Press, is her literary debut. She writes romance novels under the pen name Vina Arno. Her first romance book, InHis Corner, was published by Lyrical Press, while her second romance novel, Finder Keeper of My Heart, was published by Painted Hearts Publishing. Her short stories have been published in Snake Nation Review, Copperfield Review, and SN Review.

About the Book
The year is 1930. The place: Manila. Douglas MacArthur is the most powerful man in the Philippines, a United States colony. He is fifty years old, divorced, and he falls in love at first sight with a ravishing young Filipino woman. He writes her a love note on the spot. Her name is Isabel Rosario Cooper, an aspiring movie actress. One glance at his note and she thinks of him as 'my MacArthur'.

MacArthur pursues his romantic obsession even though he’s breaking numerous taboos. She reciprocates his affection because he could open doors for her financially struggling family. That MacArthur happens to be handsome compensates for the fact that he’s as old as her father.

When MacArthur is appointed the U.S. Army chief of staff, he becomes the youngest four-star general and one of America’s most powerful men. Out of hubris, he takes Isabel with him to America without marrying her.

Amid the backdrop of the Great Depression, MacArthur and Isabel’s relationship persists like 'a perilous voyage on turbulent waters,' as she describes it. In 1934, after four years of relationship, MacArthur leaves Isabel for fear of a political scandal.

The General goes on to become the iconic hero of World War II, liberating the Philippines and rebuilding Japan. Isabel drifts in Los Angeles, unable to muster the courage to return to Manila.

Douglas MacArthur. Her pulse quickened as she read the name. His neat handwriting exuded confidence, but just the same, his note struck her as an anomaly, a mistake. The white man who acted as his messenger stood next to her at the bar.
   Men of all ages filled the Olympic Boxing Club, waiting for the fight to begin. Filipinos, Americans, and Europeans caroused and mingled freely here, unlike the Elks or the Army and Navy Club, which banned Filipinos. The foreigners sat at the tables, drank Cerveza San Miguel, and smoked cigars. The Filipinos stood at the cheap section of the club, jostled and bet among themselves.
   “I’m Captain Ed Marsh, by the way.” The messenger extended his hand.
   An American officer in civilian clothes. It was Saturday night, after all
   “A pleasure to meet you, sir.” She shook his hand, but withheld her name.
   Isabel Rosario Cooper came to the club in search of her brother, or rather his car. She needed Ben to drive her to the Manila Carnival.
   Women didn’t come here because they didn’t watch boxing, so when she stepped inside the club, she’d grabbed everyone’s attention without trying. The men had erupted in whistles and cheers. The crowd had parted as she crossed the room. Just the way she liked it. She was born to part crowds—to turn heads. For an aspiring actress, every place was a stage.
   Who knew MacArthur sat amid the boisterous horde? She read the note again. I can’t help but notice your gracious presence. I would love it if you can favor me with your company. Please join me for dinner at The Grand.
   This time, the words made sense. Not a blunder on his part or a misinterpretation on hers. The message hit her like a jackpot—bigger than the Carnival Queen title that her best friend, Nenita, aimed for. He was the most important man in the Philippine Islands. He could open doors for her and her family.
   She stopped herself from blurting out a yes!  She couldn’t afford to give herself away. Nothing compelled a man to pursue a woman more than her lack of interest.
   “Who’s Douglas MacArthur?” She stood with the note in one hand and her silk purse in the other hand. Chin up and chest out, despite the sweat underneath her lace blouse. Her skirt squeezed her waist and constricted her breathing, but she’d worn it because it displayed her figure. The stifling humidity now made her regret her choice. Even the garter belt and stockings itched in such heat.
   “You’ve never heard of Douglas MacArthur?” His eyes widened.
   She shook her head. A saxophone wailed, distracting them both. They turned toward the elevated boxing ring—empty. Below it, a band warmed up.
    Captain Marsh offered her a pack of Lucky Strike. “Care for a cigarette?”
   “Why, thank you.” She tucked her purse under her armpit and took one stick, which he lit with a lighter. They stood side by side, watching the band.
    “Do you see the gentleman in the middle?” He pointed at a table not far from the band. “White suit. Gray-striped tie. Do you see him?”
    “That is Douglas MacArthur.”
   The man stared at her while smoking a long-stemmed pipe, the bowl shaped like a corncob. He didn’t smile. The band played a jazz-style rendition of a Filipino folk song. The audience, packed ten deep, hooted and screamed for the fight to begin, but MacArthur didn’t even blink.
    She glanced at his note again before inserting it in her purse.  “This is nice. But I don’t know him.”
    “It’s unbelievable. You really don’t know him?”
    She shook her head and shifted her weight to one hip.
    “He’s the Big Cheese!”
    She arched her eyebrow.
    “Major General MacArthur is the most powerful American not just in the Philippines, but in Asia.”
    She took a drag on her cigarette. “I know what big cheese means, thank you.”
   MacArthur stood out in his expensive suit, slicked-back hair, and intimidating pipe, but he was as old as her father, if not older. His title was commander of the U.S. Army’s Philippine Division, though everyone treated him like a king.
    He stared with a cool expression, pretending to be uninterested. The man was an actor. Perhaps they were not too different.

The Complete Tour

November 5th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Stop by Women on Writing's blog and read an interview with the author Cindy Fazzi and enter to win a copy of the book My MacArthur.

November 6th @ Coffee with Lacey
Get your coffee and stop by Lacey's blog where she share her thoughts on the book My MacArthur. 

November 7th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Stop by Beverley's blog and find out what she thought about Cindy Fazzi's book My MacArthur. This book is sure to entice historical fiction readers everywhere!

November 8th @ The Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog and catch her thoughts on the historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 9th @ The Frozen Mind
Grab a blanket and stop by the blog The Frozen Mind and read their thoughts on the incredible historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 11th @ Bring on Lemons
If life hands you lemons, read a book! Come by Crystal's blog Bring on Lemons and find out what she had to say about the book My MacArthur.

November 13th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??
Want to know what this mom had to say about the book? Stop by Ashley's blog and read her thoughts on the historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 16th @ Amanda's Diaries
Find out what Amanda had to say about Cindy Fazzi's historical fiction book My MacArthur in her review today.

November 16th @ Chapters Through Life
Stop by Danielle's blog where she spotlight's Cindy Fazzi's book My MacArthur.

November 19th @ Madeline Sharples Blog
Be sure to catch today's post over at Madeline's blog author Cindy Fazzi shares her tips for writing fiction about a famous person.

November 20th Here

November 21st @ Mam's Rants and Reviews
Stop by Shan's blog where she shares her thoughts on the historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 25th @ The World of My Imagination
Catch Nicole's review of the book My MacArthur and find out what she had to say about this fantastic book.

November 26th @ Break Even Books
Stop by the Break Even Books blog and read Cindy Fazzi's article on the pros and cons of using a pen name.

November 28th @ Charmed Book Haven Reviews
Visit Cayce's blog and check out her thoughts on the book My MacArthur by Cindy Fazzi.

November 29th @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Start your journey today at Kathleen's blog Memoir Writer's Journey where author Cindy Fazzi talks about the challenges of writing different genres.

November 30th @ Joyful Antidotes Blog
Want a joyful way to start your day? Stop by Joy's blog where she reviews the incredible historical fiction book My MacArthur.

November 30th @ The Uncorked Librarian
Make sure you stop by Christine's blog and read what she thinks about the book My MacArthur.

December 1st @ Charmed Book Haven Reviews
Visit Cacye's blog again and read her interview with author Cindy Fazzi.

December 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Start your morning out right by reading Anthony Avina's review of the book My MacArthur. 

December 2rd @ 2 Turn the Page Book Reviews
Visit Renee's blog when she reviews Cindy Fazzi's book My MacArthur and interviews the author.

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