7 June 2019

Novel Conversations with Kishan Paul's Character - Eddie

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted on the first  Friday of the month

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

Edil Ghani (Eddie)


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 Kishan Paul’s novel. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: Brandy would be great but if you don't have that then coffee will work. I'm Edil Ghani but you can call me Eddie. (He grabs an apple from the fruit bowl and takes a bite.) I'm a character in The Second Wife and I should be considered a lead in the story, seeing as how I'm the real hero and all, but Kishan keeps telling me I'm a supporting character. (He rolls his eyes.) I'm on the cover. (He shrugs and takes another bite of the apple.) Read the book and you decide who's the real star.

Q: (Helen nods and hands him a qality vintage brandy) What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: (He rests the back of his feet on the coffee table and makes himself comfortable.) Do I look like the kind of person who'd be in anything but a suspense thriller? (He chuckles and shakes his head.) This one's all about the action. Don't get me wrong, there's love in there but there's also some dark twisted cr*p and some serious action too. How could there not? This is a story about survival. Alisha was kidnapped by her a$$hole client. (He scowls at the fruit in his hand and then tosses it into trash can.) While she tries to survive the hell he puts her through, her husband, David, is trying to find her. Which is where I come in. I'm the one who helps him do that.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: (A lazy grin stretches across his face.) That depends on who you ask. How about this? I'm a good bada$$.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: Well, there's David Dimarchi. He's not my best friend or lover or anything but is a pretty solid guy. The man practically begs me to help him find his wife. (Eddie drops his feet from the coffee table and leans forward.) He's a surgeon living a sweet life in Philadelphia. So using a gun much less flying down to Pakistan and going up against a terrorist organization aren't really things he'd been trained to do. As much of a pain as he was, (He raises a brow) and trust me he was a serious pain in mine, that man loved his wife and was willing to do anything to get her back. (Eddie shrugs.) How do you not feel for him?

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: I'm in all three books of the series. Like I said, I am the hero of that series. I think Kishan just doesn't want to admit she's wrong and I'm right.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: (He reaches for his glass and takes a long slow drink.) Sayeed is about as bad as they come. There's a scene in the book where David and I are watching him torment Alisha and we can't do anything to stop him. Not yet anyway. Sitting there seeing how he hurts her and seeing how it kills David to watch it happen, and not being able to stop it - that was a low point for me. (He takes another big swallow of his brandy.)

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: (He slides the now empty glass back on the table and shifts in his seat.) There are a couple. One, I can't say much about with out giving it away but I'll say this, there was a part of me that I thought I'd lost forever.  In that scene, I find it. Another favorite scene of mine is where Alisha goes all Vampira on me and bites me on the neck. (Eddie pulls the collar of his shirt and points at the spot). I still have a scar.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books? 
A: Kishan is finishing up The Deadly Match the final book of The Second Wife Series. This one is my favorite of the three books because even Kishan admits I am the leading man of that story.  Aside from that series, she's written some other stories, Blind Love, Stolen Hearts, and Taking the Plunge.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: She's been talking about a whole new series that she wants to start on. A new suspense.

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: Post reviews and tell others about her work. When you post a review or tell your friends about how amazing a man I am, then other people are going to want to read the books so they can have a taste of me. And once they taste me, they'll want their friends to do the same. (He winks.) I don't mind being shared.

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: Kishan's pretty proud of the IndiBRAG Medallion. She brags about it and puts it in all her ads. From what she told me, she likes it when you post about her books too. It's that whole sharing thing I mentioned. When we post reviews and share our favorite stories, other readers discover the stories too.

Thank you Eddie it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt?
And while she's sorting that out, would you like another brandy? (He slides over his empty glass and flashes Helen a smile when she refills it.)

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

(When David meets Eddie for the first time.)

Dave sized him up. With his black hair cut short and dark eyes, he looked very Middle Eastern. Maybe he could take me to Pakistan. And he was built as if he’d walked out of a men’s fitness magazine. Probably kick some serious ass.
    When Eddie scanned the room, his gaze fell squarely on Dave. He seemed intense, like someone who didn’t waste his time laughing or cracking a smile often. Intimidating. That could be a good thing too. Even the way he dressed in all gray from his long-sleeved shirt to his dark slacks, sent a don’t f*ck with me message. All of which would help find Ally, unless he was one of the people Sayeed was bribing, and then Dave was the one f*cked.
     Eddie flashed a smile and reached out his hand. “Dr. Dimarchi. I’m Eddie Ghani. I’m with the CIA.”
    Dave stood and accepted the outstretched palm. The man pulled out a white piece of paper from his pocket. “My card.”
    He took the card and, incapable of reading, stared at the letters. In the past few minutes, a thin bead of perspiration had developed across his forehead and now dripped down his temples. Dave swiped at the moisture and stuffed the paper and his fists into his pants pockets.
    “Dr. Dimarchi, I’d like to sit and chat with you for a bit.”
   Voices warred in his head. Who should he trust? How much should he share? When he rocked on his heels, the drive dug into his toe. He tried to concentrate on the pain instead of on the fear building inside him that he was screwing up.
   After dropping his messenger bag on the coffee table, Eddie sat on the sofa, leaned in, planted his elbows on his knees, and pointed at the armchair. “Please.”
    What if he was the one person who could bring her home? It wouldn’t hurt to hear what he had to say, would it?
    Dave positioned himself in the chair.
    An approving smile stretched across the agent’s tanned features. “Thank you. We need to  talk about the visit you had fifteen minutes ago. Tell me what you know about him.”
    What the hell was he supposed to say? The weight of his decision bore down on him, and the idea of running away seemed very appealing. “Nothing.”
    Eddie squinted and assessed him as he rubbed his hands together. “Nothing?”
    Dave kept his face as expressionless as possible and nodded.

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4 June 2019

Vellum - a magical material

A Guest Post by Nicky Galliers

Parchment, or vellum as I am going to refer to it, is an amazing material and one that is poorly understood. Yet few realise how little they understand it.

There have been many writing substrates through the millennia: stone, papyrus, wax, slate, vellum, paper and others besides. Paper is the most familiar, obviously, but that makes us think we also know about vellum. Vellum looks like paper, does the same job as paper, we think it does what paper does, only in a more old fashioned way.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

To assume vellum and paper are practically the same is to assume that a horse and a scooter are the same because they are both forms of transport. Few people truly understand the marvellous, almost magical, material that is vellum.

Vellum is a natural product, more natural than many a bleached, processed paper. Today it is the by-product of the food industry, from skins that would otherwise be disposed of by being burned, causing harm to the environment. In the past sourcing wouldn’t have been limited to the food industry.

Today, each carefully selected skin is cleaned, bleached if necessary - many skins are selected for the natural characteristics and colour - stretched on a frame called a herse, resulting in a 25% increase in surface area, and left to dry. Once dry, it is removed from the herse, smoothed and then trimmed into sheets.

Related image

There are many qualities that vellum possesses that makes it a rather astonishing material. Its very toughness has been exploited over the millennia for more than just writing on. It won’t tear, won’t break, snap or disintegrate like paper. It takes 500 years for it to discolour, if it is going to.

Another quality is its inflammability; you can’t set it alight. It doesn’t carry a flame. Hold a flame to it for long enough, yes, it will start to degrade, but it won’t catch, so when the flame is removed, the vellum stops burning. This means that to destroy a piece of vellum takes a bit longer than paper and a bit more effort. You can’t just shove the corner in a candle flame and leave it to it – as soon as you move the flame away, it all stops. To fully burn a sheet of vellum you have to apply the flame to the whole sheet. You can drop it in a fire, a piece I dropped on a barbecue charred and curled quickly but not as quickly or thoroughly as paper. I was able to remove it and it wasn’t hot to touch. It is medieval Nomex or Proban, the materials that race drivers and circuit marshal wear to protect them from flame. A word of warning for those who want a character in a book to get rid of some vellum in an underhand manner by burning – it stinks! 

one of my experiments, immersing vellum in water.
I cut this piece from the edge, you can see the corners.
Then I left it in water.
That’s around a 50% shrinkage. 
If fire is not the enemy it is to paper, what is? How else do you destroy vellum? Well, the short answer would be that you can’t, not easily, but it can be damaged, sometimes beyond repair, by water. Paper is damaged by water, the average piece of A4 white paper absorbs it and it warps and no amount of ironing will flatten it, hence papers for artists have to be prepared before they are used. Vellum also changes in water, but in a different way.

Related image

The production of vellum is all very natural. It is stretched on a herse and dried under tension and it then stays that way. It is not tanned like leather is, a process that alters the proteins in the skin permanently. Apply water and it will want to go back to how it was. A sheet of vellum immersed in a bucket of water will have reverted to its previous size and shape within fifteen minutes, a dramatic and violent change. However, if the vellum is still in the frame, or stretched tight over something else, and it is then moistened, it will again try to shrink and cockling (lumpiness) will appear where it is trying to shrink, but because it is under tension, it will dry back into its stretched form.

These two startling processes have different uses. The latter is perfect for drums. When consistently hit in the same place, a drum head will stretch and the drum will lose its resonance. To rectify this with a vellum drum head, one merely rubs the whole surface with a wet sponge and leaves it to dry. It will dry and tighten back to how it was when it was new.

The former process has several uses. For instance, furniture. Carlo Bugatti, father of Ettore Bugatti who made cars, used vellum extensively in his designs, decorative and practical. In the construction of furniture vellum is used to secure joints. Wrap the vellum around the joint and wet it. As it is not under tension, it shrinks and it will hold the joint securely.

Another little-known use is for bow strings. A piece of vellum long enough to create a string doesn’t exist, but flat, square sheets weren’t used. Instead, you cut a circle and then you cut around the circumference a millimetre from the edge, working your way inwards in a spiral, and like peeling an apple, you have a long strip. This was then affixed to either end of the bow. This in itself creates a very strong bowstring, but you wet it and it shrinks, giving that much more tension to the bow and a greater range. It dries, it returns to its former size, and you wet it and start again.

Vellum document 1802 
There are two historical events that I was always curious about and a chat with the general manager, Paul Wright, at William Cowley vellum manufacturer (the only vellum maker in the world that still makes vellum the same way as the Anglo-Saxons) helped to explain them. The first was the dreadful fire that destroyed swathes of the manuscript collection called the Cotton Collection at Ashburnham House, Westminster, London, in 1731. If vellum doesn’t burn, what happened? The vellum itself, the manuscript collection, wasn’t the accelerant that caused the fire to burn. Something else fed the fire - bookcases, carpets, curtains etc. - and the flames were applied to the vellum causing it to degrade. Then there was the water damage from the attempts to extinguish the fire.

Ash Burnham House 1880
The other was a new scenario for Paul Wright but he was able to explain how it was possible. In 1347 a letter was smuggled out of Calais which at the time had been besieged by the English for a year. The letter was a plea to the French king to relieve the town, else they’d be forced to surrender to King Edward III of England. When the English attacked the ship carrying the letter in Calais harbour, fearing the letter expressing the dire situation would fall into the hands of the English, it was attached to an axe and thrown into the sea. A English sailor jumped in after it and retrieved it, and it was taken to King Edward.

But how did a letter written on vellum that had been in the sea remain legible? Paul wanted details about how the letter was attached to the axe that I couldn’t supply but it sounded plausible for the letter to have been wrapped around the axe handle and secured with some twine before it was thrown into the water. In which case, Paul explained, as a roll, only two surfaces were exposed to the water (the outer and inner of the roll), and only those would have been subject to water damage, and these surfaces would have covered the rest and protected them, leaving them dry and undamaged. Had the writing only been in the centre of the sheet, it would all have remained perfectly legible. And it would have taken, he estimated, about a quarter of an hour for the exposed surfaces to be damaged, leaving the interior safe for longer than that, giving Edward’s sailor possibly as much as half an hour to fetch up the letter from the floor of the harbour.

Vellum is seen as archaic and irrelevant. Parliament decided in 2017 to stop recording public acts of parliament on vellum. And yet a few years ago the vice-president of Google referred to ‘bit rot’ where files are rendered unreadable through defunct software and called for ‘digital vellum’ to be created to preserve a generation of data from the digital age. Domesday Book is still as legible today was it was when it was written in 1086.

Magna Carta (British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106).jpg
Magna Carta - again, written on vellum
(British Museum)
In this modern age of digital technology, of cloud storage and digitalisation, data is ephemeral. 

Vellum, however, is almost everlasting.

© Nicky Galliers

28 May 2019

Tuesday Talk: What my Arthurian Trilogy means to me.

I’m a published author. That in itself is an ultimate goal for many a ‘wannabe’, but seeing my books in print – after twenty-six years ‘in the business’  still gives me a thrill. Writing is a solitary occupation – and I do sometimes wonder why on earth I do this darn silly job! The work is hard; I am at my desk every day seven days a week, and most of it, since the blossoming of Social Networks, involves promotion of some sort or another on Facebook, Twitter and the like. The fact is, to be regarded as a good writer you have to sell books. To sell books you have to market them, which means exchanging pleasant chat on the Internet, (you don’t sell books by saying “buy my book – I wish it were that easy!) The plus side; I have made many wonderful friends worldwide, and I hear, first hand, from readers who enjoy my books.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to receive an e-mail from someone who has just finished – and loved – one of my books. Even after all these years, I am not confident about my writing. “Who is going to want to read my nonsense?” I think to myself as I struggle to get the next book written and edited. Then I discover an unpleasant review. (Tip to authors: don’t read the Amazon or Goodreads reviews unless you have a skin as tough as an elephant’s hide.) Constructive criticism we all welcome – trashing in public we don’t. But it happens, it’s part of the job, and fortunately the ‘loved this book’ comments outweigh the ‘hate this book’, so the gloomy feelings do not surface that often. And even when they do I have an army of friends out there who soon cheer me up.

I also have my books and characters.

The Kingmaking – the first of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is very special to me. Obviously, because it was my first full-length novel, but there is more to it than that, so many memories are connected to it.

I met and became friends with Sharon Kay Penman for one. I had been scribbling with writing my version of the Arthurian story – stripped of medieval trappings: no knights in armour, no holy grail – no Merlin, no Lancelot – just the struggle for survival by a man who became one of the most famous warlord legends of all time: Arthur. I never thought I was good enough to get published. I spotted a book with a sword on its spine at the local library. It wasn’t about Arthur, but it looked good: Here Be Dragons is probably one of the greatest historical novels ever written! I was blown away by it, and although I had never written to an author before, I felt I had to write to Sharon to thank her for writing such a fantastic novel. This was in the pre-email days, one of those old fashioned written by hand letters. Some weeks later I received a reply. “Helen, if you can write such an interesting four-page letter, I can’t wait to read the book!” A short while later Sharon came to London and suggested we meet for coffee. I can’t express how thrilling it was to sit with a real author chatting about history and writing. Truly one of the best days of my life. Sharon gave me some writer’s tips and recommended me to her agent.

I had to rewrite most of what I had written – tidy it up, cut down on the run-on sentences, see to a few more technical novice errors, but I had what amounted to one-and-a-half novels. You could have knocked me down with a feather when the agent said I had a trilogy on my hands,  I had not thought beyond one novel, let alone three!

William Heinemann snapped me up. I was in print. An author.
Launching Kingmaking May 1994
The first buzz of excitement was awesome. A national newspaper took me and my family out for the day to ensure they got an exclusive scoop. I was on the radio, TV – my career was launched.

And then sank.

The Kingmaking did well, but not well enough. Book Two, Pendragon’s Banner came out, none of the previous media hype came with it. ‘We’ll do a big marketing push for the paperback version,’ I was told. It didn’t happen.
‘We’ll do a big push for the third.’ That didn’t happen either.

An American publishing company, St Martins, took the Trilogy and printed from an uncorrected proof. I gave up counting after 360 errors – including ‘bread stubbled chin’ (beard stubbled) and Anglican instead of Anglian. I wept.

I received a really nasty e-mail some years later from a US student condemning me for my dreadful writing, my ignorance of English and accusing me of how dare I call myself an author. Did I go to school? this person ranted,  did I learn to read and write – the rubbish in this book did not indicate that I did. I received that hateful mail on Boxing Day. The hatred it conveyed still shocks me.

I wrote two more books (Harold the King UK /I am the Chosen King USA and A Hollow Crown UK /Forever Queen USA) Harold did well, Crown didn’t. Historical Fiction had gone out of fashion, no one was interested anymore . Heinemann decided not to print my backlist, my agent decided I was not worth the effort, we parted company. I was out of a job, but I picked myself up, indie published here in the UK – and then was picked up by a different US publisher (Sourcebooks Inc).

I also found freelance graphic designer Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics. She designs my indie covers and all my marketing material. Yes, the graphics in this article are all hers.  We are now best friends. I met Cathy because of Arthur – another thank you I owe the books.

Me and Cathy
I have fond memories of researching Shadow of the King – an epic family vacation in Northern France and Brittany undertaken one summer. We travelled with very dear friends who organised the whole trip. Hazel, one of those friends, was very dear to me. She passed away unexpectedly on October 31st 2001. I clearly recall sitting on a low wall high up the hill of Vezelay, looking down at the walnut trees and seeing a lizard scuttle away. Walking through the old, narrow streets of Avalon (yes there is actually a place called Avalon in France!) Exploring the amazing standing stones at Carnac – and all the shared laughter in between. Much of that holiday is reflected in Shadow, and therefore my memories.

The tragic scene in Pendragon’s Banner (no spoilers) where Arthur is fishing is also based on real experience. Another family holiday, camping beside the River Wye in Wales. My daughter was quite young, we went to see the river which was in flood after heavy rain. I held her hand so tight in case she should slip - and the whole scene played out in my mind. I cried as I wrote it. I have no doubt that what I saw was an echo of a past tragedy, the detail was too clear for it not to have been.

Like Gwenhwyfar and Morgaine I have heard the wind sing through the grass on top of Glastonbury Tor – and I’ve known horses as bloody-minded as Arthur’s bad-tempered chestnut, Onager!

I look upon my characters as real people, real friends – they drive me mad at times because what I want to write is not what they want to happen in their adventures – Arthur was very annoying at times. Frequently I would discover I’d written a scene that had come from nowhere – usually ending up with Arthur in some scrape or another. Once I distinctly heard a voice say, “Now get me out of that!”

My pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, does the same as I write my Sea Witch Voyages. The two characters are very alike, both difficult to deal with, both absolutely maddening, and  I love them both very much. To me, they are as real as you are…

Every so often I think that I can’t go on, that writing is getting too onerous, the marketing too difficult, especially now that my eyesight is becoming ‘wobbly’ (I have Glaucoma) But I could never walk away from Jesamiah, and Arthur will always, always, remain my first love.

All I need now is for people to get out there and buy the books….

Tuesday Talk: Born Under Fire by Rina Z. Neiman

Due to unfortunate circumstances, the author's intended post was not received, however, please do browse below and follow Ms Neiman's ongoing tour. 

Paperback Born under Fire Book

Born Under Fire is a historical novel that tells the story of a girl coming of age and her drive to excel despite the devastating effects of long-term war. Born in Jerusalem under British rule in 1928, Shula grows up in a world in turmoil as Hitler rises to power and nations enter into war. Amid a landscape of ancient stone ruins next to modern Bauhaus architecture, and desert scrub ending at newly verdant farmlands, Shula grows into her independence as the State of Israel is born. Based on historical documents and events, Born Under Fire is also about the context surrounding the founding of the State of Israel, as well as the horrors and dangers of growing up in a conflict zone. Shula battles grief and depression due to the shattering events affecting her, her family, and the entire world. Despite this struggle, her resilient spirit enables her to reach great heights as a concert pianist..

Print Length: 258 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN-13: 978-1986349147
ISBN-10: 1986349144

Born Under Fire is now available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Thrift Books.

Praise for Born Under Fire

“I went to high school in Israel in the late 50's and heard many personal stories about the early years and the struggle for independence. Your book makes these years really come alive. Also, most of my relatives' tales were set in Kibbutzim and rural Palestine. Your book describes life in Tel Aviv as just as heroic. Lastly, I share your mother's love for Yemenite embroidery and am happy that your book calls attention to this beautiful art form.” 
Vita Hollander

“This lovely coming of age story provides a view into the challenges, conflicts and dilemmas facing the European Jews fleeing Hitler’s reach and trying to make Palestine their home. It pulls no punches and honestly acknowledges the dilemmas posed by the creation of this new country, but as it tells the story from the eyes of a young girl, we see those intricacies as she would have seen them, allowing the reader an understanding not only of historical events that readers may not be aware of (the proposed partition, the ethical dilemma posed by Jewish terrorist groups, etc.) but also of the emotional journey of these refugees and their children. This story is an important reminder of the effects of war and provides a critical piece of history necessary for understanding the world today.”
Nima M. Vincent via Amazon.com, 5 out of 5 star review

“This story drew me in from the very first page. The vivid descriptions of smell, sights and taste, longing, disappointment and joy, evoked real emotion and made me wish I were sitting at the kitchen table with Shula and her aunts. I appreciated the many history lessons tucked into the adventures, and was relieved to discover details about this time period without being burdened by the author's politics.”
Lisa Fliegel via Amazon.com, 5 out of 5 star review

About the Author, Rina Z. Neiman
Rina Z. Neiman is a writer, event producer and public relations professional. Born Under Fire is based on the true story of her mother, Shulamit Dubno Neiman, a Sabra, a musician and one of the first generation of modern-day Israelis. Rina lives in Marin County, California with her husband and son. This is her first novel.

You may find out more about the author and her book by visiting the website https://www.bornunderfire.com/. Also, you may find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

-- Blog Tour Dates

May 20th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin! So, grab your coffee and join us today as we celebrate the launch of Rina Z. Neiman's book Born Under Fire. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.

May 21st @ Karen Brown Tyson Blog
guest post about how to manage time and distractions during the book writing process. If you are writing a book - or thinking about writing one - this one is a post you don't want to miss!

May 22nd @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab some coffee and visit Lacey's blog today where you can read her review of Born Under Fire.

May 23rd @ Coffee with Lacey
guest post about why researching primary sources is so effective.

May 23rd @ Bri's Book Nook
review of Born Under Fire

May 24th @ One Sister's Journey
review by Lisa of Born Under Fire.

May 26th @ Reading Whale
guest post about when you can finally start writing your book after all that research.

May 27th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
guest post about writing biographical fiction and when to dramatize real events.

May 28th This Blog
May 28th @ Book Collab Blog
Review of Born Under Fire.

May 29th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Anthony Avina's features author Rina Z. Neiman's blog post about how she researched Born Under Fire.

May 31st @ Jess Reading Blog
Are you interested in writing history for young adults?

June 1st @ The World of My Imagination
review of Born Under Fire and enter to win a copy.

June 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
review of Born Under Fire.

June 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
review of Born Under Fire.

June 4th @ Amanda Diaries
review of Born Under Fire. 

June 5th @ The Frugalista Mom
review of Born Under Fire and win a copy of the book!

June 7th @ Bookworm Blog
review of Born Under Fire plus an interview with the author.

June 8th @ Jessica's Reading Room
how to make stories interactive. A must-read for all the writers out there!

June 9th @ Jess Bookish Life
Jess shares her opinion about Born Under Fire.

June 10th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Are you doing research for your novel? Top 5 ways to research secondary sources.

June 12th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Get to know author Rina Z. Neiman at today's stop over at author Anthony Avina's blog where he interviews the author.

June 14th @ Bookworm Blog
making your story interactive and why adding music is so effective.

June 15th @ Strength 4 Spouses
guest post about the importance of writing during deployment.

June 17th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog over at 12 Books and find out her thoughts about Born Under Fire.

June 21st @ Choices Blog
Interviewing someone for your book? Make sure you visit Madeline Sharples' blog today where Rina Z. Neiman talks about how to conduct interviews with people who are (and who are not) willing to talk with you.

click here for last week's post: an interview with King Arthur! 

21 May 2019


If 'my' Arthur was asked to talk about himself and his portrayal in The Pendragon's Banner Trilogy - what would he say I wonder...?

It is the mid-fifth century, and I am Arthur, the Pendragon, son of Uthr, exiled King of the Britons, and now that he is dead, I am King, although it has been a long, hard battle to reach this position of authority. You will find me in many tales, some more outrageous than others, some more exciting, some more believable – but in this instance, I can be found filling the pages of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy written by Helen Hollick. The three novels are The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the King, and they follow my life from youth to grey-haired old man. And it has been a turbulent life I can tell you! 

I am the boy, who became the man, who became the king, who became the legend, but whether I am a likeable fellow is up to the reader to decide. I am not the turn-a-blind-eye, God is more important than my realm king of the later Medieval tales. If anyone tried to cuckold me, I can assure you he would not live long beyond me finding out - neither would she, my wife, come to that.  But that line of a story does not fit with this Trilogy. Here, I am a post-Roman warlord. I have to fight to gain my kingdom and fight even harder to keep it. I have to be tough, even ruthless, at times. I am also passionate, and passionate people are often quick-tempered. But I like to think of myself as honourable and loyal to those who are loyal, in return, to me. I do not suffer fools, but I admire those with a brave heart. I adore my wife and Queen, Gwenhwyfar, although she too is a passionate woman and we have been known to have several rather dramatic fights. 
Still, it is always nice to ‘make up’ after our quarrels.

My Gwenhwyfar is no simpering maid, She has a sword and knows how to use it. Nor are we a childless couple, we had three sons: Amr, Llachue and Gwdre, although I will not reveal, here, how they tragically, did not come to reach adulthood. We have a daughter though - she survives us both. As for the other son, the one who in your modern times is named as Mordred, but in my time, called Medraut, the Medieval stories took the facts and twisted them into nonsense untruths. Yes, he was my bastard son sired on a woman who I did not know was my own half-sister, but he was no traitor and he fought, and died, on the same side as I.

My strengths? Dedication to my cause – bringing peace to these turbulent times here in post-Roman Britain. The Romans just upped and went back to Rome, leaving Britain in a state of chaos and vulnerable to foreign invasion. There are those, mostly my British enemies, who are certain that the Romans will return, I am equally as certain that they will not, which causes friction between many of us.

I am also convinced that the only way to achieve peace is to negotiate treaties with the Anglo-Saxons, Hengest and his brother Horsa, for instance, who are attempting to settle in what modern people call ‘Kent’, with our without my consent. I would prefer to ensure it is ‘with’, although taking Hengest’s granddaughter as my first wife was not a part of my intended plan! She is well capable of stirring trouble and is not keen on accepting that I divorced her. Frankly, I would rather have cut her throat, but that is not very honourable, or so my advisors tell me.

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My weaknesses? Women and drink. And my love for my wife, Gwenhwyfar. I guess I ought to add my stubborn pride as well? Although she has as much stubborn pride as do I.

In the eyes of factual history, whether I ever truly existed or not is a debatable point.  No author ever has the right of  'fact' where I am concerned, for probably, factually, I am nothing more than a myth, a legend, maybe several people who did actually exist rolled into one with their stories exaggerated over time. Whether I really existed or not is not the point though - I am a cracking good character, as far as fiction goes. (Or non-fiction as well, come to that!)

In the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, though, there are none of the later Medieval tales; this trilogy sets my life very firmly in the mid-fifth century and uses the early Welsh tales, not the knights in armour totally made-up stories. There is no Lancelot, holy grail or Merlin in this version. I am not a Christian king, either. My god is the soldier's god, Mithras - and my sword. And it is a better story for it, I think.

Some Amazon Reviews:

"What a story! Can't believe that I've come so late to Helen Hollick's wonderful writing. 'Pendrgon's Banner' and 'Shadow of the King' have been sitting on my bookshelf for years unread... I turned to them in desperation when utterly bored with the repetitive history fiction I've read lately....by authors worthy of more! 'The Kingmaking' I bought on Kindle. I fell in love with Arthur from the start, a flesh and blood hero with flaws and his feisty Gwen made for each other and believable (within the realms of legend). Helen Hollick's wonderful trilogy doesn't rely on unnecessary padding and her descriptions are heart-rending. I'm reading the series again and know I'll end in tears for Arthur. Here is a writer in the older style not ' jump on the bandwagon' writing!' Read and enjoy....."

"I absolutely loved The Kingmaking, the first in Helen Hollick's Pendragon's Banner Trilogy. The characterisation is superb, the action scenes memorable, and the grasp of the political machinations is so good it's like an extra fix of Game of Thrones!
Arthur is at times very unlikeable: no modern man in fancy dress here, but a man of his time - and that time was brutal. As for Gwenhyfar, I thought she was a brilliant heroine, at times strong, at times horribly vulnerable. Their relationship is compelling and feels true - no sickly romance here either!"

"From the very first page, I was hooked! I loved this book, the first of a trilogy. I'm a great fan of Arthurian Legends in general, but Helen Hollick brings such realism to her story. It is immaculately researched and far from the more usual romanticised approach. Her characters both good and bad are well fleshed out and real. Arthur himself, a ten-year-old boy at the very beginning of the book, is no romantic hero. He is a completely believable and flawed human being. A likeable boy, brave astute and loyal... he becomes as an adult, a bold and fearless warrior though no angel in his private life. Gwenhwyfar is no gentle female either, rather she is spirited and brave. As both child and woman, she is an extremely attractive, strong and interesting character. In the past, I have read various interpretations of Arthurian Britain, complete with magic and of course Merlin. You won't find those elements in this book which has a very different original approach to the legends. The battles are again truly realistic and Helen has no hesitation in describing their brutality. She ranks for me, among the very top rated historical writers of our time. I recommend it highly."


Hushed murmurs, a few mutters of protest from Arthur’s men were heard, but the invited guests this night were mostly from the settlement and stronghold – Councillors, dignitaries, men of trade and note – and well acquainted with Bedwyr. He had flirted with almost every woman present, tossing flattering remarks, giving looks of appraisal. Drawing pink blushes to a maiden’s cheek and to the elder matrons’, pleased they could still draw a young man’s attention. Women – and husbands – exchanged knowing glances. Aye, the lad was one for the ladies! Gwenhwyfar felt suddenly sick with apprehension. Her stomach heaved to her throat, her body trembled. Too easy was it to read those sneering looks on people’s faces, to imagine what vileness they were thinking and murmuring. People would more easily believe the excitement of lies than accept the tedium of truth. Arthur had his back to the table, to her. With a slight turn of his head, he cast a sideways glance at her, looked quickly away before their eyes should meet. She blinked aside tears. Surely he did not believe these lies? Did not doubt her faithfulness… surely?
He was a few yards from her. Staring ahead, not looking at her, his fists were clenched tight, the nails biting into the soft flesh of his palms, fighting the uncertainty. Somehow, Gwenhwyfar managed to get to her feet, although her body was shaking, her knees threatening to buckle. She walked calmly and with dignity around the table. Faces and voices faded. Nothing, no one, mattered except Arthur. She stared steadily at him as she came, people parting to make way for her. What madness was happening here this night?
“My husband, you are my only love. We have our disagreements and our sadness, as do all partners of marriage, but never would I betray you or that love. Never.”
Hueil had followed Arthur, stood eight paces to his other side. He snorted derision. “Do you not expect her to deny it?” He was warming to this thing, the overspill of resentment frothing to the surface. “They are lovers. Both have betrayed you as king and husband and cousin. Neither of them is openly going to admit it.”
“Ask whether she denies allowing Bedwyr to her chamber when she is alone. Whether she denies meeting with him in the garden, embracing him.” Morgause was smiling, pleasantly, almost offhandedly. The odious bitch!
Gwenhwyfar flung back a taut answer. “I do not deny either. Bedwyr is my kin, he is as a brother to me.”
Morgause gave a low chuckle of amusement. “Yet, he is not, technically, a brother, is he?” Her voice carried very well, even at a soft murmur.
Saying nothing Arthur had not moved. Gwenhwyfar stepped closer to him, her hand extended but not daring to touch him. “You do not believe this nonsense! Do you?” Her hurt for a moment had flared into anger, was struck suddenly to fear when he, at last, met her eyes. “You do!” she gasped. “My god, you do!” She bit her lip, let her imploring hand drop; dared not reach out, lest he brush her aside.
Arthur bit his bottom lip. He was breathing fast, his nostrils flaring, chest heaving for air, fingers gripping the cold touch of his sword pommel. He dared not take a glance towards the walls, dared not look, for he knew they were closing in on him, surrounding him, waiting to fall and crush him. He wanted to run, reach for cool, sweet air, for the vault of unbounded, starlit sky. Nor dared he look at Gwenhwyfar, for fear that just this once she lied to him.

Their quarrels were nothing, heated words between two people with opposing wills, nothing more than sparring or sword practice, an edge against which to sharpen ideas and opinions. All right, he admitted, whores had shared his bed even when they should not, but they meant nothing more than a way to satisfy a need. And aye, she had left him for a while, and in his solitude, he had turned to Elen, but Gwenhwyfar had gone because of her grief, not because of their often exchanged anger. He loved Gwenhwyfar, above all life he loved Gwenhwyfar, and it hurt deeper than any battlefield wound that others could snarl these vile accusations at her. He ought to make an end of Morgause, make an end to this incessant stirring of hatred and malice, and that hurt more. It hurt that even to protect the woman for whom he would willingly die, he did not have it in him to kill Morgause.

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