Category Archives: Blogs and websites to watch

Tidbits from the Internet

Here are a couple of new discoveries from this month:

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

  1.   B.R.A.G., which stands for Book Readers Appreciation Group, is an organization that tries to give Indie authors the recognition they deserve by bringing together readers and authors and promoting self-published books. They also have an interesting blog, which you can find here.
  2. Here is a search result from Google that I thought I’d share. I typed in “schedule of trade shows for books 2013” and this is the page I got. If you have a novel to promote, or you need to network with publishers, this info needs to go into your calendar!

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Monday Tips: Organize your files with Evernote

Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you look at the screen of your computer and it’s just covered in files of stuff that you copied from the internet?

I found myself in that situation recently and that’s how I discovered Evernote.

It is a  clipping service, a convenient way of storing all those things-you-mean-to-read-but-don’t-have-time-right-now. Just clip what you want, and store in a folder.

It’s FREE, and you can download your copy here

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Monday Tips: Find websites that help you market your book

It is so easy to get burned out with information overload. As an author these days, you are expected not only to have a blog but to keep up with Twitter feeds and Facebook postings.

I was recently introduced to yet another website specifically targeted towards authors. This one is called Author’s Den. Here is the link: I’ve signed up for free (there are paid options). It will be interesting to see what happens. Stay tuned and have a wonderful week!

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Monday Tips: Tidbits from the Internet

Here are a couple of sites that I’ve found useful recently:

  1. K. M. Wieland is an historical novelist who lives in Wyoming and mentors other writers via workshops and her blog Wordplay, which won the 2011-2012 Top Ten Blogs for Writers. Her Most Common Mistake series is funny and informative.
  2. A. J. Humpage has been writing fiction for 22 years. Her blog All Write – Fiction Advice won the Stylish Blogger Award and is full of tips on how to polish your prose, how to do flashbacks properly and the art of foreshadowing.

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Tidbits from the Internet

Here are a couple of sites that I’ve found useful recently:

Red Room. Like Goodreads this site acts as a place where authors and readers can interact and chat about books. Unlike Goodreads, this site has a more self-conscious literary feel to it, with plenty of black-and-white photos of famous authors. I’ve put my novels up on it, and am currently trying it on for size. To take a peek, go to

Critique Circle. As someone who has never taken an MFA course (but might do so in the future), it is currently hard work getting anyone to read my MSS. Enter Critique Circle. You can sign up for free, and I believe they give you 2 points to get started. To get your MSS critiqued, you need 3 points, and you earn points by critiquing others’ work. I have now had 3 MSS critiqued, and I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the critiques. To join, just go to:

Have a great week!

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Tidbits from the Internet: Two websites to watch

Here are a couple of things that might interest you:

I just came upon this recently. Nic Oliver is a writing coach who originally helped non-native speakers of english write better. But his site is attracting anyone who needs help. As writers and publishers we often come across people whose writing needs a great deal of TLC. Nic will perform a writing analysis of a 5,000-word sample for an undisclosed amount of money! I don’t know him personally, and I haven’t tried his services. But the writing advice he gives on his website sounds sensible. So it might be worth giving him a try. Provided of course that his services don’t break the bank! (On that note, it’s worth mentioning that many people are open to payment plans if you can’t afford to pay the whole amount up front. It’s always worth asking if they’ll do that).

While I can only give a guarded recommendation for Nic Oliver’s site, I can give a wholehearted endorsement of Jane Friedman’s site. I got to know Jane last year when she was giving webinars for Writer’s Digest on the subject of building a platform to market self-published books. Jane’s advice is sensible, and she is a friendly and engaging person who enjoys interacting with her readers. If you want to know what is currently going on in the publishing world, and pick up some tips for marketing your novel, head over to Jane’s site Enjoy! And have a great week.

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Life in the Past Lane wins the Best History Historical Fiction Blog for 2011

Please join me in congratulating Jessica James for winning the Historical Novel Blog’s People’s Choice contest for the Best Blog of 2011. Many members voted and the winner was…LIFE IN THE PAST LANE!


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THE LADY OF THE RIVERS and THWARTED QUEEN are released on the same day

On October 18, 2011, Philippa Gregory published the latest in her cousin’s war series. THE LADY OF THE RIVERS is a portrait of Jacquetta Woodville, mother of Queen Elisabeth Woodville, and mother-in-law to King Edward IV of England. A tale about a remarkable woman who has been long neglected, the novel promises to be an interesting look at the role that sorcery played in the lives of the people of the fifteenth century, just before the witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. To read more about Jacquetta, click here. To view the novel on Amazon, click here.

On October 18, 2011, I published my first novel, also set at the time of the Cousin’s War, more commonly known as the War of the Roses. THWARTED QUEEN is a story about another remarkable woman, a person who was almost the exact same age as Jacquetta. This person was the mother of Edward IV, and mother-in-law to Elisabeth Woodville.  Cecylee Neville, Duchess of York is also not that well known, despite the fact that she wielded considerable power, albeit for a short amount of time.  THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a king brought down by fear. To read more about Cecylee, click here. To view the novel on Amazon, click here.

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It’s Fall, a Perfect Time to Celebrate the Middle Ages!

Now is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, which means that the temperature has dropped, so we can all go outside to enjoy the sunshine and fall colors. What better way of doing this than to celebrate times of yore? I am referring to Renaissance Festivals, commonly known as Ren Faires.

We are very fortunate in Washington DC to be near to a wonderful Ren Faire, at the Maryland Renaissance Faire that has been held in Crownsville, near Annapolis MD for the past 35 years (I think). Whenever I can, I don my 16th-century Italian costume and head out there, so that I can admire the jousting, the costumes and dream my way through an apparel store. The Maryland Ren Faire is held every Saturday and Sunday until October 23. To read more, click here.

If you are too busy at the moment, and know that you can’t make that October 23 deadline, then try the SCA or Society for Creative Anachronism. Many residents of DC don’t realize that we live in the barony of Ponte Alto, in the Kingdom of Atlantia, but if you are interested in learning more about the Middle Ages, you should contact your local chatelaine and go to a local meeting. There are archery contests, sword fights, and feasts. It is a wonderful way to spend the day (most meetings take place in local parks or fairgrounds) and a great way for the young people in your family to learn some history. Interested? Click here.

Have a wonderful and safe time this fall. It is my favorite time of year because of the many festivals that take place.


Image: The author dressed in her 16th-century Italian garb with an anachronistic hat to keep off the sun.

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Interesting Tidbits about Eleanor of Aquitaine

When I started writing THWARTED QUEEN, I knew that I was writing about a remarkable woman. Cecylee Neville (1415-1495) was the mother to two kings of England, and an ancestress to the present royal family. She survived the death of her husband and three sons, and saw her family split apart as her sons fought over the throne of England.

I wanted my readers to understand what made Cecylee so remarkable, and I decided I needed a heroine for her. Now, who would fit the bill? Another English Queen who was the mother of two kings of England, and survived many family tragedies? The answer, of course, is Eleanor of Aquitaine, as she is known today. (In her day, she was known as Alienor of Acquitaine).

So I was thrilled to discover one of my favorite authors – Sharon Kay Penman – writing about Queen Eleanor in her blog. In the following excerpt, she talks about a visit she made to the Louvre to see something that belonged to Eleanor:


Our major objective was to see the beautiful pear-shaped rock crystal vase that was given by Eleanor to Louis after their marriage in 1137….George Beech, author of “The Eleanor of Aquitaine Vase” in Eleanor of Aquitaine, Lord and Lady, my favorite book about our duchess, makes a convincing case that the vase was a gift from the Muslim king of the Spanish city of Saragossa to Eleanor’s grandfather, Duke William IX in 1120 and that it is of truly ancient origin, possibly crafted in Persia before the 7th century. There is an intimacy about this vase, perhaps because we know Eleanor held it, caressed it, and cherished it enough to give as a wedding gift, and the inscription by Abbot Suger brings us even closer to the “Queen of Aquitaine,” as he calls her, the “newly wed bride on their first voyage.” It is interesting, too, that Abbot Suger chose to name her as “Aanor,” for in her charters, she always called herself Alienor.


Here I must pause to digress. My understanding is that Alienor was so called, because her mother was called Aenor, and she was “the other Aenor”, which in Latin becomes Alienor, from the word alias.  Perhaps Abbot Suger called her Aenor  because her mother was already dead, and there was no need for the alias part of the name. Sharon Kay Penman continues:


It was believed until recently that Eleanor was 15 at the time of her marriage to Louis, but now, thanks to the research of Andrew W. Lewis, we know she was actually born in 1124, and was therefore only 13 when she became Louis’s bride and, several months, later, Queen of France. A very young age for a girl to—in a matter of months—lose her father, gain a husband, and leave her beloved homeland of Aquitaine for a new life in Paris.


I am always keeping track of dates, it is something of an obsession with me. When I was a girl, I was told that Eleanor was born in 1122 and died in 1204. There is little dispute about her death, because by then she was so famous that it would have been well recorded. But her birth? Not so much. If she was born in 1122, she would have been about 15 when she wed Louis of France. Then a few years ago, I heard from another source that she’d been born in 1120, which would have made her thirteen years older than Henry of Anjou, her second husband. Believing this date to be correct, I write this “fact” into my novel. Now Sharon tells us that the latest research indicates she was born in 1124, making her only nine years older than Henry.

Such is the life of the historical novelist. We try so hard to get our facts correct, only to find that they still elude us.

If you would like to read more about Eleanor, Henry and her interesting family on Sharon’s blog, point your browser to:

Image: The city of Poitiers, France where Eleanor may have been born, maybe in 1124.










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