Tag Archives: Cecylee Neville

My first Press Release: Don’t you want to know how the family feud between the Nevilles, Lancasters & Yorks led to war?

People love reading about family feuds. Especially at Christmas time. And Cecylee Neville’s extended family was something special. Not only do you have the usual dysfunctional dynamics going on, but these people were feuding over the throne of England. Don’t you want to know how the family feud between the Nevilles, the Lancasters and the Yorks started the Wars of the Roses? Of course you do.

But this novel is not just about rich and powerful aristocratic families. Author Cynthia Sally Haggard has shown how their power struggle affected the lives of the ordinary people of England.  The Londoners were famous for being recalcitrant, and in a situation where the King of England was unable to govern (he suffers from bouts of madness), the Londoners would step into the power vacuum. Why? Because the London merchants were the richest people on earth. So much so that when they finally got sick of the King, they raised eighteen thousand pounds to pay the Earl of Warwick to invade England. That was no small fortune in 1460.

Thwarted Queen encompasses many issues that are relevant today, such as rich people not paying taxes, the tragedy of child abuse and the mistreatment of women. But it is also about the triumph of the human spirit. It shows how the married women, who had no legal rights, nevertheless did not behave like doormats. Many of the most powerful personalities of the time were women. Including Lady Cecylee Neville, Duchess of York, the voice of Thwarted Queen.

Thwarted Queen is available as an e-book, as a 4-volume set of e-books and as a 3-volume set in paperback on Amazon and other outlets, or by contacting author Cynthia Haggard at cynthia@spunstories.com. Find out more about the author, Cynthia Sally Haggard and her muse Lady Cecylee Neville on www.spunstories.com. You may also follow her ladyship on Facebook (Lady Cecylee Neville) or Goodreads (Lady Cecylee’s Reading Circle).

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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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Eleanor of Aquitaine & Geoffrey Le Bel: An Affair?

I love Eleanor of Aquitaine (1120-1204). Who could not? She was such a vivid personality, a beautiful woman and someone who was not shy about breaking with convention. When I was writing THWARTED QUEEN about Cecylee Neville, Duchess of York (1415-1495), I decided to give Cecylee a heroine. Cecylee was a remarkable person in her own right who seems to have kept her husband Richard, Duke of York (1411-1460) wrapped firmly around her little finger. So what better heroine to give her than the spirited and beautiful Eleanor?

 

I was just reading a piece by Elizabeth Chadwick posted on her blog LIVING THE HISTORY, and it seems that there was gossip that Eleanor had an affair with her future father-in-law Geoffrey of Anjou. Or that is what some ill-intentioned gossips said. Pointing out that the press often gets things wrong, and that she herself was described as having written a movie, when she’d actually adapted it, Ms. Chadwick states that in her opinion, it was probably a flirtation, which may have been used as a decoy to set her husband, the King of France off on the wrong scent. You see, the person that Eleanor was really interested in was Geoffrey’s son Henry, who was thirteen years her junior. The much more famous Henry became not only Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, he also became Henry II of England. King Louis of France would have done anything to prevent their marriage.

Had he known of it.

Image is a photo I took of Eleanor resting peacefully next to her second husband Henry II, at Fontevraud L’Abbaye in France. An admirer has given her a pink rose.

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Book Review: DAUGHTER OF YORK by Anne Easter Smith

Writing historical fiction is not easy, especially if you are writing about a real person. You cannot assume that your readers are going to understand how hard it is, or the difficult choices you have to make.

DAUGHTER OF YORK is the story of Margaret of York (1446-1503), sister to Edward IV and wife to Charles, Duke of Burgundy. In Ms. Smith’s telling of this story, the narrative arc is hung almost entirely on the romantic attraction between Margaret, and Sir Anthony Woodville, brother to Edward’s Queen. So it is unfortunate that Ms. Easter Smith chose to focus on the fictional aspects of the love-story between Margaret of York and Anthony Woodville in her Author’s Note, because some of her readers in their Amazon Reviews said that they felt cheated. What they don’t understand is the paucity of documentation from the Middle Ages that tells you anything about people’s emotions, or psychological states. It turns out that Ms. Smith did have some evidence for thinking that there might actually have been a romantic relationship, the fact that Margaret did stay with Anthony at his estate in Kent during her visit to England in 1480. If I had been Ms. Smith, I would have re-written that paragraph in the Author’s Note to bring that fact forward.

So what about the novel itself? It opens very well, with beautifully rendered descriptions of the London skyline circa 1461, the music that was played during court ceremonies, and the clothes worn. I also found Anthony Woodville’s dialogue to be quite wonderful: “I commend your choice, Lady Margaret. Mine is Lancelot du Lac, for his gentleness, courtesy and courage. If I may be so forward as to tell you, my aim is to model myself upon him. You do know he was also the greatest fighters of all Arthur’s knights, do you not?”

Now I loved that snippet of dialogue, because I think that Ms. Smith has artfully created the illusion of Sir Anthony actually speaking to us from the fifteenth century. But I am British, and I was made to read Shakespeare when I was twelve. Most American readers are going to find that kind of language too turgid, and the lack of contractions too awkward to read. One of the reasons why Phillippa Gregory is so successful is because her fifteenth-century characters talk in language that is considerably more modern and slangy. Which means that there are far fewer bumps for today’s readers.

This is a long novel, at 557 pages, longer than most. It must be clear to readers that Ms. Smith has done an enormous amount of work on researching this novel. But telling a wonderful story that will grip readers and carry them along demands a very different set of skills. Ms. Smith tells us that she went to great lengths to whittle down the research and make it more palatable for her readers.  But I honestly think that this novel would have benefitted from even more whittling down, because it sags in places.

Despite its flaws, I think that anyone interested in this period should give it a try, if for no other reason than that the research is impeccable.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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I get scooped

There are two kinds of historical novels, those which are about a real person from the past, and those which are about fictional characters set into an historical context.  Although agents prefer novels written about real people, the risk you take in writing such a novel is that someone else may have the exact same idea, and beat you to publication.

This has happened to me.

As you know, I have been trying to sell my novel ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, which is about Cecily Neville, Richard III’s mother. On Wednesday, I learned that Anne Easter Smith is to come out with a novel about Cecily titled QUEEN BY RIGHT.

Needless to say, I was very upset. Right now, I am a complete unknown who has failed to get the attentions of an agent, even though I have been trying to do so for a year. How I would have loved it if I had been first!

But this is the difference between being published and unpublished. Ms. Smith has three novels under her belt, which have sold moderately well. She has an agent. She has an editor. She has a publishing house. All she has to do is write, and I have to say she has worked with commendable efficiency to get a 500-page historical out in 18 months.

So what am I going to do about this?

I am going to wait.

I am going to stop promoting ONE SEED.

I am going to start promoting another novel I’ve completed, HE MUST BE SOMEONE, set in 1921 in Georgetown Washington DC, and Berlin Germany, which is a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets that takes us into the life of a gifted violinist.

I am going to buy QUEEN BY RIGHT when it comes out on May 3rd, and read it. I will probably write a book review to post on this blog. And I will hope that her novel does well, because if it does then I will have an audience eager to read another novel about Cecily.  Stay tuned.

Image: A photo of the model Heather Hayes posing as Cecily Neville. Photographer: Whitney Arostegui.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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I sign up for Unicorn Writers’ Conference

As I mentioned in a previous blog, my goal at the end of 2010 was to try and find an agent for my first novel ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED. While I had received some expressions of interest, by December 2010, no agent had signed a contract with me. I decided that my goal for 2011 would be to try and get my second novel HE MUST BE SOMEONE to an agent, while continuing to send ONE SEED around.

HE MUST BE SOMEONE is a very different novel from ONE SEED. While ONE SEED is set during the period of the Wars of the Roses, and is the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother, SOMEONE is set in 1922, and is the story of a young woman who goes to Berlin to study violin (based upon the true story of my violin teacher).

When stylish widow, Angelina Pagano Miller, invites a potential suitor to supper one  evening, things don’t go as planned. To Angelina’s chagrin, the mysterious dark-eyed stranger finds her seventeen-year-old daughter Grace more appealing.  Angelina seeks revenge by trying to find out who her daughter’s suitor is, but her efforts are derailed by her sudden death.

Grace and her sister Violet are hustled out of town, and finally wind up in Berlin, where Grace, a gifted violinist, is accepted as a student by one of the foremost violin teacher of the day. Grace dreams of having a career as a soloist, but inadvertently acquires two other suitors. What should she do? Should she pursue a career as a violinist, or should she marry? And if she does marry, which one will it be?  It is hard for Grace to decide, as she feels drawn to each of her suitors in turn. Finally, she shocks her family (and creates a minor international incident) by disappearing on the eve of her marriage to her aristocratic suitor, Count von Lietzow.  Where is Grace, and why did she flee?

I needed to get some feedback on this MSS, and so I looked around for various writing conferences that occur during the spring, so that I would just have time to fix up the MSS to send off to Squaw Valley, which occurs in August. I stumbled upon The Unicorn Writer’s Conference, which is going to take place in a castle in Portland CT. What I liked about this conference is the fact not only do they have interesting sessions to attend, but for a little bit extra you can sign up for a one-on-one with a speaker, an agent and an editor.  I lost no time in signing up!  The conference takes place on Saturday April 9. Stay tuned.

Next:  Why writing conferences are important.

Image: triobrioso.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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I do a photo-shoot

After getting that feedback from an agent, I decided to celebrate by doing a photo-shoot of Cecylee to make my novel seem more real. The plan was to shoot some photos that I would like to see as the book cover for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED.

I found Heather Hayes, a talented model who doesn’t just stand there with a blank stare. This lady has control over the expressions on her face. I thought she would be perfect for Cecylee. She found a friend, Whitney Arostegui, a photographer in New York. I found a gown and a wig, and we set off one glorious fall day to photograph in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York.

I was thrilled with the images I received a week later. My goal is to make the cover of the novel look so sumptuous that people will want to pick it up. I hope you agree.

Next: I register for the Unicorn Writers Conference

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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How to Publish Your Novel: The Year of Cecylee

After nearly a year of pitching agents, I thought I would start this blog so that I can write down what I’m learning about this process, both for myself and for the benefit of other people.

The novel I’m pitching is 120,000-word historical novel titled ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED. It is the Richard III story told through the eyes of his mother, Cecylee Neville.

I started in February, sending it out to batches of 15 agents. Out of the 42 agents that I contacted, two were interested. The first agent, from a top-notch New York agency wanted in an exclusive. So, in March 2010, I stopped everything dead to give her that exclusive.

It took her 3 months to read my manuscript. In the end, she didn’t take it. When I asked for feedback, she wouldn’t give it. I understand that agents are swamped with material, but I was not happy that my work was dismissed in this fashion. Unfortunately, we writers have the deck stacked against us, and if agents don’t give us feedback, there is nothing we can do except move on.

Next: I almost get representation.

Image: Cecylee Neville, my protagonist, in the summer of 1441, aged 26, when she met Blaybourne, an archer on the Rouen garrison.

Model: Heather Hayes. Photographer: Whitney Arostegui.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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