Monday, August 23, 2010

Book giveaways and where to find more great indie authors

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Crown in the Heather (Paperback) by N. Gemini Sasson

The Crown in the Heather

by N. Gemini Sasson

Giveaway ends Sept. 15th, 2010.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Since the book giveaway for The Crown in the Heather at The Historical Novel Review blog drew way more entrants than there were copies to give away, I've sponsored another over at GoodReads. You may enter between August 23rd and September 15th and must be a U.S. resident. (Apologies to those across the pond and down under, but the postage costs me more than the book.) Interested in more free books? Check out all the book giveaways at GoodReads!

The Crown in the Heather can be purchased online worldwide. In addition to the Kindle version at, U.K residents can now download the Kindle book from

Don't own a Kindle? Visit any Amazon site and download 'Kindle for PC' or any one of various Kindle apps for your iPhone, Android, or iPad.

Own an e-reader other than a Kindle? CITH is now available at Smashwords. This is also a great place to download a sample of the first portion many books to see if you like them enough to buy the whole thing.


For those readers who like to find the undiscovered gem in indie authors, here are some sites that regularly feature book reviews and interviews:

  1. Kindle Nation Daily - This one is huge and probably has the largest readership. Tons of information here on everything Kindle!
  2. The Indie Spotlight - I like sites like this that cover multiple genres, fiction and non-fiction. This site is run by Greg Banks and Edward Patterson who devote huge amounts of time to helping other authors.
  3. Breakout Books - Started by Dawn Judd, this is another site that regularly posts reviews.
  4. Kindle Author - Hosted by David Wisehart. A great place to learn more about indie authors and their books.
  5. Kip Poe's Blog - More author interviews and books.
  6. Spalding's Racket - This one gets quite a few visitors every day.
  7. Kindle Cheap Reads - Looking for a bargain? $5 and under finds.
***Know of other sites that feature indie authors? Feel free to include the URL and blog or site name here in the comments and I'll add them. I've been amazed at the support among indie authors and the number of readers willing to give them a try.

(((More exciting news coming soon!!!)))

Until later,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell delivers another action-packed treasure in The Burning Land, fifth installment in his paragon Saxon Tales, set in 9th century Britain. Once again, Uhtred of Bebbanburg rises to his reputation as King Alfred’s formidable warlord and snatches another great victory from the Danes, this time at Farnham. While his family grows and Gisela provides comforting familiarity, two other women – Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred, and Skade, a cruel and enchanting Danish sorceress – tug Uthred’s fate in opposing directions. At a time when it seems he is never more more highly valued by Alfred, an insult from a proclaimed saint incites an act of sacrilege and Uhtred becomes an outlaw on the run, seeking the fortune that will propel him back to power and seal his fate as Lord of Bebbenburg.

From the blood-soaked battlefields of Saxon versus Dane, where one can practically hear the guttural battlecries and clang of weapons, to the cold, spume-capped North Sea as Uhtred voyages on Seolferwulf, The Burning Land is perhaps the best so far of the series. Not only does Cornwell give us a superbly paced tale of adventure, impossible odds, unlikely trysts and a revolving appearance of old allies and sworn enemies, but here we begin to glimpse an Uthred who is not only wiser and more far-thinking, but willing to risk seizing vengeance for the sake of a promise.

I’ve been a Cornwell fan since picking up one of the Grail Quest series in Scotland a decade ago. With an author as prolific as Cornwell, one might expect his stories to become more formulaic and his characters flatter, but in my opinion the opposite is true here: Cornwell somehow manages to get better with every story. This is one of those rare books I could read again. If you like historicals rife with battle scenes, perilous tales of adventure and an antihero who is, at the core, loyal and recklessly courageous, then don’t miss this The Burning Land.

Happy Reading,

Friday, August 13, 2010

What the reader brings to a story

I just finished reading Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie. Like all of Albom's books, it speaks about our connections with others and really made me think about what's important in life. So I rushed over to GoodReads to give it 5 stars and was surprised to see its ratings cover the spectrum. Some readers (probably the ones who cried when Bambi's mother died, like me) loved it and gushed over the message saturating every page; while others likened it to a Hallmark greeting card and slapped a single star on it. I figure the latter must be cardboard cut-outs devoid of souls.

There have been many times I've loved a book and been shocked to hear others hated it. Hated, as in used it for smashing cockroaches and then tore out the pages and fed them to the fire for kindling. Then again I'm the sort who doesn't continue reading a book if it doesn't suck me in within the first 25 pages. Why bother finishing a book if it isn't enjoyable - unless it's required reading for schoolwork? My time is too valuable to invest hours in a book that I can't relate to or don't find interesting.

A conversation on a book forum recently really stuck with me. The talk wandered onto asking writers whether they read their reviews online and how would they react to a bad review? Every writer gets those from time to time. I've had a few myself. The first ones knocked the sunshine right out of me for a good week. I fantasized about writing acidic retorts, pointing out that the reader obviously didn't 'get it'. But I resisted (read I'm too timid to be that assertive) and nowadays, while I can't say I'm not disappointed to get them, I do accept that the story just didn't work for that reader. Not everyone loves a particular genre or writing style. I understand and I'm totally okay with that. There are certain books that just don't work for me. Actually, being a picky reader, I'd say most books don't work for me. But when I find one I really, really like, I rave about it.

Some books are going to resonate with more readers than others. Some cause strong feelings - and not always the good kind. But why is that? Why can I read the same words, in the same format, and interpret it differently than someone sitting right next to me?

Because ultimately it's the reader who determines the quality and value of a story and they can only read into a story what they bring to it. What we, the readers, experience throughout our lives and ultimately come to value has everything to do with whether or not a story has meaning to us. Some folks like descriptions so detailed you could paint a picture based on them. Some like a lot of action so the book plays out in their head like a movie. Others (meaning me and likewise enlightened individuals) like stories that make us feel something, be it fright, longing, compassion or hope. My husband likes a good how-to book - which is a wonderful thing, because the man can build or fix just about anything under the sun. (Personally, I find how-to books booooring. Heck, I don't even have the patience for instruction manuals.)

There's a reason there are soooo many books out there. We aren't all going to love the same ones. But every now and then, I pick up a book that carries me away. I'm entertained, interested, learning something new or am just plain dazzled by the rhythm of the words . . . and sometimes I even find meaning in it. Aren't books a wonderful thing?

P.S. Stop by Historical Novel Review by midnight Eastern (U.S.) time Aug. 14th to enter the giveaway to win a copy of Ann Weisgarber's The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. You can read my review there, as well as an excerpt and an interview with Ann. Just leave a comment on any of the posts to enter.

Happy reading,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Free stuff, kind words and news

In conjunction with a lovely review, Historical Novel Review is offering a free signed copy of The Crown in the Heather, The Bruce Trilogy: Book I. Just pop in, mention why you're interested in Robert the Bruce and leave your contact info. You'll be notified if selected and your autographed copy will be zipping on its way to your doorstep!

I'm still getting over the shock of signing books. There's always a moment of, "Who? Me? Are you sure? But why?" Then I remember that this is why I scribbled in solitude all those years, so folks would have something to read that they'd hopefully enjoy for a few hours or days (or weeks sometimes, if you're a slow reader like me).

I'd also like to acknowledge all those thoughtful readers and reviewers who have taken the time to write down a few kind words about my very first book, both at and on their blogs:

Anita Davison at The Disorganized Author (who will be published by MuseItUp Publishing in 2011)

Greta van der Rol (author of Die a Dry Death, about the 17th century wreck of the Batavia off the coast of Australia)

Lisa Yarde at The Brooklyn Scribbler (author of On Falcon's Wings, set in the time of William the Conqueror)

The Crown in the Heather is available in paperback and as a Kindle book, where you'll frequently find it in the top 100 for the category History > Europe > England. That's pretty thrilling (pinch me, please), considering 1) it's in its first month of release on Kindle, and 2) it's stacked up against some perennial powerhouse writers like Alison Weir and Carolly Erickson.

Tomorrow, Aug. 10th, I'll be featured on The Indie Spotlight - Woot woot! Can't wait to see it myself, as I've totally forgotten what I wrote for the interview portion.

For those who've asked when my next book will be out, I'm mad at work on Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer. (If you'd like to take a peek at the awesome cover, it's up on my author web site). It should be available in paperback and on Kindle sometime in early September 2010. Meanwhile, I'll be adding The Crown in the Heather to the Smashwords line-up shortly for those who own other e-readers besides Kindle.

P.S. Historical Novel Review is having a big week and from Aug. 11-15th is also giving away copies of Ann Weisgarber's The Personal History of Rachel DuPree and from the 16-19th a pendant of Catherine de Medici to celebrate the release of C.W. Gortner's The Confessions of Catherine de Medici - so do stop in!

Happy reading,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Robert and Elizabeth Bruce: A Love Story

In August of 1306, Elizabeth Bruce was captured by the Earl of Ross at St. Duthac on the shores of Dornoch Firth. With her were the Earl of Atholl, her stepdaughter Marjorie Bruce, and her sisters-in-law Mary and Christina. They had been on their way to the Orkney Islands, where they could later board ship to either Ireland or Norway. But instead of finding refuge, they were handed over to King Edward I of England, Robert the Bruce’s enemy.

Awhile ago, I blogged more in depth about The Capture of Elizabeth Bruce, but today I’d like to take a step back and examine the bigger picture about the far-reaching effect that Robert the Bruce’s love for her had on his decisions and actions.

When Robert first met Elizabeth de Burgh in 1300 at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, she was staying with her aunt Egidia, who happened to be married to James Stewart, predecessor of the royal Stewart line of kings. Robert’s first wife Isabella, sister to the Earl of Mar, had died in childbirth four years prior and Elizabeth was now caring for his daughter Marjorie. While Robert only stayed part of the winter at Rothesay, he has obviously fallen very deeply in love with her in that short period of time.

At the time, Robert was estranged from his father, who was then living in England and had remained obedient to Edward I, sometimes known as Longshanks. Robert and his father had been at odds ever since Robert had joined with the Scottish rebels at Irvine in 1297 against English forces. Although no battle took place at Irvine, Robert had marked himself as an enemy in defiance of Edward’s overlordship.

After meeting Elizabeth, he was faced with an impossible dilemma – because Elizabeth’s father was the Earl of Ulster, another steadfast adherent to the English king. As long as Robert remained a rebel, he could not have Elizabeth, nor could he have Scotland’s crown.

For months, Robert struggled with how he could marry the woman who had so undeniably stolen his heart, while still retaining his pride. In the end, he swallowed his pride and love won out. Robert submitted later that year to Longshanks at Linlithgow, vowing his loyalty. For nearly five more years, Robert deftly played the part of the faithful liegeman, doing Longshanks’ bidding, even though it earned him the spite of his fellow Scotsmen. Because of this, Robert is often looked upon as an opportunist and in some ways he was. Longshanks had intimated that the throne of Scotland, having been stripped from the inept John Balliol, would pass to a Bruce. Robert, seeking a way to win the crown without bloodshed, played along, because he was well aware of the power of the English army and the blood feuds that divided Scotland, preventing its unity.

As the years passed, it became increasingly clear that Longshanks had no intention of letting a Scot rule Scotland. And so Robert began to plot his rebellion, lining up allies in Scotland well in advance of any action. But when John the Red Comyn betrayed his plans to Longshanks, events rapidly precipitated. There was no longer any reason to hide his ambitions.

Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scots at Scone in 1306. But following a battle at Methven, in which the Scottish forces were soundly defeated by the Earl of Pembroke, the remnants of Robert’s army fled through the wilderness. Eventually, his wife, daughter and sisters rejoined them. But another defeat at the Pass of Dalry, this time by the Scottish lord, John of Lorne, resulted in Robert sending his womenfolk away. Which brings us back to Elizabeth’s capture.

For eight years, they were separated . . . until, following his historical victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, Elizabeth and Marjorie finally came home – their return bargained for by an exchange for The Great Seal of England, which had been captured in the aftermath of the battle. Obviously, his wife and daughter were the first thing on his mind.

While much is made of Robert the Bruce as warrior and diplomat, it often amazes me that more is not made of a man who was obviously so deeply in love with this woman that he relinquished his pride and scraped his knees before the very man he detested for denying his family its proper inheritance.

It is hard to say what might have happened had Robert never fallen in love with Elizabeth - whether he would have eventually claimed the crown anyway, whether he would have succeeded in uniting a kingdom fractured by age-old blood feuds, or whether Bannockburn would have ever occurred in light of all those other challenges and possibilities.

That, my friends, is a love story worth telling. History has a human side to it, sometimes very tender and noble.

***Drop by Historical Novel Review August 8th-10th for a chance to win a copy of The Crown in the Heather!***

Until later,