The Story of a Novel – an idea takes shape

A few weeks ago, I wrote about beginning a new novel. That post – The Story of a Novel – featured four research books and two potential plot ideas. Having now read Double Cross by Ben MacIntyre – unfortunately, not his usual page turner – I’ve dipped into The Paris Game searching for clues about Charles de Gaulle’s whereabouts during WWII, and read several chapters of The Longest Day, which seems to be superbly written. The life of an author has its perks.

All the while, the laptop beckoned.

Two weeks ago, I could no longer resist the temptation to set down some ideas for Claire’s story. Not surprisingly, there’s no title yet. Just a glimmer of how the plot might come together after I realized how many novels feature soldiers, spies, code breakers, and everyday British people involved in World War Two. What if, I thought, Charles de Gaulle and other French leaders were to play a role of some sort in this new novel?

Hmmm. And that prompted more thoughts and more digging around to see if I could construct a timeline of de Gaulle’s whereabouts from 1940 to 1945 and develop an understanding of the role the Free French organization played during the war. I wish I could read French, as I’m certain I could find other sources explaining the French perspective.

Where has all this noodling led?

In one document, I’m building a timeline of de Gaulle’s whereabouts. For example, on November 29, 1940 de Gaulle does a radio broadcast on BBC from London. I don’t know what he said, but I plan to find out. On January 24, 1943, he’s in Casablanca with Churchill and Roosevelt and General Henri Giraud, a fierce rival for leadership of the Free French.

In a second document, I’m jotting plot points for how Claire might get involved with de Gaulle and where all that might lead.

Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post

Early days, of course. Just a very rough shape at the moment – like a sculptor making the first strikes on a piece of marble.

I’ll be back with more developments.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Of Kings and Griffins – an interview with author Judith Starkston

Please welcome author Judith Starkston to the blog. Her latest novel – Of Kings and Griffins – launches today. Here’s what one reader had to say about book #1 of the series: A delightful story that carried me off to a lavish, half-historical, half fantasy world. The result of the author’s mingling of fact with fantasy was a tale I didn’t want to put down.

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Mary kindly invited me to join her on her blog today to describe the historical fiction I write and how it has changed over time. In my case, the changes have been so extensive, I have ended up writing fiction that straddles two genres—historical and fantasy.

I write novels focused on the life of an extraordinary queen—which is true, of course, of a lot of historical fiction. As readers, we are eternally captivated by royal women. “My” queen, however, steps onto the page from an unusual period of history, the Hittite empire of the Late Bronze Age, and she brings along some magic.

The queen I call Tesha, (her real name was Puduhepa) first appears in the historical record around 1274 BCE. She ruled for decades over the powerful Hittite empire, stretching roughly across what’s now Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Her great rival, Ramses II, the Pharaoh in the Biblical story of Moses, is well known, but, unfortunately, Puduhepa is considerably less so, because the world of the Hittites was lost to history for so long—literally buried in the sands of time. This remarkable queen corralled Ramses II, diplomatically speaking, into a peace treaty that suited her needs far more than his. He was a notoriously arrogant bully, so that’s an immensely satisfying moment in history to me. The clay tablets of that agreement, the first extant peace treaty in history, are on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. This ancient female leader doesn’t get nearly the attention she deserves. My novels focus on the early part of her story as she met the great love of her life and followed a very bumpy road to power. 

Along with being, eventually, an influential queen much admired in her own time even if forgotten later, she was also a priestess who had visionary dreams from her goddess. “Tesha” in Hittite means “dream,” hence my choice of name for her. She performed elaborate rites that we would call magical. The instructions for many of these ceremonies also survive on clay tablets. They often fall into the category of “you couldn’t make this up” and provide a wild and rich source to develop the magical, fantastical elements of the series.

Grounded as I am in history—my training was as a classicist—I didn’t start off envisioning my novels as a combination of history and fantasy. I thought I’d write historical mysteries, using this smart, puzzle-solving queen as my “sleuth.” It wasn’t until I became fully immersed, that I realized the Hittite predilection for psychologically fascinating magic was a vein of gold to mine deeply. I also began to find layers of international intrigue that raised the stakes for my characters and moved the plot of each book beyond the question of who killed whom. My historical fiction had taken “a quarter turn to the fantastical,” to borrow Guy Gavriel Kay’s term. It has been a dramatic journey. As you may notice from the cover of the latest book in the series, Of Kings and Griffins, I also adopted as characters the mythical griffins depicted in Hittite artwork and adorning the walls of ancient throne rooms—and griffins are even more fun than dragons! 

Of Kings and Griffins is book 3 in the Tesha series but is easily read as a standalone. The two earlier books in the series are Priestess of Ishana and Sorcery in Alpara.

For more about Judith Starkston, her newsletter, and the historical background of her novels go to her website.

Of Kings and Griffins by Judith Starkston ~~ A vicious king, vengeful griffins, and a scheming goddess. Can Tesha outmaneuver foes from these three different worlds?

For Tesha, priestess and queen, happiness is a world she can control, made up of her family and the fractious kingdom she and her husband rule within the Great King’s empire. But now the Great King is dead, and his untried son plots against them. Tesha fights back with forbidden sorcery and savvy. In yet another blow, the griffin king lures Daniti, Tesha’s magical blind sister, into a deadly crisis that Daniti alone can avert.

As danger ensnares everyone Tesha loves, her goddess offers a way out. But can Tesha trust this offer of divine assistance or is it a trap—one that would lead to an unstoppable bloodbath?

Escape into this award-winning epic fantasy series, inspired by the historical Hittite empire and its most extraordinary queen.

Many thanks, Judith! Best wishes for your latest novel. I’ve already put it on my TBR list!

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Ladies of the Civil War

Author G.S. Carr provides the backdrop for a series she’s written about women of the Civil War. She’s also written The Cost of Love series and one book in Westward Home & Hearts series. When not crunching numbers and gushing over spreadsheets, she’s creating stories. Her tagline is Heart, hope and love to last through the ages. Many thanks for visiting today, GS.

Women have been kicking butt and taking names for centuries. They have defied cultural and societal expectations, resulting in many great feats of courage and changes to our world on both a micro and macro level. In honor of the many wonderful women of the past that have laid the groundwork for where we are today and where we will go in the future, I wanted to create a historical romance series based on a set of brave women, fighting for a set of principles they believe in. 

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This is how my newest series Ladies of the Civil War came to be. While watching a documentary about the Civil War with my husband I heard a brief mention of a woman who was in the Andersonville Confederate prisoner camp. Needless to say, that inspired me to embark on a research road trip. It was such a great experience being able to drive down to Georgia and visit the historical Andersonville site. Below is a picture I took of what the fort looked like while in use. 

During this trip not only did I leave with a new respect and deeper understanding of what many male soldiers went through. I also learned about some of their brave wives who accompanied them in the encampments. Now for those of you who are history aficionados this may not be news to you. But for this young lady who barely made it out of high school U.S. History, my mind was blown (writing historical romance has sparked my now love of learning about history). 

Andersonville Prison

Also during this trip, I found a gem of a book titled, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil Warby DeAnne Blanton and Lauren Cook Wike. If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend it. It helped to further expand my understanding of the various roles women assumed during the Civil War. From spies, to nurses, to soldiers, and much more, they were amazing. The book highlights several women who disguised themselves as men to fight in various battles. For example, Sarah Emma Edmonds, who went by the alias Pvt. Franklin Thompson and served with the 2ndMichigan Infantry.

During further research I found out about a woman named Cathay Williams. She enlisted in the Army under the name William Cathay on Nov. 15, 1866 (post Civil War) when she was only 22 years old.

 Cathay was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry and traveled throughout the West with her unit. Her bravery makes her go down in history as the first documented black woman to enlist in the Army (even though U.S. Army regulations forbade the enlistment of women at the time).

I was honored to learn about this amazing woman! I stand upon her shoulders, and the shoulders of many other women just like her, who bucked the status quo and changed the course of history. My hope is to live a life worthy of their sacrifices and create a new wrung in the ladder for the next generation. 

So needless to say, I had to give these women a story. The inspiration was too good not to use. And that is how three women, Henrietta, Ruth, and Abigail came to be. During a slightly inebriated game of cards, these friends make a promise that they will all find a way to serve the Union Army. And if navigating how to fulfill their promise wasn’t enough of a challenge, of course I had to toss in how they try to navigate the complicated landscape of love. 

Book one, Lady of Secrets, is already available on Amazon. Book two, Lady of Disguise, will be released soon. Henrietta is catapulted down a path of intrigue, coded messages, and intelligence operations. And Ruth disguises herself as a man to fight as a Union solider. 

These books were so much fun and an absolute honor to create. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Happy Reading!  

I understand your fascination with women serving in the army, GS. I remember reading of several women who served alongside men when I was writing my WWI novels. Such courage is hard to fathom.

Lady of Secrets by G.S. Carr ~~ Henrietta Wright is a Free Colored woman who teaches reading and writing to anyone who enters her classroom. At least she was, until a drunken night with friends catapults her down a path of intrigue, coded messages, and intelligence operations. All in service of the Union Army. She can’t tell anyone what she’s doing, including the handsome Irishman she knows she shouldn’t want, but can’t seem to resist.

Since stepping onto American soil, Elijah Byrne’s only goal has been to survive another day. That is until Henrietta burst into his life and made him want more. She was never meant to be his – her fiancé can attest to that – but she makes him long for things men like him aren’t lucky enough to have. When she asks for his help, he can’t resist tumbling with her into a clandestine expedition that could cost them everything—including their lives.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.