Friday, May 22, 2015

Fine historical fiction

This week at Crooked Cat Books (my esteemed publisher)  is featuring three historical novels, all highlighting fascinating eras. Immersed with great stories and impeccable research, these are a must-read for lovers of historical fiction. There is romantic adventure, The Beltane Choice, by Nancy Jardine; Maggie Secara's fantastic The Dragon Ring; and the gripping An Accidental King by Mark Patton. 
Delve straight into the past!.

Available in paperback and ebook formats at all popular online booksellers around the world. 

Look for more from me this weekend!

The Beltane Choice by Nancy Jardine

AD 71. 

Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her
secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara. 

When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover? 

An Accidental King by Mark Patton

79 AD. 

As he approaches the end of his life, Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus, the native-born but loyally pro-Roman client king of Britain, looks back on the thirty-six years of his reign. 

He recalls how, as a young man, he was seduced by the grandeur of Rome and the beauty of the written word; how he was befriended by the Emperor Claudius, and by the Roman General, Vespasian, later to rule as Emperor himself. He remembers the difficulties he encountered whilst trying to mediate between the British aristocracy and Roman officials who were often cruel and frequently corrupt. 

Most significantly he reflects on the Boudiccan revolt of 60/61 AD, which he tried to prevent, and in the course of which Britain was almost lost to Rome.
Roman Britain. One man. His fate.


The Dragon Ring, by Maggie Secara (that would be me)

9th century. And 16th, 18th, and 21st centuries

Reality TV host Ben Harper has a problem: he owes the king of Faerie a favor. So now he has to
track down the three parts of a Viking arm-ring, and return them to their place in time. This takes him through the wolf-haunted forests of Viking Age Wessex, the rowdy back streets of Shakespeare’s London, and a derelict Georgian country house. Partnered with caustic, shape-changing Raven and guided by a slightly wacky goblin diary, Ben must rediscover his own gifts while facing his doubts and the queen of Faerie’s minions, who will do anything to stop him. 

The Dragon Ring, the first in the Harper Errant series, is a time travelling epic adventure of magic and music which takes you to Old England, and leaves you enchanted.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Short-Story Year

It's apparently short story year, since both The Donovan Twist and Island of Echoes seem to have run aground (temporarily, I assure you.) 

Stories require a little more work from Faithful Readers to find and consume, but to make it worse, I have been very remiss about announcing or celebrating the publication of a number of them!

Here they are (so far) with links so you don't have ot track them down.

  • "Charmed and Strange" will be in Unsung Stories on July 31, 2015. Direct link provided when available. 
  • Jack's Day Out, a sort of ten-years-after sequel to a familiar story, in A Forest of Dreams (Indy Authors Press, 2014). Here's how it begins...
Once there were two brothers who went on a journey, setting out before dawn from their mother’s house. After riding for many hours through a meadow and then a wood, and finally a barren heath—none of them enchanted—their path came to an abrupt end at a broad chasm filled with light.

At their feet a wooden bridge spanned the gilded air. On the other side, low mist gathered white and gold, roiling up from the chasm like a passing storm. Hardly a barrier, magical or otherwise, when they could see from here it was only a few paces deep. The path clearly reappeared on the other side. A kind of stair, perhaps the flat faces of trimmed logs, cut into the steep rise of a hill between split poles that made a rail on either side. Too steep for their mounts.

The elder brother, Jack, sighed like a man who knew too much already, but said nothing. Perian, much his junior, laughed with delight.

“We’re almost there! Those are city gates, aren’t they? I can see them shining, just like you said! How hard can it be?”

 For more, you'll just have to pick up the book!

Monday, March 23, 2015

100 words: Princes of Serendip

I wrote this last year for Spooky Halloween Drabbles (Indy Authors Press, 2014). Then Chuck Wendig called for 100 word flash fiction last Friday, and I thought I'd share it here, (and therefore there) as well.

     So I'm downtown, walking in Shadow having just dined, and this guy is slouching towards me out of Faerie. He’s ordinary, mostly: long hair, sharp features, a perilous look in slitted eyes. Too many teeth. I notice him, but I have places to be. Then soft on the air, I hear the liquid syllables of my name. I freeze, he laughs.
     “Remember the whale bao? The girls of Sang de Bayeaux?
     Now I have to look right at him, damn it.
     "No, sorry, I don’t.” 
     It’s not quite a lie. There are rules, and my hands are ringed in iron.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is That So Stories: How the Maggie Got Its Name

Once upon a time, a few years ago, the Word-PC email list had quite a few seriously heavy hitting power users, including two or three Word MVPs. I was not one of them. I’m just a user. Well, okay, a sophisticated user. I write for a living and Word is the principal tool of my trade. I pick things up, and I like to pass them on when I can. You don’t have to be an MVP to be of use on a busy mailing list.

Now in days even longer gone by, I was working on a huge, old fashioned software manual, intended for print. It ran to about 500 pages, with a graphic on almost every page. I was using a modified form of Information Mapping which, as you probably know, means a lot of tables. (We’ll skip over any question of why I wasn’t using a Master Document . Or Framemaker. I was, at least, keeping each chapter in its own file.)

Lots of graphics. Lots of tables. Well, you know where that can lead, and so it did, early and often. About the same time, I discovered a listserv called Techwr-L where, among many other things I learned that quite often the answer to a document that has gone wonky is to get rid of all the garbage that Word is keeping for you (god knoweth why) stashed in the final paragraph mark of the document. It quickly became a kind of mantra. Someone would explain their problem and someone else would ask: Have you tried this?

Turn on Show/Hide. Copy everything EXCEPT the last paragraph mark into a new document and save it with a new name. Do not just do Ctrl+A Ctrl+C Ctrl+Z, that won’t help. You’ll probably lose headers and footers, and some other details, depending on how fancy the document is, but that’s trivial compared to losing everything. If you’re using sections, do the same thing for each section, one at a time.

It worked! It’s brilliant! I loved it!

Skip ahead again to the Word-PC list and its many and delightful gurus, including the quirky Australian, Steve Hudson. Over a period of maybe a week, we had a whole lot of people come to the list with a variety of seemingly insoluble, I’ve-tried-everything problems. Clarifying questions were asked. Macros were invented or modified, some of them dizzying in their elegance and complexity. Numerous lines of VML were written. Variables got all sorts of clever names. Bickering was occasionally colorful. And yet, nothing seemed to do the trick.

And each time, in this brief period, I’d wait while the Wise did their stuff, feeling utterly outclassed, as you can imagine. And then in my meek, small voice (stop laughing!) I’d post:

“Have you tried copying everything EXCEPT the last paragraph mark into a new document and saving it with a new name?”

poof. Problem solved.

This kept happening, off and on, for days, until Steve Hudson started to say, by way of saving time: "Have you maggied the document?" Of course that didn’t mean anything to anyone, so he’d still have to explain it, but it sort of caught on. At least it became part of the Word-PC group’s internal jargon. Months later, Steve was speaking at a conference or two somewhere and introduced it to an even wider audience! It got into conversations on Techwr-L, Copyediting-L, and who knows where else. It still tickles me to see it used, and even more when someone says “Is that you?”

Yeah, she says humbly. That’s me. 

What can I say? I’ve never been a verb before.

See also: