Sunday 30 December 2012

Happy New Year!

As the end of December draws near, it’s a time for reflection on the events of the past year. Just over a year ago I published my first book, Conquering Passion. I've often  repeated that my secret hope at that time was to sell 100 books over the course of a year.
I was astounded as the year progressed and readers embraced my novels, now twelve in all. It has been an epidemic of writing!
My secret hope began to whisper furtively about possibly selling 10,000 books, which I surpassed a few months ago. And so inevitably the goal became 20,000 by December 31st.
I am thrilled to announce that as of today, December 30th, my total sales (digital and paperback) stand at 20,119.
I owe a great debt of gratitude to many of my fellow indie authors who have willingly shared their expertise and support. Also to the people at Free Partay. Participation in their promotional events has boosted my sales exponentially every time, and I have learned a great deal about marketing from Carolyn McCray and Taylor Lee.
Thanks too to the members of my RWA chapter on Vancouver Island, particularly Mimi Barbour and Jo-Ann Terpstra for their constant positive support.
The biggest thanks of all go to my heroes and heroines who have generously revealed their life stories to me from 900 years ago!
Actually, my most heartfelt thanks go to my readers who have taken the Montbryce family to their hearts.
There are lots more stories to come, though I don’t promise to produce twelve more novels in the coming year! I am working now on Dark Irish Knight, due out in February. It’s the story of Rhoni Montbryce, the babe born in captivity in the mountain fortress of Cadair Berwyn.

In January 2013 I will be launching a series I have called SHARE THE WEALTH WEDNESDAYS. I have invited other authors to share their stories with you.

I wish everyone only good things for 2013. 

Tuesday 27 November 2012

I Owe It All to Freecell

On November 28th 2011, I published my debut novel, Conquering Passion

I have mentioned before that I did not know what to expect, but thought I would be pleased as punch if I sold 100 copies in a year.

One year later I have published 12 books on Amazon and have sold more than 16000 books. Writing and publishing have become an obsession, and Amazon makes it so easy to feed my addiction, especially when they send me generous checks! I certainly never expected to make any money for at least a year. What did I know!

However, I have to come clean and confess that I owe much of my success to FREECELL!

Yes, my name is Anna Markland and I am a Freecellaholic! Plus a SpiderSolitaireaholic!
I used to feel guilty about the amount of time I spend playing these online card games. But I have come to realize that a pattern in my playing has emerged. I turn to Freecell or Spider Solitaire when I have reached a block in the writing process.
Lo and behold, after letting my impasse simmer in the back of my mind while playing, a solution invariably presents itself.

One would think my success level in these games would have increased, but alas, such is not the case!
So I now embark on year two of my writing journey guilt free and buoyed by my success so far. I have even started to throw in the occasional game of Minesweeper!

Friday 23 November 2012

Where the Heck Is Aragon?

Catherine of Aragon
Mention Aragon and most people think of the Queen divorced by Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon.
In the Middle Ages, Aragon was a kingdom in the northeastern part of Spain. It included what is now Catalonia. The map at right demonstrates that a large part of Spain was still dominated by Muslim peoples in 1214. The struggle by the christian kings of Spain to reconquer Spain went on for hundreds of years, and is also part of the plot of my book, set in 1107.
 In modern times, Aragon is a region of Spain that does not extend to the coast.

Aragon is the setting for my latest release, Dance of Love. My hero and heroine cross the Pyrenees Mountains into Aragon from France.

Aragon is a land of castles, monasteries and magnificent scenery.
Loarre Castle, near Huesca

I hope you will enjoy reading something of the history of Aragon in the early part of the 12th century from my book, Dance of Love.

Monday 19 November 2012

Welcome, Mimi Barbour

I am delighted to welcome Mimi Barbour to my blog today. We are both members of the Vancouver Island chapter of Romance Writers of America, and Mimi has been a tremendously helpful mentor to me. Today she is sharing a little of her writing journey with us. One of her books is FREE today on Amazon (see details below).

Years ago, after I had written my very first book (which still resides in the oldest files on my computer), I knew I needed to find others like myself who were serious about a writing career.

Chicken right down to the elastic on my undies, I wouldn't tell anyone in my personal world about my new favorite pastime. Not me! I was still very green to the writing world. I guess I worried they might jeer, or tease and make fun. I knew if anyone scoffed or didn't take me seriously, I’d be emotionally wounded. All my life, my imagination would kick in anytime I drew on it, so I felt strong enough about this path to fantasize about my impending wealth, just not that confident in my writing ability.

 I needed to make contact with others who had the same interest, people who could teach me all about the craft and the business. New friends, like myself, who were serious about being an author. Look and you shall find said…?? Humm, someone must have said it because I didn't make that line up. Anyway, I did look and I found the local RWA group, met some wonderful woman and have never looked back. 

It was through one of my new associates that a contest being offered by a small e-publisher called The Wild Rose Press came to light. Something inside me pushed that button – you know the one that says – go for it! What do you have to lose? - So I entered. Unfortunately, my submission didn't come close to following their guidelines. What can I say? I almost never do what I’m told….sigh!!
They’d asked for a novella-length story, which had to be about a woman who would walk through a garden gate in a small town in England called Bury. They even had a picture of an old house and a garden gate for us to visualize. Once the protagonist walked through, she must go back in time to one of four eras. I chose the Vintage era. Since I’d lived through the fifties and sixties, I figured how hard could it be? Course it didn't enter my head that I hadn't lived those years in England. Uh huh…I know!

My raging imagination kicked into overdrive and I thought it too tame to just have my heroine walk through a dumb ole gate. So I had her go through the blasted thing, sit on a vicarage bench and prick her finger on a magic rose bush. Then to make matters even worse, instead of letting the girl end up in her own body, I had our heroine, gorgeous but spoiled model Jenna, go back forty years to invade the body of a librarian, chubby, lovable Lucy. So the two of them reside together in one body, and the antics are hilarious. Had such fun writing this story!

Needless to say, my submission wasn't accepted into the contest, but their editor offered me a stand-alone contract. And so began the series called The Vicarage Bench. The first three books “She’s Me”, He’s Her” and “We’re One” are novellas. 

Then determining that I should write full-length, I did so for the next two “Together Again” and “Together for Christmas”. After taking a hiatus from this series to write my Angel books and the Vegas series, I am working again on the next book for the Vicarage Bench called “Together Always” and expect it to be published next year around this time. 

Happy to announce that today, She’s Me is “FREE!!” on AMAZON, as is my medieval romance Passion in the Blood.

Sunday 18 November 2012

The Shamshir

A Shamshir is a type of sabre with a curve that is considered radical for a sword: 5 to 15 degrees from tip to tip. The name is derived from Persian shamshīr, which means "sword" (in general). The radically curved sword family includes the shamshir, scimitar, and others.

Originally Persian swords were straight and double edged. The curved scimitar blades were Central Asian in origin. The earliest evidence of curved swords, or scimitars, is from the 9th century, when it was used among soldiers in the Khurasan region of Central Asia.

The shamshir is a one-handed, curved sword featuring a slim blade that has almost no taper until the very tip. Instead of being worn upright (hilt-high), it is worn horizontally, with the hilt and tip pointing up. It was normally used for slashing unarmored opponents either on foot or mounted. The tip could be used for thrusting.

Izzy de Montbryce, the hero of Dance of Love, suffers from debilitating arthritis in his hands. Imagine a warrior unable to wield a sword.

Enter the heroine, Farah, who has travelled from Jerusalem with a shamshir. She is a dancer who uses the blade in her performance of the Sword Dance. The weapon proves much easier for Izzy to use, but for Farah it is a treasure whose value goes far beyond the material. It is a link to her past. She cannot part with it when she leaves to continue her journey.

Monday 12 November 2012

Can Love Produce a Miracle?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks flexible (synovial) joints.

About 1% of the world's population is afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, women three times more often than men. Onset is most frequent between the ages of 40 and 50, but people of any age can be affected.

In my latest release, Dance of Love, it is the hero, Izzy de Montbryce, who is afflicted.

RA can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility. Imagine a medieval warrior who cannot wield a sword when his condition flares.

Fortunately, my heroine, Farah, has studied medicine in the east, particularly the treatises of an Islamic physician, Al-Kindi. He was born in Basra three hundred years before my story, which is set in 1107 AD. His father was the emir of Kufa. His family were direct descendants of the King of Kinda, companion of the Prophet. He was highly revered as a great physician by Muslim peoples.

Farah compounds one of Al-Kindi’s recipes for easing the pain of arthritis. Here is the medieval recipe for Drug for the Spirits:

(modern weight equivalents included)
Colchicum 12 mithqals 53.53 grams
Leaf of Meccan Henna 1 mithqal 4.46 grams
Caper leaf 1 mithqal 4.46 grams 
Pepper 1 mithqal 4.46 grams
Long pepper 1 mithqal 4.46 grams
Cinnamon 1 mithqal 4.46 grams
Indian cumin 1 mithqal 4.46 grams
Ginger 1 mithqal 4.46 grams
Dry Storax ¼ mithqal 4.46 grams
Cuttlefish bone ¼ mithqal 1.115 grams
Sal ammoniac (fossil salt) ¼ mithqal 1.115 grams
Salt ¼ mithqal 1.115 grams

The ingredients of this recipe are pulverized and kneaded with honey. One dose is 5 dirhams (15.625 grams), which is taken with food.

Al-Kindi uses colchicum instead of colocynth. The colchicum is counterbalanced by the use of ginger to prevent accidental poisoning. The salts and dry storax are used to decrease the toxicity. The use of cuttlefish bone and the salts help flush the colchicum out of the body after it has served its purpose. The use of caper leaves, long and black pepper, cinnamon, and ginger helps the digestive system maintain its regularity, with the caper leaf activating the bowels. One of the problems with the use of colchicum is its actions on the bowels allows them to act too freely, so the use of henna leaves are used to prevent diarrhea. Another problem with the use of colchicum is the decrease in the heart rate, so the use of cinnamon is used to regulate the heart, and it is used to prevent spasms and strokes.

Known as Al-Kindi in the Western world, Abu Yusuf Ya’qub ibn. Ishaq al-Kindi was most likely born in Basra in 800 C.E. Although Al-Kindi was educated in Baghdad in philosophy, he is a major figure in the translation of Greek, Persian, and Syriac works into Arabic. As for Al-Kindi’s works, there are over 300 known treatises from many different subject matters. Little more is known about his life except that he died sometime after 870 C.E.
(Thanks to MUSTO, CHRISTOPHER JOHN. The Ancient and Medieval Pharmaceutical Treatments for Arthritis, Gout, and Sciatica. (Under the direction of Dr. John M. Riddle)). 

But there is something else Farah does for Izzy that helps him overcome his physical limitations. However, telling you what it is will spoil the story!

The plot revolves around the possibility of miracles. Farah believes in them, Izzy does not. 

I have dedicated the book to all who suffer the debilitating pain of arthritis.

Monday 5 November 2012


While researching the monasteries of Spain for my latest release, Dance of Love, I found this gem. The monastery of San Juan de la Peña is a religious complex south west of Jaca, in the province of Huesca, Spain. It was one of the most important monasteries in Aragón in the Middle Ages. The monastery is built in a natural cavern beneath a huge rock. Its two-level church is partially carved into the stone of the great cliff that overhangs the foundation. San Juan de la Peña means "Saint John of the Rock".

The lower church includes some mozarabic architectural surviving elements, although most of the parts of the monastery (including the impressive cloister, under the great rock) are Romanesque. After a fire in 1675, a new monastery was built. The old monastery (built in 920) was declared a National Monument on 13 July 1889, and the new monastery in 1923. In the 11th century the monastery became part of the Benedictine Order and was the first monastery in Spain to use the Latin Mass. In my story they are still using the Aragonese language.
Tucked into a natural cavern

The second floor contains a royal pantheon of kings of Aragon and Navarre. It contains the resting places of the following kings of Aragón: Ramiro I, Sancho Ramírez, and Peter I of Aragon and Navarre. Sancho Ramirez is the one we are interested in for Dance of Love. 

Legend said that the chalice of the Last Supper (Holy Grail) was sent to the monastery for protection and prevention from being captured by the Muslim invaders of the Iberian Peninsula.
The background of the cover is the interior of the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña 

Thursday 25 October 2012


You won’t be surprised to learn that my upcoming release, Dance of Love, centres on the theme of dancing. My heroine, Farah, is a Spanish woman respected as a gifted dancer.

The closest thing to the type of dance I envisioned her performing is the SEVILLANA, though on the cover she is performing the Sword Dance, another of her specialties. The video clip at the end of the post will give you a good idea of sevillanas.

Sevillanas are a type of Spanish folk music. Historically, they are a derivative of Castilian folk music (seguidilla), spiced with Arabic rhythms. They have a relatively limited musical pattern, but rich lyrics, based on country side life, towns, neighborhoods, pilgrimage, and love themes.

Sevillanas can be heard in southern Spain, mainly, in fairs and festivals, including the famous Seville Fair, La Feria de Sevilla. There is an associated dance for the music: "Baile por sevillanas", consisting of four different parts. One can find schools teaching "baile por sevillanas" in nearly every town in Spain.

Generally speaking, a sevillana is very light and happy music.

The Sevillana did not originate in Seville. It is an old folk dance, danced by couples of all ages and sexes during celebrations (fiestas or ferias), often by whole families and pueblos. Sevillanas choreography is very stable, and knowing it is very useful, since it is a fiesta dance. It is a very vivid dance, but it is NOT flamenco. Paradoxically, during spectacles and shows it is usually Sevillana dancing that some people take for flamenco, as it is full of turns.

The dance can be very erotic and sensual, although the pair will never touch each other until the final moments when the man will put his arm around the waist of the woman to finish the dance. The sevillana was originally a courting dance where the man sets out to woo the woman in a display similar to two mating flamingos. In the old Spanish tradition, young couples were limited in their courting practises, the man would spend the night talking to his novia, through the iron grills of her door or window, and if they did get the chance to go for a walk, they would most definitely be chaperoned by the girl’s mother, sister, or whole family.

The feria week would be the only time that the man could show his affection to the girl, asking her to accompany him in the dancing of sevillanas, and this is most probably why there is little physical contact, as the whole night would be watched over by her family.

Today the sevillana is danced at any form of get-together, whether it is the feria, a wedding, or at a family party, where all and everyone present will join in. For many, dancing the sevillana is just routine, something they have grown up with and learnt simply by being constantly surrounded by it, although there are many schools where you can go to learn it.

It is normally far better and enjoyable when performed by everyday Andalucians rather than professional or trained dancers, because even though the movements are set to a pattern, it is a dance of the people, and when they are simply enjoying themselves, it will be far more entertaining.

The casetas or small bars at the feria will be bursting with people who for one week of the year will forget about everything other than enjoying themselves, and like all fiestas in Andalucía, the colour, the theatrical scenes, and the traditional dress, all combine to make a most wonderful experience.

Dance of Love will be available in early November.

Thursday 18 October 2012

How To Become an Alpha Male (You Will Laugh)

(Leave a comment to qualify to win a free draw for a copy of any one of the four Montbryce Legacy books-your choice PRINT USA/CAN; DIGITAL INTL). Three Grand prizes are also available. You as a reader can go to EACH blog listed below and comment with your email address and be entered to win. Yep, you can enter over 200 times!
Now what are those prizes? 
1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet
2nd Grand Prize: A $130 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
3rd Grand Prize: A Swag Pack!*

First the Serious Stuff.
Romance authors are fond of referring to their heroes as alpha males as if the romance genre invented the term. In fact dominant males in the animal kingdom have always been referred to as alphas. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In social animals, the alpha is the individual in the community with the highest rank. Where one male and one female fulfill this role, they are referred to as the alpha pair. Other animals in the same social group may exhibit deference or other symbolic signs of respect particular to their species towards the alpha.

The alpha animals are the first to eat and the first to mate; among some species they are the only animals in the pack to mate. Other animals in the community are usually killed or ousted if they violate this rule. Animals tend to live in groups with a specific social order due to their natural tendency. The leader of the pack is called the alpha male; there may also be an alpha female depending on the species.

The alpha achieves its status by means of superior physical prowess, though it can also employ social efforts and build alliances. The individual in the alpha position usually changes when another challenges it to a fight and wins. In some species the fight may be to the death. Alphas may have to fight individuals in their own group several times to maintain their position throughout their lifetimes.
The Alpha Male symbol-
A popular modification of the Greek letter  
There's no doubt alpha male images help sell romance books

Chimpanzees show deference to the alpha of the community by ritualised gestures such as bowing, allowing the alpha to walk first in a procession, or standing aside when the alpha challenges.

Gorillas use intimidation to establish and maintain alpha position. A study conducted regarding the reproductive behavior of male mountain gorillas found further evidence that dominant males are favoured to bear offspring, even when there is a greater number of males in a notably enlarged group size.

Given the popularity of wolves in romance fiction, it’s interesting to make a few observations about alpha males in canines who show deference to the alpha pair in their pack by allowing them to be the first to eat and, usually, the only pair to mate. Canines use eye contact to maintain alpha position, but in order to establish their position they often have to show physical superiority, through playing or fighting. Modern knowledge of wolves dismisses the idea of alpha male in a pack, favoring the concept of breeder wolf, in the sense that in these animals the pack leader is simply the common parent, and its status is not obtained by fighting.

Now, the FUN stuff!
It would be interesting for an author to investigate whether one or more of his/her protagonists measure up to these characteristics. But much more fun would be to read about alpha males from a male perspective. The following article is from a blog about how to improve dating relationships and describes how to become an alpha male!

Please excuse the grammar and spelling errors. The writer evidently does not feel those skills are prerequisites of an alpha male! I apologize that in places it was beyond my self control not to comment! Take a deep breath and enjoy! 

Hey Mate,
As many of us have observed, getting women just comes naturally for a few guys. They seem to have been born with alpha male characteristics. Regardless that it is beyond aggravating for several, especially if you’ve don’t even been along with one woman, it will eventually also be a source of extreme insecurity when making the choice to take a bootcamp or improving your own alpha male characteristic. How to become an alpha male is extremely important to you.

After all, are we weaker men? Are we seriously lack of alpha male characteristic and we will never get it in the future? Of Course NOT! That is why we need to put effort into something on how to become an alpha male that is so important to us. Learning regarding alpha male characteristic is one of the most important investment of your time and money. Here are 10 different reason on why you must learn on how to become an alpha male:

1. End the Frustration
Most men who’ve come to this point in their life are far beyond fed up. A few of you going to explode. (Stand clear!) Not understanding attraction is a serious source of insecurity, depression, and resentment. All that negativity is not doing the individual any favors.

2. Gain Confidence
Having the ability to attract quality women gives us a massive feeling of power.(a line worth remembering for your next novel!) That’s a part of who we’re, and it makes us feel like a full man. This will build your confidence in yourself, and it is going to spill over (pardon the pun) into all areas of your own life. Of course, women like confidence, so your success of building up an alpha male characterisitc has continued benefits for yourself in your life.

3. A couple of Men Just Can’t Learned (only a couple?)
Several of us never learned what can we do to properly socialize. (Understatement of the year) This isn’t necessarily another reason to hate your parents; possibly they can’t learned how either. But we are social creatures and have social needs. Will not sit around dwelling on how unfair that is that others learned this stuff growing up by observing their parents—get out there and do something to close the gaps.

4. Your Methods Can’t Work
Maybe a number of the material pickup artists use seems corny. Possibly you think it would possibly not even work. Maybe you simply feel insecure for the reason that other guys will not need this stuff. Who cares? What you’re doing isn’t working. Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the identical thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yeah, I learn you might have heard that quote a million times—so why aren’t you listening? (He actually quotes Einstein!)

5. Men Are at a Disadvantage (LOL)
Women spend a huge chunk of their lives talking on the subject of love and sex. Men, meanwhile, brag on the subject of how they are likely to go to the bar and get laid but afterward stand around clutching their beer. By learning more about what women want and opening up the lines of communication between other men, we can close the gap.

6. One and all Can Do Better (No comment!)
Not you are the only one who learning on how to become an alpha male. Even the best players in the world have room to improve. Everyone can get better, and seasoned pickup artists are constantly adding to their game. The guys who’re natural on alpha male characteristic have been practicing their whole lives; they just can’t realize it.

7. Have the Power
Maybe you do fine with women. You go out on a regular basis and always take someone home. You might have had several solid relationships and have girls you’ll be able to call on a whim. But be honest along with yourself—did you go for them or did they go for you? There’s a big difference between having women to sleep together with and having the choice to sleep together with the women you want.(?)

8. Will not Settle
Most relationships start for the reason that a guy finally found someone to sleep with him and it evolved into a long-term thing. He frequently finds himself looking at other women, not just in prefer but wishing he could have them instead. With the correct and power skills, you are able to have the most beautiful, gifted woman achievable. To settle for something you are not happy together with is not fair to you or the woman you spend your life along with.

9. Even Women Think it is a Proper Theory! (What about Odd Women?)
A massive number of women have found out the seduction community as it hits the mainstream. Many have read The Game and browsed the most renowned forums.(Anybody know the links for these?) As they get a sense of what that’s really concerning, most show support and say all guys should figure out this stuff, for the reason that nearly all of us are just clueless when it comes to love and sex.

10. Your Life WILL Improve
The top part about learning this material is by focusing on being better with women you’re certainly focusing on being a better person. The qualities women wish in men are not negative, regardless of the typical “women like jerks” myth.
Your habits will improve.
Your own appearance will improve.
Your own friends will improve.
You can become a more well-rounded person.
That’s astounding what this stuff does for your own life.

Your reasons for deciding to change this source of frustration and build up alpha male characteristic that can attract many pretty girls or possibly just build on what you already have is really up to you. Only you understand what is finest for your life. Only you learn if you are unhappy along with your current situation. But the fact of the matter is that regardless of what your motivations are for trying a new approach to your own love life, this material will have significant benefits, not only on how to become an alpha male.

If there’s a crisis, this is a enormous solution. If there isn’t a problem, you are able to improve. It is in fact a win-win situation.

(Seriously, I DID NOT make this up! The genius who wrote this even has a link to "The Lazy Man’s Way To Easy Sex and Romance!").
Here's a graphic from another site. I love #7!
From another website
*Please note 3rd Prize is not available internationally.
Visit These Blogs

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Forgive My Grasshopper Mentality

I have something of a grasshopper mentality when it comes to inspiration for my characters and their stories. If you prefer to read sagas in chronological order, here’s a handy list. Links to all my books are in the Amazon widget to the right.

1065—Conquering Passion—Montbryce Legacy I
1066—If Love Dares Enough—Montbryce Legacy III
1066—Defiant Passion—Sons of Rhodri I *
1087—A Man of Value—Montbryce Legacy II
1100—Passion in the Blood—Montbryce Legacy IV
1106—Dark and Bright—Sons of Rhodri II
1107—The Winds of the Heavens—Sons of Rhodri III
1107—Dance of Love (Dec 2012)—Montbryce-The Next Generation III
1113—Carried Away—FitzRam Family I
1120—Sweet Taste of Love—FitzRam Family II
1124—Wild Viking Princess—FitzRam Family III

 *The complete Sons of Rhodri Trilogy is available in paperback from Amazon.

If you like stories with medieval breeds of dogs, you’ll enjoy If Love Dares Enough, Carried Away, and Wild Viking Princess. If you have a soft spot for cats, read Passion in the Blood.

If you are looking for historical fiction centred on a certain geographic region:
English History—all books
Norman French History—all books
Crusades—A Man of Value
Welsh History—Conquering Passion, Defiant Passion, Dark and Bright, The Winds of the Heavens
Scottish History—Conquering Passion, A Man of Value, Sweet Taste of Love
European History (Holy Roman Empire)—Carried Away
Danish History—Wild Viking Princess
Spanish History—Dance of Love (Dec. 2012)

If you like to read about historical characters:
William the Conqueror—Conquering Passion, If Love Dares Enough, Defiant Passion
William Rufus—A Man of Value
Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy—Passion in the Blood
Henry I of England—Passion in the Blood, Sweet Taste of Love
Heinrich V, Holy Roman Emperor—Carried Away
Vikings—Wild Viking Princess
Kings of Aragon (Spain)—Dance of Love (Dec. 2012)

Tuesday 18 September 2012

The Big Reveal

I am delighted to announce the unveiling of new covers for my third medieval romance series, The FitzRam Family.
The completion of this project signifies a milestone for me. All ten of my published books now have professionally designed covers.For this series I worked with Steven Novak, ( who also did the covers for Mimi Barbour’s new releases, Partners and Roll the Dice. Like Mimi, I can heartily recommend him.
The process of working with a designer to produce covers can be a trying one. Sometimes it’s hard to achieve a meeting of the minds. Steven was open to all my ideas and willing to make lots of changes. He wanted me to be comfortable with the finished product, and I am!
Special thanks to fellow authors Mimi Barbour, Helen Scott Taylor (Oceans Between Us) and Lois Lavrisa (Liquid Lies) for permission to use quotes from their reviews.
So without further ado, here are the covers.

Sunday 16 September 2012

A Brief History of Schleswig-Holstein

Map of Denmark 1570

The setting for my latest release, Wild Viking Princess is the island of Strand, which in medieval times was located off the west coast of Denmark. As I described in a previous post, the island was torn apart by a vicious storm in 1634, and became three islands.
The history of the region is a long and complex one. Those lands now belong to Germany. Below is an attempt to simplify that history by means of a timeline.

450 - 500 Angles, Saxons (the Anglo-Saxons) and Danes from the area that would much later be known as Schleswig-Holstein raided England after the Romans had left. They found the fertile land good for farming, and settled, bringing their families over
798 Charlemagne defeated the north-Elbian Saxons, supported by his Slavonic allies who had settled in eastern Holstein 400 years before.
804 Charlemagne began to have fortified settlements built north of the Elbe-River, beginning with Hamburg - which was never part of Schleswig-Holstein. He drove several thousand Saxon families out of their homeland, and made them settle in southern Germany (Bavaria, Suabia, Rhine-area).
from 804 Beginning of Christianisation of the pagan North, churches were built.
900 Haithabu, a thriving town that would later be rebuilt as Heddeby, was a trading-post of European importance. The population was mainly Danes and Vikings from Sweden.
800- 1100 The land north of the Elbe-River and Hamburg was raided and dominated by Danes. The Franks, whose dominance in Germany was taken over by Saxon rulers, tried to keep up their influence. My latest release, Wild Viking Princess, is set in 1124 AD.
Reconstructed Viking village
1111 Adolf I. of Schauenburg was installed as Count of Holstein. He and his heirs brought peace and Christianity back to Holstein. Many towns and churches were founded and built during the rule of the Schauenburgers. Dutchmen, Frisians and Westfalians were called into his county, of whom especially the Dutchmen and the Frisians were experts in dyking, and in turning marshes and moors into fertile land and safe ground. They came as colonists, stayed and settled, mixing with the native population. The Slavonic people in eastern Holstein were gradually integrated into Holstein, with the help of the Bible, patient colonisation, and mainly the sword. Schleswig remained under Danish rule, with a mixed population of Danes and Germans.
1200 - 1203 Holstein, Hamburg, Luebeck and Ratzeburg fell into the hands of the expansive Danish Kings, Knud (- 1202) and Waldemar II., who ruled from 1202 to 1241.
1227 Battle of Bornhoeved. A decisive battle amongst several that had been fought before. Holstein was reconquered, and the Danish policies of expansion were ended.
1227 - 1460 This period may be called "struggle for dominance in Schleswig", Danes and Germans claiming and negotiating their rights.
abt. 1350 The "Black Death", the bubonic plague, haunted Denmark and the duchies. Especially the west coast and the islands were afflicted. Of an estimated population of 420 000 souls in both duchies in 1340, there were only 230 000 left in 1353.
1440 Holstein and Schleswig united under Adolf VIII. of Schauenburg, the last of his line.
1460 Treaty of Ripen: the Danish King Christian I. was installed as Duke of Schleswig and Count of Holstein. He had to grant privileges to the knighthood of the two lands and to their people. Apart from that and before all, he vowed that Schleswig and Holstein would remain forever undivided.
1474 Holstein became a duchy.
1500 The Battle of Hemmingstedt. The Duke of Holstein, King Hans of Denmark, attempted once again (after his predecessors had failed in 1319 and in 1404) to bring the renitent Dithmarscher population under his yoke, to make them pay their dues. He had hired 4000 fierce mercenaries, the Black Guard, who were followed by 2000 knights of all noble houses of Schleswig, Holstein and Denmark, and another 5000 armed subjects. The Dithmarschers, highly outnumbered, battled for their independence once more, and did so successfully, for the last time.
1569 Dithmarschen's last feud. The King of Denmark came with an army of 18 000 well armed followers and took the country. The Dithmarschers had to acknowledge his reign, and to give up their old parliamentary system of self-administration.
1618 - 1648 The Thirty Years' War brought devastation over Schleswig, Holstein and vast parts of Europe. The German Emperor sought to reinstall the Catholic Belief in all of Germany, after Protestantism according to Martin Luther's doctrines had spread over most parts of northern Germany during the bygone century. What had started off as a religiously motivated crusade turned into a European war, with shifts of power and territorial changes in the end. Schleswig and Holstein were afflicted by heavy looting, and also by diseases the passing troops were the carriers of, especially the bubonic plague once again. Those who survived fled from their farms. It took a long time until Schleswig and Holstein had recovered from that cruel war.
16th century map of Denmark
1634 The North Sea coast and islands were destroyed by a tremendous flood that tore apart everything that hard-working Frisians and Dithmarschers had built to protect their land from the sea's destructive force. The large island Nordstrand was washed into the sea, leaving only two small fractions to exist after the deluge. Of the 8 600 inhabitants, only a quarter survived.
1700 - 1721 The Nordic War between Sweden on one side and Denmark, Poland and Russia on the other, saw Schleswig and Holstein as a battlefield again. Marauding troops devastated large parts of the duchies.
1760 - 1800 Peaceful times, for a change. Reformation of the archaic structures in farming: fields that had been used by all villagers were split up into individual property, and the whole territory belonging to a village was restructured, into larger units and with new roads. Moors and bogs were colonized by settlers from southern Germany, who also introduced the potatoe as a staple food into Schleswig-Holstein, where people had been used to live of buckwheat, oats, and cabbage mainly.
1800 - 1805 Serfdom was abolished in both duchies. One of the points of conflict in my novel is the Danish tradition of thralldom, or slavery.
1813 King Friedrich (Frederic) VI. of Denmark had opted to join arms with Napoleon, the expansive-minded French ruler. The war had brought the economy to the ground, and the Kingdom was bankrupt. Whose riches were counted in bankdrafts or cash money, he became a poor man in 1813. And Prussian, Swedish, and Russian troops invaded Schleswig-Holstein, bringing destruction over the duchies. The Russians did not leave until December 1814.
1814/15 The Duchy Lauenburg came under Danish rule (the Danish King became Duke of Lauenburg).
1815 The "German League" (der Deutsche Bund) was established, Holstein part of it, but remaining under Danish rule (the King of Denmark was the Duke of Holstein. He represented Holstein in the German National Assemblies. He was also the Duke of Schleswig, but Schleswig was not part of the "German League").
1815 - 1848 Nationalistic and patriotic activities on both sides of the Eider-River, mainly about the status of Schleswig, which was the focus of interest of Germans and Danes likewise.
1848 The Danish King granted the Duchy Holstein the right of a constitution of its own, and, under strong patriotic and nationalist influence, decided that the Duchy Schleswig should have a constitution that was valid for the whole Danish Kingdom, with Schleswig part of it. That would have eased the long-standing union of the two duchies apart, by way of political and administrative means. The duchies installed a provisional government of Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel, under the German flag and under the colors of hope for a united German Schleswig-Holstein: the new flag in blue, white, and red.
1848 - 1851 Uprise and war against Denmark. Schleswig-Holsteiners fought along with many volunteers of all Germany, and a very strong Prussian contingent. Denmark came out victorious at the end. Many casualties on both sides.
1852 - 1864 Denmark forced the Danish language upon large parts of Schleswig, to be spoken in schools, at court, and in church (in turns with services in German). Dismissal of pro-German officers from the army, of pastors and teachers, of functionaries in public office. Many Schleswig-Holsteiners opted for emigration under those oppressive circumstances, hoping to find in America or Australia what they could not find here.
1863 Prussian and Austrian troops marched into Holstein to secure German interests.
1864 Denmark imposed the all-Danish constitution upon the Duchy Schleswig. Conflicting views about the rightful succession for the office of the Duke of Schleswig. Prussian and Austrian troops fought the war with the duchies, driving the Danish army out of Schleswig-Holstein. With the Treaty of Peace of Vienna, the Danish Kingdom renounced all claims and rights in the duchies Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg. The people of Schleswig were given the option of choosing Danish citizenship within the following six years. Many made use of that offer to avoid military service under Prussian conditions. They became Danish subjects living in Prussia, without political rights.
1864 - 1866 Holstein under Austrian administration, Schleswig and Lauenburg under Prussian.
1866 Prussian - Austrian War about dominance in the German League. Austria defeated. All three duchies under Prussian administration. Universal conscription was introduced, a three years term of service became compulsory for everyone.
1867 Schleswig-Holstein-Lauenburg (the latter officially in 1876) were integrated into the Kingdom Prussia. The duchies were ruled from Berlin. The Schleswig-Holsteiners became "Must-be-Prussians". The dream of a state of their own was over. A rise in the number of emigrations ensued.
1870 - 1871 Germany (Prussia, rather) at war with France.
1871 Establishment, foundation of the "German Reich" (das Deutsche Reich). The duchies, now called "Regierungsbezirk Schleswig", as a Prussian province, being part of it.
1914 - 1918 World War One, Germany defeated. Denmark remained neutral.
1919 Treaty of Peace of Versailles. It was decided that the northern German border in Schleswig should be redrawn, taking into account the will of the people, to be expressed in a referendum, with the choice of Danish or German citizenship.
Denmark today
1920 The new border between Germany and Denmark was drawn as it still exists today. There remained, however, Danish minorities living this side of the line, as well as German minorities in Denmark, each with the privilege of the use of their language and the cultivation of their national heritage.

Saturday 15 September 2012

The Norse Gods

The Norse Gods are mythological characters that, as far as we know, came from the Northern Germanic tribes of the 9th century AD. These stories were passed down in the form of poetry until the 11th – 18th centuries when the Eddas and other medieval texts were written.

Norse mythology comprises the pre-Christian beliefs and legends of the Scandinavian peoples including those who settled on Iceland where most of the written sources for Norse mythology were assembled. Norse mythology not only has its gods, goddesses and immortals but also a myriad of other characters and creatures that populate the stories including giants, dwarfs, monsters, magical animals and objects.

In my book, Wild Viking Princess, I have referred to several Norse gods. Though my story takes place well into the Christian era (1124AD), many Scandinavians continued to hold a curious mixture of pagan and Christian beliefs.

My hero, Reider, calls on Freyja, goddess of Fertility, to bless his heroine. Freyja (modern forms of the name include Freya, Freja, Freyia, Frøya, and Freia) is considered to be the goddess of Love and Beauty, but is also a warrior goddess and one of great wisdom and magick. She and her twin brother Freyr are of a different “race” of gods known as the Vanir. Many of the tribes venerated her higher than the Aesir, calling her “the Frowe” or “The Lady.” She is known as Queen of the Valkyries, choosers of those slain in battle to bear them to Valhalla (the Norse heaven). She wears the sacred necklace Brisingamen, which she paid for by spending the night with the dwarves who wrought it from the bowels of the earth. The cat is her sacred symbol. There seems to be some confusion between herself and Frigga, Odin’s wife, as they share similar functions; but Frigga seems to be strictly of the Aesir, while Freyja is of the Vanic race. The day Friday (Frejyasdaeg) was named for her (some claim it was for Frigga).

My heroine, Ragna, has a dog called Thor, named after the God of Sky, thunder and fertility. He is associated with law and order in Asgard and guardian of the Norse gods. He is the son of Odin and Earth and husband of Sif. He is also known as the “thunder god” and “charioteer”. Among many tribes Thor actually supplanted Odin as the favorite god. He is considered to be the protector of all Midgard, (the realm of mankind) and he wields the mighty hammer Mjollnir. Thor is strength personified. His battle chariot is drawn by two goats, and his hammer Mjollnir causes the lightning that flashes across the sky. Of all the deities, Thor is the most “barbarian”; rugged, powerful, and lives by his own rules, although he is faithful to the rest of the Aesir gods. The day Thursday (Thorsdaeg) is sacred to him.

Thor is married to Sif, a fertility goddess, and he also had a mistress, the giantess Jarnsaxa with whom he had two sons, Magni and Modi and a daughter, Thrud. Thor is helped by Thialfi, his servant and the messenger of the gods.

Thor was the god of war, thunder and strength. He destroyed the enemies of the gods with his magic hammer. It was he who chased away the frosts and called gentle winds and warm spring rains to release the earth from its bondage of ice and snow. He was also the god of the household and of the common people. He even married Sif, a peasant woman. The lightning’s flash was his mighty hammer, Mjollnir, hurled in battle with the frost giants, and the rolling thunder was the rumble of his fiery chariot.

Thor was a good-natured, careless god, always ready for adventure, and never tired of trying his great strength. He could shoulder giant tasks with the greatest ease and slay bulls with his bare hands. For sport he sometimes rode among the cloud-veiled mountains, hurling his hammer at their peaks and cleaving them in two.

Thor is usually portrayed as a large, powerful man with a red beard and eyes of lightning. Despite his ferocious appearance, he surpassed his father Odin in popularity because, contrary to Odin, he did not require human sacrifices. In his temple at Uppsala he was shown standing with Odin at his right side. This temple was replaced by a Christian church in 1080.

Other deities making an appearance in the book include Vàr - the goddess of oaths, and Màni, the god of the moon. Wild Viking Princess is available from Amazon for $1.99.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

An Island Swept Away

In the Middle Ages the island of Strand, off Denmark's west coast, encompassed approximately 210 square miles. I used this island as the setting for my latest release, Wild Viking Princess.

A disastrous storm tide in the year 1634 tore the island apart, long after my hero (Reider) and heroine (Ragna) lived there in 1124 AD. 

I visualized my hero striding along this beach
6000 people drowned in the disaster, and one island became three, Nordstrand, Pellworm and Hallegin.

Nordstrand today is a peninsula, linked to the mainland by the Beltringerharder, a polder of land reclaimed from the sea. 

Pellworm Lighthouse
Pellworm today
Nordstrand beach today
All three islands now belong to Germany, but my hero, Reider Torfinnsen, is Danish. In fact he is the Prince of Strand. The history of this part of Europe, known as Schleswig Holstein, is complex. I will attempt to clarify it in a future article.

Nordstrand is the origin of a locally famous alcoholic beverage, the Pharisäer ("Pharisee"), which the islanders developed in 1872 to be able to drink alcohol in the presence of local pastor Georg Bleyer, who preached abstinence. It is made from strong hot coffee, sugar, dark rum and whipped cream (to prevent the alcohol from evaporating, so that it could not be smelled). The pastor usually got the only cup without rum, but one day the cups got mixed up. When he discovered the deceit he exclaimed "Ihr Pharisäer!" ("You Pharisees!"). Hence the name.