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