As you know, self-published/indie authors have to do it all, from editing to cover design to marketing and more. Self-Published Saturday is my attempt to help a little bit with the marketing side of things for self-published/indie authors. This post features a book I reviewed for the November issue of Historical Novels Review (HNR), the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. Below is my 5-star review. HNR must have agreed with me because they made this book an editor’s choice.
The Hanoverian Army, having won the Battle of Culloden in 1746, storms the northeastern Scottish Highlands, intent on crushing its clans. Seven-year-old Duncan hides while his family is burned to death. In 1747, five-year-old Rowena loses her mother, who dies in childbirth. Duncan is taken in by a priest, and then is passed to Rowena’s father, who teaches him the art of smuggling whisky. Rowena soon befriends Morna, the green woman, who eventually passes on to her the healing skills of the natural world. Years later, Hugh McBeath, a ruthless exciseman who has arrived to end the whisky smuggling in the area, is captivated by Rowena’s beauty. Although he thinks she is a witch, he wants her for his wife. Duncan, meanwhile, is the best smuggler in the glen, but feels he can never be worthy of the lovely and gifted Rowena.
Beautiful and breathtaking, this Scottish historical novel transports you to the sweeping beauty of the Highlands. The dialect is perfect for the period, and the lush descriptions of the scenery take the reader straight to the moss-covered mountains of Scotland. The story is alive with folklore as we learn of “wild places” and “faeryhills.” Because she is learning the art of healing and is sensitive to “the trees and their spirits,” Rowena is often thought of as a witch in a time when witches were tried and killed. The whisky-smuggling culture of the Highlands, and the reason for it, is also explored. Full of deception, treachery, love, folklore, and kinship, Under a Gravid Sky is a heartrending but passionate saga set in a tough and sometimes heartless time.
I received a free copy of this book via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela MacRae Shanks was born in Garmouth, a village near the mouth of the River Spey in northeast Scotland, and still lives near here. Her mother was born in Strathavon, a real place, and this remote glen is very dear to her heart. Here she first heard tales of the dramatic history of the area, its people and their struggles, and became fascinated by it. Growing up in Moray, a beautiful part of Scotland known as ‘malt whisky country’, an interest in the area’s illicit past grew, particularly the smuggling of whisky and the reasons behind it. Her fascination with the natural world and the folklore of the Highlands, combined with her training in natural therapies spawned a need to weave herbal lore into her tales. Those who healed using plants and the wisdom of nature, usually women, were often condemned as witches – she felt the need to explore this injustice. And so The Strathavon Saga was born.
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This is the first of the books I reviewed for the November 2021 edition of Historical Novels Review Magazine, and it is one of my favorites. Historical Novel Society just made this book an Editor’s Choice.
I had to wait to share these with you, but now that it’s November 1st, I can start posting the reviews I wrote two to three months ago. Enjoy.
In Windsor, England, 2019, Amelia is completely without family, having lost her daughter and then her parents to serious illness. Without any surviving relatives, she is adrift and contemplates selling the family home in Windsor. When fulfilling the last request of her mother to clear out the attic, she finds some intriguing photographs of a large estate in Pembrokeshire featuring the Attwater family. When Amelia uncovers the diary of Osyth Attwater, she realizes she may have discovered some family secrets.
In Pembrokeshire, Wales, 1883, young Osyth Attwater is a dreamer and writer who awaits the gathering of the Attwaters, her storytelling family, at their oceanside mansion each year. There is a wind chime in the garden that signals the arrival of relatives, and she greatly looks forward to the tales they will tell. But then she overhears a conversation that will shatter her world.
This dual timeline novel of family secrets, fairy tales, missing pieces, and a special wind chime is both enchanting and compelling. In their separate timelines, Osyth and Amelia both search for answers. The theme of mental health, and how it was managed in 1883 versus the present, is explored. The secrets that families keep and the reasons they keep them is examined in heartbreaking detail. The pace and flow of this book are gorgeous, and we are caught up in the beauty of Wales, the magic of fairytales, and the mystery of family secrets. With Amelia, we piece together puzzling bits of family history and try to see the whole picture. The Wind Chime will engage all of your senses as you see the gorgeous Victorian mansion, feel the heartbreak, smell the ocean air, taste the tears of grief, and hear the wind chime calling you home. This is a soul-touching and captivating read. Highly recommend.
I received a free copy of this book from Sapere Books via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.
Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!
Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and story telling.
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.
Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by a small independent press, Inspired Quill.
Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.
Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, which has been featured on BBC Radio Cumbria, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.
ELEONORA AND JOSEPH: PASSION, TRAGEDY, AND REVOLUTION IN THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT BY JULIETA ALMEIDA RODRIGUES
Publication Date: July 21, 2020 New Academia Publishing/The Spring Paperback & eBook; 198 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical
The novel opens with aristocratic Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel pleading with the High Court of Naples to be beheaded instead of hanged like a criminal. One of the leading revolutionaries of her time, Eleonora contributed to the establishment of the Neapolitan Republic, based on the ideals of the French Revolution. Imprisoned in 1799 after the return of the Bourbon Monarchy – due to her work as editor-in-chief of Il Monitore Napoletano – and while waiting to be sentenced, she writes a memoir. Here, she discusses not only her revolutionary enthusiasm, but also the adolescent lover who abandoned her, Joseph Correia da Serra.
While visiting Monticello many years later, Joseph discovers Eleonora’s manuscript in Thomas Jefferson’s library. Now retired, Jefferson is committed to founding the University of Virginia and entices Correia with a position in the institution, once it opens. As the two philosophes explore Eleonora’s writing through the lens of their own lives, achievements, and follies, they share many intimate secrets.
Told from Eleonora and Joseph’s alternating points of view, the interwoven first-person narratives follow the characters from the elegant salons of Naples to the halls of Monticello, from the streets of European capitals such as Lisbon, London, and Paris to the cultured new world of Philadelphia and the chic soirées in Washington. Eleonora and Joseph were both prominent figures of the Southern European Enlightenment. Together with Thomas Jefferson, they formed part of The Republic of Letters, a formidable network of thinkers who radically influenced the intellectual world in which they lived – and which we still inhabit today.
“Rodrigues’ writing is beautiful, and she brings the historical characters to life. The novel is told in alternating chapters, interspersing the conversations between Joseph and Jefferson at Monticello with Eleonora’s memoir, which Joseph is reading. The scenes at Monticello are fascinating, with Joseph and Jefferson discussing a wide range of topics, including slavery, revolution, and science. Rodrigues makes the reader sympathize with the protagonists, and the book left me wanting to read more, especially about Eleonora.” – HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY REVIEW
“Eleonora and Joseph is a passionate novel of love and revolution. In 1799, Eleonora Pimentel stands before the High Court of the Kingdom of Naples. She has been accused of treason. During her trial, Eleonora pens a memoir, giving details of the life events that led up to her arrest. Eleonora’s life was revolutionary in thought, word, and deed.Julieta Almeida Rodrigues’ Portuguese roots shine brightly in this romantic historical novel. The narrative is fictional, yet full of historical accuracy.” – READERS’ FAVORITE REVIEW
“The complex, contradictory characterizations and historical details of the Enlightenment era are skillfully handled and clarified in straightforward but descriptive prose that will satisfy both academic and non-academic readers. The most interesting player of all is Eleonora, a “martyr of liberty” whose illustrious life ends tragically at the gallows in 1799 with some of her fellow revolutionaries in Naples.” – THE US REVIEW OF BOOKS REVIEW
“Julieta Almeida Rodrigues brings these colorful historical figures to life and marries their worlds in a narrative that is vividly written, capturing not just their lives, but an era on the cusp of unprecedented social, political, and cultural change. As Thomas Jefferson plays a key role in creating the circumstances which bring Eleonora’s journal – and its revelations – to new life years after its creation, readers receive a satisfying contrast of European and American environments that embraces and explores moral, ethical, and social conundrums alike.” – MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, Donovan’s Literary Services
“Brimming with pathos and rich in character, this is a knockout… Lush and electrifying, Rodrigues’s vibrant tale about love, morality, and duty is a searing depiction of the Enlightenment. Rodrigues’s intelligent writing brings the era alive while revealing the complexity of her vividly drawn characters. By turns luminous and tragic, the novel will ensnare readers from the first few lines and lingers in the memory long after they turn the last page.” – THE PRAIRIES BOOK REVIEW
“Eleonora and Joseph is my best read of the year so far. It’s rich in history, character, and flair. The story is told with a genuineness that prods the heart. It evokes profound questions that linger behind long after you turn the last page. Considering these factors and the impeccable editing, I rate it four out of four stars. Julieta’s work holds so much history, passion and utter brilliance within its pages that I would recommend it to anyone interested in history.” – ONLINEBOOKCLUB REVIEW
“This book allows the reader into the inner workings of this radical time where many opposing ideals were fought and died for. It is refreshing as a lover of historical fiction to read an original story like Eleonora and Joseph that brings to life important historical characters and events from a fresh new angle and lens.” – NEW PAGES, Stephanie Renee dos Santos
About the Author
Julieta Almeida Rodrigues is a writer, professor, scholar, and interpreter. Born and raised in Portugal, she earned a Ph.D. at Columbia University. She is the author of two collections of short fiction, The Rogue and Other Portuguese Stories and On the Way to Red Square. The latter is a fictionalized account of her life in the diplomatic circles of Moscow in the 1980s (New Academia Publishing, Washington DC). She published a narrative work about Sintra, Portugal, entitled Hora Crepuscular/Drawing Dusk/La Hora Crepuscular (Agir, Execução Gráfica). She is a member of the Pen Club of Portugal, the Fulbright Commission Team of Evaluators in Portugal (2014 Prize for International Cooperation, the Prince of Asturias Foundation), and of CLEPUL, Center for Lusophone and European Literatures and Cultures, Faculty of Humanities, the University of Lisbon. She has taught at the University of Lisbon and at Georgetown University, and has been a Visiting Scholar at the New School (twice). She has spoken at the Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State, The Chawton House Library in the United Kingdom, The International Conference on the Short Story, The American Portuguese Studies Association, and the Historical Writers of America, among other locations. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Historical Novel Society New York City Chapter and runs, with a colleague, its Guest Speaker Program at the Jefferson Market Library. She divides her time between Manhattan and Sintra, Portugal.
For more information, visit Julieta Almeida Rodrigues’ website.
This is my review of Mistletoe Christmas, which I spotlighted a few days ago on this blog.
Mistletoe Christmas is an anthology consisting of four stories, all set in England, 1815, and evolving around the Duke of Greystoke’s Annual Christmas Revelry, always the most sought after party invitation of the season. The stories are written by four different authors, Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregor, and Erica Ridley.
All four stories transport us to Regency England at Christmas time. There are some sex scenes, for those who wish to avoid them.
In A Mistletoe Kiss, by Eloisa James, the main character, Cressida, is the long-suffering victim of her abusive father, the Duke of Greystoke, who has used her for years to plan his famous Revelry. Cressida’s growth as a person and evolving ability to see her true self and gain some confidence was well done. The romance with Elias was a little over the top as he suddenly and instantly fell in love with her although he’d known her for years. It was a touch unbelievable, but overall it was a very nice romance. 4 stars.
Wishing Under The Mistletoe by Christi Caldwell brings a little of “A Christmas Carol” vibe. Isabelle and Cyrus’s relationship ended because he became completely wrapped up in the idea of amassing a fortune, supposedly for her. Ten years later, they meet again at the Revelry and sparks are still flying. This is the story of how an “Ebenezer Scrooge” type of character has a chance to get his lost love back. I found it a satisfying Christmas story. 5 stars.
Compromise Under the Mistletoe by Janna MacGregor is the story of a marriage torn apart. Caroline and Stephen are reunited at the Christmas Revelry. They are only together because they have to pretend to be a happy couple for the Duke so Caroline can gain access to her trust fund. I found this to be a bit much. The reason for reuniting was to get money, and the reason they broke up in the first place was because Caroline wasn’t getting enough attention. It all seemed simple and selfish, and not in any way based on a real marriage. 2.5 stars.
Mischief and Mistletoe by Erica Ridley is the well done story of Miss Louisa Harcourt, who is told by her mother that the Revelry is her last chance to find a husband. Determined to make her mother happy. Louisa entertains her less than ideal marriage candidates, although her real desire is to write and publish poetry. When she meets Ewan, a fellow poet, at the Revelry, she faces a choice between happiness and duty. I really enjoyed this one as it showcased a woman with interests and ambitions other than marriage. 5 stars.
Overall, this anthology earns four stars. It transports us to the Christmas season.
I received a free copy of this book from Avon Books via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Eloisa James, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, wrote her first novel after graduating from Harvard, but alas, it was rejected by every possible publisher. After she got an MPhil from Oxford, a PhD from Yale, and a job as a Shakespeare professor, she tried again, with much greater success. In 2013 she won a Rita Award for Best Romance Novella. She teaches Shakespeare in the English department at Fordham University in New York. She is the mother of two children and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight.
Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She is the author of The Bad Luck Bride. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers.
Christi Caldwell is the USA Today bestselling author of more than ten series, including Lost Lords of London, Sinful Brides, The Wicked Wallflowers, and Heart of a Duke. She blames novelist Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. When Christi was at the University of Connecticut, she began writing her own tales of love–ones where even the most perfect heroes and heroines had imperfections. She learned to enjoy torturing her couples before they earned their well-deserved happily ever after. Christi lives in Southern Connecticut, where she spends her time writing, chasing after her son, and taking care of her twin princesses-in-training. Fans who want to keep up with the latest news and information can sign up for her newsletter at www.ChristiCaldwell.com.
Erica Ridley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty historical romance novels. Her popular series include the Dukes of War, Rogues to Riches, and Magic and Mayhem.
Publication Date: September 21, 2021 Bellastoria Press
Series: The Orphans of Tolosa, Book 3 Genre: Historical Fiction
Marry a Catholic stranger, or flee the only world she’s ever known: Headstrong Bruna de Gansard must choose one or the other to protect her Cathar family from the inquisitors.
Toulouse, 1229. The inquisitors have arrived to rid the city of Cathar heretics once and for all, and are putting all unmarried girls over the age of 12 to the question. After an incident in the town calls unwanted attention to 14-year-old Bruna, a young Catholic stranger who is sympathetic to the heretics warns her family about the looming danger, and volunteers to marry their daughter to save her from being questioned.
But Bruna doesn’t want to be forced into marriage, so she chooses flight—which lands her unexpectedly in the midst of a Catholic pilgrimage to Compostela, thrusting her into a life of deceit.
When her beauty and her voice bring her to the attention of the powerful Baron de Belascon, who owes fealty to the king of France, Bruna earns the enmity of the baron’s bitter and imperious mother and finds herself caught between her allegiance to her own people and the dangerous secret of her origins—a secret that can be revealed at any time after the arrival of a French knight who recognizes her.
The Orphans of Tolosa Trilogy comes to a dramatic end in this gripping story of loyalty and betrayal, set amidst the violence and peril of the Albigensian Crusades.
Susanne Dunlap is the author of nine works of historical fiction. A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, five step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that’s a total of four children and eleven grandchildren!
In her spare time, she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.
Voices in the Mist is the third book in Susanne Dunlap’s fascinating series, The Orphans of Tolosa. Although this is Book 3, it is a prequel of sorts involving Bruna, the older sister of Azeläis, who is a protagonist of the first two books. It can be read as a standalone. This book transports us to 1231 in what is now Southwestern France, when the Catholic Church was persecuting the Cathars, an orthodox Christian sect. When knights and priests descend on their village, intent on finding and destroying the Cathars, Bruna’s parents promise her in marriage to a local Catholic man who is sympathetic to them. Bruna, however, does not want to be married at 12 years old and runs away, forging a completely new life for herself amongst her Catholic persecutors. But her first betrothed has never forgotten her.
This is a fascinating look at the Cathars, of whom I was not aware prior to reading this series. I was instantly transported to this time period and learned so much about this simple, anti-materialist Christian sect whose only crime was disagreeing with the pope at the time and daring to go their own way. Bruna’s coming of age story amidst persecution and suspicion is well told. The intrigue, danger, and suspense in the book kept me spellbound. The underlying story of love and loyalty, and Bruna’s embracing of her musical talent were some of the best parts of the book. The discovery of little- known historical facts is always a delight for me, and I love to learn new things from historical fiction. I would highly recommend this series to anyone interested in learning more about 13th Century history or anyone who just wants to read fascinating historical novels with strong female characters.
Four and a half stars, rounded up to five on sites with no half-star option.
Enter to win a paperback set of The Orphans of Tolosa Trilogy! 3 sets are up for grabs!
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on October 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Upon the death of her husband, self-involved social climber Cora Pringle assumes her recent dalliance with a wealthy gentleman will be her second chance at a happily ever after. That is until her paramour turns out to be a penniless imposter. Despite his betrayal, Cora can’t quite let go of the tug the handsome playwright has on her heart.
Desperate for an income, Cora becomes a séance-performing spiritualist and gets a taste for celebrity—and it’s so delicious. So what if she can’t actually communicate with the dead? Her eager patrons don’t need to know that.
Amelia Baxter, an ambitious journalist and suffragist, is discouraged when her editor refuses to let her cover the horrific Jack the Ripper murders. Instead, Amelia pours her frustrations into bringing Cora’s deceptive and manipulative act to an end, even if it means risking her family’s reputation.
“Like the most memorable of its vividly drawn characters, The Spirited Mrs. Pringle is clever, lively, and unabashedly entertaining. Perhaps most enjoyable of all is the seemingly endless series of surprises. A string of sometimes astonishing pleasures to the last page.” – Award-Winning Author Leo McKay Jr.
The Spirited Mrs. Pringle is a witty, fun, and engaging look at a woman thrown into hard times in Victorian London, the way she rises to fame, and the lessons she learns along the way. It is also the story of a reporter, Amelia Baxter, who is hot on Cora Pringle’s heels, determined to rip away the facade, no matter what the cost. The characters jump off the page, and the reader is caught up immediately in the wit, sarcasm, and romance. The cunning and ambitious Cora Pringle is a manipulative delight of a character who is surrounded by a superb cast. Fans of Victorian romance with a clever twist will not want to pass this up.
I received a free copy of this book via HFVBT Blog Tours. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
Publication Date: May 9, 2021
Paperback & eBook; 499 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
New Jersey, 1928.
All her life, Etta Wozniak has toiled on her family’s small farm, located on the outskirts of a lake resort town. After losing her mother and siblings to one misfortune or another, life has fallen into a rut of drudgery and predictability. That is, until the day she discovers something in an unlikely place; an old car. Energized by the prospects of a world beyond the one she knows, she decides to make this her last summer on the farm. However, disaster is not through with Etta yet, and there will be consequences for her upcoming departure.
Art Adams, a recent college man, arrives in town for a family reunion. After years of moving from one city to another and avoiding conflict whenever it tries to find him, he becomes enamored with the lake. However, there is another reason for Art’s visit. He is to marry a woman he has never met before; an arrangement that was made on his behalf and without his knowledge. More comfortable around numbers and machines than people, Art is reluctant to confront his parents on the matter. But if he decides to do nothing, he risks losing who and what he has come to love.
In a small town of farmers and firemen, musicians and moonshiners, bossy parents and barn parties, two people will come to understand what they must give up in order to have the chance to build something new.
Wes Verde is an engineer by trade, a busybody by habit, and a lifelong Jersey boy.
Writing has been a hobby in one form or another since 2006 when he started drawing 3-panel comics. When he is not putting words down, he is picking them up; the “to-read” pile only seems to grow larger.
A fan of nature, he spends as much time outside as possible.
Enter to win a paperback copy of Jalopy by Wes Verde!
The giveaway is open internationally and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Q&A WITH AUTHOR WES VERDE
Wes Verde graciously agreed to answer some questions and gave us great insight into the book and himself. Check out the Q&A below:
Hello Wes and thanks so much for agreeing to answer my questions.
Happy to do it. Hope your readers enjoy it as well.
What inspired you to write Jalopy?
It’s difficult to pin down one particular thing, but the prime driving force was probably a general interest in the topic. A couple years ago, I started reading history books in my spare time. You’ve probably seen the Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing that specializes in collections of old photographs from around the US. On a whim, I picked up a bunch of the ones for New Jersey towns – mostly out of curiosity for what some of my old stomping grounds looked like a century ago. A few buildings had survived to the current day, but most had been lost at one time or another. “Lost to fire,” was something that I kept seeing.
It was during this time that I rediscovered the fact that NJ was a vacation destination around this time. This had been mentioned to me previously, but it was always in passing and I never really gave it much thought. Now I was seeing the pictures. Places that today are commuter suburbs, but 100 years ago were places for residents of New York City to escape the pollution, noise, and crowds for a short while. Many of these towns – to varying degrees – had a Coney Island or Atlantic City feel, albeit on a smaller scale.
That got me wondering if there was ever a “city mouse/country mouse” moment between a vacationer and a local who got together and how they sorted out who had the better situation. From there, enough of these elements started coming together where I finally decided to put pencil to paper.
The “Jalopy” in question is an abandoned car where Etta dreams of her future. Cars often inspire dreams for many of us–dreams of travel, adventure, success, and/or escape. What would you like the reader to take away from Jalopy and Etta’s dreams vs. her life experiences?
Totally agree. Cars were absolute game changers for the early 20th Century and I chose one for this reason. Travel and adventure are the obvious ones. It’s faster than walking. It carries more people than a bicycle. It’s not locked on a schedule like a train. Within practical limits you can take it off the road. In a pinch, you can sleep in it.
Escape is an interesting one. You don’t often hear about the “getaway horse” now do you? And of course, there is the less dramatic use of the word, where one is merely escaping monotony and drudgery in hopes that the grass is greener on the other side.
As for success, it will certainly expand your options for where you can work vs. where you want to live (I expect that we will see a transition of comparable significance resulting from the doozy that started in 2020). Per my earlier comment about commuter towns, it was the car that made it possible to live among trees and nature but still be able to commute east for employment. You can debate the wisdom and drawbacks of our car-dependent culture, but there’s no overstating what the automobile has accomplished for individual liberty.
At the end of the day, it’s just a tool.
When we meet Etta, she is not in a good way living in the past and trudging along, thinking only of how to get a fresh start somewhere new. On the surface, this is what she wants but not what she needs. Helen is her near opposite, and embraces her place in the social network almost to the exclusion of all other concerns. That’s not to say that we should settle for an untenable situation with people who are not worthy of our affection. Consider Art, who starts in what today we might call an unhealthy familial situation, but later (possibly spoilerish?) finds a place among people who embrace him and to whom he also contributes.
That’s probably the main thing I would hope someone takes from this story. Have dreams. Figure out where you want to be and – just as importantly – how to get there, but also recognize that it is the relationships we have with other people that give our lives meaning. I believe that this is why the trope of the small town is so enduring; it’s an idyllic model of this idea.
Your depiction of the drudgery and worry of trying to get by in the late 1920s captured the era perfectly. What was your research process for this time period?
Aside from the local history books which I mentioned previously, a lot of it came from discussions with my grandmother. She was born in 1932, a few years after the events of the novel, but she grew up on a farm in a then-rural part of New Jersey. I attempted to remain as authentic to her experiences as possible. They grew their own vegetables and raised chickens and pigs – what soap they had was made from the tallow of their own animals. The incident with the chickens pouncing on Etta was inspired by something that actually happened to Grandma. To this day, she still uses the term “ice box” to refer to the refrigerator. The division and specialization of labor was far different than what most of us know today. They did much of it themselves – some might call that drudgery.
Other aspects were things I extrapolated from standalone facts. For example, in 1908 – when Etta would have been born – there were 2 cars per 1,000 people in the US. By the events of the novel in 1928, that number had jumped to over 200. Her formative years would have been during a time when parts of the country were surging ahead while others were being left behind.
If you were of limited means but still wanted to hear music, church was probably your best bet. Alternatively, options for consumer radios were quickly expanding for those who could afford one. A cabinet radio like the one described in the novel would be about $1,500 adjusted for inflation. Even then, not everyone was hooked up to the electrical grid. While refrigeration was starting to become the standard, ice was largely harvested during the winter months and in some places would remain so for decades. There were many more farmers: about 30 per 100 workers at the time compared to just 2 per 100 today.
Additionally, the 18th Amendment obliged many to add beer and wine making to their list of chores… All told, that’s a lot of manual labor.
Jalopy is your first novel. What will you be working on next?
The Interwar Period in New Jersey is my literary home for the moment. There’s just so much worth exploring. As mentioned previously, it was the home of many lakeside vacation towns where residents of New York City would go to let their hair down. Novel #2 will mostly keep with this setting, but in a different direction thematically and tonally.
Not long after I started Jalopy I had this idea for a story about a heist involving a band of rogues and shysters who bite off more than they can chew. Mostly staying within the Garden State, this novel will be somewhat greater in scope and include locations of historical interest. It will also delve more into the social, industrial, and commercial concerns of the time.
Your bio describes you as an Engineer by trade. How do your experiences as an Engineer reflect in the novel and how does an Engineer become a writer of Historical Fiction? It’s not necessarily a traditional path for an Engineer.
Indeed, it is not a traditional path, but neither is it completely unheard of. While he doesn’t do HisFic, Andy Weir worked on software before his success with The Martian andlater Project Hail Mary.
As for how such a background translates into writing – well… there’s a reason I include details like how many pedals are on a 1926 Model T vs. a 1914 Studebaker. Mechanical engineering is my specific discipline which is great for the setting of the novel. The time before electronic controls and digitization inspired many novel solutions that often blurred the line between careful design and whimsical tinkering – I love stuff like that. Early automobilists were more pilot or operator than modern drivers.
I also love to learn, especially when it comes to old machines. The description of the menagerie of farm equipment lining the walk up to Gregory’s workshop was heavily based on my experience at a farm museum in Northern New Jersey. In fact, the same place features a 1918 burgundy REO which served as the model used for the cover image.
In short, I’d say that I’m a gear head first, an engineer second, and an author as time allows.
You self-published this novel. What advice can you give new authors who want to self-publish?
Be patient. The time from my first handwritten notes to publication was about 25 months. That was setting aside about an hour or so each day, but even 15 minutes will add up over time if you are consistent and stick with it.
The barrier to entry has never been lower. If you have an idea and something to write with (I wrote two chapters on my phone) you can find an audience.
The cover artwork is fantastic. Who created the cover for your first novel, and what is your opinion of the importance of the book cover in overall sales?
Angela Fernot, a friend of mine for many years and – as luck would have it – a professional artist. I believe she has something like ten years of experience (not including school) mostly doing portraits and fantasy work as well as graphic design (Link to her website is below). This may have been her first car, but you can see she’s got the hand for it. I cannot recommend her enough and will most certainly look to commission her for my own future books.
As for importance of the cover, there’s a reason we have to tell people not to judge a book by it because that’s exactly what everyone does. It’s not entirely without good reason. After all, if the author didn’t care enough to make it look good, how much effort could they have possibly put into the content?
The current trend for HisFic covers is an individual woman, often looking away from the viewer and toward a sepia-toned city or landscape. For the romance-centric, it’s a woman in a flowing gown which tells you exactly what you need to know (you Tessa Dare and Sarah MacLean fans know what I’m talking about).
To its credit, this quickly informs the potential reader what you’re about. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between looking professional (like every other book) and standing out (possibly in a bad way). There’s a whole thread somewhere featuring a bunch of book covers that are woefully apparent in their do-it-yourself quality.
If you must cut expenses somewhere in the process of getting to print, don’t do it on the cover.
Thanks Again, Wes, for taking the time out to let us get to know you better.
Hertfordshire, England, 1812. Margaret “Meg” Hall has missed her first London season due to serious illness, but now that she has recovered, she is back on the “marriage market.” Her mother decides to have a house party and invite three eligible men, one of whom is a viscount. Meg knows she is expected to marry well, and she intends to do so. However, her best friend, Nathan, has also been invited. Nathan has no desire to see Meg married off to someone else, but he is not the best prospect and has never declared his love for her. Will Meg choose love or duty?
This is a charming novella that transports us to a Regency-era house party with all its customs and propriety. The point of view shifts between Meg and Nathan as they struggle to deal with their feelings. In the midst of picnics, dances, and garden strolls, Nathan’s angst and Meg’s confusion are well portrayed. The plot is timeless, as two friends struggle between what they want to do and what society tells them they ought to do. This is a pleasant and endearing love story that Regency romance fans will enjoy.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Historical Novels Review Magazine, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Thornell grew up reading when she should have been sleeping, but it wasn’t until 2019 that she started writing. Tired of ending books and saying ‘goodbye’ to beloved characters, she wondered what it would be like to have her own characters that lived in her head always. It was probably a mark of sleep deprivation that she wanted people living in her head, but the idea was planted regardless.
Karen lives in Utah with her husband and kids. When not writing contemporary or regency romance, she spends her free time doing endless loads of laundry, playing board games, and, yes, talking to those characters in her head.
It’s another installment of Self-Published Saturday, as my goal is to share with you as many Indie books as I can, and I hope that you share them with others. Remember to push those Facebook, WordPress, and Twitter buttons and help these Indie authors show their books to the world. The next feature is an amazing book of stories, photos, and historical facts about Transylvania, written by Patricia Furstenberg.
Transylvania’s History A to Z by Patricia Furstenberg is a wonderful combination of stories, photos, history, and legends about Transylvania, Romania. Each historical fact is accompanied by a photo and a 100- word story arranged in alphabetical fashion. It is a fantastic way to learn more about Transylvania. Although this book is just 68 pages, I feel I learned so much I didn’t know before! The reader is transported from the Paleolithic era to the 20th century. The history, change, war, and upheaval over the centuries is shared so well in the stories, and each story is accompanied by photos and historical facts.
This book will take you on a journey through time as you watch Transylvania change and grow and learn so much about its history, people, and legends. My favorites were A Paleolithic Murder, Dacian Horses of Bronze Age, Motives of Christianity, Romanian’s Brother, The Woodland, and Quest Beyond the Forest, but I encourage readers to check out this little gem for yourself, learn about Transylvania, and choose your own favorite stories. I would recommend this book to all fans of history and historical fiction, as this is a fantastic combination of both.
I downloaded this book via Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can read it for free.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
(In Her Own Words)
I have always been drawn to discovering more about the people and the dogs who featured in historical and contemporary events. Why they chose to fight that war; what was it that they sacrificed, silently. What was the lay of the land that they walked upon, the color of the sky or the scent carried by the wind… It is such stories that I find they still resonate today. Discovering these secrets, writing these books, thrills me. Thus, my passion for historical and contemporary fiction books and historical events was born.
As an armchair historian, I love researching such tales, traveling (researching my next book we visited medieval Sighisoara), exploring hidden corners, and unearthing new facts, forgotten characters, or hidden clues. I love to give them a voice and to bring them into the light in my tales. Be it people, animals, or the land and its architecture, no details are too small, no voice is too soft. What was once overlooked now brings history alive in my historical or contemporary fiction books and short stories, such as the 100 Words Stories based on the history of Romania.
Facts belong in the history books, but the passion, the thrill, and the fantasy, these are the realm of the novels. Welcome to my writing world.
Amazon (Only $1.99 to purchase the e-book, or read it free via Kindle Unlimited)
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