Historical Fiction

Five Stars for Mary Dyer: Illuminated by Christy K. Robinson

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments

 

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5 Stars for Mary Dyer: Illuminated

My Thoughts:

MARY DYER: ILLUMINATED is an example of historical fiction at its finest. A biographical work spanning the first forty years of Mary’s life, this novel paints beautiful descriptions of old England and old London. The history is amazingly well researched yet the story is smoothly, clearly drawn on the page. I felt as if Westminster and old Lincolnshire lived for me again.

Part of Christy K Robinson’s charm in writing this novel is her use of primary sources. Quotes from the Bible, from speeches of John Donne, from letters written between the characters pepper the novel with pieces of the living past, drawing the reader deeper into it.

The colonial past of New England is full of courage, but also full of desperation. The evils of slavery and the destruction of the native culture coincide with the darkness of some of the early Puritan fathers who torment even their own people in their bid to hold onto power in their budding theocracy. Throughout the storms of nature, culture clashes and failed crops, Mary manages to raise her family with the loving help of her husband, William.

As the book draws to a close, we begin to see how Mary Dyer will be called out of the private sphere of wife and mother into the world of politics and living theology, when she will be drawn to speak for the Light that dwells within her, and within us all. I am looking forward with pleasure to book two of this duet. MARY DYER: ILLUMINATED is a beautiful novel.

Novel Description:

Mary Barrett Dyer, 1611-1660, was comely, dignified, admired for her intellect, and known in the court of King Charles. But how did she become infamous in England and America as a heretic who gave birth to a monster? Was she responsible for curses falling on colonial New England in the form of great earthquakes, signs in the heavens, and plagues? What possessed the ultra-righteous Governor John Winthrop to exhume her baby before one hundred gawkers, revile her in his books, and try to annex Rhode Island to get its exiles back under Boston’s control?  In Mary Dyer Illuminated, follow William and Mary Dyer from the plague streets and royal courts of London to the wilderness of America where they co-founded the first democracy of the New World 135 years before the Declaration of Independence. They were only getting started. In the second of two volumes, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, the Dyers return to war-torn England and lay a foundation for liberty that resonates in the 21st century. Why did beautiful, wealthy Mary Dyer deliberately give up her six children, husband, and privileged lifestyle to suffer prison and death on the gallows?  The two novels are compelling, provocative, and brilliantly written, blending historical fact and fiction to produce a thoroughly beautiful work you won’t want to put down. The author has reconstructed a forgotten world by researching the culture, religions, and politics of England and America, personal relationships, enemies, and even the events of nature, to discover who they were.  ***** “Mary Barrett Dyer is one of very few 17th-century women who are remembered today. She is usually described as a Quaker hanged in the cause of religious freedom, but genealogists and historians know there is much more to her. Christy K Robinson brings the Dyers to vivid life for the rest of us, weaving superb fiction with what is known into a penetrating novel. Robinson’s research is flawless, and her engaging characters invite you into their brilliantly imagined world. Brava!”  – Jo Ann Butler, author of Rebel Puritan trilogy.

Christy Robinson, author

About the Author:

Christy K Robinson is a freelance copy editor of books, magazines, and websites. She recently published the first of two biographical novels on Mary Dyer, an Englishwoman who committed civil disobedience in the cause of liberty of conscience and separation of church and state. Mary Dyer Illuminated is available in paperback and Kindle editions, worldwide. The next publications are a Kindle-only nonfiction handbook on 17th-century culture of the Dyers called The Dyers of London, Boston and Newport, followed by volume two of the novel, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This.

Christy’s website is http://ChristyKRobinson.com .

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*Sound of screeching brakes* by Christy K Robinson

Monday, October 21st, 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments

That’s right, people. STOP! In your unseemly haste to read as many historical novels on medieval royalty, Renaissance intrigue and war craft, Tudor and Elizabethan gowns, sex, and bastards, and Regency balls with chiseled rakes who abduct sassy heiresses or perform intricate steps of a social morality dance, you have sped past the very century which set you up for civil liberties, scientific discovery, worldwide travel and commerce, modern warfare, and not a little steaminess.

Mary Dyer statue in Boston

“Puritans! Boring!” wrote a commenter on a Daily Mail story about an English Civil War hoard of gold found in a London garden.

He wouldn’t have written that if he knew that the people I write about in the 17th century gave birth to monsters. Or that the greatest earthquake ever to strike New England, a 7.0 in 1638, was blamed on Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson. Or that an attractive young woman was tried as a witch and shot, just for surf-boarding on the River Kennet one hot September day. Or that the terrifying Bugbear solar eclipse sent the wealthy people of London dashing out of the city in carriages (no brakes!), and stopped field laborers from working? Or that the Little Ice Age was at its most extreme in the middle of the century when America was being settled and Europe was plagued by famine, war, and, well, plague?

 

What about the sow who gave birth to a piglet with the face of the man who had buggered her? Or the ship that was lost at sea but appeared in the clouds, in full color, to more than 50 sober, godly people? Or that lobster was so plentiful that it was fed to slaves and used as dog food? And speaking of slaves, that thousands of children were snatched off London streets, kept in internment camps, sold again and again, and shipped to America to work hard labor and risk sexual abuse (assuming they survived the voyage)? What about the tens of thousands of English people who left entire villages empty and emigrated to America in the 1630s?

 

Though there were sumptuary laws in Massachusetts that demanded no adornment or lace for women, back in England the women (even –gasp– Puritans!) were baring most of the bosom for court occasions and portraits. Rulers and their aristocrats had the same proportion of mistresses, bastards (the dangerous-guy kind and the illegitimate child kind), spies, pirates, nefarious plotters, evil politicians and ambitious churchmen, and all the other components of popular historical literature.

 

Want to know what I’m writing about in a novel so big I had to make two volumes of it? Everything I just wrote above. Mmm-hmmm. *nods head affirmatively* All that stuff and much more really happened around my heroine and her husband, Mary and William Dyer. She committed civil disobedience which led to her execution by hanging, to bring attention to the torture and deaths of her friends and fellow believers, the Quakers. Her husband, as America’s first attorney general, was hugely instrumental in creating and passing laws for religious liberty (including the right not to practice religion), and helped secure a royal charter that confirmed it. That Rhode Island charter was a model for the United States constitution 130 years later, which guarantees the human rights of freedom of speech and religion. And those rights have, in turn, been a model for civil rights legislation all over the world.

 

Colin Firth as Vermeer

Still not enough glam for you? I made William Dyer look like Colin Firth. (I knew that would do it for you.)

 

So yes, put the (brake) pedal to the metal, and slide bum-over-teakettle into the 17th century. Don’t stop reading the other eras of history and historical/biographical fiction. Just don’t ignore all the incredibly great events and people of C17. That would be like reading a comic book in the back seat of the station wagon while your parents drove through all the national parks. Or listening to elevator music on your iPod while Sting or Yo Yo Ma is performing three feet away.

 

Want to get started? Right now? I have a book, hot off the press…

 

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Mary Dyer: Illuminated

Description of the novel:

Mary Barrett Dyer, 1611-1660, was comely, dignified, admired for her intellect, and known in the court of King Charles. But how did she become infamous in England and America as a heretic who gave birth to a monster? Was she responsible for curses falling on colonial New England in the form of great earthquakes, signs in the heavens, and plagues? What possessed the ultra-righteous Governor John Winthrop to exhume her baby before one hundred gawkers, revile her in his books, and try to annex Rhode Island to get its exiles back under Boston’s control?  In Mary Dyer Illuminated, follow William and Mary Dyer from the plague streets and royal courts of London to the wilderness of America where they co-founded the first democracy of the New World 135 years before the Declaration of Independence. They were only getting started. In the second of two volumes, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, the Dyers return to war-torn England and lay a foundation for liberty that resonates in the 21st century. Why did beautiful, wealthy Mary Dyer deliberately give up her six children, husband, and privileged lifestyle to suffer prison and death on the gallows?  The two novels are compelling, provocative, and brilliantly written, blending historical fact and fiction to produce a thoroughly beautiful work you won’t want to put down. The author has reconstructed a forgotten world by researching the culture, religions, and politics of England and America, personal relationships, enemies, and even the events of nature, to discover who they were.  ***** “Mary Barrett Dyer is one of very few 17th-century women who are remembered today. She is usually described as a Quaker hanged in the cause of religious freedom, but genealogists and historians know there is much more to her. Christy K Robinson brings the Dyers to vivid life for the rest of us, weaving superb fiction with what is known into a penetrating novel. Robinson’s research is flawless, and her engaging characters invite you into their brilliantly imagined world. Brava!”  – Jo Ann Butler, author of Rebel Puritan trilogy. Key words: Mary Barrett Dyer, Anne Hutchinson, John Winthrop, civil disobedience, Great Migration, 17th century, William Dyre, Boston, Rhode Island, England, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, Reverend John Cotton

*****

 Christy Robinson, author

Christy K Robinson is a freelance copy editor of books, magazines, and websites. She recently published the first of two biographical novels on Mary Dyer, an Englishwoman who committed civil disobedience in the cause of liberty of conscience and separation of church and state. Mary Dyer Illuminated is available in paperback and Kindle editions, worldwide. The next publications are a Kindle-only nonfiction handbook on 17th-century culture of the Dyers called The Dyers of London, Boston and Newport, followed by volume two of the novel, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This.

Christy’s website is http://ChristyKRobinson.com .

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Q & A with Historical Novelist J.A. Coffey and a Give Away

Monday, March 25th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

HETAERA

Why do I write historical fiction?

I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, especially the gritty versions that illustrate human foibles.  The stories of women especially interested me, what their lives were like, their loves, their sexuality and their place in society.  Personally, I’m especially drawn to a theme of perseverance and redemption—women who faced adversity and overcame the odds.  Writing historical fiction is like pulling on a thread in a tapestry…you tug and see where the connections are.  From this, we can track historical records to determine some of the “where” and “what,” but the “why” is often left to speculation.  As an author, I seek to plausibly explain why and how certain events came to pass, based on my research and knowledge of human nature—to tell the story that history (or HERstory?) neglected.

 

How my research started:

My affinity for Greek and Egyptian subjects was honed by two sources—literature and art.  First, my Sicilian Papa, who would tell wondrous tales of Greek mythology and mythos.  He was an accomplished storyteller; I listened with rapt attention whenever he’d spout one on our little walks.  So, it was no surprise that I incorporated storytelling as an elementary art teacher. The subject for HETAERA was discovered when pulling a set of children’s books based on international Fairytales for a second grade arts integration project.  I read Shirley Climo’s The Egyptian Cinderella (she has an entire series on the subject).  Immediately, I was drawn to the story.  I felt I had to discover if this person actually lived, and how a Greek slave could end up as a queen.  So, I scoured more scholarly resources and discovered she was Thracian, not Greek and she was a contemporary of Sappho and Aesop (yes, THAT Aesop).  Lo and behold, Strabo and even Herodotus’ texts alluded to her and are described far more succinctly on the wiki website, here.  Although Herodotus is often discredited, I found it interesting that Doricha/Rhodopis was specifically mentioned.  If she never existed, why should he feel the need to write about her?  So, I grabbed the thread and started pulling.  Research for this first book took the better part of a year, before I felt ready to tackle the subject.

 

Secondly, I made an unofficial study of religions, while in my undergraduate coursework at Baylor University.  Time and time again, I was struck by similarities in deities and legends.  Being an art major, I found much inspiration in classical art and that led to my fascination.  For example, while visiting the Dallas Art Museum, I viewed a classic sculpture of a Babylonian queen who is the subject of my next book.  She is both demonized or deified, depending on the source.  Isn’t that just like our real life soap operas? Investigating the art and artifacts of ancient people is an eye-opening experience—everything from painted decorations to sexual aides were saved and housed in museums across the globe.  And the age of technology has them available for viewing with the click of a button!

 

How do I begin?

Quite often, my research is cyclical.  I start with a germ of a story element–the “Who”.  After I’ve exhausted references on the subject, I note their contemporaries, family connections, marriages, political factions, ruling classes…all details that are filed away to track down at a later date.  This leads to somewhat backwards research of specific places, time periods.  Often, the same person may be known by differing titles or alternately-spelled names (and sometimes names ARE titles!), which also creates some confusion and debate amongst scholars.  It’s the age-old question of “what to leave in, what to leave out”.  I try to represent my stories as honestly as I can, recognizing that it may be impossible to ever know “for sure”.  I must admit, it’s eerie how the voices in my head accurately represented a scene documented in some obscure research which I stumbled upon after writing!  I am often asked what was “real” and what was fictionalized.  The fact that the reader has a hard time discerning is high praise indeed.  In my own blog (J.A. Coffey.com), I offer some behind-the-scenes insight and discuss some of what were factually represented.

 

How did my writing develop?

I wish I could say that I was an instant prodigy, but sadly, my writing developed on a loooong learning curve!  I’ve been a lifelong avid reader, but the physical act of putting pen to paper was daunting.  I joined one of the most helpful writer’s organizations—Romance Writers of America.  I still owe them a huge debt of gratitude.  My first completed book was a fantasy romance—which nabbed me an agent, but I thought it was somewhat lacking.  It just didn’t feel like me.  Author Carol Shields said “Write the book you want to read—the one you cannot find.”  It seemed like other, much better authors had already written my romance story.  Repeatedly.

The voices in my head kept tapping my shoulder and speaking of a larger idea.  I realized I wanted to write historical fiction, my agent asked “do you know how to write a bigger book?”  Well, that was a good question to ask!  Could I?  I had the story bouncing in my head for some time before I felt I could accurately write it down.  Once I did, I experienced some successes early on.  HETAERA was selected as the winning entry in the Writer’s Weekend fiction contest (judged that year by Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden) and then as a Golden Heart Award finalist in Romance Writers of America’s brand new category of “Best Manuscript with Romantic Elements” for novels that did not fit the traditional mold of a romance novel, but had romantic elements that play a central part of the theme.  I couldn’t believe HETAERA was selected as a finalist that first year!  Though I ultimately lost out to a mainstream chick-lit novel, editor Mary Theresa Hussey (then with MIRA) later compared me favorably with Mary Renault—one of my favorite historical authors.  That was enough to keep me going!  Those early acknowledgements, along with the encouragement of other authors, editors, and agents led me to continue to pursue my dreams of being an author.  Writing each book is another learning curve, but I finally feel I’m getting it.  I hope I am!

 

You can find more about J.A. Coffey at www.JACoffey.com or on Twitter by following AuthorJACoffey or on Facebook at JA Coffey.

 

BIO

J.A. Coffey has been fascinated with mythos and legend for as long as she can remember.  She grew up in the Dustbowl of the Midwest–hence her flights of fancy.  Since then she’s lived in all parts of the country and traveled abroad.  She currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and four large dogs.

J.A. holds a Bachelors Degree of Fine Art and a Masters Degree of Education in Educational Leadership.  A popular presenter and conference speaker, she tries to write through the lens of an artist.  When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found toiling in her raised bed gardens, painting, or “feathering her nest”.  She dreams of restoring a historic home.  A former RWA Golden Heart finalist in the “Best Manuscript with Romantic Elements” category, J.A. is currently working on a Young Adult urban fantasy series and her latest historical novel.

GIVEAWAY:

Win a free copy of HETAERA: Daughter of the Gods and a gorgeous bronze beaded collar necklace suitable for a goddess (US delivery only)! (total value: $100)  This show-stopping necklace is not for the faint at heart!  You will feel as lovely as a goddess.

Just leave a comment below to have your name entered into the drawing…

 

Necklace for March 25

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Give Away: A Tainted Dawn by B.N. Peacock

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Welcome to author B.N. Peacock as she joins us on her blog tour for her new novel A TAINTED DAWN coming out from Fireship Press.

A Tainted Dawn Tour Banner FINAL

I’m happy to be giving away a copy of this novel. Just leave a comment below to put your name in the hat 🙂

A TAINTED DAWN by B.N. Peacock

August 1789. The Rights of Man. Liberty. Equality. Idealism. Patriotism.

A new age dawns.

And yet, old hostilities persist: England and Spain are on the brink of war. France, allied by treaty with Spain, readies her warships. Three youths–the son of an English carpenter, the son of a naval captain, an the son of a French court tailor–meet in London, a chance encounter that entwines their lives thereafter. The English boys find themselves on the same frigate bound for the Caribbean. The Frenchman sails to Trinidad, where he meets an even more zealous Spanish revolutionary. As diplomats in Europe race to avoid conflict, war threatens to erupt in the Caribbean, with the three youths pitted against each other.

Will the dawn of the boys’ young manhood remain bright with hope? Or will it become tainted with their countrymen’s spilt blood?

A Tainted Dawn(3)

Praise for A Tainted Dawn

“As America is born, the superpowers of Europe clash with one another for power and territory. A Tainted Dawn is a historical novel set at the end of the eighteenth century, as the powers of Europe head off to war. Following youths of these nations as they find their way through their lives and the conflict, A Tainted Dawn creates a riveting setting with plenty of twists and turns that should prove difficult to put down, very much recommended.” – The Midwest Book Review

“Barbara Peacock has a masterful knowledge of both nautical lore and the history and politics of the age. Her characters are sympathetic, and they come alive though her writing. She deftly captures the spirit of this fascinating and critical time, both its positive and negative aspects. Her characters inhabit a world that is squalid, gritty , and dangerous, but not without hope.” – Robin E. Levin, The Death of Carthage

B.N. Peacock

About the Author

B. N. Peacock’s love of history started in childhood, hearing stories of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire from her immigrant grandparents.  They related accounts handed down from their grandparents about battlefields so drenched in blood that grass cut there afterwards oozed red liquid. Such tales entranced her. These references probably dated to the time of the Napoleonic Wars. No wonder she was drawn to this time period.

In addition to history, she showed an equally early proclivity for writing, winning an honorable mention in a national READ magazine contest for short stories. The story was about history, of course, namely the battle of Bunker Hill as seen from the perspective of a British war correspondent.

The passion for writing and history continued throughout high school and undergraduate studies. She was active in her high school newspaper, eventually becoming its editor-in-chief. After graduation, she majored in Classical Studies (Greek and Latin) at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. In her junior year, life took one of those peculiar turns which sidetrack one.  A year abroad studying at Queen Mary College, University of London in England led to the discovery of another passion, travel. She returned and finished her degree at F&M, but now was lured from her previous interests in history and writing.

Her work continues on Book Two in The Great War series, tentatively to be called Army of Citizens, with new trips planned to England, France and Belgium.

www.bnpeacock.com

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Historical Figures: Behind the Mask

Monday, April 16th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/

Claire Ridgeway of the Anne Boleyn Files asked a question today on Facebook and Twitter that I had not given any thought to before. Namely, who was the real Thomas Boleyn? Beyond the father of Mary, George and Anne Boleyn, I mean. Was he truly the demon portrayed in The Other Boleyn Girl? Was he the smarmy pseudo-politician of The Tudors? Or was he a loving father caught up in the politics of the age? The true answer is probably none of the above.

I love to read about Tudor history but it is not my specialty. Still, the question lingers, how do we look back down the corridor of time to discern who these people really were?

As an historical fiction writer, I read the sources that tell us what these people did. Each source has a bias of its own which must be taken into account as I research. Luckily, since I am not an historian myself, I can revel in my own bias instead of trying to kill it. I can worship Eleanor of Aquitaine as the goddess she was. I can honor Anne Boleyn for her life and the tough choices she made, the choices that eventually killed her. I can even look at a popular villain like Thomas Boleyn and ask, could a man who educated his daughters so well be all bad?

How do we peer behind the masks of historical figures? I think this is a question that has many answers, and none. We read all we can, we search through the piles of what is known to discern some traces of who they may have been. All the while, we face the truth that we will never know them. So we glean what we can from history, then open our imaginations to ask the question, what if? What if Thomas Boleyn was a political, sometimes a villain, and a loving father too? If, as a writer, I could encompass a character who is all of those things and more, then I have come closer to drawing on the page the image of a full human being. As writers, that is what we strive for: to bring our characters, historical and otherwise, to life.

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