"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden: A Review

This morning the temperature was minus-something Fahreinheit, and the day was advanced by the time the mercury hit 0 degrees. On these very cold and occasionally snowy days, curling up with a wonderful book is the best defence against the winter weather.

When I visited the UK in the autumn, one reason for being there was the Historical Novel Society conference. I met Jenny Barden, whose debut novel had just been published. Had I not been traipsing all round southern England at the time, I would have purchased it then and there. However, soon as I was home again I contacted Amazon UK. Writing and editing projects, NaNoWriMo, events related to the bishop transition, hosting our English guests at Christmas--for weeks Mistress of the Sea sat unread. Until last week, when a cancelled meeting provided enough time to sit and savour.

I simply couldn't put it down, and fortunately I didn't have to. So I finished it in one go, thoroughly absorbed.

Here is my review:

Mistress of the Sea
by Jenny Barden
Ebury Press, 2012
Hardcover (paperback edition not yet released)

Adventure, suspense, action, poignant loss and conflicted love--Jenny Barden's Mistress of the Sea offers all this, and more. Driven by concern for her ailing father, a disguised Ellyn Cooksley boldly stows away on Sir Francis Drake's Panama-bound vessel--also carrying her admirer Will Doonan. She leaves behind a reclusive mother, a pair of eager suitors, and all the luxuries of a Plymouth merchant's household.

Shipboard discomforts and the deprivation she experiences on a remote tropical island are only the beginning of her trials. A lone female in a very masculine environment, the resourceful Ellyn remains a woman of her time and place--though displaced in a fashion unimaginable to the average 16th century maiden. Will Doonan is on a mission of vengeance and discovery, desperate to learn the fate of his lost brother Kit. His concern and deep feelings for Ellyn are at odds with his very personal need to strike at England's great enemy.

Drake's risky attempts to seize Spanish silver and gold threaten the lives and test the loyalties of Ellyn, Will, and all the crew as they strive to outmaneuvre the Spaniards. People of the Old World and the New forge alliances, meet in battle, and constantly struggle for survival in harsh yet exotically beautiful surroundings.

Jenny Barden deserves highest praise for her historical fiction debut, intelligently and sensitively written. Readers will be eager for her next novel.

As part of the conference banquet there was a costume parade and competition. That's Jenny in her gorgeous Elizabethan gown...I'm just sorry the chairs are blocking the skirt.

Click for Mistress of the Sea on Amazon UK. I do hope there will be a US edition.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

About My (99 cent formerly free on Amazon) Novella


The free promotion succeeded beyond my expectations--frankly, I'm not at all sure I had any expectations. On the bestseller lists it topped out at #14 in Historical Romance downloads at Amazon US, #23 in the UK, #6 in France, #2 for Regency in Canada, and #2 for Historical in Brazil. Considering the competition in eBooks, it's hard not to feel somewhat chuffed! Thanks to everyone responsible for these high rankings--I hope you enjoyed the story and will also sample my full-length novels!

"The Apple Blossom Bower" has reverted to the original price of 99 cents, or the equivalent in other currencies. Here are purchase links to most editions (all English language):

US   UK  Canada  France   Germany  Italy   Spain   Japan

The area in which the story unfolds is, as usual, one known to me. As a student I spent time in Devon during summer. I was based in Exeter, and journeyed southwards down the river and northwards to Dartmoor.

One of my most memorable visits to that region served as fodder for the novella. One spring we stayed in the area of Ashsprington and Harbertonford, seeing friends and covering the Tuckenhay-Totnes region as well as visiting the Royal Naval College and Dartmouth. (Where I encountered the real Christopher Robin Milne, who owned a bookshop.)

I remember the food of The Maltsters Arms quite fondly. It was owned by a famous television chef, now deceased, and has the most delightful riverside views.

Just prior to my move from the Rocky Mountain West to New England, my publisher invited me to provide a novella for an anthology featuring some of their bestselling authors. Time being of the essence, I plumbed my memory banks for a location that I knew so well I wouldn't have to do massive amounts of research. The answer was that part of Devonshire. My story that rose from a specific place...and next I needed to create a plausible plot that would be logical for that setting.

I chose not to deal with smuggling directly, but instead with the effect of it upon the daughter of notorious smuggler. I decided also, having driven along lanes bordered by apple orchards in bloom, and having drunk many a pint of good Devon cider, that apple trees would be incorporated somehow.

But I had an even more compelling need to write about apple trees...I was preparing to leave my own backyard orchard. Our apple trees were extremly reliable, excellent bearers. People who "knew" apples judged them to be an older variety--though I tried, I never accurately identified the exact type. I only know it was perfect for eating, cooking, and keeping. Our dogs loved to rest in the shade of the spreading branches of the largest tree.

The locations of my story are mostly fictional. However, the Royal Castle Hotel in its much earlier incarnation is the popular Castle Inn of my story.

Annis Kelland makes a lotion of primroses in an attempt to eliminate her freckles. (I've often used primrose soap on my face.) I took this primrose photo in Devon.

(I grow them in New England.)

Another personal experience related to The Apple Blossom Bower: I recall drinking a fair amount of Calvados (apple brandy) in the name of "research" during the writing of this tale. I hope it's not the worse for it!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guest Blogger: Anita Davison and Royalist Rebel

I'm delighted to welcome author Anita Davison/Anita Seymour to Periodic Pearls. I've read and enjoyed her historical novels (we share an interest in the 17th century and historical biographical fiction.) In the autumn I had the pleasure of meeting her in person and expressing my admiration--we both attended the Historical Novel Society conference in London.

Her latest novel, Royalist Rebel, is newly released.

~ ~ ~

During the early days of the English Civil Wars, Elizabeth Murray lived at Ham House on the River Thames near Richmond with her mother and three younger sisters while her father, William Murray, was a Gentleman of the Bedchamber at the exiled court of Charles I in Oxford.

In the winter of 1643 as the war edged closer, Catherine Murray took her daughters to Oxford, where they lived amongst impoverished and dispossessed Royalists gathered round King Charles, who plotted to regain London and his throne.

Reputed to be Oliver Cromwell’s mistress as well as a spy for the Royalist secret organisation The Sealed Knot, Elizabeth married twice and died in 1698 at 72 years old, alone, embittered and impoverished in her beloved Ham House. Vilified by society and abandoned by her children, the triumphs of her remarkable life largely forgotten.

If you visit Ham House, which has been restored to the way it looked during Elizabeth’s lifetime, this is the woman the guides talk about; an irascible, embittered widow stripped of her glory and reduced to genteel poverty in her beloved childhood home. They run ghost evenings at Ham, where tales of sightings of the old lady’s spirit that roams the mansion tapping the floors with her stick, her small dog at her side while the scent of attar of roses permeates her favourite rooms announcing her presence.

In the gallery is this portrait of Elizabeth, painted by Sir Peter Lely when she was eighteen. This was the young woman I wanted to discover and subsequently began writing about - the beautiful, intelligent and passionate young girl on the verge of womanhood who was dedicated to Ham House, the Royalist cause and the men in her life; her father William Murray, son of a minister who rose to become King Charles’ friend and confidant, Lionel Tollemache, her husband of twenty years who adored her, Oliver Cromwell who was fascinated by her, and John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Charles II’s favourite on whom he heaped honours and riches, only to ostracise him after a bitter quarrel.

Royalist Rebel is the story of that girl.

Anita Seymour Davison, January 2013

Anita’s Blog The Disorganised Author
Royalist Rebel Blog
Ham House Website
~ ~ ~

Thanks so much, Anita, for visiting, and all best wishes on the launch!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Epiphanies Great and Small

We had snow right after Christmas. Jewel and Ruth were happy, they love chasing each other through the drifts.

And it makes for lovely photographs, like this one featuring the colours red, white, and blue.

And it allowed for cooling of this bottle of Morte Subite (Belgian raspberry beer) that I enjoyed on New Year's Day.

The return of snow--we had so little of it last year--reminded me how very much I enjoy this season of hibernation. However, the first week of 2013 proved busy, with diocesan meetings and plans and projects...and the Investiture of our new bishop.

Our Friend from the North Country spend the night at the Lodge on the eve of the Investiture, which took place on the Eve of The Epiphany--also Twelfth Night. I'm afraid we didn't have the traditional cake...but we and our FFTNC did enjoy a nice lunch together in downtown Concord.

I was a lector at the investiture service, and read Isaiah 60, verses 1-6, the Epiphany prophecy. I love those verses, appointed for the Feast of Epiphany, which was yesterday.

With Christmastide behind us, we have entered a season of light. Our days have been beautifully sunny, the sky perfectly blue and cloudless. At the Lodge we've used our fireplace at night. And when we're out in the late afternoon, we notice that the days are already lengthening.

I did so well with my sole (and extremely rare) New Year's Resolution for 2012 (electronically publish some of my backlist titles), that I followed my former tradition and made none for 2013. I have goals and ambitions and plans and dreams...and the ones that are realised will of course be detailed here on the blog!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013: A Fine Beginning!

This celebratory photo dates from 2012, taken in my favourite London bar on the eve of my return to the States. It adequately conveys my mood on this, the first day of 2013.

Here at the Lodge, in accordance with our custom, we opened the bottle of bubbly just before midnight in London, and ushered in the UK New Year with a toast. With a repeat at midnight in New England.

Today I learned that, thanks to my friends Kristine and Victoria at One London One, I'm nominated for a blogger award.

This honour comes with certain requirements.

1. Thank the person who nominated you. (Many thanks, Victoria & Kristine!)
2. Add the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ image to your post.
3. Share seven things about you.
4. Pass the award on to seven nominees.
5. Include this set of rules.
6. Inform your nominees* by posting a comment on their blogs. (I'll also send email notification.)

Seven Things About Me

1. My first appearance on stage came very early in my life...while in utero. When she was slightly pregnant, my mother played an Oriental princess in a children's play.

2. I was partly raised by a Weimaraner. This explains a lot. For example: my love of dogs, my habit of sitting or lying on the floor, the fact that I sometimes bark when very excited, my loyalty and devotion to persons dear to me.

3. My early novels were published prior to my 30th birthday.

4. I love to eat calamari.

5. As well as studying at UK universities, I've made between 35 and 40 trips to Britain and/or Ireland. (I gave up counting at the 30th one, but I daresay my husband knows exactly how many. He's good at metrics.)

6. I cannot think of a single county/shire in England that I've not visited.

7. I currently possess 2 titles: The Hon. Margaret Porter (came from holding a state office), and Lady Margaret Porter (bestowed upon me at Christmas). I don't use either one...dread of pretension and fear of an attack of the giggles.

In choosing my nominees, I'm highlighting writers, readers, travellers, dog people. Drumroll....

Seven Nominees

1. Melissa Jensen
2. Lauren Royal's Crumbs From my Keyboard
3. Thomas at My Porch
4. Isabella & Loretta, the Two Nerdy History Girls
5. Scandalous Women
6. Sarah at Reading the Past
7. Anita, the Disorganised Author

Today marks the 27th birthday of a very special horse--Fling, who appears in Kissing a Stranger (eBook currently on sale for 99 cents at Amazon US,, Barnes & Noble and for 77p at Amazon UK.) If you search, you'll find him pictured on the cover of the digital edition of KAS.

A very happy, healthy, prosperous, productive New Year to all!