Rolling slideshow will be back soon, meanwhile enjoy these Royalty Free historical fiction choices!

Deborah-Swift's Royalty Free 1 album on Photobucket

Friday, 27 January 2012

Asenath by Anna Patricio

My debut novel Asenath is about the little-known wife of Joseph of the multicoloured coat fame. Hardly anyone knows who she is, and that is most likely due to the fact that the Book of Genesis mentions her only in passing. In fact, whenever I tell people I have written about her, the reaction I get most of the time is, "I didn't know Joseph had a wife!"

So why write about this obscure Biblical character? Well, the mere fact that barely anything is known about her provides great opportunity for fiction. I am thus at ease to stretch my imagination as far as I please.

That is just the surface though. My deeper reason for writing about Asenath stems from my interest in the Biblical account of Joseph.
I adore that story. It is a powerful tale of strength, hope and perseverance. I had known about it all my life, but it was later on that I realised how moving it is. I admire how Joseph maintained his integrity even after all he had been through: losing his mother during his childhood, being sold into slavery by his brothers, and being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. He survived it all and emerged as a very seasoned man.

My newfound interest then drove me to delve deeper into the story. I read everything I could get my hands on. First I began with Biblical commentaries, then later discovered other interesting accounts, such as Jewish folktales and Persian epic poems.

Along the way, I grew curious about his wife Asenath. I wanted to know what sort of a woman married so admirable a person as Joseph. All the Bible tells us is that she was given to him as a wife after he successfully interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.I wanted to see if there was more info on her. Alas, when I looked her up, I found barely anything on her.I found a few ancient tales such as the Greek 'Joseph and Asenath' which has as its theme Asenath's conversion to Judaism. But other than that, nothing. Nothing to tell me of her childhood, her marriage to Joseph, her family life with Joseph etc.

In the contemporary fiction of Joseph that I read, I was not too satisfied with the portrayals of Asenath, especially because she wasn’t given much attention. I wanted someone to expand on her life with Joseph, albeit fictionally. But when I did not find what I wanted to read, I then thought to write such a story myself.

In addition, I have always loved fiction set in Ancient Egypt, and thought it might be an adventure to contribute to the Egyptian fiction offerings. I knew though that it would also entail a lot of research, to try and stay as faithful as possible to the atmosphere of that era, and that would be a lot of hard work. However, it all turned out very fulfilling in the end.

Hence, Asenath.

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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Song in My Heart by Roma Calatayud - Stocks


Answers to this question from an interview by Billy Watkins from the Clarion Ledger Newspaper: June 18, 2011

Q: What are your earliest music memories?

A: My mother played recorded classical music every Sunday, which exposed me to various musical styles, but waltzes were my favorite.

Q: What appealed to you about orchestral music?

A: The music from composers around the world, the abundance of sounds, counter melodies, and when the main melody is repeated and performed by varying sections of the orchestra, giving the musical motif of the composition a different arrangement and emotion.

Q: Will you tell us about your book and where the idea came from?

A: It is about the life of Alejandra "Ale" Stanford who's born into a bi cultural family in Minneapolis in 1902. As a young pianist and budding composer, she resolves to become a conductor despite the obstacles. She will travel to the great cities of the world in pursuit of her goals.

The idea for the story was born in 2002 when I was producing a concert for the Minnesota Orchestra Volunteer Association. As the creator and artistic director, I selected the composers and the musical program. Then, it became clear to me what a privilege it would be to be a conductor and interpret the music of legendary composers.

In the early 1900s most of the musicians and all conductors were men. I thought "what if a young woman's dreams of being a conductor is at the core of the narrative?" That was a story that had not been told.

Q: This is historical fiction. How much of it is true?
A: Most everything around the characters' lives is true, from the debut of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, to World War I, to the Roaring Twenties.

All of the pioneers, composers, conductors, artists, dates, places and institutions are also real. What is most surprising and interesting is how the true historic time line fell almost perfectly with the fictional storyline.

Q: What is the message you want to convey?

A: It was important for the novel to be entertaining, yet written within a compelling period in history that people would enjoy.

A Song in My Heart highlights the contributions of many cultures and dozens of institutions, individuals, artists and composers from the U.S. and other countries through music and the arts.

I also wanted to convey music's relevance in our lives. And while there may be challenges in a person's life, anything is possible with conviction and determination, regardless of the odds.

The protagonist Alejandra "Ale" Stanford who faces many of life's challenges, is herself a virtuoso pianist and budding composer. The original soundtrack that accompanies the narrative serves to provide the protagonist's own creative and emotional expressions through music during pivotal times in her life.
A Song in My Heart is book one of a trilogy, and I look forward to completing the second book "Striking the Right Note" which begins in 1933, Berlin, Germany.

A Song in My Heart, A Historical Novel, Including CD with Original Musical Score written and composed by Roma Calatayud-Stocks. The musical score, with fourteen songs and instrumentals with classical, jazz, and Latin influences, to A Song in My Heart was composed by Roma Calatayud-Stocks and arranged and performed by Chan Poling and other excellent musicians who are listed in the book.

On a personal note, Roma serves as a trained volunteer docent at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center, and also volunteers for Minnesota’s Vocal Essence’s CantarĂ© Program and MacPhail Center for Music.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Strategos by Gordon Doherty

Parmenion, Helikaon, Kalliades, Connovar, Bane...all of David Gemmell's characters live long in the memory weeks, months and even years after I have followed them in their quest through troubled lives and epic sagas. I never totally love them, I never quite dislike them but I always empathise with them and want to stick by their side right to the end. Then, when the end comes I feel like I've lost a good friend.
Why? Because Gemmell spiced each of his characters with something that simply 'clicks' with the human psyche. His characters don't just develop; they evolve, and rarely as they might want to. It is the choices that they make at the most intense and troubled times that truly shape their character. As any person knows all too intimately, nobody makes the right choice every time. Nobody is perfect and any reader can to empathise with that.

There are many fine authors out there who have crafted strong and memorable characters and some may well have been inspired by Gemmell's work. Indeed it is the tales of the Rigante, the Trojans, the Macedonians and the Britons that have inspired me to write of the Byzantine boy Apion in 'Strategos: Born in the Borderlands'.
Apion's life is riven in the most brutal fashion, his parents slain in a Seljuk night raid before his eyes. Orphaned, he struggles to survive in the volatile borderlands between the Byzantine and Seljuk Empires in an age where war is imminent. Then, when an old Seljuk farmer takes him under his wing, Apion is presented with a choice: to let go of his dark past and seek a happy future, or to track down the truth, knowing that it will bring conflict and pain on those he loves most.

That is where the journey begins; he will face choices in his life that will define not only his own destiny, but that of the Byzantine Empire itself...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Moon in Leo by Kathleen Herbert

In the 1980s Kathleen Herbert was a respected author, much in demand as a speaker, and selling her books all over Europe, the UK and America.

Imagine: a large abandoned warehouse. Nothing in it- nothing at all. Except an industrial sized fan. Does it work? OK. Move it to the middle of the warehouse. Now, on the floor (none too clean) place two copies of the same manuscript, about seven hundred pages each. Put them both down in front of the fan, go back to the wall socket, and press the switch. Wheeee- that was fun. Now go away and leave dust and pages to settle. Come back every so often over a few years and try to pick them up and put them in a pile. Eventually manage to cram the pages- every single last one of them- into two carrier bags- the sturdy sort that are supposed to last a lifetime. Hand them to a friend- and six months later, Moon in Leo is in bookshops and selling on Amazon.

Yes- I find it hard to believe too. Just over a year ago that's all I was- a friend to a writer. And now I am a publisher.

My friendship with Kathleen Herbert has lasted for well over forty years. Like all friendships, it has changed, as I married and had children (to whom she became a much loved and affectionate "Auntie") and she became a well respected author. There were gaps, high points and low points.
During the last few years there have been low points indeed, as the stroke that she had in 1994 started to take its toll, and she became prey to depression and delusion. During those dark years, we met rarely, and she allowed no-one into her house. She was often despairing and felt she was being watched. She bemoaned her own incapability- on good days with a joke, on bad days with tears.
A constant in her conversation and letters though, was the book she knew said something important she needed to share:
I have looked over my novel about Furness during the Popish Plot- which is firmly based on truth… during these last weeks, the story has suddenly become incredibly topical- … for the background  we have:
·       a King called Charles, with a complicated marital and family life
·       a society of the rich and famous who produce a new scandal with every edition of the newspapers
·       a government that is not only stale but starting to smell
·       an established religion that has run out of steam, and numbers of cults that are boiling with enthusiasm- some for good, some for evil, both inside and outside Christianity
·       and a large number of “alternative” Englands that are barely suspected to exist by “official” England
·       It’s 1678, but change the clothes and it could be today.
And later:
I wrote a novel about the different folk who have come to our islands (for good, bad, fear, food, etc) and how they are still coming. I put the story into the past, so no folk could be insulted or unhappy or frightened.
As she became less and less capable of mustering her resources to approach publishers and agents, I repeatedly offered to help: She said a well meaning friend had offered to type it and had completely messed it up; she implied that he had taken it upon himself to re-write bits of it, and had even lost the original MS.  (Remember the two almost identical copies?)
Perhaps we could meet for coffee and a meal and look at what remained, I kept saying. Despite several attempts to arrange meetings, they never happened, and there were times when she was so much in despair that I suggested she bundle it all up, put it in a box and send it to me by registered post.
Finally, gathering all her strength and all her pages, she managed to bundle the manuscript into two large carrier bags- "bags for life" - a lovely irony. And she gathered enough courage and energy to meet me outside Burnt Oak station with the bags. That was in June 2010.
It took me two days to sort the two manuscripts and I was thrilled to find they were both complete- (OK I lied about the industrial fan.) It took my husband several weeks to scan it and use OCR to transform it into a modern manuscript that we could present to publishers and agents.
How and why I lost patience and decided to short circuit them all, is another story.
She had a week or two of great energy and optimism, when she rode on the wave that had buoyed her up to gather her book together, but it was a very brief upturn in what proved to be a rapid decline in her health and spirits. She had been neglecting the physical world of eating, drinking and sleeping until she was found wandering, far from home with a dislocated shoulder, and taken to the nearest hospital.
Now, with proper food and warmth and care in sheltered accommodation she is regaining strength and clarity day by day and delighted that people are enjoying Moon in Leo, and that the message of tolerance- political, religious and personal- which is one of its strongest themes, is finally reaching those people she was so desperate to talk to.
And why did I start a new business to publish this lost book? Because I agree with Kathleen- it is an important book which tells us things we need to know; but most of all, because, having sorted it out, I then couldn't put it down!


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