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

Deborah-Swift's Royalty Free 1 album on Photobucket

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The White Hawk by David Pilling

A Bolton, a Bolton! The White Hawk!
"A Bolton, a Bolton! The White Hawk! God for Lancaster and Saint George!" 

England, 1459: the kingdom stands divided and on the brink of civil war. The factions of Lancaster and York vie for control of the King, while their armies stand poised, ready to tear each other to pieces. 

The White Hawk follows the fortunes of a family of Lancastrian loyalists, the Boltons, as they attempt to survive and prosper in this world of brutal warfare and shifting alliances. Surrounded by enemies, their loyalties will be tested to the limit in a series of bloody battles and savage twists of fate.
This period, with its murderous dynastic feuding between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, is perhaps the most fascinating of the entire medieval period in England. Having lost the Hundred Years War, the English nobility turned on each other in a bitter struggle for the crown, resulting in a spate of beheadings, battles, murders and Gangland-style politics that lasted some thirty years.
Apart from the savage doings of aristocrats, the wars affected people on the lower rungs of society. One minor gentry family in particular, the Pastons of Norfolk, suffered greatly in their attempts to survive and thrive in the feral environment of the late 15th century. They left an invaluable chronicle in their archive of family correspondence, the famous Paston Letters.
The letters provide us with a snapshot of the trials endured by middle-ranking families like the Pastons, and of the measures they took to defend their property from greedy neighbours. One such extract is a frantic plea from the matriarch of the clan, Margaret Paston, begging her son John to return from London:
"I greet you well, letting you know that your brother and his fellowship stand in great jeopardy at Caister... Daubney and Berney are dead and others badly hurt, and gunpowder and arrows are lacking. The place is badly broken down by the guns of the other party, so that unless they have hasty help, they are likely to lose both their lives and the place, which will be the greatest rebuke to you that ever came to any gentleman. For every man in this country marvels greatly that you suffer them to be for so long in great jeopardy without help or other remedy..."
The Paston Letters, together with my general fascination for the era, were the inspiration for The White Hawk. Planned as a series of three novels, TWH will follow the fortunes of a fictional Staffordshire family, the Boltons, from the beginning to the very end of The Wars of the Roses. Unquenchably loyal to the House of Lancaster, their loyalty will have dire consequences for them as law and order breaks down and the kingdom slides into civil war. The ‘white hawk’ of the title is the sigil of the Boltons, and will fly over many a blood-stained battlefield.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Oleanna by Julie K. Rose

The immigrant story is a powerful one in the American psyche. We have so many compelling tales about the lives immigrants led once they came to this strange new land. But what about the families they left behind?

My great-grandfather John Myklebust was a successful homesteader in North Dakota in the early 1900s, but he left something behind: his two spinster sisters stayed on the farm in JĂžlster, Sogn, Norway. Their names were Elisabeth and Oleanna.

Oleanna is set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, and it's an imagining of Elisabeth and Oleanna's lives. Who were these women? What were their stories? Why were Oleanna and Elisabeth still living together, alone on the farm, until their deaths (94 and 92, respectively)? Why did they never leave Norway? Why did John decide to leave? What were their lives like? What was it like to be left behind?

And though this is a work of fiction, the book is firmly rooted in the history of the time. What was it like to live during a time of such inexorable change—the coming of industrialization and modernity to the rural areas of the country? What was it like to live during a time when Norway was finally becoming an independent country after hundreds and hundreds of years?

I have always been fascinated by the lives of regular people. I do love a good story about an historical figure, but I have always been drawn to the history of daily life. What did the regular folk drink, think, laugh at, wear, worry about? What can we learn about history through the small details? What can we learn about ourselves?

As a matter of fact, I learned a lot about myself as I wrote this book. The idea for the story came to me very suddenly, in November 2006, with the image of Oleanna on the top of a mountain in Norway, her long blond hair being whipped by the wind. I'd never seen a photo her (except in advanced age) so this was quite a surprise. But she appeared, right when I needed her, and I couldn't turn my back on her.

The writing process was difficult, from an emotional standpoint; I started writing Oleanna six months after my mother died. The themes and characters were very close to the bone, and I needed to take breaks to get my brain recalibrated and come back with fresh eyes. In fact, I wrote (and edited, and rewrote) another novel, and made a start on two others, while I was writing Oleanna.

But in the end, I always came back to her, fascinated by her story and her struggle. Though the book was inspired by my family, Oleanna became her own character, and accompanying her on her journey through the fascinating changes in early 20th century Norway was both a thrilling challenge and a true honor.

Julie's website

Oleanna: A Novel of Norway in 1905

Oleanna can be purchased online through any retailer (B&N, Amazon worldwide, iBookstore worldwide, Powells,, and more) in both paperback and ebook formats. The U.S. amazon link is: .

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Readers choices - favourite royalty-free historicals


Congratulations to Danielle!
the winner of The Gilded Lily in the blog hop draw!
During the recent giveaway and blog hop I asked people for their favourite historicals about ordinary people.

By far the most popular book without Kings and Queens was Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series.

Mentioned more than once:

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Other historical fiction titles that were mentioned are listed below:

Into The Wilderness - Sara Donati

Fallen Angels -Tracy Chevalier

Kristin Lavransdatter - Sigrid Undset

Blood Lance - Jeri Westerson

The President's Lady - Irving Stone

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt

The Tea Rose trilogy- Jennifer Donnelly

In the Company of the Courtesan - Sarah Dunant

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

The Promise - Kate Worth

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell

Blackberry Winter -Sarah Jio

Thank you so much all of you who left comments, they were much appreciated.
It is a wonderful list and there are several on there I haven't read yet so they will definitely be going onto my TBR pile!.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Royalty Free Fiction - hopping through history

Sign up for the 1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop!

Royalty Free Fiction (Historical Fiction with no Kings and Queens) is proud to be part of the Historical Holiday Blog Hop organised by Amy at Passages to the Past.

I'd love to know a favourite historical novel you have read which features ordinary people and no royalty. Comment here to win a signed copy of The Gilded Lily - open worldwide.
One extra entry if you follow this blog, another extra entry if you tweet about Royalty Free Fiction - the past is full of ordinary people with extraordinary lives.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

At Drake's Command - David Wesley Hill

In 1999 I was one of the winners of the Writers of the Future Contest. We were invited to Los Angeles for a week-long writing workshop conducted by Algis Budrys and Dave Wolverton.. One morning our group was let loose in the aisles of the LA Library to browse the shelves in search of inspiration. I was mildly interested in pirates and began reading a facsimile edition of The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake.

This was not written by Drake himself but published by a nephew thirty years after Drake's death in an effort to keep alive Drake's reputation. While thumbing through the book, I came across an interesting passage. On an island off the coast of Patagonia, Drake charged one of his crew with treason and mutiny. Forty men were chosen as jurors and a trial was held. The accused, Thomas Doughty, was found guilty. Drake gave Doughty three options:

1. To be returned to England to face punishment
2. To be left behind in South America
3. To be executed

Given these choices, Doughty replied: "Please, do not return me to England since I am a gentleman and do not want to be shamed before my queen. Do not maroon me here, either, since I am a good Christian and I do not want to lose my faith among the heathen. No, general, I ask you to exercise the third option."

Drake obliged and cut off Doughty's head. Then he held it up by the hair and said, "Lo, here be the end of traitors."

Upon reading this, I said to myself, "This is utter mendacity." So I embarked on a course of research  to uncover the real story of what had happened on that bleak island (Drake called it the "Island of Truth and Justice" but the crew had another name for it: "The Island of Blood").

During the next four years I studied all of the major accounts of Drake's life and the circumnavigation, starting with The World Encompassed and including Corbett's Drake and the Tudor Navy and Wagner's Voyage Around the World. An 8-volume edition of Hakluyt's The Principal Navigations was an invaluable resource, too, since it contained much about Drake. At one point I ordered facsimiles of source material  from the British Library so that I could examine the original text.  Google Earth has also been an amazing tool, allowing me to retrace Drake's route almost day by day.

Eventually, I succeeded—at least, to my own satisfaction—in understanding what had actually transpired on that awful day in 1578. My first inclination was to write a non-fiction book about the Doughty affair. I am, however, a fiction writer, so I decided to tell the tale in novel form while paying meticulous respect for historical accuracy.

Cover Art: "The Golden Hinde off New Albion" by Simon Kozhin

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Thing Done by Tinney Sue Heath

A Thing Done started life as a footnote.  Several footnotes, actually – one in a translation of Dante's Inferno, others in history books covering the 13th century in Florence.  And as I threaded my way through all these footnotes, I often felt I was working backwards from the end of the story, looking for its beginning.
At first what caught my eye was this:  “The vendetta against Buondelmonte was the origin of the Guelf and Ghibelline factions in Florence.” 

Well, that division was no small matter.  It colored politics - not just in Florence, but in all of Italy - for well over a century, and vestiges of it remained in place several centuries later.  To this day, Italian cities can be classified as used-to-be-Guelf or used-to-be-Ghibelline (or, not infrequently, used to be one and then the other).  You have only to look at the crenellations on castles and public buildings:  square crenellations = Guelf, swallowtail crenellations = Ghibelline.

So how did a vendetta against one man get all of this started?  First let's set the scene.

Florence at the beginning of the 13th century was bristling with violence – hereditary enmities, power struggles, deep resentments.  The city was a commune, with no king or duke or other titular head.  Her ruling class was formed by members of the ancient noble families, but also by wealthy bankers and merchants – an oligarchy made up of men of substance and influence, who also commanded a certain amount of sheer military might.  Florence had her share of knights, men with superb military training and ability, and they didn't share their power easily.

Clearly, Buondelmonte was on one side and those who sought his ruin were on the other.  Further reading told me that Buondelmonte had been betrothed to a woman of the Amidei family (the other side), and had broken off the engagement to wed a woman of the Donati family (his own side), and that the Amidei and their allies were so incensed at this insult that they called for a vendetta against Buondelmonte. 

The story was getting more interesting.  But I didn't quite understand:  if feelings were running that high, what was Buondelmonte doing getting himself betrothed to a woman of his enemies' clan?  Especially if she wasn't really the woman he wanted to marry?

More footnotes, more reading.  As I suspected, it wasn't that simple.  Buondelmonte had been forced into that betrothal as a result of an altercation that took place at a banquet.  He had answered what he perceived as an insult from Oddo, one of his enemies, with violence, resulting in a knife wound to Oddo's arm.  Eventually, as was a custom of the times, a marriage was offered to make peace between the factions.  Not a marriage he chose; not a marriage he wanted. 

This was beginning to sound like a story I wanted to write.  But what, I wondered, started it all?  What did Oddo do that got Buondelmonte so enraged? 

Past the footnotes now and deep into the contemporary and near-contemporary chronicles, I finally found what looked to me like the point of origin.  At that feast, which took place to celebrate a knighting, a jester snatched a plate of food away from Buondelmonte and his dining companion.  Was he acting on orders?  If so, whose?  

Buondelmonte's companion was outraged, and Oddo took the opportunity to mock him and make fun of him because of it.  The companion told Oddo “You lie in your throat!” (yes, it really does translate that way - “Tu menti per la gola!”), but it was Buondelmonte, impetuous and hotheaded, who pulled a knife and then drew blood.  And drawing blood was an insult too serious to overlook. 

So yes, it was a story.  And I tried to tell it, writing of the conflict between Buondelmonte and Oddo, and of the two women from noble families, and of the mother of the Donati girl, who was said to have goaded Buondelmonte into forsaking his betrothed to wed her lovely daughter instead. 

But I couldn't stop thinking about that jester.  The one whose prank had started the whole thing, and had plunged his city into near civil war.  What was this experience like for him?  How did he feel?  What did he do?  How did the resulting chaos affect him? 

And when I found myself writing about the jester walking home late that night, I realized I had no idea where he lived, or how, or who he lived with.  I didn't know who his friends were, who he would want to tell about what had happened, what would worry him, how this incident would change his life.  And I wanted to know.

So it became the jester's story, and the story of his friends and neighbors.  Buondelmonte and his quarrelsome friends and foes are still there, as are the women, but the story unfolds as the jester sees it.  And it is richer for that; even the truculent nobles and their ladies are more fully developed for being seen through the eyes of one of their least imposing contemporaries.  (Especially the ladies, who lived in a society that allowed them very little initiative, but who were perfectly capable of making things happen from behind the scenes.  And the jester was so insignificant that he was in a position to see it all.) 

My jester is a man of the lower classes, living by his wits, without power, clout, or rights, marginalized in a society that didn't think much of self-employed performers.  But for all that, he's a man who makes sharp observations and has plenty to say.  I believe readers will agree that he was the right person to give voice to the story.

Find out more on the Authors Blog