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

Deborah-Swift's Royalty Free 1 album on Photobucket

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Sultana: Two Sisters by Lisa J Yarde

Prior to writing Sultana: Two Sisters, I had not envisioned a six-part series on the Nasrid Dynasty. Two years ago, after a long fascination with the matriarch of the last Muslim dynasty to rule in Spain, I released Sultana and Sultana’s Legacy. Lingering interest became an obsession that would not go away, even after other novels took me in different directions. Some readers kept asking if there would be another book on Moorish Spain, but I adopted a wait-and-see approach. Once the first books did well, including a foreign rights deal, I felt confident enough to pursue the tale of the next generation of Nasrids.

Spain has always been an amalgamation of various cultures and religions. After thousands of years under the Celts, Romans and Visigoths, the last major invasion began in 711, when Arabs and Berbers took the peninsula. They might have claimed France if Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, had not halted their advance twenty years later. Christian kingdoms slowly pushed back the Moorish tide in the Reconquista until the late 1200’s when only Muslim Granada remained. Still, almost eight hundred years of Moorish rule left its mark on Spain’s identity as a Catholic nation, and on its music, foods and language.

Why do I find Moorish Spain and this particular family so interesting? The Nasrids ruled from their hilltop fortress of the Alhambra from 1232 and held out for 260 years. Castile considered Granada as a vassal rather than an enemy for most of that period and demanded annual tribute payments rather than expanding its borders. Muslim Granada exemplified the idea of the Spanish melting pot, as Christian women became the mothers of Moorish Sultans, men who employed Christians as their personal bodyguards. Theirs was a kingdom in its death throes, weakened internally by infighting between fathers and sons, and among brothers rather than the lackluster attacks of Christian adversaries.

In this period, women whom we might think of as trapped behind harem walls played important roles. Their choices affected the history of the dynasty. One of the most influential women was Fatima, the heroine of Sultana and Sultana’s Legacy, who was the descendant of the first two rulers of the dynasty, sister to the next two, and ancestress of all who followed until the royal line ended with Isabel and Ferdinand’s capture of Granada in 1492. Then there were the Christian slaves Butayna and Maryam, the main characters of Sultana: Two Sisters whose rivalry extended beyond harem walls and toppled the legitimate ruler. With all the internal strife, dysfunctional family interactions and intrigue that beset the Nasrid Dynasty for centuries, I could not help but write about such a family.

There are other reasons why the history is so appealing. The past is usually the story of the victors, those left alive to chronicle events, and history too often becomes “his story”, the exploits of the men at the forefront of momentous change. Propaganda and biases on both sides of the Moorish and Christian frontiers make a full account difficult, but the contributions of Moorish society to the Spain we know today remain evident. In addition, the role of women and their impact merits greater exploration. My goal with the series is to shed light on a period that remains a mystery to many, while attempting to provide good and interesting stories.

These stories have required an enormous amount of research, which started back in 1995 when I was a junior in college. If there is an English language book about Moorish Spain, I have probably read or bought it in the last 18 years. While study was critical in writing the first books of the series, and I often return to the sources, I also remind myself that no one wants to read the history of the Nasrids; entertainment is the goal. There are elements of the past, Moorish culture and the language included to give a real sense of time and place, but not so much as to bog down the plot. I am a storyteller at heart, even if I lose countless hours on details that never make it on to the page.  

Lisa's website       

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Lady in the Spitfire by Helena P Schrader

The Lady in the Spitfire
As a girl, I went to boarding school in London. I was very lonely, and ended up spending much of my free time in museums. One of my favorite museums became the Imperial War Museum, with its magnificent display of WWII aircraft. From the aircraft it was a small step to books about the Battle of Britain -- and "the Few." Soon I was also visiting the airfields; Tangmere, for example, was close enough to visit it more than once. Before long I was imagining a story and I started work on a manuscript while in college.

But soon other projects took precedence. While working on my Masters in International Relations, I discovered the German Resistance to Hitler. This soon became the topic of my doctoral dissertation. The dissertation was first published in Germany by an academic publisher, then re-written for the English-speaking market and published by Sutton Publishing in the UK. Based on hundreds of interviews and material irrelevant to the dissertation itself, I produced my first novel, An Obsolete Honor: A Story of the German Resistance to Hitler.

Yet all the while the idea of a novel about the Battle of Britain continued to nag at me. I returned to the topic, now with experience of a PhD in history and the ability to read and research in German as well. I decided to write a book that would follow the fate of men -- and the women they loved -- on both sides of the Channel. I sought out the memoirs of RAF and Luftwaffe pilots and obtained detailed histories that recorded the sorties, the claimed(and actual) "kills" each day, the damage to airfields etc. and got to work.

Chasing the Wind was the result of that research combined with my enduring passion for the people involved in this critical battle in history -- the ground crews and controllers as much as the pilots. It seeks to capture the tension and uncertainty of this critical phase of the war -- and highlight how many different people in different jobs were involved in the outcome.

chasing the windBut Chasing the Wind ends when the Battle of Britain did, in the fall of 1940, and -- as we all know -- the war was far from over. Chasing the Wind was a long book already and it had a conclusion that was right for it -- but readers kept writing me to say "But what happened to...." Just as important, the characters wouldn't leave me alone either. Chasing the Wind was finished, but the story was not. There was more to tell. So I sat down and wrote a sequel, The Lady in the Spitfire.

The Lady in the Spitfire practically wrote itself. The characters were by then so much a part of me, that I knew what they would do and say in a new set of circumstances. Furthermore, by this point -- after the PhD and the research for Chasing the Wind -- I knew the clothing, customs and even the jargon -- of the period. The amount of research necessary was minimal. I have rarely had so much fun writing a novel!


Helena's website

"The telling of good deeds is like alms and charity;
it is never lost labour but always has its return."
Chandos' Herald ca. 1386

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Souvenirs by Keith C Chase


This is a story about luck and how it affects the minds of a mythical group of American Army infantrymen. It is also the story of a young Corporal struggling to retain his sanity after two years of combat. The story takes place in October 1944 where the Americans are attempting to surround the city of Aachen, Germany; had the attempt on Hitler's life three months earlier been successful, hundreds of lives would have been saved as there would have been no need for the desperate battles of that fall.

I had just completed a one year seven month tour of duty providing security at the American Embassy, Bonn, West Germany. This will be a book too someday. I returned stateside on Dec. 27, 1983. I had spent years researching the interesting yet terrible and tragic history of W.W. 2 and the Third Reich. Not only had I been immersed in European New Wave and the huge cold war missile deployment situation and many other things but it never left my thoughts that all of these issues were taking place directly in the shadows of the then not so old Nazi era.

I shall add that I and all of my German friends were anti Nazi and anti communist. I wanted a direct link to the Germans and Americans who fought the war . I wanted the bloodshed and hatred but also examples of mercy and goodwill that also took place in that sad and massive war. I was myself on a big and never ending quest for W.W. 2 German military items. Much to my sorrow most of West Germany had been picked clean by the time I was selected to pull duty there. I decided in 1984 when I went back to live with my then German girlfriend that a realistic war novel about German souvenirs would be great. To the best of my knowledge no writer had ever examined such a plot. All historical aspects had to be accurately covered. I am obligated and honored to declare that without the support of Rita Rittinga and her brother, Erich and his family of Aachen, Souvenirs would have taken much longer to accomplish.

By 1985 I had interviewed many American vets in addition to a great many former German soldiers. Something most positive was an almost complete lack of any remaining animosity or hatred from these men. This new information was combined with info I had gleaned from American vets I spoke with while growing up in the 60's and 70's. I also hiked through many of the old battle sites, and I'm not talking about those nice, marked, easy to find trails either! I did not want to create characters, rather I must have totally understandable "real," "story people with their very own concerns and souls". Then I need, for example, the reader to be just as chilly, fearful, tired and angry as our story people are. Finally, I must have the correct slang, movies ,music, and lifestyles, not to mention those people and loved ones they also left behind.