Thursday, October 8, 2015

Get Lost in Medieval England with Rogue Knight!

Hi, there! It's Regan WALKER here... joining you today to tell you about my new medieval romance, ROGUE KNIGHT, and share a bit of the history and an excerpt, a teaser to make you want more!

This story follows THE RED WOLF'S PRIZE, which was #1 in Amazon's Top 100 Medieval Romances last year, and has just won the RONE award for Best Historical Novel for 2015 in the medieval category

Have you ever heard of the "Harrying of the North" that occured in England in the winter of 1069-70? Neither had I until I began my research for the series. It was the time when William the Conqueror decided to show no mercy. It wasn't enough to conquer and rule; he was bent on total submission and he eventually got it. The book is set in medieval York where it all happened.

Perhaps the most famous account of the Harrying comes from the ancient chronicler Orderic Vitalis, who stated:

“Nowhere else had William shown such cruelty. Shamefully he succumbed to this vice, for he made no effort to restrain his fury and punished the innocent and the guilty. In his anger he commanded that all crops and herds, chattels and food of every kind should be bought together and burned to ashes with consuming fire, so that the whole region north of the Humber might be stripped of all means of sustenance. In consequence so serious a scarcity was felt in England, and so terrible a famine fell upon the humble and defenceless populace, that more than 100,000 Christian folk of both sexes, young and old alike, perished of hunger.”

I can tell you such times make for some exciting scenes. ROGUE KNIGHT is the story of Sir Geoffroi de Tournai, one of the French knights who followed William to England and fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The short description:
Click on the cover to order

York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest

The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.


Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.

Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.


War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?

USA Today Bestselling Author Kathryn Le Veque, who read the manuscript, described the book as "Mesmerizing medieval romance! A vivid portrayal of love flourishing amidst the turbulence of the years after the Norman Conquest."

Mayhap you would like to read of their first meeting… a bit ominous but remember, it led to love:

Dear God.
She crossed herself and covered her mouth, fighting the urge to spew at the sight of so much blood and so many bodies strewn about the clearing, blood congealed on their clothing, their vacant eyes staring into space. Some of the blood had pooled on the ground to catch the rays of the sun. The metallic scent of it, carried by the wind, rose in her nostrils.
At her side, the hound whimpered.
So many.
Until the Normans had come, Yorkshire had been a place of gentle hills, forests and thatched cottages circling a glistening jewel of a city set between two winding rivers. A place of children’s voices at play, some of those voices now silenced forever, for among the bodies lying on the cold ground were mere boys, their corpses cast aside like broken playthings.
At the sound of heavy footfalls on the snow-crusted ground, she jerked her head around, her heart pounding in her chest.
A figure emerged from the trees, so close she could have touched him.
She cringed. A Norman.
A tall giant of a knight, his blood-splattered mail a dull gray in the weak winter sun, ripped off his silvered helm and expelled an oath as he surveyed the dozens of dead. The sword in his hand still dripped the blood of those he had slain. He was no youth this one, at least thirty. His fair appearance made her think of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. A seasoned warrior of death who has taken many lives.
Had he killed people she knew? Her heart raced as fear rose in her chest.
Would she be next?

Beginning about a year ago, I started doing Pinterest storyboards for my books. The storyboards document my research and provide a pictorial display of images from the book. Many of my readers love them. I thought you might like to see the one for ROGUE KNIGHT (link below).

Tell me what you love about medieval romance for a chance to win book 1, THE RED WOLF'S PRIZE!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

E.E. Burke's BEST OF THE WEST: Death, Victorian Style

Grieving Victorians
October seems a fitting month to share a post on mourning customs in the 19th century. 


Victorians had a morbid fascination--some might call it an obsession--with death and dying. Many books were written on the subject of how to mourn, what to wear, when to wear it, and many other customs--some of which we might find downright bizarre.

The queen started it, so we can blame her. When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria went into mourning, and she continued to wear black for the rest of her life. Her prolonged and highly visible grieving influenced society on both sides of the ocean. 

Queen Victoria in mourning
That same year, the American Civil War began. Death on a massive scale affected families and communities. Mourning became a central fact of wartime. After the war, death continued to be ritualized. 


Hair Jewelry
During the Victorian era, customs dictated every aspect of life—and death. Social decorum dictated how family members dressed and behaved after the death of a close relative. Black was the “in” color, all the way down to underclothes and handkerchiefs. The mourning dress would be solid black, symbolic of spiritual darkness, made of non-reflective material like bombazine, and trimmed in crape (crepe), a scratchy silk with a crimped appearance produced by heat. Merchants weren’t about to miss out on the opportunity and mourning apparel became the first “off the rack” clothing. If one couldn’t afford a new outfit, they dyed existing clothes black.

Mourning Accessories 
Personal stationery and handkerchiefs carried a black border, with a wide border indicating a very recent death. Widows were expected to wear black two years, after that they could go into half-mourning, in gray, mauve, and white.

Mourning jewelry was popular, especially pieces made with the loved one’s hair. (Don’t even get me started on Victorian hair art, another peculiar custom.) Women in mourning carried or wore “tear catchers” made from glass vials or tiny urns.  Tears were captured, the vials capped. Supposedly, when the tears evaporated the mourning period would be over.

Women covered their faces with veils, which kept red-rimmed eyes hidden. But there was also a superstition that the spirits of the departed hovered around those they loved. If a passerby looked directly on the mourner's face, that spirit might attach itself to the person.
Widow in full mourning

In fact, superstitions and customs went hand-in-glove, you might say.

A wreath of laurel, yew or boxwood tied with crape or black ribbons hangs on the front door to alert passersby that a death had occurred. All over the house, black material covers windows, pictures and mirrors. Many rituals were based on superstitions.

*Stop the clock at the death hour to avoid bad luck.
*Turn down family photographs so the wandering soul could not take possession of the living
*When there was a corpse in the house you had to cover all the mirrors, so the soul would not be trapped behind the glass.
*Carry the corpse out feet first because if it’s carried out head first, it could look back and beckon others to follow it into death.

Mourners greeted guests coming to pay respects and, served “funeral biscuits” – small cakes wrapped in white paper and sealed with black sealing wax.

Death Room Photograph
In the parlor, called the “death room” when a coffin was on display, lilies and other fragrant flowers fill the room (or flowers made from human hair, often the deceased’s), and a portrait of the deceased taken after death stands near the coffin.
During this era, post-mortem portraits became very popular. 

The body would be watched over every minute until burial, hence the custom of “waking”.  The wake also served as a safeguard from burying someone who was not dead but in a coma.  Wakes also lasted several days to allow relatives to arrive from far away. The use of flowers and candles helped to mask unpleasant odors in the room. Burial usually followed four days after death. Lavish meals would be served to guests after the internment.
Post Mortem (see stand behind her?)

Photography was still fairly new and expensive. In many cases, this would be the only picture families had of their loved ones. 

The photo shoots became quite elaborate. Corpses would be propped up with devices, sometimes eyes would be painted over closed lids, and if decomposition occurred before the photo could be made, death masks would be employed.

A widespread concern in the nineteenth century was the fear of being buried alive. Coffin alarms were developed. A bell was attached to the headstone with a chain that led down into the coffin to a ring that went around the finger of the deceased. 

Some expressions that came from this era: “Saved by the bell." Also, "dead ringer.”

Coffin Alarm
Another concern was grave robbery.  The culprit? Usually men hired by doctors (or the doctors themselves) who needed fresh cadavers for dissection classes.  They earned the name "Resurrection Men."

“Bricking-over” a grave was a way of guaranteeing some security after death.

Death Comes Calling

At the beginning of my latest novel, Fugitive Hearts, the heroine's husband is killed. She claims the shooting was accidental, but as gossip spreads, people begin to suspect her of murder. 
Available from Amazon and major retailers

“Sheriff…I just shot my husband.”

Hotel owner Claire Daines is a respected member of the community. Until she shocks the entire town by rushing into a saloon wearing only her nightclothes and confessing to very inebriated lawman.

Is she a killer? Is she crazy? Or is she covering up something worse?

For years, Claire hushed up her husband’s dangerous condition to guard his reputation. When tragedy strikes, she puts her own life at risk when she vows to keep another terrible secret.

Sheriff Frank Garrity must get to the truth, although the tough, hard-drinking lawman hides his own secrets and would rather walk a lonely path than face his demons. But as Frank unravels Claire’s subterfuge and unlocks her heart, he’s torn between his desire to save her and his duty to bring her to justice.

Here's an excerpt:

Observing proper protocol, Claire has stayed with her husband's body all night and remains beside the coffin the next day as guests--including the town's worst gossips--come by to pay their "respects."

“Make way, make way…” The mournful wail came as a surprise, but not nearly as surprising as who appeared in a parted sea of mourners. Gertrude Bond paraded across the room in a black silk gown trimmed sumptuously in velvet, with a matching bonnet, clutching a lace fan—never one to miss an opportunity to make a fashion statement.
On a gold chain around her neck hung a delicate glass vial. Why the lachrymatory? She wasn’t family, wasn’t even a close friend. She had as much need of a tear-catcher as a crocodile.
She paused in front of the coffin, flanked by her followers, which included the mayor’s wife. That was the bitterest pill for Claire to swallow, seeing former friends switch loyalties after her brother left town and another man took his place.
The new general manager’s flamboyant wife drew the fan to her shapeless breast with a loud sigh. “What a terrible, terrible loss. An honorable, respected man like Mr. Daines cut down in his prime.”
The room went silent. There were some sharp looks, but no one rebuked the harpy for her rudeness. Instead, they turned away and pretended not to notice, no doubt because of her influential position in the community.
In a brief fantasy, Claire stuffed her black handkerchief into the other woman’s mouth. But no, things were bad enough without creating a spectacle. She gave a cool, but polite, reply. “Thank you for coming by to pay your respects.”
Gertrude maintained a mournful expression, practiced enough to appear convincing. “Do allow me to convey our deepest condolences for your loss. I’m sure your heart must be broken. With your husband gone, what will you do?”
This wasn’t the time or place to be discussing her future, and she certainly wasn’t filling Mrs. Bond in on her plans. “I’m afraid I can’t think past the moment.”
“Of course. You’re beset with grief, a very great burden to bear alone. Family can be a comfort. Have you sent for your brother?”
Oh, Gertrude would love that. She took every opportunity to remind people that the former general manager had left under the shadow of scandal, and even went so far as to suggest Henry was guilty of defrauding the railroad instead of his assistant, Caldwell, the man who’d murdered the investigator and very nearly killed Henry.
Claire had written to advise her brother and sisters of Frederick’s death, but not the manner in which he had died. With the trouble she’d caused her siblings over the years, she didn’t want to add humiliation to the list. “My family has been informed,” she said simply.
“Then you’ll be going to live with them?”
Why did the wretched woman care?
“There’s no reason for me to burden them. My home is here.”
Gertrude looked strangely annoyed. “You wish to remain in Parsons?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“To avoid jail, I suppose.”

What odd customs surrounding death and mourning have you heard about? Comment and enter the drawing for your chance to win a copy of the first book in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Get Lost in the Hidden Deep with Amy Patrick

I'm so excited to have Amy Patrick here to talk about her Young Adult HIDDEN DEEP series.  The HIDDEN HOPE released last week, but when I finished HIDDEN HEART - here was my Tweet - 
Dang - just finished Hidden Heart at lunch! Now I want the next book! !
Yes I overuse exclamation points - but the books are that good! (See another exclamation point.)
I was lucky enough to be a Golden Heart sister with Amy two years in a row, 2013 and 2014.  We are Lucky 13s and Dreamweavers together.  And man, she weaves fabulous dreams, both in her YA and Contemporary Romance 20 Something Series.  She is an automatic buy for me!


Amy Patrick is a two-time Golden Heart finalist (2013 and 2014) who writes Contemporary Romance and Young Adult fantasy/paranormal romance. She is the author of the Hidden Trilogy and the 20 Something series. Living in New England now with her husband and two sons, she actually craves the heat and humidity of Mississippi, where she grew up. She's been a professional singer and news anchor and currently works as a video host and voice actor as well as an audiobook narrator.

Let's learn a little about about the HIDDEN Trilogy.

The first time I saw him, everyone convinced me he was a hallucination caused by hypothermia. It was the second time that messed me up…

It all started when Ryann ran into the guy who saved her life ten years ago. She wasn’t exactly happy to see him again. He wasn’t supposed to exist.
Lad knew the law of his people all too well—don’t get careless. And don’t get caught. It had allowed his race to live undetected in this world for thousands of years, mentioned only in flawed and fading folklore…
He wasn’t supposed to even talk to a human, much less fall in love with one, but his fascination with Ryann tempted him to break all the rules. Now they’re both caught up in an ancient battle between Light and Dark, and they’re not the only ones at risk. There are other people—and other hearts—involved.
The unsuspecting human population of the world hangs in the balance of an approaching war. Powerful fan pods have transformed the face of the country. The Dark Council’s plan is almost accomplished, and they are nearly ready to reveal themselves and take back rulership of the world, as it was in the old days, before the history books were written.
Ryann will have to learn to balance her own Dark and Light sides-- and somehow make the right choice between two tempting Fae guys-- or face the consequences of a wrong decision eternally and watch her family and the entire human world fall under the oppression of the Dark Court.


Tempted yet?  Stop over at Amazon and read an excerpt of the first book.  




NAN: How often do you get lost in a story?

AMY: I feel like I’m ALWAYS lost in some story, whether it’s the one I’m writing or something I’m reading. I take my kindle everywhere and read anytime I’m not actively engaged in something else. Standing in line at the grocery, waiting for an appointment, in the pick-up line at the kids’ schools—I’m never bored and I’m never irritated because something’s “taking too long” because it’s just another opportunity to read! Even when I’m driving around doing errands, I put on the text-to-speech feature and continue getting lost in a story. Much more entertaining than the car radio.
Nan: Wow.  I thought I read everywhere, but you outdo me!  I don't take it grocery shopping.  Oh wait - I try and avoid grocery shopping!

NAN:  How did you come up with the idea for your Hidden series?

AMY: I was a HUGE Lord of the Rings fan growing up. Of course, unlike many readers of the trilogy, I realized it was *actually* a romance. ;) I wondered what it would be like if beautiful and powerful Tolkien-esque elves existed in our world today. That thought is what inspired my stories, in which powerful Fae use glamour enhanced by modern technology to hide their real identities and get whatever they want from the unsuspecting humans.
Oh, I love the elves in Lord of the Rings and I love the use of glamour in your books.  And the fan pods!

NAN: In addition to this series, you’ve also written a contemporary romance series about twenty-somethings in the world of TV news. The two genres are so different. Which do you prefer writing-- contemporary or young adult fantasy/paranormal?

AMY: I love both. It’s been fun switching back and forth—very refreshing. Whichever one I’m writing at the time feels like the most fun. So at the time, the Hidden series is my favorite.
Nan:  And I love this series too.

NAN: What has been your most rewarding publishing moment?

AMY: This has been a very good week! With my series starter HIDDEN DEEP free for two weeks, the book reached the top 100 bestsellers overall on Amazon and #1 in its category of Teen and Young Adult Paranormal/Urban Fantasy. And both books 2 and 3 reached the top 100 in their category on Amazon. With 4 million books per year being released, it feels pretty fantastic to make those lists and be selling so well. Plus, the reviews where readers say they are finding the series and reading all three books in three days are so thrilling. J 
Nan: I'm so happy people are finding your books.  They will love them.

NAN: Complete this sentence. When I want to relax, I. . .

AMY: Have a glass of wine and watch a movie. I am a movie fanatic. My faves are sci-fi and anything romance-y (with a happy ending please.) And much to my sons’ delight, I love the Marvel movies. The more Thor the better. J
Nan:  I'll join you with a glass of Prosecco!

NAN: What is your biggest vice?

AMY: I am an irredeemable Coke Zero addict. I’m trying hard—keeping it to two a day.
Nan:  Tea is mine.  (And maybe that Prosecco.)

NAN: What’s the last show you binge watched?

AMY: I just re-watched all 6 seasons of Lost, one of my favorite TV shows ever. It was still just as good-- what amazing writing!
Nan: I never watched that one, but I have lots that I love.  Castle -- for the writing.

NAN: What’s your favorite movie of all time?

AMY: Because I write in two genres, I get to choose two! Avatar for fantasy/sci fi and When Harry Met Sally for contemporary romance/romantic comedy.
Nan:  Nice.

NAN: Who's your celebrity crush and why?

AMY: Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser on Outlander. Why? Um… how much space do we have here on the blog? Let’s see- the smile, the chin, the hair (!) the eyes, his voice, his hands, his sense of humor. And of course the character he’s portraying is, in my opinion, one of the greatest romantic heroes of all time.

Nan:  He is absolutely gorgeous!!

NAN: GOTTA ASK:  Benedict Cumberbatch or Chris Pine?

AMY: GOTTA ANSWER:   Oh, Chris, for sure. Those eyes! And the funny. 
Nan:  His eyes are amazing.


Now that the Hidden trilogy is complete, I’m getting a lot of questions about possible future stories in the Hidden word. I’m happy to say I’m working on a new trilogy set in the Hidden world. The first book will release in early 2016 and be entitled Hidden Darkness (The Dark Court, Book 1) 
Nan:  As a fan I am soooo happy!


Some of the characters in the Hidden series possess glamour—special abilities such as musical glamour, mind control, emotional acuity. If you could choose a glamour for yourself, what would it be? 

AMY PATRICK  is giving away a paperback of HIDDEN DEEP, BOOK 1 OF THE HIDDEN TRILOGY to any commenter. (North America)
International winners are eligible for an e-book of their choice from either of Amy’s two series.

Nan:  Amy, Thank you for joining the crew today.  I loved having you.

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