I need to start with an apology for the long, long delay since my last blog was posted.  You are getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a writer’s life when that writer is cornered by a voracious Deadline Dragon; survival takes first priority and all else falls by the wayside.  But since I only have four more chapters now to do, I feel that I can afford to surface for air.
I am delighted to relaunch my blog with this interview with my friend and fellow writer, Stephanie Churchill.  Those of you who visit my blog and Facebook pages on a regular basis know how much I enjoyed Stephanie’s first novel, The Scribe’s Daughter.  I tease Stephanie that she has created a new genre—fantasy that reads like historical fiction.  My readers will feel very comfortable in Stephanie’s fictional world, for her novels are rooted in a gritty medieval reality.  They are considered fantasy because you cannot find this kingdom on any map, just in Stephanie’s head.  But there are no supernatural elements; no vampires or ghosts or monsters, although I personally would not have minded a dragon or two.     Her novels are character-driven, but they offer action and suspense, too.
I was hooked from the first sentence of The Scribe’s Daughter: “I never imagined my life would end this way.”    Kassia is an intriguing character and so well-drawn that readers immediately care about her.   For those of you who have not yet read The Scribe’s Daughter, the e-book is being offered on Amazon at a bargain price, just $2.99.   It is also available in paperback, but I confess I have become addicted to e-books for pleasure reading, seduced by the convenience, the ability to increase the font size, and the instant gratification, of course.
Because I found Kassia’s story so compelling, I am eagerly anticipating reading The King’s Daughter, in which her older sister, Irisa, takes center stage.  My game plan is to tackle my To Be Read List within moments of evicting the Deadline Dragon and applauding as he sulks off down the road to haunt some other unfortunate writer.   Today, though, I get to spend some time with Kassia and Irisa’s creator.  Before we begin the interview, Stephanie is offering a book giveaway for The King’s Daughter; anyone who posts a comment to this blog will automatically be eligible to win a personalized copy.

SKP:  You have just released your second book, The King’s Daughter, which is a sequel to The Scribe’s Daughter.  There may be readers who haven’t read the first book yet, so why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about it.

The Scribe’s Daughter is fantasy, though it will appeal to historical fiction readers because everything about it echoes the historical without actually being historical.  I used my comfort and familiarity with history and historical novels to recreate a world that would be similar in feel.

At the beginning of the novel, we meet Kassia, a seventeen year-old orphan who is faced with a tough decision in her daily quest for survival.  She is a younger sister but finds herself in the position of providing for both herself and her older sister, Irisa.  The sisters cannot afford to pay rent, and when their landlord gives them an ultimatum — pay up or become whores — Kassia must decide what to do.  Very soon after, a stranger enters the scene, hiring Kassia for a job that is ridiculously outside her skill set.  Not seeing much other choice, she takes him on.  Before long, Kassia finds herself embroiled in a fast-paced journey, sometimes treacherous, other times humorous.  Everything about the plot involves mysteries of Kassia and Irisa’s family history, a history they never knew existed.

SKP:  Tell us a little bit about The King’s Daughter.

The King’s Daughter is a sequel of sorts to The Scribe’s Daughter, though much of this book overlaps the timeline of the first one as the sisters’ perspectives weave together to form a more complete view from what was learned earlier.  Kassia and Irisa part ways early on in The Scribe’s Daughter.  The first few chapters of The King’s Daughter follow that overlapping timeline as Irisa learns much of the same information Kassia learns.  However, Irisa’s story continues on from there, and she discovers more truths.  The original mysteries from The Scribe’s Daughter are deepened, even twisted sideways so that they take on new life again.  Ultimately it is a character-driven book.  Irisa grows and develops as a person, but in her strength, she helps the development of the other significant protagonist in the story as well.

SKP:  One thing that is immediately noticeable is that even though they are sisters, Irisa and Kassia are very unlike one another.  Physically they are different, but also in the way they approach the world.  Can you talk about this?

Yes!  I am a sister; I have a sister.  And while I can’t say that Irisa and Kassia are necessarily modeled after my sister and I, at least not consciously, the idea of writing about two sisters was definitely inspired by the fact that I have a sister.  I see Irisa and Kassia as two sides to the same coin.  Both sisters are strong, though neither of them knows it at first.  One of the themes of both books is the journey to discover internal strength.  Each sister just comes at this from a different direction.

Kassia is sort of like a caged tiger.  She is emotionally ragged and lashes out at the world in response to trouble.  At the beginning of her story, she is very fragile and therefore acts recklessly.  Her defense mechanism is anger.  Irisa, on the other hand, is softer, gentler.  She is quiet and observant.  She has less emotional turmoil inside her even if she is also fragile at the beginning.  Irisa approaches the world with a more measured, thoughtful manner and is exceedingly practical.  She already has a quiet strength, but as the book progresses, she learns to spread her wings a bit.  By the end of their respective stories, both sisters have arrived at a similar place despite the dissimilar methods of getting there.

SKP:   Your book reads like historical fiction.  Did you base any of the plot or characters on any real figures from history?

Without giving too much away for the sake of the plot, I’ll say that Edward IV and his daughter Elizabeth of York, who married Henry Tudor, were probably the biggest influences on two of my characters, though only loosely.

SKP:   Did you plan to write multiple books when you started The Scribe’s Daughter?

When I began work on The Scribe’s Daughter, I had no long-range plan.  It was simply an experiment in writing first person, and I hadn’t even intended the experiment to turn into a book in the first place.  Once I started writing Kassia however, I fell in love with her character and couldn’t stop.  Kassia kept whispering in my ear, telling me about her life and the realities of her world.  When the first mystery took shape on the page, I had to see where it led.  Once I got nearly half way through writing the first draft, I realized that Irisa had a tale of her own to tell, and it was going to be very compelling.  I was intrigued by the idea of perspective and the differing views multiple people can have of the same events.  This was really the seed idea for the second book.  Once I got writing it, I discovered another selfish perk: I found that I missed Kassia terribly, and creating a book for Irisa allowed me to revisit the same world while taking off in a new direction even while inventing new people and places.  I can totally understand now why so many authors write a series!

SKP:   Should readers read The Scribe’s Daughter first, or can The King’s Daughter be enjoyed alone?

One of my advanced readers thought The King’s Daughter could be read as a stand-alone.  It’s hard for me to judge that as the author since I can never read the book with new eyes.  I would say however, that if a person wants to read it without having read the first one, it’s probably doable.  My caution to them would be that they would miss out on a lot of depth.  The second book weaves many tiny details from the first book: characters, places, mysteries, back stories, etc.  In fact, there are so many connections that many of the details may even be missed by most readers!

SKP:   Who should read your books?

I have found that my audience is more women than men, but both audiences have very dedicated fans.  The books were written for adults, though I tried to be sensitive to a wide audience so wrote it with that in mind, including teens.  Genre is difficult to pin down.  As I said earlier, the books read like historical fiction but are no doubt fantasy, even if not traditional fantasy.  There is no magic, no dragons or other fantastical beasts.  Everything is based in reality.  Readers of historical fiction should feel right at home with the books however, because I love history and historical fiction and attempted to inject the feel of that genre into my writing.  I often tell people that my books echo historical fiction even if they aren’t history.  More than that though, if you love deep characters, evocative settings, and a good plot, it doesn’t matter what genre you read.  You’ll enjoy the books!

SKP:   What’s next for you?

I have a plan for a third book, the story of Naria, Irisa and Kassia’s mother.  I left some dangling threads at the end of The King’s Daughter, and I really want to tie those up for readers.  This third book will have even more connections, ties, and connections to characters and events from the first two books.  I could take the story in many different directions, so I intend to take my time developing it, wanting to be as thoughtful and thorough as possible.

After that I have a completely new series in mind, one that will be much more traditional fantasy.  I’ve actually been researching the background material for several years now, and I’ve got a significant amount of the initial draft of the first book finished, though it still needs a lot of work!

The King’s Daughter released on September 1 and can be ordered from Amazon.  It is available both in the e-book and paperback format.

SKP:  Stephanie, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.  I know there is an overlap between our readers and I know, too, that they are in for a treat.

September 4, 2017


  1. Jo Ann F Says:

    I am really looking forward to reading your books!

  2. Stephanie Bergdorf Says:

    I have The Scibes Daughter, but haven’t had a chance to start it. Now I’m going to get The Kings Daughter! I’m very excited to read these 2 books!!

  3. Cynthia Fuller Says:

    Congratulations on your second book, Stephanie!

  4. Stephanie Says:

    Thank you, Cynthia, and thank you SKP for hosting me here!

  5. Beth Says:

    Sharon, you’ve never steered me wrong yet. I think I need to read these books, too.

  6. Charolette Gould Says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I just started to reread “Here Be Dragons” because I was so conflicted trying to decide on my next read while I wait for both you and Elizabeth Chadwick to finish your new novels. I enjoy both of your work so much and have read everything you guys have written so far. ~~~ No pressure, so I won’t ask for a date for the release.

  7. Teri Soares Says:

    These books come up on my Amazon recommended list all the time, so I will take the heavy hint (you have to hit me on the side of the head sometimes to het my attention) and start on the first one. Thanks, Sharon!

  8. Pat Kister Says:

    Welcome back, Sharon. This books sounds wonderful. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. Cristina Beans Says:

    Congratulations!!! I’ve been looking forward to reading more of this tale since I finished the Scribe’s Daughter! Very vibrant, very real, and hard to put down. I don’t imagine this one will be any different.

  10. Marcie Cutrer Says:

    Really enjoyed this interview. I look forward to reading these books.

  11. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    This sounds intriguing, will have to check these out.

  12. John Robinson Says:

    Sold. Thank you Sharon and Stephanie. Amazon, here I come.

  13. Libby Millard Says:

    Sounds like a fabulous read

  14. Thomas Greene Says:

    Congratulations on both books and good luck with number three. One thing you touched on in this interview was that you loved the character Kassia and wanted to reconnect with her in the sequel. I wondered if writers develope affection for their characters as they are fleshing them out. I know as a reader that I often encounter a character but feel kind of a sense of loss when the novel is finished and I realize I will never meet that person again, even though they are fictional. Does this make sense? I ‘m not sure if I am expressing what I really mean. Well I look forward to reading your novels even if they are mainly for women. At my age I pretty much read whatever strikes my fancy. And Sharon, get back to work!

  15. Evelyn Morrris Says:

    Congratulations and I look forward to reading the King’s Daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed the Scribe’s daughter.

  16. Sue Kurtz Says:

    Added to the TBR list!

  17. Sharon Chandler Says:

    I enjoyed this interview because I’m in the middle of reading The Scribe’s Daughter! And, Thomas I know exactly what you mean about attachment to characters. It’s especially tough when a series comes to an end.

  18. Kim morss Says:

    Eager to read your new book! Loved Kassia, and look forward to more.

  19. Rebecca Says:

    Great interview! The book sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to check it out

  20. Mary Glassman Says:

    It’s on my Kindle and waiting to be read as soon as I finish up reading about the French Revolution!

  21. Meg Bachman Says:

    I can’t wait to read this one…loved Stephanie’s first book!

  22. Faith Perry Says:

    I now have these both on my to read list after Don Quixote. Thank you both for your writing and your sharing.

  23. Barbara Bellatti Says:

    I will have to get the first book, it sounds so up my alley. I love historical fiction and fantasy both. I look forward to both of them. Thank you Sharon Kay Penman for this interview and insight into these novels. And thank you to Stephanie Churchill for writing them. Good luck on their success.

  24. Anita Galt Says:

    What a great interview! Congratulations on the new book and the books to come sound intriguing. I downloaded The Scribe’s Daughter onto my Kindle some time ago and it’s been languishing in the midst of my ‘to be read’ pile. This interview has made me want to bump it right to the top, and to download the second book without having read a word of the first ….. yet! I’m looking forward to getting started with them - all of the reviews I’ve read have been so complimentary.

  25. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments and well wishes. I am so excited to get this next book out into the world, and I really, really look forward to hearing from readers after they’ve finished it! It’s fun to write, but it’s more enriching to hear from readers as they engage or have engaged with the story.

    And Thomas, good question! Yes, writers absolutely DO feel a sense of loss when a story or character is finished. I guess it depends on the writer, but I do a LOT of background development for my characters while I’m writing them. For me, they have to be real people with depth and texture in order to make them appear to have depth and texture on the page. So yes, that does tend to make you close with them when you write their stories. Kassia was so very fun to write because she is very fragile inside while simultaneously being very volatile. It meant that she could react to her world in a way I just don’t in real life. It made the writing fun, and it became effortless because I knew her so well. I really do think it might be why some authors continue to write a series that probably should have been stopped earlier. :-)

  26. Paula Lofting Says:

    Lovely to see Sharon blogging again, and the lovely Stephanie talking about her writing. I have these books on my TBR list but only have the first book so would love to win a copy of the King’s daughter.

  27. Margaret Skea Says:

    Well done, Stephanie - looking forward to meeting you in Scotland next year :)

  28. Stephanie Says:

    Thank you, Margaret! Hearing you say it makes it feel real!

  29. skpenman Says:

    First Harvey and now Irma. This may turn out to be one of our worst hurricane seasons ever, a very scary thought. I hope and pray that Floridians will heed the warnings, especially the mandatory evacuation orders in some places. This is not a storm to take lightly and most certainly is not one to be dismissed as “fake news” as certain despicable radio personalities are doing. I have friends who suffered through another category five hurricane in Florida, Hurricane Andrew, and even after twenty-five years, those memories still haunt their nightmares.
    I went to college in Texas, getting a history degree from UT at Austin, so I have a personal interest in the welfare of Texans and I am so proud of the way they have responded to that tragedy. Very little looting has been reported; instead, people continue to volunteer to help friends, neighbors, and total strangers. I can even offer a story of a canine hurricane survivor named Otis that is sure to make you all smile.
    Many of you may have already heard of Otis, who was photographed carrying home a bag of dog food in the aftermath of the storm. It turns out that Otis was accustomed to strolling around town and visiting places where he knew he’d get a warm welcome and a treat. So when he somehow escaped his family’s porch, he decided to follow his usual routine, including a stop at a lumber yard where they kept a bag of dog food for him. When he got there, it was closed, but hey, he knew where the dog food was kept, so why not help himself? And he did, carrying the bag home in case he got hungry later, I guess. When the photo was posted on-line, naturally it went viral, and when the back-story came out, that made it even better. Some tongue-in-cheek posters pointed out, of course, that Otis was not really a hurricane victim; he was a looter. But he gave us all a reason to smile and for that alone, he deserves all the treats he can steal….er, borrow. He has an interesting family story, too; he was adopted by his family eight years ago when a stranger offered him to them, saying he was going to dump the puppy if they did not take him. So they did and the rest is history.

  30. skpenman Says:

    I know all our hopes and prayers are with the people of Florida today. They do seem to have heeded the warnings of their governor and local officials and many, if not most, have evacuated, so that may keep the death toll from this monster storm down. As I have said before, we are so fortunate to get advance warnings of hurricanes. The most horrific example of a stealth storm is the one that destroyed Galveston in September of 1900, killing between six and ten thousand people. It is still possible for a hurricane to hit without warning; I was in one in England, of all places, in October of 1987. But thankfully, they are very rare.

    Here is a story that brought tears to my eyes. A woman had gone to a Lowes storm, desperate to buy a generator for her elderly father, who needs oxygen to survive. She’d waited in line for hours, only to have the supplies run out just as it was her turn. She was weeping when a stranger tried to comfort her and when he learned why she was crying, he put the generator he’d just bought in her shopping cart, saying she needed it more than he did. A local reporter was on the scene, looking for hurricane stories, and they captured it on video. The woman was overwhelmed, calling him her angel. The next day Lowes received an unexpected generator and the manager remembered the Good Samaritan; the store contacted him and gave him the generator free of charge.

    It feels like forever since I’ve posted about anything historic, so this is long overdue.
    Yesterday was the birthdate 857 years ago, September 8th, 1157, of the most famous of the Devil’s Brood, Eleanor’s favorite son, Richard. I couldn’t resist posting from a scene in Time and Chance, a scene frozen in amber, in which Henry and Eleanor’s marriage was still whole and happy and they still thought the world was theirs for the taking.
    Time and Chance, page 53
    * * *
    Somewhere along the way from the castle, Henry had found a garden to raid, for he was carrying an armful of Michaelmas daisies. These he handed to Petronilla, rather sheepishly, for romantic gestures did not come easily to him. Crossing the chamber in several strides, he leaned over the bed to give his wife a kiss. (omission)
    “Are you hurting, love?”
    Eleanor’s smile was tired, but happy. “Not at all,” she lied. “By now the babes just pop right out, like a cork from a bottle.”
    Henry laughed. “Well….where is the little cork?”
    A wet nurse came forward from the shadows, bobbing a shy curtsy before holding out a swaddled form for his inspection. Henry touched the ringlets of reddish-gold hair, the exact shade of his own, and grinned when the baby’s hand closed around his finger. “Look at the size of him,” he marveled, and as his eyes met Eleanor’s, the same thought was in both their minds: heartfelt relief that God had given them such a robust, sturdy son. No parent who’d lost a child could ever take health or survival for granted again.
    “We still have not decided what to name him,” Henry reminded his wife. “I fancy Geoffrey, after my father.”
    “The next one,” she promised. “I have a name already in mind for this little lad.”
    He cocked a brow. “Need I remind you that it is unseemly to name a child after a former husband?”
    Eleanor’s lashes were drooping and her smile turned into a sleepy yawn. “I would not name a stray dog after Louis,” she declared, holding out her arms for her new baby. She was surprised by the intensity of emotion she felt as she gazed down into that small, flushed face. Had God sent him to fill the aching void left by Will’s death? “I want,” she said, “to name him Richard.”
    * * *

  31. Julie Huston Says:

    I am so looking forward to reading this new author! Especially with an endorsement by Sharon Kay Penman! How can it not be good? Thank you.

  32. skpenman Says:

    Let’s hope and pray that Irma will be the last major hurricane of the season. Please help the residents of Florida and let’s not forget the people in the Caribbean islands that suffered, too, from Irma.
    For Americans, September 11th will always call to mind the most devastating terrorist assault upon our country. I find it hard to believe that sixteen years have passed since then, for those are memories that will never fade.
    In medieval history, September 11th, 1161 was the date of death of a very interesting woman who is not very well known today—Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem in her own right, strong-willed widow of Fulk of Anjou, our Henry II’s grandfather. For anyone who’d like to learn more of her unusual history, I recommend Sharan Newman’s biography, Defending the City of God. September 11th was also the date in 1297 of the battle of Stirling Bridge, in which William Wallace defeated an English army. It was dramatized in Braveheart—well, except for the bridge and the battle tactics.

  33. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I just wanted to assure everyone again that I have not been abducted by aliens or entered the Witness Protection Program. I still have to severely limit my computer time, which is beyond frustrating, and the world’s tragedies continue to be overwhelming. So many people in pain—the latest victims of monster hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean nations, those whose lives were turned upside down by the earthquake in Mexico City, and the residents of Texas and Florida, for they are still suffering from the damage done by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I am so proud of the way people have responded to these crises, total strangers risking their own lives to save others. There is so much hatred out there that at times it seems to drown out the other voices, but if we listen, we can hear them. We need to remember that most of us are good people, that this, too, shall pass, and one of the greatest gifts any nation has ever received was bestowed upon the United States by the men known as our Founding Fathers—our Bill of Rights.
    I hope you will be patient with my rerun posts until my injury permits me to spend more time at the computer. This one is five years old, so I am hoping no one remembers it! September 25, 1066 was the date of the highly significant battle of Stamford Bridge, in which the last Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, defeated a force led by the Norwegian king, Harald Hardraga, and the Saxon Harold’s brother Tostig. Harold marched his army an astonishing 180 miles in just four days to catch the Norwegians by surprise. In a very bloody and lengthy battle, both the Norwegian king and Tostig were slain on the field. It was a total triumph for Harold, but it may be one of the most costly victories in history, for three days later, a Norman force led by William the Bastard landed at Pevensey and Harold was forced to race his battered army south to repel this new invasion. Less than three weeks later, both armies met at Hastings and the history of England was forever changed. As many of you already know, Helen Hollick has written an excellent novel about Harold, titled I am the Chosen King in the US and Harold the King in the UK. And here is a good link to the battle of Stamford Bridge.

  34. skpenman Says:

    I am back for a quick visit. Some interesting happenings on September 28th in history.
    In 48 BC, the Egyptians murdered the Roman general Pompey, thinking it would please his rival, Julius Caesar; they were so wrong. And in 58 BC, the future notorious Roman empress Livia was born; for those of us who watched I, Claudius, whenever we hear the name Livia, we think, “Don’t eat the figs.” For those who haven’t watched it, rush out to buy it on DVD!
    In 1066, William the Bastard landed at Pevensey to launch his invasion of England, which would culminate a few weeks later in his victory at the battle of Hastings, so this was a very big deal.
    In 1197, a day that really should be a holiday of some sort, the Holy Roman emperor and royal sociopath, Heinrich von Hohenstaufen, died unexpectedly at Messina, probably of malaria, though there were suspicions that he may have been poisoned since half of Christendom wanted him dead. His death spared the Sicilians much suffering and most likely saved his empress’s life for he suspected Constance of taking part in a rebellion against him. I am sure the news also gave Richard I a great deal of satisfaction and scared the daylights out of the French king, for now two of the men who’d defied Church law to capture a crusader king had met untimely deaths. Given what we know of Philippe’s temperament, he must have feared that he’d be next to suffer God’s punishment. Unfortunately for King John, Philippe managed to dodge that celestial thunderbolt.
    Lastly, just for fun, I am throwing in this bit of information. On September 28, 1785, Napoleon Bonaparte graduated from the military academy in Paris at the age of 16. He was 42nd in a class of 51, thus proving that grades are not always helpful in predicting a student’s future. And I recently learned something else interesting about Napoleon. His favorite mount was a grey Arabian stallion named Marengo, who was wounded eight times, but lived much longer than his master and whose skeleton ended up in a London museum. Another famous man to have a cherished Arabian ( half-Arabian in this case, with the name of Blueskin) was George Washington…..and the reason I have these intriguing tidbits to share is that I was researching the Arabian breed for my book; two of these magnificent stallions will get screen time in The Land Beyond the Sea, one belonging to the young leper king, Baldwin, and one to Balian d’Ibelin. Saladin also has one, but his just has a walk-on role.

  35. Mac Craig Says:

    U.S. Grant was 21st in a class of 39 at West Point. He did a bit better than Bonaparte and was never forced into exile.

  36. skpenman Says:

    I feel like such a stranger here these days, but my body continues to thrive at self-sabotage and I have not been well enough to spend much time at the computer. What also continues is the unending flood of traumatic news, with people suffering terribly in Puerto Rico, still coping with post-hurricane misery in Houston and Florida, and now grieving and horror from yet another mass shooting. Like so many of us, I feel that words seem hollow and inadequate when faced with tragedies like this. There seems to be so little we can do to help alleviate the pain.
    Here is an earlier post of mine from several years ago; thank heaven for the option of cutting and pasting! On October 2nd, 1187, Jerusalem yielded to Saladin, an event that would trigger the Third Crusade. Balian d’Ibelin was the savior of the city—the only thing that Kingdom of Heaven got right—persuading Saladin to accept its surrender rather than taking it by storm, thus sparing it the bloodbath that occurred when the men of the First Crusade captured it in 1099. Balian is the major character in The Land Beyond the Sea, although many others will have ample time on center stage, as this is an ensemble cast book.
    On October 2nd, 1452, the future Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle, the youngest son of the Duke of York and Cecily Neville. And also on October 2nd in 1470, Edward IV and Richard were forced to flee England when John Neville switched sides, declaring his loyalty to his brother, the Earl of Warwick. It had to be a great shock for Edward, going from King of England to fugitive in one dizzying turn of Fortune’s Wheel. And for his young brother Richard, it must have added insult to injury that this day of such desperation was his eighteenth birthday. As they sought refuge in Burgundy, few in England expected them to return. But it was always dangerous to underestimate Edward of York, who was at his best in adversity. He would defy all odds by coming back to reclaim his crown, and Richard would be at his side through it all, sharing betrayal, exile, and then the battles that would restore the House of York to power…..thus making it possible five plus centuries later for me to escape the practice of law by writing The Sunne in Splendour!

  37. skpenman Says:

    At times this year it seems as if nature is at war with us. Extraordinarily powerful hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico ,and the Caribbean. A devastating earthquake in Mexico. And now one of the worst fires in California history, with the death toll sure to mount. One of the most chilling descriptions of these infernos simply called them the “hell-storms.” Add to this litany of tragedies the massacre in Las Vegas and it is overwhelming. All we can do is to try to help where and when we can—and to give credit to the courage of the first responders. They save so many lives, often at the risk of their own. Here is a link to the California fires.
    I won’t keep apologizing for my frequent absences; how boring would that be? I miss being here and interacting with you all, and I am so looking forward to the day when the deadline dragon flies off to wherever evicted dragons go and life returns to normal.

  38. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I hope you feel better soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sorrowful state of this world is exacerbating the problem. I know it affects me physically as well as mentally. And our energy is sapped by situations where we feel useless to help beyond donating money and keeping issues alive in our own circles.

  39. Joan Says:

    Sharon I’m wondering if you’ve read any of George Saunders. His 2017 Man Booker Prize for “Lincoln in the Bardo” sounds fascinating. One of the accolades describes him as a 21st century Twain!

  40. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    No, I have not, Joan, just reviews that were highly favorable. I’ve added it to my To Be Read List, which is totally out of control by now. I suspect yours is, too.

    Here is my Facebook post, after another long absence.

    I feel as if I am trapped in that Groundhog Day film, for every day I wake up and start fending off the Deadline Dragon….sigh. But before the duel starts again, here are a few October 21st occurrences. In 1449, George of Clarence was born. What can we say about Brother George? I don’t know that he was the worst king’s brother in English history. I think that was John, for he not only attempted to steal Richard’s crown, he did his best to make sure that Richard ended up in a French dungeon, where death would have been a mercy. But George certainly made an unholy pest of himself and gave so much grief to his family and others in his 28 years that it may have been a blessing if he’d been one of those babies who did not survive the perils of a medieval childhood.

    On October 21, 1204, Robert Beaumont, the fourth Earl of Leicester died. He was one of the heroes of the Third Crusade, a character in Lionheart and Ransom, who was very loyal to Richard and seems to have been well regarded by all but the French king. His marriage was childless, though, and upon his death, his earldom passed to his sisters, opening the door for a young French adventurer named de Montfort to stake a claim to it twenty-some years later.

    October 21, 1221 was the day that Alix de Thouars, the Duchess of Brittany, died in childbirth. The daughter of Constance of Brittany and her third husband, Guy de Thouars, Alix was only twenty or twenty-one at the time of her death, there being some confusion about her birth date. The birthing chamber was as dangerous for medieval women as the battlefield was for their men.

    Lastly—for my fellow football fans (American football to my readers in the UK and Down Under) Fly, Eagles, fly!

  41. skpenman Says:

    What could be more timely for Halloween than a story about medieval ghosts? This one is found on my favorite website,

    And here are two medieval deaths that occurred on Halloween.
    On October 31st, 1147, Robert Fitz Roy, the Earl of Gloucester, brother and mainstay to the Empress Maude, died. He was an honorable man who probably would have been a much better ruler than either Stephen or Maude, but he was, of course, barred from the throne because he was born out of wedlock. I liked writing about Robert and I missed him after he died—definitely not the case with all of my characters.
    On October 31st, 1214, Henry and Eleanor’s daughter Leonora, Queen of Castile, died, less than a month after her husband’s death. She was said to have been so devastated by his death that she’d been unable to attend his funeral and it is hard not to conclude that she died of a broken heart—for science now says there is indeed such an affliction. She was fifty-three, and only she and John outlived Eleanor.
    Now back to the looming bloodshed at Hattin. Writing a battle scene is always challenging, but it can be therapeutic, too, a means for me to express my repressed anger at the sad state of the world. And Hattin’s outcome will serve as a reminder that life has never been easy. Even in those rare times when it seemed idyllic to some segments of society, that was an illusion—as in the halcyon days for England’s upper class before the outbreak of WW I, when a scarily prescient prediction was made by the British politician, Lord Grey: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

  42. skpenman Says:

    Today is Veteran’s Day, a time to honor all the men and women who have fought and died for their countries. I’ve been doing extensive research for a major medieval battle, so I’ve been even more aware than usual of the brutal cost of war—so much bloodshed, so many promising young lives extinguished, so much suffering.
    Occasionally battles stretched out over days—Waterloo, Gettysburg. Although July 4th is the official date for the battle of Hattin, it could be argued that it actually began on July 3rd after Guy de Lusignan made his fateful and fatal decision to march to the relief of Tiberias and almost at once came under attack by Saladin’s skirmishers. I have no idea how long it will take me to fight the battle of Hattin for I am still researching. A battle like this would always be a challenge, but it is especially so because it occurs toward the end of the book. I will keep surfacing whenever I can, just hope that when you guys eventually read this chapter, you’ll remember all the blood, sweat, and tears it cost me!
    Below is a post from a few years ago—long enough for most of you to have forgotten it, I hope.
    November 10th, 1177 was a dark day in the history of medieval Wales, for it was on that date that Llywelyn ap Gruffydd made a forced peace with the English king, Edward I. Not surprisingly—for Edward was not known for showing mercy to a defeated foe—his terms were harsh ones. Llywelyn had to yield the four cantrefs east of the River Conwy and all land already seized by Edward. He was allowed to retain control of the island of Mon, but only as a vassal, compelled to pay a thousand marks a year to the royal coffers and if he died without an heir of his body, it would revert to the Crown. He had to pay a staggering fine of fifty thousand pounds (later remitted by Edward in an act of calculated generosity) and yield ten highborn hostages, free his brother Owain and the man who’d plotted to assassinate him. He must swear homage and fealty to Edward and forfeit the homage of all but five lords of Gwynedd, all others to owe homage only to the English king.
    The Reckoning, page 259.
    * * *
    Llywelyn was permitted to retain the title that was now only a courtesy, Prince of Wales, a hollow mockery that seemed to him the cruelest kindness of all.
    On November 9th, Llywelyn came to Aberconwy Abbey to accept Edward’s terms, feeling like a man asked to preside over his own execution. A remembered scrap of Scriptures kept echoing in his ears like a funeral dirge: “Jerusalem is ruined and Judah is fallen.” Gwynedd had been gutted by a pen, just as surely as any sword thrust. He’d lost more than the lands listed upon parchment; he’d lost the last thirty years of his life, for Gwynedd had been reduced to the boundaries imposed upon the Welsh by the Treaty of Woodstock in 1247. Llywelyn had been just nineteen then, new to power and to defeat. That had been his first loss to England, and his last—until now, until the Treaty of Aberconwy, which destroyed a lifetime’s labor in the time it took to affix his great seal to the accord. Never had he known such despair. And the worst was still to come, for on the morrow he must ride to Rhuddlan Castle, there make a formal and public surrender to the English king.
    * * *
    Edward had one final surprise for Llywelyn when they met on November 10th at Rhuddlan Castle. Llywelyn had been assured that his wife, Ellen de Montfort, held hostage by Edward for the past two years, would be released, but Edward reneged, insisting that Ellen would not be freed until Llywelyn had proved his good faith and loyalty. Since Ken John is working (diligently, we hope) on a novel about Othon de Grandison (known as Otto in The Reckoning), I could not resist quoting one more paragraph of the chapter, for Othon/Otto was just as shocked as Llywelyn by Edward’s surprise; he’d been the one to deliver the king’s assurances to the Welsh prince. Again, from the Reckoning, pages 266-267.
    * * *
    The tension did not subside. One spark and the air itself might kindle, Otto de Grandison thought morosely, not at all happy with this unexpected turn of events. Had he so misread Edward, ignored the strings trailing from the offer to restore the prince’s lady? Had it truly been his mistake? He thought not, but it was now, for kings did not err. He gave Llywelyn an apologetic look, then turned at the sound of a muffled shout. Striding to the window, he unlatched the shutters. “My liege, the Welsh prisoners have just ridden into the bailey.”
    * * *
    It was never easy to serve a king, especially for a man of honor.

  43. Joan Says:

    I am reminded once again of your beautiful & powerful writing, Sharon. And once again transported immediately into that world. Extraordinary!! I cannot wait to read your new novel!! And unfortunately, it’s the blood, sweat, & tears you suffer that make it so rewarding for us! And in turn, your reward.

  44. skpenman Says:

    Thank you, Joan!

    I hope all of my American friends and readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Mine was well-nigh perfect, a three-day celebration that has left me (and Holly) so well stuffed with turkey and assorted goodies that we could not move unless the house caught on fire. As my Thanksgiving gift, here is a heart-warning story that spotlights the goodness of the human spirit.
    And I naturally have to include something medieval in my posts, so here is a brief commentary about the significance of November 23rd on the Yorkist calendar. On November 23rd, 1499, Perkin Warbeck was hanged for an alleged “escape” from the Tower. I personally don’t believe he was Richard of York, but many others do. And on November 23rd, 1503, the Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret of York died at age fifty-seven. Some point to her support of Perkin Warbeck as proof he was one of the Princes in the Tower, but I think Margaret would have thrown her support to any reasonably plausible pretender if she thought it would give Henry Tudor some grief. (One of the reasons why I like her so much.) Anne Easter Smith has written a novel about Margaret, Daughter of York; she definitely deserved her own book.

  45. Joan Says:

    I’m in the mood today for Medieval Christmas music which brought Owain Phyfe to mind singing this beautiful & poignant lament composed by Richard the Lionheart which you posted several ago Sharon. I love that there was a wonderful artistic sensitive side to some of the great warriors.

  46. Joan Says:

    Sharon, I have a post awaiting freedom from bondage. Thanks!

  47. Joan Says:

    I’ve been listening to the music of Owain Phyfe almost endlessly for the past few days & came across the program “Once Upon a Timeless Journey” performed in 2002. I fell in love with the beautiful auld Scottish song “In a Garden so Green” on the album, “Where Beauty Moves & Wit Delights” but to see him perform this moving ballad in the videos is a beautiful experience. The beauty & clarity & purity of his voice is quite overwhelming & very very touching. What a gift he has given the world. And wish he were still with us.

  48. A.C. Ratone Says:

    One of my favorite first pages…

    It is possible I already had some presentiment of my future. The locked and rusted gate that stood before us, with wisps of river fog spreading its spikes like the mountains paths, remains in my mind now as the symbol of my exile. It is my nature, my joy, and my curse to forget nothing. Every rattling chain and whistling wind, every sight, smell, and taste remains changeless in my mind…

    The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolf

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