I have been gone for so long that I feel as if I ought to re-introduce myself, or at least thank you all for being so patient with my prolonged absences.   I hope that life will get back to normal once I’ve been able to evict the Deadline Dragon, though I would not bet money on that.  I only have three chapters left to do in The Land Beyond the Sea, but since one of them will have me fighting one of the most momentous battles of the Middle Ages, please send me lots of positive vibes; I suspect I’ll need them.
With apologies again for the long delay, Stephanie Churchill and I are happy to announce that the winner of her book giveaway for her new novel, The King’s Daughter, is Colleen MacDonald.  Colleen, congratulations.   Please contact either Stephanie or me to arrange to receive your personalized copy.    I am sure you will love it.   I know I did!
Now, I am delighted to welcome one of my favorite writers to my blog.  My Facebook friends and readers know how much I love Dana Stabenow’s superb Kate Shugak Alaskan mystery series.   Dana’s books have it all—suspense and surprises and colorful locales and fascinating characters, leavened with lots of humor.    Dana is remarkably versatile, for in addition to her acclaimed Kate Shugak series, she has another series set in Alaska, a number of riveting stand-alone thrillers, and she has made a highly successful foray into the world of historical fiction with her Silk and Song saga.  In her trilogy about Johanna, the grand-daughter of the celebrated Marco Polo, she introduces readers to an unfamiliar and exotic world, taking us from Cambaluc, today’s Beijing, to the legendary lagoon city of Venice, fabled Queen of the Adriatic.     I cannot imagine anyone reading that last sentence without wanting to read the books, too, and Dana’s British publisher, Head of Zeus, has made that easy for new readers, publishing an omnibus edition which contains all three of the Silk and Song novels: Everything under the Heavens, By the Shores of the Middle Sea, and The Land Beyond.   It can be ordered from my all-time favorite bookstore, the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, with signed copies available.  Here is the link.

And for my British readers, here is the link to, where it will be published on December 14th.

Now, without further delay, I’ll let Dana speak for herself.
Where did the idea for Silk and Song come from?

I read The Adventures of Marco Polo and by his own account he loved
the ladies. He was all over eastern Asia for twenty years in service to Kublai Khan
and he had to have scattered some seed around.
I wondered what happened to those kids.
Silk and Song is the story of one of them.

What did you do in the way of research?

One of the joys of writing is research.
It can also be the perfect excuse for travel (if you need one).
I went to China in 2005 specifically to do research for Silk and Song.
Trips to Turkey and Morocco also found their way into the books.
I spent a week in Venice, another in Paris, and a third in London.
Only Venice made it into the book. That’s one thing about research;
inevitably you only use about 10 percent of what you research in the work.

I also read fa-aaar too much in the way of historical studies.
After a while you wonder what on earth historians are thinking,
because they all contradict each other,
and the farther back in time you go the worse they get.

Why a female protagonist?

Whenever I’m asked that question I’m tempted to say “Why not?”
and leave it at that, but seriously folks.

At about the same time as I was reading Marco, I stumbled across
a Book of Days (basically a daily diary) in a bookstore.
It was illustrated with drawings from medieval manuscripts,
and each illustration featured a medieval woman doing a job
—a baker, a shoemaker, a carpenter, a stone mason (yes, really!)
And then I read Margery Kempe’s autobiography.
Those two works thoroughly disabused me of the notion,
A, that medieval women only worked in the home,
and, B, that in the Middle Ages nobody ever traveled a mile from their homes.
Both of which notions teachers had worked hard to beat into my head in high school.

I determined from the beginning that the child was going to be a girl,
and that she was going to have a real job.
And of course coming from China she could wear pants. Heh.

Why publish the books separately at first?

No one wanted me to write Silk and Song. For sure no one wanted me to publish it.
“We don’t want to have to re-invent the Stabenow brand,” quoth my editor,
and suggested I write another five Kate Shugak novels instead.
So I wrote SAS anyway and self-published it in the US in three e and TP volumes.

And then lightning struck!
My UK publisher, Nic Cheetham at Head of Zeus
read it and loved it and now he’s publishing it in a single volume
in the most beautiful edition that has ever had my name spelled correctly
on the cover (gold leaf on the title! squee!).

What’s next?

After Silk and Song I wrote the 21st Kate Shugak novel,
Less Than a Treason.
Now I’m working on what I hope will be the first of a series of novels set in
Alexandria in the time of Cleopatra featuring Cleopatra’s fixer, job title the Eye of Isis.
And then follows the 22nd Kate Shugak novel.

Like much of the western world, I am fascinated by Cleopatra, so I am already looking forward to Eye of Isis!     Thank you, Dana, for agreeing to this interview and for giving us so many hours of reading pleasure.
December 6, 2017


  1. Lisa lutes Says:

    When will there be another Liam Campbell book?

  2. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    Hi Sharon! So excited to see that I won the book, thank you! I messaged you with my email and address, hope you got it.

  3. skpenman Says:

    You mean via Facebook, Colleen? I’ll go and check. I had your e-mail address but I lost my entire address book during one of my computer Demon Spawn’s epic meltdowns. You can also reach me via the Contact Sharon option on my website. I was so pleased when Stephanie told me you’d won the drawing.

  4. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    Hi Sharon, yes I messaged you on Facebook, did it come through?

  5. Colleen MacDonald Says:

    Also sent it through “contact Sharon ” link.

  6. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I hope that my Facebook friends and readers living in California have been spared those terrifying wildfires that are once again devastating the state. I heard it described as a “hell-storm,” and that says it all. Those who would like to help can contact the Red Cross.
    This is a sad day for me and my fellow Eagles fans, for we lost our star QB yesterday when Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending injury, a torn ACL. Also, on a personal level, I am still being harassed night and day by that pesky Deadline Dragon, and will likely remain MIA until I manage to get rid of this unwelcome houseguest.
    I do have some good news, though, about a series that I absolutely love, David Blixt’s imaginative and suspenseful and just plain fun to read Starcross’d novels. They are set in fourteenth century Italy, with a major character who has impressive bloodlines—he is the son of the celebrated poet, Dante. When I first discovered David’s books a few years ago, he wreaked havoc with my routines and deadlines, for real life came to a screeching halt while I lost myself in his world. So I am very pleased to announce that there is a revised edition of the first book in this riveting, swashbuckling series, Master of Verona, available in print and e-book format and, for the first time, as an audio-book. I feel as if I am giving new readers an early Christmas present! Here is the link to David’s website, where you can learn more about the Starcross’d series and about some of David’s other books.

  7. Dana Says:

    Reply to Lisa Lutes–I don’t know that there will be another Liam Campbell novel. I don’t know that there won’t be, either. Sorry to waffle, but I can say that if a good idea pops up I’ll jump on it. Has to be a good one, though.

  8. Joan Says:

    What a great lot of books you’ve been recommending, Sharon. I now have Stephanie Churchill on my list, Silk & Song Saga by Dana Stabenow, & David Blixt’s Master of Verona. This could be a long cold winter in the prairies, so what better way to spend it!
    I worry for my niece & her family who live in California too close to those fires. She has told me some very sad stories of her neighbors’ families & friends in the affected zones.

  9. Sharon K Penman Says:

    It is awful for those living in California this year, Joan. I hope your niece and family will not be affected buy the fires.

    A quick bulletin from the battlefield. First of all, I belatedly want to wish a Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and readers. And congratulations to my fellow football fans who will be lucky enough to have their teams advance to the playoffs. Now I have good news for all those who share my admiration and appreciation of Bernard Cornwell’s writing. He has a new book about to come out, to be published in the US in January. For lucky readers in the UK, it is already out. No, this is not another entry in his superb Saxon series. In an intriguing change of pace, this one revolves around the younger brother of one William Shakespeare, a rather successful playwright. The title is Fools and Mortals and I am looking forward very much to reading it.

  10. Joan Says:

    Whoa, something tells me this new Cornwell book is going to be smashing!

  11. Joan Says:

    The Medievalists website features a very timely article on Eleanor of Aquitaine……”Well behaved women rarely make history”

    Very timely indeed!

  12. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    My readers posted the link, Joan, on several of my Facebook pages. If anyone is interested, I can post it here, too.

    As many of you know, I have not been well lately, and I’ve had to severely cut back on my Facebook and blog time. I hope to be able to resume contact once Land Beyond the Sea is finished and turned over to my publishers’ tender mercies. Thanks for your patience and for not turning my Facebook pages into cyberspace ghost towns while I’m off-stage.
    I hope that those of you caught, as I was, in the frigid blast of Grayson have thawed out by now. I don’t object to the new trend of naming winter storms, but couldn’t they have done better than Grayson? That sounds like a butler on Downton Abby, not a blizzard that paralyzed almost half of the US. Let’s pray for an early spring or, Down Under, for an early autumn since Sydney has been suffering under the sort of soaring temperatures normally found in Death Valley. And I am sure my readers share my sympathy for the miseries that have been inflicted upon California recently; first the worst wildfires in the state’s history and now those horrific mud-slides. So many of us had hoped the new year would be an improvement over 2017, which too often felt like penance for our sins. Speaking just for myself, I’m not overly impressed with 2018 so far.
    Before I fade away into the shadows again, I wanted to offer a progress report on Land Beyond the Sea. I finally finished fighting the battle of Hattin. Battle chapters are never easy to write even though I’ve spilled enough fictional blood to turn the Dead Sea crimson. But Hattin was particularly challenging, for the contemporary sources were often contradictory or muddled and I had to spend a lot of time pouring over maps and photos since the topography of the area played a major role in the outcome. While I’ve always tried to visit the battlefields I’ve written about, assuming they still survived, it was usually not an absolute necessity, more like a reason to take a tax-deductible trip to England or France. With Hattin, being able to see the battlefield for myself was a huge help, for I did not need to rely upon imagination to conjure up images of the desolate, barren hills and stark rock-strewn slopes. I could draw upon memories and my own photographs, thanks to my Israeli friend, Valerie Ben David, who so generously offered to be our guide. I did have to make active use of my imagination in one aspect of the battle, though. It was fought on a brutally hot day in early July, with men and horses suffering greatly from thirst and the unrelenting heat. Whereas if I looked out the window, all I saw was a blinding swirl of snow and it was so cold that I half-expected to find polar bears in my back yard. But the battle is over at long last, I have begun to wash all that blood off my hands, and now there are just two more chapters to go!
    Thanks again for all the understanding and support. I shall return!

  13. Mac Craig Says:

    Congratulations on Eagles’ win, Sharon. If your team should face New England’s in Super Bowl, you and I will be at cross purposes. Keep at the writing. We are all waiting patiently but anxiously.

  14. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    A quick escape from the twelfth century bloodshed to say hi to my readers and Facebook friends and to leave a message for my fellow (American) football fans. Congrats to fans of the teams who have survived to reach the divisional title games: my Eagles, the Vikings, the Jaguars, and the Patriots. Naturally I am rooting for the Eagles, but I am happy for fans of the other teams, for just getting there is an accomplishment, especially after a season in which the casualty count was so high that we should have been flying the Red Cross flag over the stadiums. And my sympathies to fans of the Saints, the Falcons, the Steelers, and the Titans, for I know your pain; I’ve felt it.
    But it troubles me that so many fans act as if we’re at war, with some even going so far as to make death threats against a player whose blunder cost their team a victory. This happened to a kicker for the Vikings a couple of years ago; not only did Blair Walsh receive death threats, so did his family. We’re talking insanity here, folks. So I was very pleased to hear that heartbroken Saints fans were still reaching out to comfort Marcus Williams, the young Saints safety whose mental mistake cost NO the game on Sunday. Surely no one feels worse about that than he does, especially since he is just a rookie. I don’t doubt that he is being cursed and vilified in many New Orleans bars, but I think this was a classy act and I am proud of the Saints fans who even put up a billboard to reassure him.
    Actually, football fans have been ladling out some huge dollops of kindness lately. Buffalo fans were so happy that they made the playoffs because the Bengals beat the Steelers that some imaginative souls started making donations to the charitable foundation of the Bengals QB, Andy Dalton; at last count, over $350,000 has been given to help children in need. Vikings fans started to donate to a charity supported by the Saints punter, who’d played hurt; over $100,000 so far. Numerous Eagles players have been involved in charity work. One, Chris Long, even donated his entire salary this season to help schools in the cities where he’s played football. He and another Eagle, Lane Johnson, embraced their underdog status for last week’s game by buying German shepherd masks, and now, of course, Vikings players can expect to see a stadium filled with German shepherds on Sunday; Amazon sold out within hours. Lane Johnson then found a way to do good with the joke. He had a tee-shirt made up which showed him and Chris Long in their shepherd masks, with the words “Big Dogs Gotta Eat.” He offered them for sale with all the proceeds going to the Philadelphia schools. In just two days, he’s raised over $50,000.
    Now…back to the siege of Jerusalem.

  15. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    We are very happy in Eagles Nation, flying as high as our Eagles. Congrats , too, to fans of NE, though you should not count on taking yet another trophy home.

  16. skpenman Says:

    For some reason, only part of my message was posted. Here is the rest.

    But I have great sympathy for Vikings and Jaguars fans; we have been down that desolate road, too, and it is a miserable trip. Since so many football fans who don’t bleed green are in need of cheering up, here is a heart-warming story about a former Navy Seal, now retired after a serious combat injury, who is a passionate Eagles fan and was desperate to go to the championship game. Knowing he could not afford it, a friend set up a Gofundme page and generous people donated enough money to secure two tickets. But then the Eagles heard about it and they gave him four sideline tickets. Our Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery, also generously offered two tickets. The vet was able to attend the game and since he had the Eagles’ free tickets, he sold the ones he’d gotten through Gofundme and gave the money to a charity helping Navy Seals and their families. And below the link to this story is one about the downright weird superstitions that football fans embrace. Of course anyone who has seen Silver Lining Playbook knows all about the obsessive hold that sports can take upon our lives. And yes, its star, Bradley Cooper, was at the game, too, on Sunday. Go, Birds!
    PS Some of you may have seen the magnificent bald eagle swooping over the Eagles stadium as the national anthem was played, and I thought you might like to know of his interesting history. He is not owned by the Eagles team. His name is Challenger. He is 28 years old and was found as a fledgling when he fell out of his nest and was rescued by well meaning people. But he imprinted upon them and when he was released into the wild, he did not know how to hunt for himself and kept approaching people, whom he associated with food. So his life then took another dramatic turn, as an ambassador for his species and as a living symbol to Americans of what is best about our country. He even has his own website, where you can watch a moving video of his appearances over the years.

  17. skpenman Says:

    This message is for my fellow Eagles fans. It is so unfair that a small minority of badly behaving idiots can tarnish the reputation of an entire fan base, even an entire city. Because the national media can be a bit lazy, they continue to dredge up the same old stories about rude Eagles fans; since the booing Santa Claus incident occurred 50 years ago, surely the statute of limitations applies there. But once again some drunken louts gave the city of Philadelphia and the team another black eye by harassing Vikings fans on Sunday. Fortunately it was not widespread, but that does not matter. It is infuriating, especially since the Eagles players are such a good group, very active in community service, visiting hospitals and the Ronald MacDonald House and schools and reaching out to those in need. One of our players, Chris Long, even donated his entire year’s salary to help schools in Philadelphia and several other cities. They deserve better than that. So do the rest of the Eagles fans and most definitely the Vikings fans who were hassled by these jerks. I apologize on behalf of Eagles Nation and I hope all of my fellow Eagles fans who agree with me will do what I did: make a donation to Mike Zimmer’s Foundation. Here is the link for those who are interested. Go, Birds!
    PS To my Boston friend, Linda, we’ll have to agree to be frenemies this week.

  18. Laura Lasley Says:

    Sharon, thank you for sharing the story about Challenger! I am a long time Bears fan now living in Eagles country. Of course I will be rooting for the NFC this Super Bowl, and because my friends and co-workers here won’t have it any other way. And yes, I have been rooting against the Patriots since the glorious (for Bears fans) 1985 season.
    I’ve been a long time fan of yours; found this blog courtesy of Dana Stabenow’s Roadhouse Report.
    Hope your health improves and keep writing!

  19. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I have always been intrigued by the chaos theory, in which a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil supposedly can cause a tornado in Brazil. Well, here is a link to a fun story that is very similar. It involves a small company in China that produces dog masks. To their astonishment, they awoke on one Monday morning in January to discover that all of their German Shepherd masks had been sold out on Amazon. Once they’d solved the mystery, though, they were over the moon, recognizing an utterly improbable marketing opportunity, all because two Philadelphia Eagles players decided to have some fun with their insulting underdog status. Flap those wings, butterflies! And fly, Eagles, fly!

  20. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    Wow, just wow. So much joy in Eagles Nation. Rather than posting about their SB win last night, I am going with a story that shows why I love the Eagles, their act of generosity and inclusion toward a former Eagles player, who was beloved in Philadelphia.

  21. Joan Says:

    What fun!!! My sisters & I kept an eye out even though not as into football as we once were. Great story!!

  22. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    As many of my Facebook friends know, every year I help my friend Patrice as she and her daughter collect baby blankets to donate to Temple Hospital in memory of Gracie, whose time with them was heartbreakingly brief. It is a beautiful way to honor Gracie and to help other babies in need. Here is Patrice’s post with the donation information. If any of you would like to help by posting her message on your own Facebook pages, we would be delighted. If anyone has trouble contacting Patrice, let me know and I will pass the word along. Again, thank you all for doing so much to make our world a better place.


    On March 6, 14 years ago, my beautiful granddaughter Gracie was born with the Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and lived for 19 precious hours. During her time with us, she was given a home-made blanket.

    Every year, in her memory, my daughter collects blankets, store bought & home-made (but new) & donates them to Temple Hospital’s maternity ward. It is the poorest section of the city and many times, this is the only new thing the baby receives.

    We have found that the best way is by Amazon to my address. You can private message me, and I can give you my address.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for any donations you can make.

    Patrice Batyski

  23. Cheri Matthews Says:

    Please put me on your blog mailing list:

    I love your books so much! You have made Eleanor of Aquitaine one of my main heros.

  24. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    As many of you know—since I do whine about it occasionally—I have had to forego posting on Facebook or doing new blogs until the book is done, mainly due to that implacable Deadline Dragon, who managed to enlist my rogue knee as an accomplice. So I am very happy and very relieved to report that I have finished the next-to-the last chapter, with only one more to go. After that, I will have to spend several weeks on a final edit, so the finish line is not yet looming. But I have now rounded that final turn into the homestretch. Meanwhile, here is a link that is sure to spread some sunshine; click it to visit one of the best websites on the Internet and admire spectacular views of my favorite Welsh castle, Dolwyddelan.

  25. Joan Says:

    Yay!!! Thumbs up!!

    And the castle brings wistful memories of the haunting Welsh stories.

  26. Mac Craig Says:

    Penultimate pleasure.

  27. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    I am still cornered by the Deadline Dragon, but I very much miss interacting with everyone on Facebook, so I slipped away to wish you all a happy St Patrick’s day. I’d come upon an amusing quote that I wanted to share, by the brilliant Irish poet, William Butler Yeats: “The problem with some people is that when they aren’t drunk, they’re sober.”
    But I can never think of Yeats without thinking of The Second Coming, which is surely one of the most haunting cri de coeurs ever written. Many of you are familiar with it, I am sure, and almost everyone has heard or quoted one particular line: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Once it was in my head again, I felt compelled to reread the poem in its entirety and found that it has lost none of its harrowing power. Sadly, it seems even more relevant now than ever. I was tempted to post it here, but I decided to leave that choice to my readers. Those who feel up to immersing themselves in its disturbing, dark grandeur can find it here.

  28. Joan Says:

    A pity that those who control the strings don’t take art seriously.

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