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. Angela Olsen Says:

    I live in New Zealand and seem unable to purchase either Hennry II or Welsh Prince series in Audiobook MP3 format.
    They are all recorded?
    Could someone help me find them, alternatively I’m a director of a sound studio here and would love to record them all.
    Any help wiĺ be much appreciated.
    Angela Olsen

  28. 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.

  29. Joan Says:

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

  30. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    So true, Joan.

    I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover. I remain stranded in Outremer, but if I have not yet crossed the finish line, at least it is now in sight. So I will surface again eventually. Meanwhile, April 1st is the date upon which one of history’s most amazing women drew her last breath. Women have almost always been identified by the men they married. When we mention a medieval queen, we automatically link her with the king she married. There is one glorious exception to this rule, though—the woman who wore the crowns of both England and France, mother of two kings and two queens, wed to two kings, and yet she is known to us as she would have preferred, Eleanor of Aquitaine.
    Now here is a story my friend and fellow writer, Joan Szechtman, shared with me today. I am delighted to share it with you all. Such a pity it had to come out on April 1st, for this is a story we’d love to believe.

  31. Robert White Says:

    When, or if, will a new Justin book be available

  32. Sharon Kay Penman Says:

    A quick visit to assure everyone that I have not been abducted or joined the Witness Protection Program. I am still trapped in the writer’s equivalent of the Salt Mines, laboring day and night—or at least it feels that way—to get the book done. All of the chapters are finished, so I am definitely in the homestretch, but the final edit is sheer drudgery, time-consuming and requiring a laser-like focus. I am so looking forward to returning to the world again!
    Meanwhile, here is an interesting article about historical superstitions. I am skeptical of at least one. I’ve spent many years immersing myself in the MA and have never once read about male guests mobbing the bride to rip off her garter. They do say this so-called custom dates from “medieval and Tudor times,” so I suppose it could be a Tudor tradition. That was a very peculiar period in history, after all. I also never heard of a fear of brussels sprouts, wonder if anyone else has?
    Disappearing back into Outremer now, but I shall surface again.

  33. Joan Says:

    I eat lots of brussels sprouts so good thing I began to cut the cross in it years back, lol (after a friend told me about the reduced cooking time). Just yesterday I was cutting the cross, wondering yet again why I continued with this tedious business. Good title for a book about superstitions…..Cutting the Cross.
    I admit to touching wood & yes, oak or ash. No hawthorne available. But that’s about all I’ll do to protect myself.
    Sharon, if I were you I’d stay right where you are because the world has not changed since you immersed yourself in completion of your book. In fact, it only gets worse!
    We are so looking forward!!! And can hardly wait to see what the cover will look like!!
    Good luck!!

  34. Rachel Lovatt Says:

    Hi Sharon
    I’m a reader from the UK and I’m so looking forward to The Land Beyond The Sea as I’ve loved all your books. I’ve just re-read The Prince of Darkness as Justin and John are favourites of mine. (I know I should disapprove of John but it’s your fault as you have made him such an interesting character and as Eleanor says - a sense of humour forgives a lot of sins). In your Authors Note at the end you did say Justin would ride again so I was wondering if and when you are planning on bringing them to back to life? It was 2005 when it was first published - Justin will be getting too old to get back on that horse soon! Please take pity on all of us!!

  35. Sharon K Penman Says:

    All over the world, people are praying for a miracle for those trapped boys in Thailand. We did get one miracle when four of the kids were safely taken out, but more miracles will be needed. I have so much admiration for those volunteer divers, am awed by their courage. See the link below for one of the latest updates about the rescue.
    On a personal note, I would like to thank all of my Facebook friends and readers for being so understanding about my disappearances over the past few months. I have never worked so hard to complete a book as I did on this one, in part because my health “issues” continue to slow me down and sabotage schedules, etc. It probably didn’t help, either, that LBS (as one of my friends has dubbed it) is one of my longer efforts—742 pages. I am so lucky that you guys love long books!
    Now that the manuscript has gone off to my editors in the US and UK, I will be able to rejoin the real world and start posting on Facebook again. I may even be able to revive my moribund blog, assuming that I can scrape all the cobwebs off. Thanks again for your patience. I have the world’s best readers, bar none.

  36. skpenman Says:

    Two miracles down, one more to go. People are awed by the courage of the divers, but the courage and composure of those youngsters is remarkable, too. We desperately need a happy ending—for the boys and their families, but for the rest of the world, too. Here is a link to an interesting column about why a crisis like this one rivets the attention of people all over the planet. The story of those trapped Chilean miners is a prime example. Numerous stories of children who’d fallen into wells. Even the fate of those three whales trapped in the ice mesmerized most of us; I still remember the joy when a Russian ice-breaker was able to cut an escape route for them. And of course every day there are people who risk their lives to save others in peril.
    Did I ever explain why my new book’s title suffered a sea change, from Outremer to The Land Beyond the Sea? Outremer was my first choice, but after a conversation with my then-British editor, who sadly is no longer with Macmillan, I agreed to accept The Land Beyond the Sea; she explained that their sales department was uneasy with Outremer. Writers learn to pick our battles and I did see her point. A few friends who had no knowledge of French had confessed they did not know how to pronounce Outremer, calling it Out-Reamer! Only once did a publisher seriously object to one of my titles; my British publisher for Here de Dragons wanted to change it for reasons that made no sense to me. So, there I drew a line in the sand, but I did agree to a compromise of sorts—that my middle initial would be deep-sixed on their side of the Atlantic. And that is why I am known as Sharon Kay Penman in the US and as Sharon Penman in the UK.
    End of digression. Here is the link to the story about the Thai cave rescue.

  37. Mac Craig Says:

    Welcome back to your blog, Sharon. We all look forward to reading your new historical novel, even though its title had to be translated into English. (I doubt if Coeur de Lion would approve.)

  38. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Mac. I missed everyone! And no, Coeur de Lion would not be amused.

    Sorry I did not get on-line yesterday to celebrate the Miracle Rescue in Thailand. That truly was a rescue for the ages. I hope we all will remember Saman Gunan, the diver who died in the effort to save the boys. There is so much ugliness in the world these days that we desperately need to be reminded that there are people capable of this sort of altruism and courage. Here is a link to a story about the divers and doctors involved in the rescue.
    I was off-line yesterday because my spaniel, Holly, became very ill this week. Without warning, she began to stagger around as if she were drunk, her head cocked at an odd angle and her eyes twitching like pinballs. I admit I was terrified, sure she was having a stroke. Thankfully, it was not; my vet diagnosed vestibular disease, which can be treated with steroids. It is strange that I did not think of this, for one of my other dogs was stricken with this ailment about 12 years ago. I think I was associating it with diseases of age, for that dog was much older than Holly. The poor girl is still having a rough time, though I do see some improvement; she is no longer lurching around as if she were trapped in an earthquake. She did refuse food this morning, though, and normally that would be a sign of the coming Apocalypse. But my vet says to be patient. Of course he is not the one throwing up or having to be hand-fed because of the extreme head tilt. I just hope Holly does not decide hand-feeding is something she wants us to continue. The vet said it usually does not recur. It did with Randy, my elderly dog, but her great age—15—may have made her vulnerable. Just curious….have any of your dogs had vestibular disease and if so, did it come back?

  39. skpenman Says:

    I would like to congratulate my French Facebook friends for their win in today’s World Cup. I know none of my British friends were rooting for France—memories of the 100 Years War and all that. :-) But I love France and was happy to see them win. Had Croatia been playing another team, I’d probably have rooted for them since I always have a soft spot for the underdogs.
    Speaking of dogs, Holly is still ill, not responding to the steroid treatment as fast as her vet and I have hoped. She wobbles around the house as if she’s been hitting the wine and the extreme tilt of her head keeps her from eating herself, so she has to be hand-fed. Since I was already hobbling around the house thanks to my rogue knee, we make quite a pair. My vet remains optimistic that she will make a full recovery in time, but we probably could use as many positive vibes as you all would like to send our way. And thanks again to all who posted about their own dogs and peripheral vestibular disease; I really appreciate that.

  40. Mac Craig Says:

    As I said in the Facebook response, England vs. France would have left me with very mixed feelings. Well done by Croatia - as with Iceland in the European championship 2 years ago. Also on Facebook, I held my peace when the Englishman (also a Malcolm) asked if your support Trump. I know you try to avoid politics on-line, and I would never speak for you anyway. Still, I expect you were as amused as I was by the Baby Trump balloon. What a disgusting and dangerous boob!

  41. skpenman Says:

    I am very happy to report that Holly is much better. She began to improve once the vet increased the prednisone and we are now starting to slowly wean her off it. She still has the head tilt and is not completely steady on her feet, but she no longer acts as if she’s gotten into the wine when my back was turned. I am accustomed to having very smart dogs (sometimes too clever by half) poodles and shepherds, and when I adopted Holly, I thought I might have to lower the bar for her since spaniels are not ranked among the Einsteins of the canine world. But no one told Holly that. She has proven to be a very smart little dog, but during this illness, she outdid herself. Because of the prednisone, she began to have “accidents,” quite a few of them. Yet for every single one of them, she wobbled into my kitchen, always sparing my carpets. Lassie, eat your heart out! Okay, some hyperbole there; she’s too small to rescue Timmy from the well. Again, thanks to all of you who sent good wishes for her recovery and related stories of your own dogs’ experiences with peripheral vestibular disease. They definitely helped.
    Below is a fascinating and detailed account of the rescue of the “Thai cave boys.” The BBC coverage was riveting. When you see the diagram of the escape route the boys had to travel, you realize that this truly was a miracle. Much credit is due to the Thai government and it is so heartening that the rest of the world rallied around the boys. It was as if all of our children were trapped in that cave.

  42. Joan Says:

    It’s great to see you on blog again Sharon. We’re so looking forward to your novel & I too love Outremer as title. I was sad to hear about sweet Holly & now very happy to know she’s improving. What an image though, the hobbling duo!

    Our hearts were with the boys in Thailand, miracle indeed! And very heartening to know there are still many heroic, selfless people out there. I consider such role models very high on the evolutionary spectrum (it’s the way I see humanity now), some individuals are very highly evolved & other life forms (I use the word “life” uneasily) are so far in the other direction that they don’t even count!

  43. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Joan. I very much hope I’ll soon be able to restore contact with the real world on a regular basis!

    I was hoping I’d be able to start posting much more frequently, but my rogue knee had other ideas. I am about to tackle my editor’s comments and suggestions for The Land Beyond the Sea; wish me luck. Meanwhile, Holly’s news is mixed. Her peripheral vestibular disease symptoms have dramatically decreased, but she injured her eye during that period and it is proving to more of a challenge for my vet. She is obviously feeling much better, though.
    Since I’ve been feeling somewhat guilty about not being able to plunge right back into the Facebook pool, I come with a peace offering. This link will lead you so some stunning photos of Wales, proof of why I call it the most beautiful land this side of Eden.

  44. Joan Says:

    Thank you Sharon. I’m so in love with the beauty of the British Isles. I watch Escape to the Country daily & not an episode goes by where I don’t pause the show & take a pic with my phone & send it to someone. If I had a wish, it would be to buy a piece of land, cozy cottage, & raise chickens & a few sheep. I find it interesting how all these villages are doing work in conservation, bringing back older healthier varieties of wheat, to name one, cottage industries, rescue work, & countless other exciting ventures. A promising future! But the beauty blows my mind!!

  45. skpenman Says:

    So true, Joan!

    I am sorry to report that Holly has suffered a relapse. My vet has been treating the eye that she injured during her struggle with Peripheral Vestibular Disease, but I did not like the way it looked and took her in to see him yesterday. My instincts were right; she had scratched the cornea and the eye was now ulcerated. So the poor little girl is getting ointment squirted into her eye four times a day and must wear one of those Cones of Shame. She is, as usual, being a good sport about it and lets me do what must be done. But she understandably looks very sad. Wish us luck; we may need it. Meanwhile, I am going to try to catch up with historical events; see below.
    August 4th is the date of two significant medieval battles. On August 4, 1192, Richard Lionheart won a remarkable victory at Jaffa against a much larger Saracen army. Richard was camped outside the city walls, having managed to regain control of Jaffa. Learning that re-enforcements would not be coming to Richard’s aid, Saladin staged a surprise attack upon the crusaders. He may have won a huge victory if not for a sharp-eyed Genoese who’d risen early to relieve himself and spotted the sun glinting off the shields and spears. Richard had time to rally his small force and they held off assault after assault, until late in the day he took the offensive with barely a handful of knights and scored one of the more improbable triumphs in military history. According to the mortified Saracen chroniclers, at one point he rode out alone to challenge the Saracen line and none dared to accept it. For those who haven’t read Lionheart yet (what are you waiting for???), I naturally dramatize this battle in considerable detail, for I was lucky enough to have eye-witnesses accounts from both the crusaders and the Saracens who actually fought in this conflict.
    And on August 4, 1265, another brilliant medieval general, the future Edward I, trapped his godfather and uncle, Simon de Montfort, at Evesham. Edward had earlier staged a successful assault upon Simon’s son, Bran, who was camped at Kenilworth Castle, and he used some of the captured banners so that Simon would assume this was his son arriving with the much-needed reinforcements. By the time they realized the truth, it was too late. Simon, watching the approaching army from the bell tower in Evesham, said, “They come on well. He learned that from me.” He then uttered one of history’s better exit lines, saying to his sons and soldiers, “We must commend our souls to God, for our bodies are theirs.” In the ensuing battle, a violent thunderstorm broke out over the field at the height of the battle. Simon was slain and his body horribly mutilated by Edward’s men. Simon’s eldest son died on the field with him and his younger son, Guy, was gravely wounded. Edward showed no mercy; even the squires were killed, which was highly unusual. A chronicler would later write, “Such was the murder of Evesham, for battle it was none.” Simon’s son, Bran, would arrive on the battlefield in time to see his father’s head on a pike. Simon’s widow and daughter were allowed to go into French exile. Simon’s death was not forgotten; much to Edward’s frustration, people began to make surreptitious pilgrimages to Evesham to pray to a man some saw as a saint. A saint, he most definitely was not. As I said in the Author’s Note for Falls the Shadow, “A French-born English hero, lordly champion of the commons, an honorable adven-turer, Simon continues to be as controversial and enigmatic and paradoxical a figure in our time as he was in his own.” I think he’d have been pleased, though, with the memorial stone erected in his honor at Evesham on the 700th anniversary of his death, which was unveiled by the Speaker of the House of Commons and dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury:

  46. Mac Craig Says:

    Despite Facebook intransigence, I can read your post here. Way back in high school, I wrote a paper about Simon.

  47. skpenman Says:

    Sorry to still remain MIA on Facebook, but I’ve been busy nursing my ailing spaniel and my own rogue knee. But here are some medieval musings (a bit late) for August 8th. On this date in 1171, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and conniving younger brother of King Stephen, died in his episcopal palace. I always thought he was a contender for the title bestowed on the French king, Louis XI, “the Universal Spider,” as I saw him as the driving force behind Stephen’s usurpation of the Empress Maude’s crown. He was also a self-server, bouncing back and forth between Stephen and Maude like a wayward Ping-Pong ball. But in his later years, he seems to have developed a conscience, possibly because he’d lost his sight and realized he needed to mend fences with the Almighty.
    And on August 8, 1503, King James IV of Scotland wed Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, in Edinburgh. I don’t usually like to spend much time on those ubiquitous Tudors, but Margaret’s life was an eventful one. Margaret was only 13 at the time of her marriage and her mother had died just a few months before her journey to Scotland. Her husband was not faithful to her, and her dower castle of Stirling contained the royal nursery for his seven illegitimate children. There was a lot of tragedy in her life. Her first son was born in 1507, which indicates James waited until she was at a suitable age for sexual relations, as was usually the case in the MA; the birth of Henry Tudor to his thirteen year old mother, Margaret Beaufort, was fortunately not the norm. Margaret’s first son died within a year, and a few months later, she gave birth to a daughter who died that same day. A second son, named Arthur, was born in 1509 and died the following year. She had a stillborn daughter in 1512, and another son born in 1514, after his father was slain at Flodden in 1513, who died in 1515. She did have one surviving son, who’d become James V. She forfeited the regency when she took a second husband, the Earl of Angus in 1514; this marriage would end in bitter enmity, and her third marriage would fail, too. She was unpopular with the Scots, who felt that she was partial to English interests. When her brother Henry VIII tried to gain control of her sons, James and Alexander, the latter by the Earl of Angus, the Scots took both boys away from her. Having lost her regency, her sons, and her revenues, she fled to England in 1515, where she nearly died giving birth to a daughter. She was still extremely ill when her two year old son, Alexander, died, and for a time they kept the news from her in her weakened state. The remainder of her life continued to be turbulent, with estrangements from her brother Henry and her third husband and her son James. She died of a stroke in 1541, at age 52. While she found little happiness in Scotland, the Stuart line that would eventually rule England resulted from her marriage to James IV; their son, James V, was the father of Mary Queen of Scots and thus the grandfather of the man who’d assume the English crown after Elizabeth Tudor’s death.

  48. Joan Says:

    Great highlights from your books, Sharon. You bring the characters to vivid life once again. I miss them all. And what a tragic life Margaret Tudor suffered. I must research her a bit more as I’ll be in Edinburgh one month from now!! Can hardly wait. Will tour the Highlands, Isle of Skye, Stirling, etc, then down to Cornwall for a different kind of visit, though there definitely are similarities in the raw beauty, great seascapes, & each with a unique language. You’ll chuckle at this…..our travelling troup consists of 5 sisters & one hubby! Who has Scottish heritage.
    I hope & pray your little Holly will recover soon.

  49. skpenman Says:

    Your coming trip sounds spectacular, Joan. I hope you’ll share your experiences with us afterward.

    Holly and I are still hurting, but I can still copy and paste, so here is a post from a few years back, long enough ago so I hope no one remembers it.

  50. skpenman Says:

    Okay, me again. For some reason, only the first sentence of my Facebook post made it. Trying a second time.

    Holly and I are still hurting, but I can still copy and paste, so here is a post from a few years back, long enough ago so I hope no one remembers it.

  51. skpenman Says:

    It happened again! Just not my day, I guess. The curious can read it on any of my Facebook pages, but this is very vexing.

  52. Mac Craig Says:

    Happy Birthday, Sharon. I suspect my card will be a bit late arriving, since I only mailed it on Saturday.

  53. skpenman Says:

    Thanks, Mac!

    Thank you all so much for the birthday good wishes; they were much appreciated. We’re actually celebrating my birthday twice this year, a pizza party tonight and a family birthday dinner toward the end of the month. Right now my house is so fragrant with birthday bouquets that it resembles the Garden of Eden! And as a very special birthday gift, Holly is finally beginning to feel better. Her eye no longer looks so inflamed and she is willing to tackle the stairs again.
    Now I have something to share. A friend sent me this video of a German shepherd reacting to a jack-in-the-box. When you watch it, you’ll probably want to share it, too. As much as I love Holly, I really, really miss having a shepherd. They are such great dogs. When the link comes up, click onto it to start the very brief video.

  54. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am happy to report that Holly is finally in the homestretch and the finish line is in sight. The vet saw her again today and was very pleased with her progress; the ulcerated eye seems healed. So her only lingering symptom from her ordeal is that her ears are still green; for reasons no one can explain, they turned green after being held captive in her cone of shame. We assume eventually they’ll grow out; if not, she’ll always be ready to party on St Patrick’s Day. I want to offer my thanks again to all of you who sympathized with Holly during her ordeal and related stories of your own dogs’ bouts with peripheral vestibular disease.
    I am working very hard on the edited manuscript of The Land Beyond the Sea, with side visits to my orthopedist and chiropractor; I see those guys so often that I really should be getting my mail there. But I hope to be able to start making more frequent drop-ins on my Facebook page and who knows, I might even be able to brush all the cyberspace cobwebs off my website and post a new blog. Meanwhile, here is a post about what happened yesterday in the Middle Ages.
    Something happened on August 17, 1153 that no novelist would dare to invent, for readers tend to be rather skeptical of coincidences in novels. On this day King Stephen’s eldest son and heir, Eustace, died suddenly at Ipswich, apparently choking after eating eels. Eustace had spent the summer raiding and pillaging Cambridgeshire and had been cursed by Abbot Ording of St Edmundsbury (today’s Bury St Edmunds) for attacking their abbey, so people were quite quick to conclude that Eustace’s death was divine retribution for such spectacular sins. This was a major blow to Stephen, both as a king and as a parent, and indeed it would soon lead to a negotiated peace with the other claimant for the English throne, the young Duke of Normandy, Henry Fitz Empress. And as if Eustace’s death were not proof enough to medievals that God was on Henry’s side, any doubts of that were erased when word spread that on the very day Eustace had breathed his last, Henry’s new wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had given birth to a healthy son, William. In fifteen years of wedlock to the French king Louis, Eleanor had presented him with just two daughters, and now she’d given Henry his firstborn son and heir just fifteen months after they’d been wed at Poitiers. I don’t imagine that Louis sent them a christening gift.
    Also on August 17, this time in 1473, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s second son was born, named Richard, probably after his grandfather but possibly after his uncle. He would, of course, become better known to history as one of the Little Princes in the Tower. His birth was an occasion for rejoicing, as Edward now had his heir and a spare. But in retrospect, it is a sad day, knowing what lay ahead for this unfortunate youngster.

  55. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Even though I feel as if I am laboring 24-7 on the edited manuscript, I will try to stop by whenever I can escape the 12 century. I am happy to report that Holly is now well enough to resume her weekly play dates with her best buddy, the cockapoo, Bentley. Since they have not seen each other for about six weeks, I envision a romantic reunion for the ages, rather like those old shampoo commercials where the lovers raced toward each other through a field of flowers, their shiny hair flowing in the wind. In this case, it would be flowing ears, of course.
    I do have good news about When Christ and his Saints Slept. It will be available for sale as an audio book soon! For so long, only Lionheart and Ransom had audio editions, so I am delighted about this. Its pub. Date will be February 12th.

  56. Sharon K Penman Says:

    For Yorkists, of course, August 22nd means only that it is the sad anniversary of Bosworth Field, and surely all of us here are Yorkists, right? But actually, there were some other medieval events occurring on that date.
    August 22nd, 1138 was the date of a victory of the English over the Scots at Cowton Moor, known as the Battle of the Standard
    According to Wikipedia, August 22nd 1358 is the date upon which Isabella, queen of Edward II, died. But the Dictionary of National Biography says she died on August 23rd, and I think that is a more trustworthy source. I suspect that Kathryn Warner will write something about Isabella on her excellent blog, The fourteenth century is not my bailiwick, but I do have two comments about Isabella. She did not have an affair with William Wallace! Mel Gibson cannot be trusted. Wallace was dead by the time Isabella set foot on English soil, so any tryst would have given necrophilia a new twist. And she was not called The She-wolf of France until the eighteenth century.
    Now….on to what matters the most to us. On August 22nd 1485, Richard III was slain at Bosworth Field, ending the three hundred year reign of the Plantagenet dynasty. Way too much has already been said about the Tudors—ad nauseam—so I will merely point out that Henry Tudor dated his reign from the day before Bosworth so he could then charge with treason men who’d fought for an anointed, crowned king. That tells us all we really need to know about the sterling character of the first of the Tudors. I often post a passage from one of my novels on a date relevant to the book’s events. But too many readers have told me that they reread Sunne often, yet always stop before they reach the Bosworth chapter. I can understand that; it took me three weeks to get Richard out of his tent and onto the field at Bosworth, and the reluctance was mine, not his.
    So instead of sharing a scene from Sunne, I will share how I tried very hard to talk the good folks at the Bosworth Centre to change the ending of the battle in their annual re-enactment. I was invited to give a reading at the Centre and was over the moon at the honor. This was back in 2013, after Richard III’s lost grave had been almost miraculously discovered, thanks in great measure to the Herculean efforts of Philippa Langley. Having become friendly with the staff at the Centre, I argued that if they let Richard win the battle, it would be a win-win situation all around. They would stun and delight the audience that gathers every year to watch the event and it would be a PR stunt for the ages, for they’d be sure to attract media attention around the globe; that is the sort of human interest story that no producer or reporter could resist. They humored me and laughed, but I still feel a great opportunity was missed.

  57. Joan Says:

    A belated Happy Birthday Sharon! Sounds like a wonderful one! And especially as Holly is so much better.
    I’m catching up on posts (thoroughly enjoying this) & having a good laugh at all your witty comments.

    Oh if only the Bosworth Ctr had agreed to your suggestion! What a lark!

  58. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am sorry that I am still MIA. But I am working around the clock—literally—on the edited manuscript, and everything else has had to fall by the wayside. I figured that if you all had to choose between my stopping by to chat and getting to read The Land Beyond the Sea sooner than later, you’d tell me to keep writing! Meanwhile, I hope all of my Facebook friends and readers who may be in the path of Hurricane Florence will stay safe and avoid the worst of this scary storm. Now….back to the 12th century for another fortnight or so. We are not making any real changes, just doing some trimming and pruning and a little streamlining in those scenes where Sharon the Historian overwhelmed Sharon the Author. But because the book is so lengthy (great surprise, I know) it is still very time consuming. But I shall return.

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