Yes, this is actually a new blog by me; will wonders never cease?  But the good thing about being in Writer Limbo—between books—is that I actually have time to do some things I enjoy, and one of them is focusing attention upon books I think my readers will like.  The King’s Furies is such a book, with the added bonus that its author, Stephanie Churchill, is a friend as well as a fellow writer, so it is always fun to hang around with her.  Besides, Holly, my spaniel, may not worship Stephanie, but she is overly fond of the ground upon which she walks.

I can enthusiastically recommend The King’s Furies, the final book in Stephanie’s trilogy, The Crowns of Destiny.  Like me, I am sure that readers of the trilogy have come to care about the characters, and I think they will be pleased by the resolution of the series.   Casmir is a very appealing character in his own right, and it is interesting to get his perspective after seeing their world through the eyes of the sisters, Kassia and Irisa.

Before we begin the interview, I want to let readers know that Stephanie is offering a book giveaway and to be eligible, readers need only post a comment on this blog.  The winner will receive free copies of the first two books, The Scribe’s Daughter and The King’s Daughter; they will be in the e-book format and the contest is global, not limited just to American readers.   Now, let me welcome Stephanie Churchill.

SC: Thanks for letting me stop by, Sharon. I really just came to play with Holly, but we may as well chat as long as I’m here.

SKP: Holly would like nothing more than for you to feed her snacks.

SC: Which I have brought aplenty.

SKP: You’re about to publish your third book, The King’s Furies.   How does it feel?

SC: I thought you were going to ask me, “What are you going to do next?” And of course, the only answer to that is “Go to Disney World.” It feels somehow surreal that I’ve slaved away enough to write three books already. It seems like only yesterday you planted the suggestion in my head. Can that have been nearly eight years ago already? It doesn’t seem like we’ve been friends for that long, but we have.

SKP: I’ve told you before that you give me too much credit for that.

SC: Maybe, but sometimes ideas don’t take root except when suggested by people who have a certain amount of clout. Anyone else could have suggested that I try my hand at writing, but I wouldn’t have necessarily considered the suggestion credible. I figured you knew what you were talking about when it came to writing.

SKP:  I can think of at least one book reviewer who’d disagree with you about that, the one who ended her review of Sunne with the immortal words, “God has probably forgiven Richard III and He may in time even forgive the author.”    But let’s talk now about your Crowns of Destiny series. Your first two books were about two sisters. Your third book will be about a different person, Casmir Vitus, King of Agrius. What made you decide to give him his own book?

SC: I wasn’t planning to originally. I had already promised readers that I would write a prequel about Kassia and Irisa’s mother, Naria. I had a decent outline written up for that book, but then a couple of things happened. First, I wasn’t “feeling” the story. I’m not sure how to describe it except to say my heart just wasn’t in it. I had a tough time figuring out how to develop the themes for the book, and I had too many ideas about directions to take the various character involvements. So in part, there was too much I wanted the book to do, and I couldn’t narrow it down. Then, almost simultaneously, reviews were beginning to come in on The King’s Daughter. The most common piece of feedback I received from readers was that they loved Casmir. Looooooved him. It seemed natural to write a book for him. I hope to get back to Naria’s story someday, but I also need to move on to other things.

SKP: Why did people love him so much?  I know why I found him to be such good company, but I am curious about your perspective as his creator.   Tell us about him.

SC: I can’t speak for individual readers, but my guess is that he’s got a nice dose of charm. I admit to being more than a little influenced by some of your male characters when writing him: Llewelyn ap Iorweth, for instance. His combination of cluelessness with Joanna gave me some fodder for Casmir’s relationship with Irisa, and his leadership style of integrity, control, and a bit of restraint helped me figure out Casmir’s kingly style. I also injected some of Dafydd ap Gruffydd’s swagger. Another thing that I would guess readers found appealing was the mystery of his personality. Irisa often commented on Casmir’s seeming two-sided nature. He wears an unreadable court mask in public, but when Irisa was alone with him, she saw a warm, caring man. So for the reader’s benefit, I wanted to explore this a bit in his own book. I hope readers of The King’s Furies will get enough of Casmir’s backstory to understand his two faces a bit better. I also tried to inject some aspects of your favorite king, Henry II. Casmir is a bit of a workaholic, and he doesn’t always care too much for his personal appearance – or at least the extravagance that kings are afforded in their dress. He’s happier just being comfortable.

SKP: Without giving anything away, what is this book about?

SC: From a plot perspective, Casmir and Irisa are now secure on their thrones ruling Agrius. They have a child, and things seem to be perfect. Of course, as an author yourself, you know that authors are never happy when our characters are happy. I had to make their lives difficult, and one step at a time I turned the screws a little bit on their happiness. They made some choices in The King’s Daughter, and the outcomes of those choices aren’t working out so well. Those outcomes get progressively more complicated, and then some of the villains from the last books show up to further complicate things.

The theme of this book is two-fold. I wanted to explore Casmir’s character. What happens when he is tested beyond the point of breaking? What kind of choices will he make, and what does it say about who he is as a man? And secondly, I wanted to explore the marriage relationship after the first few years of marriage. It’s fun to write about new love, but what happens when daily life intrudes and outside forces work to muddy the waters a bit? At a really deep level, I want readers to see how I intentionally chose the title (for each of my books) and how it works to tell the story of what will happen to the main characters.

SKP: Do you have another project you’re working on now? What’s next?

SC: I have something completely different in mind, yes. I’ve already begun to plot the basics of it, but I have a lot of groundwork to cover before I begin the actual writing. This next series will be much more traditionally fantasy in that there will be some dragon-like creatures. Still no magic, because I’m not comfortable writing in that milieu since I don’t really read magic-based fantasy.

SKP: How will the books be different (besides the dragon-like creatures)?

SC: Well, from a story and setting perspective, I’m going to focus much less on creating a setting that feels historical. This time it will be purely fictional. Yes, it will have a vaguely medieval feel, but that’s about as close to feeling historical as I’ll intentionally get. Much of what will be different won’t be apparent to readers because the differences will all be in my process. Hopefully readers will “feel” the difference in the quality of the story, but it won’t be obvious to the casual reader. Oh, and my dragons will have some supernatural powers.

SKP: How could dragons not have some supernatural powers?   But how is your process going to be different?

SC: I’ve been reading and following the blog of Shawn Coyne who developed the Story Grid method. I won’t bore you with all the nitty-gritty details, but this method encourages developing what Coyne calls a “foolscap global story outline” before getting started. Basically, it’s setting up certain major building blocks (inciting incident, progressive complications, crisis, climax, resolution) for each of the major components of the book before beginning to write. I naturally do this in my head anyway and had done it for my first three books on a very informal level, but I’m forcing myself to write down each of the items so they will be thoroughly thought through. The other process difference is that I’m going to write all three books of the trilogy (in first draft form) before I publish the first one.

SKP: That sounds intriguing and a bit mysterious.  So how long will readers have to wait until they can read something new from you?

SC: No idea. It will take as long as it takes. But I think once my in-depth planning is finished, the actual writing will take far less time than my last three books since I’ll have signposts for what I’m going to write. In the meantime, I’m keeping a weekly writing journal for those interested in getting a behind-the-scenes look at my process. It’s on my blog and people can subscribe if they want to be updated about new posts. So far readers of this journal have said they love the glimpse of what authors do every day. I guess I take my own process for granted, but not everyone knows what we as authors do!

SKP: Anything else you’d like to add before you go take Holly for a walk?

SC: Yes, I thought I’d leave your readers with a little glimpse of both Casmir’s personality and a taste for what The King’s Furies is about.

From The King’s Furies, chapter 6:

“You are the assassin who finally brought down the slave rebellion’s leader.”

“You make it sound like a bad thing, my king,” Jachamin broke in, a slow smile hinting at the corners of his lips. “But I prefer mercenary if it’s all the same to you.”

“Your tactics were… heavy-handed,” I observed.

His eyes flashed at that, and the freedom I’d reveled in only moments before dissipated, melting away as easily as a sugared wafer on Sybila’s tongue. I moved my gloved hands over my face, partially to brush away the loose strands of hair which had fallen over my left eye, but also to give myself time to think.

“Casmir,” Wimarc broke in, annoyingly comfortable enough to use my familiar name, “Lyseby is a problem. In fact, you have many problems that defy conventional solutions.”

I shot him a hard look. “And you think that hiring an assassin… mercenary,” I corrected myself with a dismissive wave of my hand, “will fix these problems? We have only begun to try conventional solutions. I am not about to condone as common practice the murder of those who would oppose my rule!” I gave each of the men a cold, hard stare.

“Casmir, I only brought you here to hear him out.”

“Yes, because you know the palace walls have ears. You said as much. This was to make the ride and early hour worth my while?”

“Casmir, I…”

“You have mistaken me for another king — my father, or his hound Veris. I am not him, nor will I ever be,” I growled. “You have wasted my time.”

And with that, I made a savage jerk on the reins, wheeling Sevaritza around to leave the two men staring after me.

SKP:   We shall let Casmir have the last word, then, as kings usually do.   Thank you, Stephanie, for stopping by to spoil Holly and share your thoughts on The King’s Furies.  To purchase Stephanie’s books, see the links below.  And again, post a comment here and you’ll be eligible for Stephanie’s book giveway.

July 24, 2019


Purchase The Scribe’s Daughter:

Purchase The King’s Daughter:

Pre-order The King’s Furies:

Stephanie’s website:


  1. Stephanie Ling Says:

    Yay! Thanks for letting me visit, Sharon. As I supsected might be the case, Holly wasn’t too keen on going for a walk with me. She just wanted to stay home with her mommy. I even tempted her with chicken. I hope your readers enjoy my books as much as I did writing them. I’ll be moving on to other projects next, but I’ll definitely be missing Agrius and all my wonderful characters.

  2. Kim Mitchell Says:

    The books sound very interesting! They will definitely be added to my list!

  3. Allia Zobel Nolan Says:

    Me! Me! Me! I’d love to be in the running for a Kindle version of Stephanie’s initial books. As you know, I have run through all of your books, and am in limbo until your next title pubs. So this would be heaven for me. I do hope you can consider my plight (not troth)…just plight. Thanks for the opportunity.

  4. Samantha Says:

    Great interview! How lovely to see two of my favorite ladies together. :-)

  5. Dee S. Knight Says:

    Gosh, I’m sorry I didn’t know about this series. The excerpt is wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie–and for that intriguing photo bomb with Casmir at Dover Castle, lol. He’s quite the cutie!!

    And Sharon, do we ever forget a bad review in spite of all the good ones??

  6. Cristina Beans Says:

    That’s wonderful Stephanie!!! Loved the first two books, can’t wait to read this. Plus dragons next time?! Awesime!!!

  7. Ann-Marie Baechler Says:

    I can’t wait to start reading this series. I love SKP and in the past I have loved the books she recommended.

  8. Jann Merchant Says:

    That is great news - my sister and I devour your books Stephanie - thanks to Sharon too for putting us in touch with them. Although I often wish I’d found them later, so that I could read them back to back instead of enduring the wait in between publishings!

  9. Eric Pratt Says:

    This sounds like a wonderful trilogy! I hope I can read them soon. Thanks Sharon for inspiring and befriending such a good author, and thank you Stephanie for introducing Sharon to me and helping a young teacher and his class get Sharon’s books on his shelves and make a good friend as well.

  10. Stephanie Ling Says:

    Thanks, ladies! What a day brightener!

  11. Judy Wiese Says:

    I haven’t read any of your books yet Stephanie but I have enjoyed hearing about their progress. Like many, I have an ever growing tbr pile! I wish you all the best for your future endeavours.

  12. Pat K Says:

    New author to me (sorry), but if Sharon recommends your writing, I’m definitely in. Can’t wait to read your books. Thank you.

  13. Mimi Morris Says:

    Thanks for this! An entirely different part of history to consider!

  14. Wanda Says:

    Congratulations on the publication! How very exciting! You are a new-to-me author; however, if Sharon recommends you, then count me in.

  15. Margaret Jean Tabar Says:

    I would love to explore these books. Sound good and if Sharon says they are - they will be. Thank you for the opportunity to win them.

  16. Jo Ann Says:

    Can’t wait to read your books, Stephanie!

  17. Jay James Says:

    I’ve never read this series, but it certainly sounds intriguing. I’m looking forward to sitting down with one of your books soon.

  18. Angela B Says:

    This spring was a great interview and the series sounds like a lot of fun

  19. Chloe L. Says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this interview! Can’t wait for the next series…however long they take! I like the idea of dragons too. Will they talk? Will they protect a person or a whole kingdom? So many questions.
    Thank you, ladies for sharing. Oh, and Holly, I wouldn’t go for a walk with Stephanie either. She’s a hot weather lover and you’d surely melt!

  20. Pat McGuffin Says:

    i enjoyed the first two books (sigh, I think Casmir is positively swoon worthy,) and I’ve pre-ordered “The King’s Furies.” Can hardly wait to see what’s next!

  21. Linda Churchill Says:

    Dragons, really????? Must you???

  22. Cynthia MacDonough Says:

    I’ve read through your interview and the reviews of the first two books and this looks like it’s right up my alley! I’m excited about the possibility of adding a new favorite author to my life! Thank you so much for the opportunity to win the first two books.

  23. Cindy Milne Says:

    Wonderful, interview can’t wait to read the books.

  24. Margaret Skea Says:

    Interasting interview - and I’ll be really interested too to find out what Stephanie is planning on next. It’s a funny old time between books…

  25. Emily Wells Says:

    This is a shout out to SharonKay Penman for introducing her blog post readers to new and interesting authors. I’m on my way to Barnes and Noble to buy “The Scribe’s Daughter.” I’ll let you know if I love it too.

  26. skpenman Says:

    I am sorry to report that Penman Manor has been invaded by dragons again. One is relatively benign, a proof-reading dragon, but he was accompanied by the much more dangerous Deadline Dragon. The little guy is bringing another round of queries, mainly of a grammatical nature or for clarity, and the Deadline Dragon is here to be sure I get it all done by this coming Wednesday. Naturally they arrived just as some long-overdue house renovations and repairs are about to start. Dragons never have good timing.
    I was rooting around in my archives to find a post for Facebook. I have lots of material since so many dates of historical significance went unmarked in July; I hope to catch up with some of the more spectacular medieval anniversaries in August. I came across one that first saw the light of day in 2014, so enough time has passed that most of you have forgotten it.

  27. skpenman Says:

    Damn, it happened again. Half of the post was cut off. Will try again.
    I am sorry to report that Penman Manor has been invaded by dragons again. One is relatively benign, a proof-reading dragon, but he was accompanied by the much more dangerous Deadline Dragon. The little guy is bringing another round of queries, mainly of a grammatical nature or for clarity, and the Deadline Dragon is here to be sure I get it all done by this coming Wednesday. Naturally they arrived just as some long-overdue house renovations and repairs are about to start. Dragons never have good timing.
    I was rooting around in my archives to find a post for Facebook. I have lots of material since so many dates of historical significance went unmarked in July; I hope to catch up with some of the more spectacular medieval anniversaries in August. I came across one that first saw the light of day in 2014, so enough time has passed that most of you have forgotten it.

  28. skpenman Says:

    No, it won’t post. I will see if I have more luck copying and pasting only the old post about Eleanor and Wales. Wish me luck.

    Nothing to post about July 21st medieval happenings, but I do have a lovely story about Eleanor of Aquitaine told to me by one of my readers. She said that she’d visited Fontevrault Abbey about fifteen years ago and at the foot of her tomb was one red rose. She asked the guide, “Do you put them there?” He said, “Oh, no, Madame, we find them there.” I think Eleanor would be pleased and I suspect she might just mention to Henry that no one put flowers by his tomb.
    Some years ago, I visited the abbey ruins of Cwm Hir, where Llywelyn ap Gruffydd is said to have been secretly buried by the Welsh to keep the English king from desecrating his grave as he’d done with Simon de Montfort’s grave at Evesham Abbey. It was rather remote and not easy to find. There is a black slate plaque there in his memory, which I always found far more moving than the large monument to him at Builth Wells. On my first visit to Cwm Hir, I was touched to see that someone had been there very recently and left a bouquet of flowers on the memorial stone. Welsh friends have told me that flowers are often found on Joanna’s tomb in the alcove of St Mary’s Church in Beaumaris, too.

  29. lin heiberger Says:

    sounds wonderful. will need to do some quick catching up on the first two books of the trilogy — challenge accepted!

    look foward to it!

  30. skpenman Says:

    A hot humid day in my corner of the world and I’m not in the best of moods, having expended most of my energy fending of the Deadline Dragon and his smaller partner in crime. I am taking a brief break to reach out to the real world and was browsing my archive of Facebook historical posts to find one of interest. I came upon a post written back in 2012 that was quite critical of Edward I and reading it cheered me up quite a bit; it is always satisfying to get to do mini-rants about historical figures I do not like! Actually, I liked writing about Edward very much, for he was larger-than-life, intelligent, courageous, and could be good company; I especially enjoyed his barbed bantering with Davydd ap Gruffydd in The Reckoning. But that is the novelist at play. The historian and humanitarian in me remain very critical of the suffering Edward caused the Jews, the Welsh, the Scots, just to name three of his favorite targets. So, I invite you all to join me in calling Longshanks to account for his sins, with the proviso that I very much doubt he’d have cared tuppence what we thought of him.
    * * *
    We often are critical of Edward I here for sentencing Davydd ap Gruffydd to such a savage death, for imprisoning his two young sons, for turning the Welsh into second-class citizens in their own homeland, and for his abusive treatment of Robert the Bruce’s female relatives. But we ought not to forget what he did on July 18, 1290. The thirteenth century saw a steady erosion of the status and safety of medieval Jews, beginning with the Fourth Lateran Council when Pope Innocent III decreed that the Jews were to wear badges to differentiate them from Christians. The English kings reflected this growing hostility toward the Jews, Henry III and Edward I being much more anti-Semitic than Henry II and Louis VII of France. Edward did a practice run in 1287, expelling all of the Jews from Gascony, which enabled him to confiscate their goods and lay claim to the debts owed them. And on July 18, 1290, he issued the Edict of Expulsion, forcing all of England’s Jews to flee the country. Sadly, this edict was a popular one, for anti-Semitism was the ugly underside of medieval life. I’ve occasionally been asked about various historical figures I’ve written about, readers wanting to know if they were anti-Semitic. The answer would be yes, for this was a poison they all breathed in from birth, a bias sanctioned by the Church; the degree of that bias varied considerably, of course. We do not know the exact number of those affected by Edward’s expulsion; I’ve seen estimates ranging from 2,000 to 16, 000. They would not be welcome again in England for more than 350 years.

  31. skpenman Says:

    I am taking a brief Dragon break; I don’t smell smoke, so I assume they are taking their mid-afternoon naps. We still haven’t talked much here about the Game of Thrones finale, but I admit that if they’d killed off another dragon, I’d never have forgiven them. Same for Ghost. Sadly, human beings are more expendable—except for Tyrion, of course! Now, here is my historical post for today.
    You know how in those horror films you want to scream out to the teenagers, “For God’s sake, do not go down into the basement!” Well, something happened on July 29th, 1565 that elicits the same response. On this date, Mary Stuart married Lord Darnley. I am not even a fan of Mary’s and yet I want so much to have stopped her! I always thought this disastrous marriage was the handiwork of the fiendishly clever Elizabeth; I really believe she deliberately sent the handsome but vacuous Darnley to Mary’s court after first insulting Mary by offering her Robert Dudley as a husband, knowing Mary would take the bait. Her plan succeeded beyond her wildest expectations, for less than two years later, Darnley had been murdered and Mary was in free fall, taking her first steps along the road that would eventually lead to Fotheringhay Castle.
    On a more cheerful note, July 28, 1166 was the birthdate of one of my favorite characters in Lionheart, Richard’s nephew Henri, Count of Champagne. I loved writing about Henri in Lionheart and had hopes of doing more with his time in the Holy Land, but it has not worked out so far. Maybe I should consider writing a few short stories about certain dramatic events in a particular historical figure’s life. I’ve noticed that quite a few writers are doing that now, especially those who write a series that revolves around one character. Readers, what do you think? A good idea or a bad one?

  32. Juliet Stantz Says:

    So happy to read about the third book! Read #1 and now I can look forward th two more!

  33. skpenman Says:

    I am happy to report that the Deadline Dragon and his accomplice, the Proofreader Dragon, are preparing to depart on the morrow, for I expect to be able to send off the finished queries tonight. It has been a very hectic week, for they are doing some long overdue house renovations and that means my world is in total chaos. But all the inconvenience will eventually be worth it; at least, that is what I keep telling myself.

  34. skpenman Says:

    Well, my blasted blog is still censoring my posts. Here is the rest of today’s blog.

    Since I missed so many historical events for July, I have plenty to choose from now that I am able to spend time again with you guys. (Guys being a noun without gender, applying equally to men and women, young and old; it may be a Jersey thing.) Today I decided to revisit an old post from 2012, for it focuses upon what may be my favorite scene in all my books—when a desperate and despairing King Henry II swallows his pride and humbles himself before the Canterbury tomb of his beloved friend turned mortal enemy, Thomas Becket. Did Henry ever believe that Becket was truly a saint? I have him ask Ranulf that question in Time and Chance. Ranulf admits that he does not know, and Henry concludes their discussion with a sardonic observation, that in gaining martyrdom, “Thomas got the last word for certes.”

    Because my blog has been balkier than usual lately about long posts, I am going to post this first and follow it with my original post about Henry’s penance in Canterbury Cathedral, as written in Devil’s Brood.

  35. skpenman Says:

    Scene from Devil’s Brood, as explained above.

    Henry’s penance actually carried over from July 12th to the 13th, as he insisted upon kneeling all night long by Becket’s tomb. And he was to be spectacularly rewarded for his ordeal, for while he was doing penance, his forces captured the King of Scotland outside Alnwick Castle. Naturally, medievals attributed this to the intervention of the martyred archbishop, Thomas Becket. The Great Rebellion against Henry fell apart and within two months, his sons were suing for peace.

    Some scenes are innately challenging, and the scene in the cathedral was certainly one of them. I approached it with some unease, for if it fell flat, I feared it could adversely affect the rest of Devil’s Brood. Henry’s decision to do penance was so very medieval, after all, and it is not always easy for us to identify with the medieval mind-set. To my surprise and relief, it turned out to be very easy to write. I was even able to insert a few touches of humor into this highly charged, dramatic scene: Driven to distraction by a garrulous monk, Henry wonders, “Was there a way to murder Brother Benedict and make it seem as if he’d been smitten by the wrath of the unforgiving Thomas? A vengeful saint was surely a contradiction in terms, but he alone seemed to think so.” Brother Benedict, by the way, would later pen a history of the miracles he was boring Henry with. I searched diligently for a copy, and finally found one on-line in a Tokyo bookstore; I admit I loved the symmetry of that—an American author buying a book written by a medieval monk and translated by a Victorian historian from a Japanese bookseller.

    The trickiest part of the scene was Henry’s monologue after Brother Benedict finally departs. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this, but Henry’s character chose to talk conversationally to his former friend, and I just followed his lead. He is by turns emotional, cynical, and challenging, calling Thomas a chameleon, denying that he wanted Becket’s death, and confiding “Did I grieve for you? No, I did not.” He accuses Thomas of craving martyrdom, points out the absurdity of Becket’s position that only the Church could punish its own, for it meant that he could take no action against the assassins, who escaped with a papal slap on the wrist, sent off on penitential pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Henry being Henry, he cannot resist sarcasm; “Come, Thomas, hold up your part of the conversation. You need not do anything dramatic, like loosing a thunderbolt or performing one of your miracles. But at the least, you could extinguish a few candles to show me you are paying attention.” He ends up confessing, though. “Do you know why I did not grieve for you when you died, Thomas? Because I’d already done my grieving. I trusted you, I had faith in you, I loved you more than my own brother.” He admits he does not understand how they came to this, and he truly does not, just as he will not understand why his marriage crumbles or his sons do not love him as he loved his own father. He waits in vain in the empty cathedral crypt for a response from the new saint, and finally entreats in desperation, “St Thomas, guard my realm.” I, for one, was very glad that St Thomas came through for him.

    I have a confession of my own; I think this may be my favorite of all the scenes I’ve written, for it shows Henry at his most human. After three novels with him, I miss writing about him very much, and while I did manage to give him a brief scene in Ransom, that only made me mourn his loss all the more. I’ve been able to write about some memorable characters over the years, but Henry is very close to my heart.

  36. Stephanie Says:

    Sharon caught a bunch of comments that were in “comment jail” so I’ve just had a chance to read them all. Thanks for all your kind words! I am happy to hear of so many new readers who are excited to dig into a new series and author. Thank you for that trust! It is indeed a unique series, but it should feel very familiar to those of you who read historical fiction. I look forward to hearing how you all like the books! (And Eric, your story stilll makes me smile!)

  37. Nancy F Lambert Says:

    Stephanie I haven’t read any of your books, I would love to read them..
    Thank you

  38. skpenman Says:

    I hope it will be a good weekend for all of my readers. I am going to be busy doing some de-cluttering in preparation for more home renovations on Monday. But de-cluttering is oddly therapeutic and I think I’ll have fun. Life in the fast lane—no wonder people think writers lead such exciting, glamorous lives! Below is an old post for historical happenings on August 1st, with some changes or additions.

    August 1st was a busy and bloody day in the MA. In 1192, Richard I fought and won the first battle of Jaffa, which I dramatized in Lionheart. It was a remarkable victory which did much to burnish the legend of the Lionheart. One military historian went so far as to describe it as the day that Richard rode into immortality! It seems to have been a lucky day for the Angevins, for ten years later, his brother John would have his one great military triumph on that same date.

    On August 1st, 1202, John swooped down upon his nephew Arthur and the leading Breton barons as they lay siege to Eleanor in Mirebeau Castle. It was a brilliant accomplishment, which I dramatized in Here Be Dragons. Sadly, he tarnished his triumph and his reputation by treating the prisoners very badly, which stirred up much resentment against him. It is generally believed that he was responsible for Arthur’s murder the following year; it was certainly the view of his contemporaries and he never fully recovered from that.

    But if August 1st was a good day for the Angevins, it was a disastrous day for the de Montforts. On this day in August, 1265, young Simon (renamed Bran in my novels to save me from ever having to write: Simon said to Simon) and his men were taking their ease at Kenilworth Castle, bathing in the lake and entertaining themselves with the prostitutes that inevitably flocked to a medieval army. His cousin Edward was warned of this by a female spy, and staged an unusual night march to take Bran by surprise. Edward then collected Bran’s banners and headed for Evesham. Simon was expecting Bran’s arrival and when he first saw the banners in the distance, he assumed it was his son. When he went up into the bell tower of Evesham’s abbey and realized that he was looking at his doom, he faced it unflinchingly, giving us one of history’s better exit lines: “We must commend our souls to God, for our bodies are theirs.” Meanwhile, back at Kenilworth, Bran collected what was left of his scattered army and raced for Evesham. He arrived too late; the battle was over. One chronicler would comment, “Such was the murder of Evesham, for battle it was none.” But Bran got there just in time to see his father’s head on a pike. Once again reality trumps fiction, for what writer would dare to make something like that up?

  39. skpenman Says:

    So what happened on August 3rd? I am sure Rania will cover the spectrum for us (thanks, Rania!), so I’ll confine myself to one event. It does not concern a historical figure I’ve written about, but his demise was unusual enough to deserve a mention. On August 3, 1460, the thirty-year-old King of Scotland, James II, was killed when a cannon he was attempting to load exploded. I can think of several earlier kings who’d have been unable to resist the urge to fire a cannon, saved only because artillery guns were unknown during their reigns. It is definitely something the Lionheart would have wanted to try, and I can also see a young Edward I or a young Henry V giving it a go. But as far as I know, James has the dubious distinction of being the only monarch blown to Kingdom Come by a cannon. If I am wrong, I am sure at least one of my readers will know who else was so unlucky! I can think of a few kings whom I’d have liked to be blown to smithereens by a cannon, but that is another story, isn’t it?
    PS Rania is a friend who posts fascinating Today in History commentaries on my various Facebook pages. I confine myself mostly to the MA, but Rania’s posts range farther afield, also covering ancient Rome, the Renaissance, etc.

  40. skpenman Says:

    I hope to get back later to catch up and to mourn the passing of a literary giant, Toni Morrison. I am about to head off now to see my own miracle worker, my chiropractor. But first I wanted to ask a favor of you all. Many of you share my pleasure in reading Priscilla Royal’s excellent medieval mystery series. She was alerted recently that Amazon is no longer offering an ebook version of her first novel, Wine of Violence. She contacted Amazon about the problem, with no reply so far. Unfortunately, other writers have told me that Amazon is notoriously slow to respond to author queries about their books. And since Wine of Violence is the first in the mystery series, it is essential that it be available as an ebook. So here comes the favor. I am enclosing a link to the Amazon page that offers the option of expressing a wish to read this book as a Kindle. If Amazon gets enough of a response, that may stir them to action. So Priscilla and I would be grateful if you could follow this link to Amazon and then click onto the option requesting Wine in the Kindle format. It is on the right-hand side of the screen, under the Product Details on the left, and says Tell The Publisher. That is all you need to do….vote with one click! And if you want to share this post with other book=loving friends, that would be truly awesome.

  41. Joan Says:

    A very interesting & fun interview! It’s a pleasure to get a glimpse inside an author’s mind & method, & this was particularly informative. Congratulations Stephanie!

    Sharon, I love the cover of The Land Beyond the Sea!!! I am pumped!!
    Yes Yes Yes to “short stories” on a selection of your fave historical figures.
    Henry II at the tomb of Becket’s tomb, IMO, was everything you hoped it would be, Sharon. I had no trouble relating to the medieval mind-set as a result of some pretty medieval upbringing: confession & penance, praying on our knees, ghastly paintings in school corridors, “saintly” stone-faced nuns, you get the picture.
    You can rant any time you want about Edward I. I’m all ears!
    So much more to catch up on in this & last blog!

  42. skpenman Says:

    I will be back this weekend to start catching up on my Today in Medieval History posts. But first I would like to thank all of you who answered my appeal and went to Amazon to request that Priscilla Royal’s medieval mystery, Wine of Violence, be made available in the Kindle format. Wine is the first novel in Priscilla’s excellent series, set in 13th century England, and for years, readers could buy it as an ebook, hardcover, paperback, or audio book on Amazon. Suddenly, that is no longer the case for the ebook. Since I’ve been told by other writers that Amazon is very slow in responding to author queries about glitches like this, I hoped to attract their attention by having readers click the Amazon option, “Tell the publisher you’d like to read this book as a Kindle.” That option used to be prominently displayed; now it is tucked away at the lower right-hand section of the screen and is easily missed, so I am grateful that so many of you persevered until you found it. I will let you all know when the good guys prevail and Amazon restores Wine of Violence as an ebook.

    We lost a literary rock star this week and an extraordinary woman, the Nobel-Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison, at a time when we need voices like hers more than ever. I’ve never read a novel that lays bare the heartbreak and horror of slavery as powerfully and hauntingly as her Beloved does. Since her death, global tributes have continued to pour in. Here is one that I found particularly moving and eloquent, written by the film critic and author, Gene Seymour, and published on the CNN website. Below is the link.

  43. Joan Says:

    Re requesting a Kindle version of Wine of Violence, I tried today (where I purchase), not “.com” & the little box appeared.

  44. skpenman Says:

    I know Margaret Skea has an enthusiastic following on Facebook, so I wanted to pass along some good news. Her newest novel, Katharina Fortitude is now out and, even better, the Amazon mother ship is offering the Kindle version at only 99 cents. It is also available on Amazon.UK for 99 pence. This is the sequel to Katharina Deliverance, about the life of a very interesting woman, Katharina Von Bora, wife of Martin Luther, who is often called the Father of the Protestant Reformation. Margaret is also the author of the acclaimed Munro Scottish saga, a trilogy set in late 16th century Scotland: Turn of the Tide, House Divided, and by Sword and Storm. Below is the Amazon link for her newest book.

  45. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thank you all for the wonderful birthday good wishes. You always do so much to make my birthday special each year. I am sorry I could not get on-line until today, but I am hoping that life will settle down from now on, she says optimistically.
    How many of you knew Monday was World Elephant Day? I confess I did not. But this gives me another opportunity to thank everyone who signed my petition on behalf of Happy, called “the world’s loneliest elephant” by the New York Times; she has been kept in solitary confinement at the Bronx Zoo for more than a decade and animal lovers have been trying to convince the zoo to let her spend her twilight years with her own kind in an elephant sanctuary. Please let me know if any more of you would like to sign the petition and I will be happy to re-post it.
    Here is one of my catchups for my Today in History posts. I picked August 6th, not because anything dramatic happened on that date, but because I really miss writing about my favorite king, Henry II, and seize any opportunity I can get to bring him back on center stage, however briefly. That is why I so enjoyed writing the scene in A King’s Ransom when Richard is being held in harsh conditions at the notorious Trifels Castle and has a fevered dream in which Henry appears to show that he is still as snarky in the Afterlife as he always was.
    On August 6, 1171, Henry II returned to England for the first time since the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. He did not linger for long. After paying a dutiful courtesy call upon the dying Bishop of Winchester, the scheming brother of King Stephen, who’d lost his sight and gained a conscience in his last years, and who was said to have lectured Henry for the part he’d played in Becket’s death, Henry sailed for Ireland, where he lay low waiting for the furor over Becket’s killing to die down. He would return to England in April, 1172, which also marked the beginning of Devil’s Brood.
    On August 6, 1195, Heinrich der Lowe—Henry the Lion—the former Duke of Saxony and Bavaria died. He was the husband of Henry and Eleanor’s daughter Matilda (Tilda in my books to avoid a surfeit of Matildas) and was buried at her side. Their daughter Richenza was a character in Devil’s Brood and Lionheart and again in A King’s Ransom, along with her brother Otto, both of whom were very close to their uncle Richard. I really liked Richenza and not just because she was the only Richenza in any of my books!

  46. skpenman Says:

    I want to thank all of you who asked Amazon to tell Priscilla Royal’s publisher that you wanted to read the first book in her medieval mystery series, Wine of Violence, as a Kindle. For reasons that still puzzle us, it was suddenly banished from the Amazon mother ship as an e-book. This is always frustrating for writers; I can speak from experience here, remembering how long it took for my novels to be offered as Kindles on But score one for readers and writers, for Wine of Violence is once more available as a Kindle on Amazon!
    Since I am so far behind in my Today in Medieval History posts for the month of August, I just picked a date at random for today.

    On August 14, 1040, King Duncan of Scotland was killed in battle against Macbeth, who would rule Scotland for the next seventeen years and would be unlucky enough to attract the attention of an Elizabethan playwright named Shakespeare. The result would be a great play, but not an accurate portrayal of the flesh and blood Macbeth. When the truth comes up against genius, the latter usually prevails, as the victim of another immortal Shakespearean play can testify.

    On August 14, 1473, Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville, was born. She would later wed the Earl of Salisbury and meet a gruesome death at the age of 68, brutally executed by Henry VIII’s axman on a trumped-up charge of treason. Her judicial murder was one of the darker stains on the Tudor record; she would later be beatified as a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church. Hazel Pierce has written a biography of this interesting woman, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, 1473-1541.

    And on August 14, 1479, Catherine of York, the sixth daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was born. She would later wed Edward Courtenay, son and heir of the Earl of Devon; widowed at 31, she took a vow of chastity and—unlike another king’s daughter, John’s daughter Eleanor (My Nell in Falls the Shadow)—Catherine would hold to hers, dying in 1527.

    Then, on August 14, 1561, Mary Queen of Scots left her beloved France for her alien homeland, Scotland. As we all know, this would not end well. I think Mary never met a bad decision she did not run to embrace, so she has never been a favorite of mine. But nevertheless, there is something sad about this date, as the young, naïve queen sails off to her new life, doubtless with a mixture of unease and excitement. I think Margaret George does a fine job of bringing Mary to life in her novel, Mary Queen of Scots.

  47. skpenman Says:

    I always write something about Richard III on the anniversary of his death at Bosworth. I owe Richard a great deal; if I’d not become fascinated with his story, I’d probably have continued to practice law until I finally cracked and ran screaming for the hills. I think yesterday was the first time that I’ve missed doing a Bosworth post, though I do have an excuse, another nasty flareup of back pain that has kept me off the computer this week. For many years, an In-Memoriam message was placed for Richard in the New York Times and the Times of London on August 22nd. I am not sure if this is still being done; does anyone know? Richard will never escape from Shakespeare’s shadow, but at least he has not been forgotten.
    Another historical figure who deserves to be remembered is William Wallace, who was put to death in the most brutal manner possible—drawn and quartered—on August 23, 1305, after being charged with treason by Edward I. And as if that were not bad enough, he’d later be played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
    And on August 23, 1358, Isabella of France, queen of Edward II, lover of Roger Mortimer, and mother of Edward III, died at Hertford Castle; she was 63 and had been in poor health for a while. She asked to be buried in her wedding mantle and with the heart of her husband, Edward II. Our Edwardian expert, Kathryn Warner, is one of those who have cast doubts upon whether Edward really died at Berkeley Castle as reported. I do find it strange that Edward’s half-brother, the Earl of Kent, tried to free him three years after his death had been announced, paying for that abortive rescue mission with his own life. So he must have believed that Edward was still alive. But I just don’t know enough about that era of British history to draw conclusions of my own.
    And the notorious St Bartholomew’s Day massacre began in Paris on the night of August 23rd, 1572; thousands of French Huguenots were slain before the madness stopped. My favorite French king, Henri of Navarre, the future Henri IV, escaped being murdered because of his new bride, Marguerite de Valois, sister of the ruling French king; Henri would later convert to Catholicism to gain the French crown and is famously said to have quipped, “Paris is worth a Mass.” Some historians have questioned whether he really said that, but it certainly sounds like him. If only I had nine lives like a cat, I’d have loved to tell Henri’s story. C.W. Gortner dramatizes the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in his novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, who was Marguerite’s mother.

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