Introducing Book Three of The Trastámara Series

Hello, everyone!  Yes, it’s that time – it’s subject reveal day!  I’ve been waiting for this day for quite some time, and I’m so excited to share this subject reveal with you!  Without further ado, the title of the third book in The Trastámara Series is:

LA HEREDERA

LA HEREDERA will be set during the years following Alionor’s death, and tells the story of Castilla’s attempt to gain the Portuguese throne, as well as her tentative peace with England.  The protagonist of LA HEREDERA is Beatriz, Infante de Portugal and heiress to the Portuguese throne, as well as Queen of Castilla, León, y Galiza by virtue of being Juan’s second wife.

Of course, what kind of an author would I be if I didn’t give you a little intro to Beatriz herself?

Like so many of my characters, Beatriz’s life isn’t very well-known to the Anglo-centric audience.  She was born in early February of 1373, and was the eldest child of King Fernando and Queen Lionor of Portugal.  At the start of the novel, she is a mere ten years old, and it is the night before her marriage to Juan, King of Castilla, León, y Galiza, and recent widower.  It was hoped that the union would bring peace to the Iberian peninsula, and unite the relatively small countries without war and unnecessary bloodshed; as we can tell by looking at any modern map, that was certainly not what happened, and her marriage instead brought about the Portuguese Interregnum of 1383-1385.  I know that Beatriz herself was very, very vocal about her desire for the match, swearing to forgo all suitors but the King of Castilla, but I believe that she may have been pushed towards those desires by someone close to her, someone who would also push for the recognition of Beatriz’s maturity and readiness to consummate the marriage immediately, despite her young age.

Something I think readers need to understand prior to reading the snippet, is that Beatriz isn’t an average child.  She was born to be a literal, God-given personification of a country – that’s what rulers were.  Alliances were made with treaties but held fast by marriages and babies, and they could last for decades purely for that reason alone.  Something else readers need to understand is that Beatriz’s mother, Lionor, was kind of the Anne Boleyn of her era – she was an “upstart” noblewoman who was thought to have enticed her king in unscrupulous ways.  She was believed to have taken a lover long before her husband’s death, and was rather disliked, so much so that it really colors historical records of her, even now.  Worst of all, in a dynastic sense, she had just one child survive infancy, and said child was a girl in a country where they had never truly had a female monarch (and the one female regent they did have was ousted for – get this  her alliance with Galicia, or, as I call them in TTS, “Galiza”).  I think Lionor would have been more than a little eager to see her daughter married off to a nearby kingdom, one that was larger in size and closer than any other, so that she could secure her position once her (either perpetually-sickly or rapidly-deteriorating) husband died.  I don’t think she was ambitious, but rather scared for herself and her child.  She did what she thought was best, even if it wouldn’t win her any modern “Mother of the Year” awards.

Yes, I do believe that happened, mainly due to a few things I’ve noticed and read while researching (for starters, she never has a child, despite being of childbearing age for two years of her queenship; her marriage was not annulled, which would have been an easy way to solve the Portuguese Interregnum, and would have been the obvious choice if it was unconsummated).  I’ve been sitting here for about thirty minutes, trying to think of a way to phrase my next sentence, so I’m just going to be blunt: don’t worry, there will not be a sex scene.  I don’t know if this makes it better or worse, but she was served unwatered wine during her wedding feast, and instead, she has a few interesting, not quite prophetic but relevant dreams.

And now that that’s been covered, let’s move on, shall we?

Without further ado, here is a sneak peek of LA HEREDERA, Book Three of The Trastámara Series.

La Heredera Portuguesa
(The Portuguese Heiress)

16 May, in the Year of Our Lord, 1383

At what point does a girl become a woman? Is it the first time she feels the stirrings of lust, the fire in her belly? The first time she experiences the bleeding that signifies her fertility? Is it on her wedding night, that first moment of being alone between a married couple? Perhaps womanhood is an abstract concept that comes into fruition based on feelings, or is it simply bestowed upon those who have lived a certain amount of years?

One thing was certain: even though she was the heir to the Portuguese throne, at ten years old, la Infante Dona Beatriz de Portugal was not a woman in any sense of the word. She still loved to play with dolls, and enjoyed playing catch-me with her father’s younger attendants, for her mother’s ladies could barely run in their dresses. She spent hours curled up on a windowsill, studying her letters and petting her rabbit, Bonitinho, which her father had purchased from a merchant in Lisboa due to the softness of its fur. Much like every other child, Beatriz enjoyed eating sweets and telling jokes which only made sense to her, but made her father and her mother laugh because of how serious she could be.

And of course, Beatriz was still obviously a child because she was still young enough to sleep with her mother as a bedmate. No one would expect any different from a ten-year-old girl, even though it was the night before her wedding.

Beatriz sat, facing her mother’s back and brushing her hair. Ever since she was very small, brushing her mother’s hair had been her job. Beatriz and her mother had shared a bed almost every night since for as long as she could remember, with few exceptions, even though they spent their days separately, Beatriz with her ama or at the convent entrusted with her education, while the Queen spent her days with her husband, King Dom Fernando, and his political advisers, much to their chagrin. Until the age of five, Beatriz had enjoyed chattering away about mundane things until, one day, her mother had turned right around, snatched the hairbrush from her daughter’s palm, and brought it down hard across the backs of the young girl’s hands. A few of the bristles, made loose from wear, had fallen in front of Beatriz, as though the brush shed the tears she could not.

Ladies should be seen and not heard, lest their loose lips give way to talk of loose morals.”

Strangely, the proverb did not seem to apply elsewhere, for Queen Dona Lionor was not a quiet woman. She was the loudest woman in court, almost as if she was afraid that she would be forgotten if she was not speaking. Perhaps, Beatriz thought, she did not fear a slattern’s reputation, as she was Queen and very much love by her royal husband. It did not matter, anyway, except that instead of Beatriz filling the silence, it was the Queen who chattered away on that momentous night, while Beatriz stared down at her new betrothal ring as it weighed heavily on her right ring finger. In the morning, it would be replaced by a gold or silver band, depending on her future husband’s preference, and she would move the ring with the large, glittering gem to her opposite hand.

…And after tomorrow, you’ll be a Queen. There will be a lot expected of you, Beatriz. People will want to see you fail. People will expect you to be wanton and free. They’ll expect that you’ll be exactly how they imagine me – oh, I know what they say!” The Queen shrugged. “But it’s just jealousy talking, those jealous of a beautiful noble catching the eye of royalty. Anyway, I wasn’t raised to be royalty, and you do not need to behave as I have. You were born royal.”

Yes, mãe,” Beatriz whispered.

And of course, you know what is expected of you?”

To keep the interests of Portugal close to my husband’s heart, before all else,” the young girl answered monotonously, arms self-consciously hugging her sides, as still as Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. “And to bear sons.”

Sons are the most important thing,” the Queen said, shaking her head. “I’m well aware of how much I failed your father by not being able to give him a son.”

What about my brothers?”

A living son,” the Queen amended with a sigh. “And you will be just as much of a failure as I if you don’t have a boy of your own. Do you know about what happens between a man and a woman?”

Beatriz’s face flushed. “I’ve seen the beasts in the field when they rut.”

Yes, but those are beasts. They mate purely for procreation.”

Beatriz crinkled her nose. “Isn’t that what it’s for? Anything else is a sin unto Deu.”

Queen Dona Lionor sighed, picking at her cuticle. “What have those damned nuns taught you? When I put you into Urraca’s care, I thought she would fill in the gaps those damned spinsters would ignore. It appears I was mistaken.” Ignoring her daughter’s blatant shock at her casual blasphemy, the Queen pressed on with the topic at hand,Rutting – sex – isn’t just for having children. A man expects more.” The older woman spent the rest of the time they took readying for bed explaining the facts of life to her daughter, how to ensnare a man and keep him interested, and certain tricks men might enjoy if they started to stray, much to Beatriz’s embarrassment. Of course, it was a mother’s duty to explain such things, but that did not make it any less uncomfortable. If she had been allowed to remain unmarried for just a few years longer

But that was impossible, she knew, fighting back the tears burning her throat and nose. Hoping to calm herself, Beatriz stood, poured herself a cup of highly watered wine from the jug on the night table next to her bed, and sat on the raised edge of the rope-strung mattress, taking small sips to steady herself. At length, the girl spoke between mouthfuls, her entire body on fire with mortification. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you will be expected to, er, ’perform’ for your husband tomorrow night.”

Beatriz frowned, bringing her eyebrows together in confusion. “ ’Perform’? Perform what, a song? A dance? Why was I not told of this sooner? I need to prepare! And that,” Beatriz continued slowly, her voice doing nothing to hide the confusion, “didn’t answer my question at all.”

Oh for the – no, you stupid child. You will have to consummate the marriage tomorrow night.” Under her breath, Queen Dona Lionor continued, “Oh, I hope you come to your senses some day, because you are not nearly pretty enough to be perpetually idiotic.”

Beatriz half-swallowed, causing herself to choke and spew the contents of her mouth onto the rush mats in front of her. Sputtering and staring at the floor, she watched the wine soak into the rug, staining it like blood. “What do you mean, tomorrow? The sisters said I’m not old enough!”

The Church’s law can be bent or broken with the blessing of the Pope. He understands just how important it is to our countries that this alliance holds firm, and has given his blessing. You must have a son, Beatriz, a son to inherit Portugal, and you must have him soon.”

But mãe, I haven’t even received my monthly visitor yet,” the child coughed.

Queen Dona Lionor waved her hand dismissively. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not about you and your comfort, it’s about the safety of this kingdom. A consummated marriage means that King Don Juan can’t set you aside, and he has a vested interest in making sure that you inherit, instead of your father’s bastard brothers and their spawn.” Noting the girl’s rigid posture, nearly still but for the occasional shudder, the Queen sighed, her tone brusque. “Surely you’re not afraid. This is your duty, this is your life’s purpose: to marry a foreign power and have childrento have sons. In order to do that, you must consummate the marriage.” The woman pulled down the covers, positioning under them and patting the bed next to her. “Now, blow out the light and come lay down. Tomorrow is a big day for you, the biggest day of your life, and you need to be rested.”

Beatriz stiffened at her mother’s words. “While I am sure tomorrow will be exhilarating, the biggest day of my life will be my coronation day, mãe. Won’t it?”

The Queen sighed. “Oh, Beatriz, how naive. Now, do you have your wedding vows memorized? You should, by now. Let’s hear them.”

Beatriz repeated the words that Dona Urraca had had drilled into her brain over the previous six months, her eyes focused on a fixed point above her mother’s head. When finished, the woman nodded, a self-satisfied smile on her face. “You will be a perfect little bride, Beatriz, as long as you remember to give your husband the respect he deserves. You may be married to him, but he will still be your elder, and when you are in his country, he will be your better. Do not forget to address him properly. Now, come here and sleep. It will be morning before you know it.”

Beatriz obeyed, snuffing out the candle next to her wine glass na taking off the heavy ring before burrowing down into the soft blankets. Next to her, her mother gently snored, but she could not sleep right away, kept up by her mother’s words ringing in her ears like church bells.

You must have a son, Beatriz, a son to inherit Portugal.

Before dawn, the bride-to-be was shaken awake by her mother and her mother’s ladies, all of whom were already dressed. An incoherent and bleary-eyed Beatriz was first deposited onto the chamber pot, and upon finishing, brought out into the light, where she was summarily parted from her night shift and dressed in a fresh linen, with a crimson kirtle over her shift, the sleeves embroidered with golden flowers and a scroll pattern. The overgown itself was silver with gold embroidering – her father had spared no expense on his daughter’s wedding, for as his only child and heir, it was expected that she would have an extravagant ceremony and feast for her nuptials. It was covered in gems, blue sapphires for the shield on her father’s emblem, and red rubies for both Portugal and Castilla y León, and was embroidered with the common emblem of their countries: tiny golden castles. On her shoes were two lions, embroidered gold with eyes of blue lapiz lazuli. Around her waist was a thick, silver-gilded belt, engraved with the tiny Latin words for Proverbs 31, each line separated by a tiny ruby chip, and attached to it was a rosary and a chain with a small book of hours at the end; this edition had her wedding date and the vows inscribed at the front, first in Latin, then in Castilian, and finally in Portuguese. Beatriz opened the book and traced the shaky child’s handwriting, remembering the countless hours she had spent translating the words over and over to make sure that she had done everything correctly, then having her tutor use charcoal to lightly write the words, which she then traced with ink and her short quill. The glinting of the diamond on her finger caught her eye and pulled her from her memories, and she allowed the book to fall closed, all fear from the previous night repressed. She was a child, yes, but she was a princess, and the heir of Portugal before all. It was not her right to be afraid.

Once her outfit was in place, the ladies began work on Beatriz’s appearance, brushing her hair into a river of rosewater-scented, molten copper, and plucking the stray hairs from her artificially enhanced hairline, rubbing waters and oils onto her skin and painting her face until she wondered if she even looked like her true self. At that moment, a knock on the door brought Beatriz to her senses, and with a fearful look, she looked at her mother. The red-headed Queen glanced at the door then nodded, allowing the visitor to enter. Much to Beatriz’s relief, a single, tall woman entered, dressed in a Castilian red and gold dress whose fabric pooled around her feet, requiring her to kick it out of the way, and jagged sleeves that almost touched the ground. As Beatriz’s eyes roamed upwards, she noticed the woman’s brown hair braided into two tubes of golden net at the side of her head, with a rope of pearls and sapphires intertwined into each cylinder; at her waist was a rather large drawstring pouch fashioned from purple velvet, which hung from a thin belt of braided gold. The women of the Portuguese court watched the woman as she stepped forward, swooping into a curtsy, from which the Queen reluctantly raised her. With a start, Beatriz stared into the strange woman’s face and found she was looking into a mirror of her father’s features.

Merçed,” the stranger began, her Castilian flawless but with a slight accent that Beatriz recognized as one from her own land, “I am Dona Isabel de Viseu y de Castilla, wife of Don Alfonso de Castilla, conde de Noroña and the bastard son of the late King Don Enrique de Castilla, and Your Grace’s most humble half-sister, by way of our royal father. It is a pleasure to meet you once more.”

Once more?”

Dona Isabel left for Castilla a few years after your birth,” Queen Dona Lionor cut in. “She was one of your attendants until that point, but you were still a baby. It’s no surprise that you don’t remember your father’s bastard.” Beatriz glanced at her mother from under her lashes, surprised by the woman’s words. The Queen was staring at her husband’s daughter with a look that could have killed a normal woman, but this Isabel did not seem to notice; instead, she was watching Beatriz with a look of amusement.

Her Grace is correct, alteza,” the young woman agreed, slipping easily into Portuguese. “You were still learning how to walk when I left to live with my husband and his family, and I was not much older than you are now. I hadn’t even started my courses.” Isabel crinkled her nose, an action which made the terrified princess smile for the first time that morning. “Ah, there’s your famous Portugal beauty.”

Famous?”

Oh, yes. Everyone knows Portugal has the most beautiful girls in the entire continent. Oh, that reminds me – ” With another small curtsy, Isabel suddenly reached for the pouch. Beatriz felt her mother tense, and another of the ladies grabbed something off the nearby night table, but the entire room relax when the they realized she had simply unhooked it, handing the entire package to the little princess. Heart pounding with a fear that she did not understand, Beatriz pulled open the purse, gasping when she saw its contents. With one hand, she pulled out a set of jewelry: a necklace and bracelet with perfectly spherical pearl and rubies strung together, ruby earrings, and best of all, a small tiara of gold, inlaid with uncut rubies, pearls, and a large emerald at the center; carved all around the sides were the most delicate scrolls and vines. “His Grace my brother-in-law asked me to bring these to you as a token of his esteem. He wishes you would wear them on your wedding day – he thought they would go well with your hair and smile. He has had coordinating adornments made for himself, as he believes it is best for the two future rulers of Spain to be seen as a united front as soon as possible.”

Beatriz will be wearing my wedding jewels,” the Queen said, her voice low. Dona Isabel curtsied, her smile fixed good-naturedly on her face.

It is natural that a mother would wish for her daughter to wear the same jewels on her wedding day, but it isn’t often that a groom sends his bride such a lovely set. Perhaps we could let Her Grace decide? Alteza, would you rather wear the jewels of Castilla as you become her Queen, or the jewels of Portugal?”

Her mother’s voice was low and deadly. “You are Portugal’s heir apparent, Beatriz.”

But you are soon to be Castilla’s queen,” Dona Isabel shot back, her face breaking into a grin that so resembled their shared father’s. “And the Castilians aren’t known for being kind to foreigners.”

Beatriz stared, wide-eyed, her head swinging from side-to-side as though she was watching two children play catch with a ball. After a moment, she stopped herself, glancing at both of the women.

I think I would like to wear the gift from my husband-to-be,” Beatriz replied slowly, purposefully avoiding her mother’s gaze. Queen Dona Lionor opened her mouth, but quick as a flash, Beatriz’s illegitimate half-sister had the tiara on her forehead and the necklace draped around her neck, clasping it shut. The bracelet was much too large, slipping easily down Beatriz’s arm and off her hand, so Isabel placed it in the pouch for safekeeping; the earrings were clipped into place, the gold and silver twined metal glinting in the sunlight. A hand mirror was held up so that the future queen could admire herself, but impatiently, she pushed the hand away.

I hope His Grace approves.”

Of course he will, Your Grace. You’re beautiful.”

Beatriz knew she was beautiful, in the sense that all young girls are extremely pretty like dolls from the East. Who can resist smiling at a happy girl as she hums her way down the street? There was an edge to Beatriz which made her seem as though she was made of stone, however – a hardness and solemnity that did not quite leave when she smiled. She had been impressed with her importance almost since birth, and while some children would have ended up with a big head, she seemed to be weighed down by the world even as she tried to be silly and carefree like the other ladies. As it were, she would probably frown herself to death once she was Queen.

Thankfully, she had no time to be solemn on her wedding day. Just as the ladies finished their final touches, sprinkling rose water on her hair to make it smell sweet and giving her rosemary to chew for freshened breath, there came a loud knock on the heavy wooden door. When the doors opened, all color drained from Beatriz’s body at the sight of a group of finely dressed men, clothed in Castilian red and gold, their presence signifying that the groom was waiting for his bride. It was time.

New for 2017!

Happiest New Year, everyone!  🙂  I’ve been busy, & I held a few announcements back until the first of the year; now that it’s here, let’s get started!

Friendly reminder that you could have known all of this already, had you signed up for my newsletter!  Just click here to do so.

I have two events coming up this year so far.  The first one is an Author Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, at the Plymouth District Library, on March 11, 2017 from 1-3pm – feel free to show up around noon, however, as the authors will be doing a meet & greet with one another from 12pm until 1pm. 🙂  You can find out more, like location & directions, at my Facebook event, as well as being able to RSVP:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1289193427804420/

The second event is my first out-of-state event!  I’m super excited to announce that I will be attending the very first Lexington Legendary Book Bash, in Lexington, Kentucky, on July 8, 2017!  More details will be coming, but to see the location and keep updated, make sure to RSVP on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/366524877039411/

I’ve also inquired into other events for the spring, and I look forward to sharing those if I confirm my attendance.

The next thing actually ties into the events.  Usually, I have a set amount of stock on-hand for events, and it’s done me well enough so far.  As I take part in more stuff, my stock is dwindling, and I’ve realized that I’ve started to nearly sell out of what I do end up taking.  A lot of these events also require that you buy any books for signing at the event.  This brings me to my next “thing” – an order form.

See, if I know you’re going to be there, I can set aside (or even order) a book or two specifically for you.  Depending on how sure you are that you’ll be there, I can even pre-sign them, so you can just bebop in, buy the already signed books, and bebop out – great if there’s a lot going on and you think you’ll run out of time.

That form is available here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1gtK17kLX7QnCJ0HkDGovbp1SV2aMPLV8qXCbkonEvjY/

And of course, I do have the third book in the series planned for release this year; the title & subject reveal will be in February, and the cover & release date reveal will be in April.  Make sure you stay tuned for those!  Also, I’m doing another special post on Friday, and it’s a holiday/historical post, just like last week!  Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy! 🙂

Historical Post: Christmas in the Middle Ages

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I’m not religious at all (though I was raised Christian), so to me, Christmas is about spending time with family, making baked goods, picking out presents that I hope will light up the receiver’s eyes, eating great food, and watching my family have the time of their lives as they open gifts and see one another, sometimes for the first time in months or years.  Even if you don’t celebrate, I would still like to take a moment to include you in my Christmas joy, as a part of my extended family.

Of course, today’s post is going to focus on the Christmas in the Middle Ages, and when able, I will focus on Spain; as such there will be a religious element to my post.  Enjoy! 🙂


I’m working with the assumption that most people reading this post understand why I would write about Christmas on this blog.  Christmas is, after all, one of the major Christian holidays of the year, and medieval Spain was a fervently Christian nation thanks in large part to the shadow of the conquering Moors.  It makes sense that Castilla, a Catholic nation who recently been under the rule of those whom they perceived as heretics, would take pride in their own religious celebrations.

Now, the English word for Christmas is pretty straightforward, I think (though that could be due to my own Catholic upbringing): Christmas -> Christ-mas -> Christ-Mass.  Mass is the Catholic word for a religious gathering or service, so Christmas literally means “Christ’s Religious Service”.

In English.

However, in Spanish, Christmas is “Navidad”.  This comes from the same Latin root for the word “nacer” (though the spellings differentiate due to the language evolving; etymology and the evolution of language is a long and interesting topic, one I may discuss in future posts if I’m not the only person to find this exciting), meaning “to [give] birth”.  Of course, in Christianity, Christmas is lauded as the day of Christ’s birth, so this is hardly surprising.  The same root word also gives us “nativity”,  and considering how popular nativity scenes are at Christmas – those scenes of the birth of Christ, laying the manger, which seem to be on the lawn of every church this time of year – this is again, not surprising.

But I’m not telling you anything you wouldn’t know, or at least wouldn’t be able to guess if it were a multiple choice question, right?

What if I were to tell you that Christmas wasn’t anywhere near as important as it is now?  Yes, even thought medieval Europe was generally Christian, Christmas wasn’t *the* important holiday.  To put it in an offensive way, the important thing about Jesus was not his birth, but his death – Easter was generally the big holiday of the year, and it’s no surprise that the date of Easter was often very near to the New Year, much like Christmas and New Year’s in the modern, Western world.  This isn’t to say that Christ’s birth was just tossed onto the calendar and forgotten, but when your whole religion is built around a martyr and his sacrifice, it makes sense to emphasize the circumstances of his martyrdom, no?

What if I were to tell you about the festivities?  Surely, it’s not hard to picture a medieval banquet (thanks, Game of Thrones!), but there was quite a bit more to it.  Christmas parties, and medieval parties in general weren’t just dinner and dancing, but included theatre and playing pretend.  Those of you who have read LA BASTARDA are probably familiar with the scene involving the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, where I mention players set up on a stage, one pretending to sleep in bed while the others watch over her; another scene, where Constanza meets her betrothed, talks about how the doors open and there’s no one there, leaving Constanza fearing that it’s all an elaborate joke and that her father’s fool would show, be named the Lord of Misrule, and “introduced” as her betrothed.  Neither of those were made up by me, and both were common medieval Christmas traditions.

Most theatre was frowned upon by the Church; thespians were considered liars and the devil’s spawn, very much damned; however, as with most beliefs, there was a loophole: religious plays.  Called mystery plays, they spoke of the “mysteries” of the Church and her doctrine, and were around so that the common people, many of whom were not educated enough to read the official Church language of Latin, could see the stories in the Bible brought to life.  Sometimes, these plays were turned into entire shows, hours long, called pageants.  Common mystery plays or pageant themes were Christmas and the surrounding holidays as well as saints and their stories, especially near their feast days

Now, what about Christmas traditions in Spain?  How about turrón, or “nougat”, a sweet with origins supposedly dating back to the Moorish rule of Spain.  Turrón is an almond, honey, and egg confection, thought to resemble snow or the first blossoming of plants in the springtime, and can come in two varieties – de Jijona, where the almonds and honey are crushed into a paste, while a turrón is considered de Alcante if the almonds are chopped into pieces and added into the honey.  Both turrón and marzipan were common Christmas sweets in the Middle Ages.

Alright, I’m being summoned for the festivities, so I’m going to have to cut this short.  I hope you all enjoyed this!  Because I’m in a crunch for time, I’m not going to do my usual sources – I’m just going to post links and book titles. 🙂

Sources:


Of course, what would Christmas be without a gift?  In honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas (which I will focus on more in an upcoming blog), both ebooks in The Trastámara Series will be just $0.99 from now until January 6th.  If you want to know why I’ve chosen that date, come back to this blog on the morning of the 6th for a special blog post to explain its significance!

http://amazon.com/author/km_guerin/

In the meantime, Merry Christmas once again, and I hope you spend your respective holidays with those whom you love and hold dear! ❤

Character Spotlight: Martí “L’Humà” d’Aragó

First, let me remind my readers that I write historical fiction, so most every mention of feelings & thoughts relates solely to Martí from The Trastámara Series.  Please do NOT use this as an actual reference.  I’ll link my references below, so you can see where I got my information – check out those sources.

Of course, there be spoilers ahead.  Read at your own risk! 😉


Alright, so, I’ve had a lot of interest in character backgrounds and “After the Books”; as such, I thought I would do a post on one of the most important peripheral characters in the series: Martí, Alionor’s older brother.

Now, I do think that Martí and Alionor were probably close in real life.  Alionor was the youngest, born in late 1358, and her mother’s only daughter, while Martí was about two years older and the second son.  Their elder brother, Joan, was not only the heir but six to eight years older than both of them, having been born in 1350, and their elder half-sisters from their father’s first marriage were already old enough to be married by the time the were born, so it’s easy to assume that the two siblings would play together as children.  I also believe that Marti was probably not as healthy or athletic as his brother during their childhoods, meaning he’d be more likely to spend time with his mother and sister than his brother, although he later grew out of his childhood illnesses.

What were they like as children?  Well, to be completely honest, Alionor was rather spoiled and sheltered.  She was the youngest, the only girl from her father and mother’s marriage, and her mother’s namesake.  I could see her being the quintessential “baby of the family”, so to speak.  On the other hand, Martí definitely saw himself as her protector, her knight in shining armor, and I really think he loved her the most because she idolized him.  She didn’t see him as sickly, or as “the second son” – to her, he was her big brother, and she adored him.  Martí was almost angry by Alionor growing up, and afraid that she would no longer love him quite as much, so he tried incredibly hard to keep her from accepting outside influences.  Martí was a very jealous little boy, Alionor was a very trusting little girl, and they were happy as long as they were fulfilling their specific roles.  This also explains why Alionor is so eager to please, and why Martí is so upset when Alionor doesn’t agree to give him custody over both of her sons.  I think it’s fair, then, to understand why Alionor and Martí were so openly familiar with one another during their visit, and why Alionor was so heartbroken by her brother’s actions in San Martí Sarroca, to the point where she considered breaking decorum.

Now, as the heir to the throne, Joan married outside of Aragón to assure a political alliance, first to Martha of Armagnac, then to Yolande de Bar, both of what we would now consider French origin, and though his wives gave birth to twelve children total, not one of his six boys outlived him, and only one daughter from each marriage survived to adulthood.  Since Aragón followed Salic law, no women could inherit the crown, and so it passed to Martí in 1396.

Of course, it would be much too simple for Martí to have an unchallenged reign, and his brother Joan’s two daughters (or, perhaps, their husbands) both attempted to take the throne.  Also, Martin had been dealing with a revolt in Sicily, whose Queen Maria was his daughter-in-law, married to his heir, Martí el Jove (“the Younger”).  Yes, the two Martís were each married to a Maria, though the wife of our subject was not a foreign ruler, but a member of a very powerful and influential Aragonese bloodline, the de Luna family.  This could get confusing, though, so I will call Martí’s heir “el Jove”, should I need to refer to him again.

For all of his military experience (he was a lieutenant of the Valencian army from 1378 to 1384, and his coronation delayed until 1399 due to his expeditions in Sicily), Marti appears to have been quite the scholar as well, keeping a well-stocked library, and he appeared to have quite an interest in religious matters, since he petitioned Benedict XIII, the Avignon antipope, fellow Aragonese, and distant relative-in-law (as the antipope had been born Pedro de Luna) for the Aragonese monastery of Montserrat to receive an independent status (instead of being overseen by an outside force, such as an bishop).  Martí also openly supported and answered to the Avignon pope, instead of partaking in the general neutrality of his predecessors.

After the near-fiasco he caused in LA REYNA by taking and attempting to keep Alionor’s younger son, Fernando, Martí did not tend to venture into foreign politics.  It seems as though he learned his lesson, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he received more than one lecture about the dangers of upsetting a powerful neighbor.  Marti did, however, have an interest in Sicily thanks to his son’s marriage to the Queen in the early 1390s, and when she died in 1401, el Jove became the ruler of Sicily, as they did not have any surviving sons.  El Jove would marry again in 1398, but there be no surviving male offspring from that marriage, either.

Martí had to have been simultaneously devastated and terrified when, in 1409, el Jove died while in Sicily.  El Jove was the last of Marti’s surviving children, the only one who had survived to adulthood, and the only one who had produced a child (possibly two).  Unfortunately for Martí, his grandson, Frederic (who used the surnames de Luna, or d’Arago I de Sicilia), was a bastard, and the house of Barcelona had never given the throne to a bastard.  This did not stop Marti from attempting to legitimize his grandson, and indeed, he had the agreement of the Avignon pope, and the legitimization was supposed to go through on June 1, 1410.

Marti must have felt such a relief at the thought of his grandson bring able to take the rone.  The boy would rule Sicily for a few years, as had been customary amongst the Catala-Sicilian monarchs in previous times, and it would help Frederic to sharpen his skills with regards to ruling.  More importantly, the throne of the Kingdom of Aragon, and all her related crowns, would be safe in the hands of a male-line descendant for at least one more generation.

On May 31, just one day before Frederic was supposed to be made legitimate and therefore able to inherit, Marti died.  The apocryphal tale of his death concludes that he passed away due to his fool, Buffo, making him laugh incredibly hard, but other sources say that Marti had been ill for some time.  Whatever the case, Marti’s death halted the planned legitimization of Frederic, as Benedict had no desire to continue without the monarch’s support, and caused a two year interregnum due to the sheer amount of claimants.  Included among the ranks of the hopefuls were, of course, Frederic, as well as the husbands of Marti’s half-sisters & nieces, and the children of his sister, Alionor.  Ultimately, the matter was settled in the 1412 Compromise of Caspe, and the throne went to Alionor’s son, Fernando (Ferran de Antequera), beginning the Trastámara line of Aragonese kings, whose line would produce Fernando “el Católico”, future husband of Queen Isabel de Castilla and father to Katherine of Aragon and Juana “la Loca”, among others.


Sources:

Character Spotlight: Constanza (the Aftermath)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Character Spotlight, and not without good cause – most of the characters I’d love to feature all have rather large roles in their books. Recently, though, I was asked about what happened to Constanza post-BASTARDA, and while I’ve tried to at least mention her in every book (including my current WIP, Book 3), it doesn’t really give insight into her life.  You have to understand, though, that I have seen and plotted her life out to fit my books, so it honestly seemed obvious to me, but I realize now that it wasn’t.

Of course, this will involve spoilers from LA BASTARDALA REYNA, and Books 3 and 4 of The Trastámara Series, so if you’re interested in reading the book and don’t want to know how things end up for my very first MC, turn back now.  If you’re like me and insist on looking up spoilers to see how a book or movie ends, then continue along, but bear in mind that this does assume that you have at least read LA BASTARDA.  If you have not, I did give a sort-of beginner’s guide to her life in previous posts, The Younger Years and The Limbo Years, as well as in the life of her father, The King.  Read those, get my POV for The Trastámara Series, and we’ll meet back here when you’re done.


I’m assuming that, if you’ve gotten this far, it’s on purpose.  So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.


So, historically, what do we know about Constanza, post-wedding?  Well, she had children – all of her surviving children were girls, in fact – and she was probably dead by the late 1390s or 1400, based on a few property entitlements to her husband and heirs.  She may have been married in 1378, 1379, or 1380, and I’ve seen a single source which claims that João married a third wife in 1395, but since she appears to be Portuguese, their children together appear to have been raised in Portugal, and they were relatively well-liked by King João of Portugal (who would not have taken well to rivals living so close to home)…  I’m going to guess they were his bastards from before 1378, if not his grandchildren by a bastard son.

So we know Constanza was born, but we don’t know exactly when.  We know she married, but we don’t know exactly when.  We know she died, but we don’t know exactly when.  Her life is composed of the dashes between dates, if you will; I tried my best to fill them in LA BASTARDA, but one can only go so far.

I suppose that I can’t have a post about Constanza without discussing the elephant in the room.  Since releasing LA BASTARDA, I’ve spent a lot of time defending my choices with regards to her personality, her choices, and especially the ease with which she just accepts her fate.  She easily falls in love with both men to whom she is betrothed, she’s almost sexually assaulted by her own half-brother (for those of you who are new to the series: NOT THE CROWN PRINCE)…  And she just takes it.  She gives up her own fiancé because she believes that he is in love with her half-sister.  She just rolls over.

You have to understand that this was a different time.  “Free will” as a concept wasn’t what we know today, it wasn’t a “God-given right” as we are lead to believe.  Medieval people had more of a mise en place concept of humanity – a place for everything, and everything in its place.  I go more in-depth in a previous post about people hating your main character, but the fact of the matter is that Constanza is obedient and scared.  If I were to diagnose her with something, it would be Stockholm Syndrome with a heaping pile of daddy issues at the core.  She loves her father and would do anything for him, even though we can see that he’s almost kept her captive.  When she doesn’t get the love she craves from him, she tries her hardest to find that love somewhere else.

And when she doesn’t get it, she becomes bitter.

That’s where we see her in LA REYNA.  She’s bitter, and she’s scared.  Her husband is locked up.  She’s become a bitch, lashing out at everyone.  Juana de Cifuentes is in her thrall, and I like to think that it’s because of Constanza guilt-tripping Juana about “stealing” her betrothed.  A lot of people told me that they were surprised by the sheer amount of back-tracking that I did for Constanza’s character, but I don’t see it that way at all.  I tried to make her seem like an unreliable main character, kind of like a third-person unreliable narrator.  She’s sympathetic because she’s realistic, but she’s also flawed – as you read the story, you get a sense that she’s this pitiful, helpless creature, but every so often, the focus switches to someone else, and you can start to see the flaws in her argument.  The eavesdropping, for one, and her reaction to Juana de Sousa being pregnant, really show that she’s not some Buddha-esque character. When Alionor reminds Juan of his suggestion to befriend Constanza, he says what is probably my favorite line out of either book:

“…Constanza sees herself as the infallible heroine of her own story, and we are either idiots or villains for disagreeing with her.”

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Off-screen, Constanza goes through quite a few changes, though, and she loses her innocence, so to speak – she finally gets to see her husband’s temper directed at her, and she’s actually afraid of him.  He’s not someone she can change, nor is he some perfect prince.

Of course, for any of my eagle-eyed readers, I did include the loss of Constanza’s first child, a boy.  I don’t think for a minute that she only had three children, all of them girls.  The loss of a child, especially her first, devastates her more than anything.  On top of everything she’s experienced, her husband is upset and angered by what he sees as her failure (since he has already sired at least one son, possibly two or more by this times), and he’s determined to get an heir off of her.  Losing a child is horrible – it leaves you feeling helpless.  On top of it, to have someone mad at you for something you can’t control isn’t exactly the greatest thing.

Afterward, Constanza and João are kept locked away due to Juan’s fear of them attempting to usurp him.  João isn’t exactly a perfectly loyal person, he knows, and due to his previous problems with Alfonso and his rebellions, Juan isn’t taking any chances.  João, Constanza, Diniz, and Juana are off-screen for most of LA REYNA due to what Alionor sees as Juan’s paranoia, but we know (from history) is actually a pretty shrewd move.  He was already having issues with one half-sibling, so why not nip any others in the bud, so to speak?

Trapped in a house with a man she realizes she doesn’t know very well, but to whom she is married, Constanza quickly becomes pregnant again.  Hopeful that this will be the son that her husband so desperately wants, she is determined to make sure that everything goes according to plan, and she gives birth in late 1380.  She hears her child cry, but the relief that washes over her is short-lived.

It’s a girl.  João is furious, and after railing at her, he proceeds to ignore her for the rest of their incarceration, even though she almost dies from childbed fever.  Her near-death experience changes her, and when Constanza comes back to court, she’s a lot like a wounded animal.  She’s been cornered and bloodied, and she’s subdued or even broken, if you will.  Her romantic story is over.

But her general story is not.

We will next see her in the third book, where she does help the protagonist adjust to life in Castilla.  The Main Character of Book 3 is a Portuguese native, while Constanza speaks fluent Portuguese and has a unique perspective on being an outsider at court.  She’s also a sort of hostage at court for her husband’s good behavior – she, Juana de Cifuentes, and Isabel de Viseu are all in a strange kind of limbo.  So she will be present, and at the center of things, except when she goes off to have her other two daughters.  After the third one is born, a sickly girl he names Joana despite Constanza’s request to name her Leonor, João figuratively throws in the towel in regards to having a son with Constanza, turning away from his legitimate family for good and openly preferring his mistress.  Constanza’s pride wounded, she busies herself into court and her children, arranging the best care possible for them: while the older two will be raised with another family and eventually married into it, little Joana is sent to a nunnery for her schooling, with the understanding that she will become a Bride of Christ at the age of twelve.  While they don’t see each other often, the four of them spend the holidays together in Alba de Tormes every year; João prefers to dine with his mistress and her family at Valencia de Campos at that time.  It is an agreeable situation for all five of them, and as time rolls on, there is a sort-of truce forged between the married couple, and they are able to get through the required state functions without putting a blade to each other’s throats.

In the fourth book, Constanza will fade out.  She’s getting older, while the court is only getting younger.  The world belongs to her half-nephew and his generation, and Portugal (specifically her husband and in-laws) are no longer the alliances that are craved.  They represent the past, and players such as Catherine of Lancaster are the future.  As such, Constanza retires to her lands in Alba de Tormes.  While María Brites (1380) and Isabel Beatriz (1384), are still living with other families and can only visit, Joana (1385) was sent home from the nunnery due to fears for her health.  They live there in peace, with occasional, quick visits from Juana de Cifuentes, busy with her own brood of children to care for, until plague strikes Europe again in the early 1390s (as evidenced by the outbreaks in England and Siena, Italy).  While they all fall ill, since they were all visiting when it struck, Constanza and Joana both die during an outbreak in 1392.

After that, the two surviving sisters are sent off to different destinies: María Brites, as the eldest, is sent to court, and in 1397, she becomes the second wife of Martim Vasques da Cunha, an important Portuguese nobleman.  Isabel Beatriz, or just Beatriz, as she is known, is sent to the household of Infante Don Fernando, brother to the king and future King of Aragón himself.  Fernando, seeing opportunity once he comes of age, takes Beatriz’s guardianship for himself (as an unmarried woman without a father, she “needs” a guardian), and attempts to arrange her marriage to suit himself due to her rather attractive dowry, but by 1409, she is still unmarried.  That year, she learns of Pero Niño, whose jousting she compliments, and this begins an interesting and torrid love affair resulting in banishment, imprisonment, and finally marriage in 1412 (I’ve considered writing a short novel or novella about their story once I “get there” in the timeline, honestly).

As for João, he appears to be dead by 1404, as that is the year María gains the title of Señora de Valencia de Campos (renamed Valencia de Don Juan in honor of João), while Beatriz receives Alba de Tormes.

Top Historical Fiction Author – Philippa Carr, Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy

Jean Plaidy is one of my favorite Historical Fiction authors, and I was so excited to stumble across this piece at A Writer of History! I hope you enjoy it, as well. Remember, I’ll be publishing a piece on Constanza this weekend – Sunday, by 3PM EST (USA). 🙂 Enjoy!

A Writer of History

Source: Open Road Media Source: Open Road Media

You probably won’t know her as Eleanor Hibbert, instead you’ll know her as Philippa Carr, Victoria Holt or Jean Plaidy or one of the other pseudonyms she used, including her maiden name Eleanor Burford. As Jean Plaidy, she was selected as one the top 20 favourite historical fiction authors in last year’s survey.

Recently, Open Road Media announced the digital reissuing of Daughters of England series, written under Eleanor Hibbert’s final pen name Philippa Carr. Maggie Crawford, an editor and advisor at Open Road, has graciously provided information about Hibbert’s writing, researching and her very successful career.

How did Eleanor Hibbert begin her writing career? Did it take off immediately or did she experience a difficult start with rejections from agents and publishers?    Eleanor Hibbert started her literary career in the 1930s by emulating her literary heroes—Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and the Brontë…

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Ten Things I Learned During My Year as An Author-in-Training

Hiya.  I know, I know, it’s been quite a while.  If I wanted to, I could blame everything on my busy schedule, tell you all about the events I went to, how I spent exactly one weekend at home from September 24th to October 30th, show you how my social media has fallen by the wayside (even Instagram), pointed to NaNo and the fact that I was researching Book #3 ( :O ), buuuuut I won’t.  I put my author career on the back burner while I decided to work on my health, I’ve spent more time with my son, I’ve done extra promos that didn’t take forever, and I had more than a few private “hiccups”.  Sometimes, you just have to choose, and I chose other things.  I’m not sure if I’ll be “back” to the way I was before, either, but I’m trying juggle my career and my family and my other life issues, so I hope to have a decent balancing act here before long.

In the meantime, I thought I’d do a quick post.  As most of you know, my release party for my second book is TOMORROW(!!!!!), and my one year anniversary for releasing my first book will be in early December.  I have grown so much since that moment, and I’ve learned a lot of things that I didn’t even know were a thing until this past year.  I thought it would be kind of cool to share them, not only to kid of showcase my progress, but also to maybe help out others who are maybe experiencing the same things.  🙂  So, let’s just jump into things, shall we?

First things first – why do I call myself an “Author-in-Training”?  Well, it originally started as an inside joke with a person close to me who was baffled as to why I decided to give up finding an agent or publishing house and simply self-publish LA BASTARDA.  After a little while of going back and forth with her asking if I was using self-publishing as a way to not have to change anything about my baby, being scared to put myself out there, being tired of holding back, she finally asked if it was a way to show a publishing house that I was serious about my craft and willing to put in heavy lifting (because, as you know, a self-published author is also their own PR person, graphic designer, secretary, etc.), “kind of like training wheels for a publishing deal someday?”

After explaining to her that self-publishing could actually hurt that, depending on my numbers, I kept giggling about her phrasing for quite some time.  It was just such a great mental image – watching all these “real authors” whiz by me as I struggle with my kiddie bike.  I then added it to most if not all of my social media pages, and I believe it’s still on my LinkedIn page.  It’s not a serious thing, just a fun little tagline that I enjoyed, and now that I’m on the eve of my second book’s release party, I think it’s time to retire it – but not without one final use. 🙂  Interestingly, I don’t think the metaphor is appropriate anymore – I think it’s a lot like merging onto a highway, honestly, but that’s just me.  🙂  Anyway, ONWARD!

  1. Self-publishing is not a stigma for people in the writing community…
    I remember hearing ALL about how people – other authors – wouldn’t respect me if I self-pubbed.  To have the dreaded “s-p” on my resume would all but blacklist me, the hyphen a literal strike against me.  It was proof that I wasn’t good enough to be a Real Author and had to resort to Createspace vanity publishing to get my trashy little novels into print.
    Yeah, uh, I have yet to meet another author (in real life) who thinks like that.  In all honesty, most authors I’ve met have done some sort of self-related thing, whether it’s self-pubbing a book or constant self-marketing.  Sometimes it’s both!  Sales do come into it, but authors tend to be more forgiving of low sales numbers for new authors, and more than a few approve, considering it’s supposedly easy to inflate such numbers, so having low sales means at least a large amount of them will be organic sales.
  2. …But it can be to those outside.
    Do you know from whom I have had the most backlash with regards to self-publishing?  Non-writers!  I’ve had people insinuate I was lazy, a crappy writer, or just plain greedy because I didn’t take the traditional route.  Yes, I queried agents and searched for any legitimate publishing house with open submissions; no, I’m not a crappy writer (at least, neither my editor nor I think that I am!); and yes, I will accede to being greedy, because I do enjoy keeping a decent chunk of the profits from my books, but hey.  People have been conditioned to think that self-publishing is crap, and it’s not always true.
  3. Feel free to “cold-call” a local bookstore, to see if you can get your book(s) on the shelf.
    There is almost no way this can go wrong.  Some places may have certain clientele to whom they cater, and your book may not fit in it, so don’t feel bad if you’re rejected.  Once you have your book in every bookstore within a certain radius (I chose within my county, but yours may vary based on market saturation), you can use that to branch out.
  4. But definitely pay attention to the stores and their different processes for an author.
    Some stores may be incredibly accommodating and want you to have as many signings as possible, while others may know their market doesn’t respond well to author events unless the author is a “big name” in the business or during certain events.  You may also hear things about certain stores in your area, good or bad.  I’ll touch on that more, later.  Don’t be afraid to ask.
  5. Think of marketing like a target.
    You & your immediate area are within the bullseye, and should be treated as such.  You’re a local author, and you can (and should!) use that to your advantage.  Put it out there – you’d be surprised what opportunitiestarget come your way thanks to the buy/support local movements!  Next up would be the outer reaches of your immediate area, then your general area, your timezone if applicable, your country, your continent, all the way until the outer ring is “global”.  The farther away the ring, the less emphasis should be put on certain kinds of marketing, at least for the first year.  The first three rings should be more than enough to keep a new author busy.For example, I’m from Flint, Michigan.  My “bullseye” would be Flint & its metros, my little second ring would be the outer reaches of that area, moving into Metro Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw and other areas.  Then I move into Michigan, the Midwest, the Easter Time Zone, the USA, North America, etc.  For me, this means that I’ve done a LOT of in-person stuff in Flint, Metro Detroit/Lansing, and Michigan as a whole, while focusing on an internet campaign outside of that area.
  6. Connect with other local writers.
    I’ve found that writing in itself is competitive, but the writing community wants to see everyone succeed.  If you can, find a way to get involved with your local writing community.  Join in NaNoWriMo, conveniently taking place this month, and find your region.  Go to the write-ins, be involved in the chats, and feel free to think of NaNo as (free!) networking as much as it is a part of the writing process.  If you can, find a writing club in your area, perhaps through Facebook or Meetup.com.  Some groups may charge “dues”, so it’s up to you do decide if that’s something you’re okay with paying.
  7. CONNECT WITH OTHER LOCAL AUTHORS.
    Kind of different from the thing above.  This can be incredibly beneficial for you – authors love to share upcoming events to build publicity and to help build the audience base – more authors, more genres, more interest!  Also, other local authors have often learned quite a bit about the local scene, and can tell you what events or locations may be incredibly prolific, and which may be a waste of your time.  I actually had this happen with me – more than one author told me all about an area store’s apparent dislike for all but two or three authors, refusing to use anyone but these people for signings and events, and would often push customers toward the books of these authors without regard to tastes, which left a bad taste in the mouth of more than a few patrons.  Unsurprisingly, I did not sell any books from this store, and I’ve pulled my books from their shelves.  Pay attention – pick their brains.  Some authors may be knowledgeable about your question, or may be happy to point you in the direction of someone who knows more.  There’s much to be learned.  Just remember to repay the favor later on, and to pay it forward.
  8. You do not have to give up all of your secrets
    Just because someone wants to pick your brain doesn’t mean you have to share with them your entire marketing strategy, if you have no desire to do so.  I prefer to keep those things private, mainly because I’ve had too many people think my ideas were awesome, then implement them in the same areas I wanted to advertise in, which makes me look like I’m a copycat when my stuff comes out & leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who would normally be interested in my items.
  9. Step out of your comfort zone!
    I sold the most books and generated the most interest during a Local Author Showcase in a gift shop that sells a minimal percentage of books compared to their other items.  You may have luck at an arts & crafts show, especially this winter (a lot of people prefer to shop local now more than ever, and the holidays are coming!).
  10. Be professional, even if the situation is casual.
    Remember, you are selling yourself, and you want to appeal to the biggest audience possible.  In my case, this means that I don’t discuss politics outside of my closest circle of friends and family, I don’t share opinions on anything that isn’t writing or book related, and I try to keep my personal life separate from my private in multiple ways.  I also always dress nicely, whether I’m going to give a presentation, attending my own personal signing, or an author showcase at an upscale boutique.  Always look your best!
    Biggest pointer I will give though – alwaysalwaysALWAYS stand up if you are speaking with a customer, unless you are physically unable (or the storefront has provided you with a chair that seems to want to devour you, which was the case at one of my signings), and try to stand as long as humanly possible even if there isn’t anyone in front of you.  Not only does it show that you don’t think you’re better than your customer, it’s a show of respect (hence why we rise when, for example, a judge enters the courtroom), AND standing means that you’re often at or around eye-level, so you’re more likely to make a connection with a customer.  Also, while you don’t have to keep a smile plastered on your face at all times (and let’s face it, that’d be a bit creepy), always smile when you’re greeting someone.  There are a lot of subtle body language tips I could give you, but those are honestly easily Googled, so I figured I’d just give my favorites.

Anyway, those are the top ten things I’ve learned in my first year of being An Author, and I hope that I can add to this list next year!  In the meantime, I need to get back to working on Book #3 and last-minute prep for tomorrow!  🙂

August 2016 Updates!

Hello hello!  Sorry for the unexpected lag in new posts – I had a family event two weekends ago, and things ended up becoming incredibly busy over following weeks.  I’m finally able to settle down and publish a post, which contains a TON of updates (and quite a few pictures).  For some of you, the first bit here will be old(ish) news, so if you follow me on any other social media, feel free to scroll down to the big “NEW NEWS STARTS HERE”.  This post is also EXTREMELY picture heavy, so scroll at your own risk.  No YouTube videos, tho – just the link.  Mobile users, you’re welcome.  😉

First and foremost, updates on LA REYNA.

PreorderLaReyna LaReynaOfficialBookTrailer

As most of you know, I planned to release LaR in December, but after much consideration, I’ve moved the date.  Those of you who are viewing this from my page have probably already seen the banner, but for my subscribers who have not, I will be releasing my book on 13 November, 2016.  For those of you interested in pre-ordering, but not typing out that link, HERE you go. 🙂  I also released my book trailer for LA REYNA, which I won’t post (to save any mobile users a little bit of trouble).  That link is right HERE.

Secondly, I’ve added a few more events to my calendar!  Check it out:

KMGupcomingevents

Not only will I be in Holly during the Michigan Renaissance Festival (come see me on the 24th of September!) and Shelby on 22 October, but I’m heading to Traverse City on 15 October (when the beautiful Fall colors are in full swing!), and Clawson on the 23rd!  If anyone will be nearby any of those locations on those dates, stop in and see me!  I’ll be glad to see you.  😀  If you aren’t, don’t worry – I’m looking into quite a few (new) locations.  🙂

I’ve also started gathering together all of my research for Book 3, and some for Book 4 (since there’s a smidge of overlap).  I’m raring at the bit to start, and I have to say that NaNoWriMo can’t come fast enough for me this year  😀

For those of you who follow my Instagram or Twitter (@KM_Guerin for both, if you don’t), this is all old news.  Well, this next bit isn’t.

NEW NEWS STARTS HERE!!!

Alright, now that we’re all here…  If you haven’t noticed, I’ve added a new page up top, called Press Kits,  Pretty straightforward – Press Kits for LA REYNA, a kit with bios of all sizes, and pictures.  The kits come in two formats: PDF and Word (.docx).  Pretty sweet, right?  I figured it might be nice for advertising purposes, to have ready-made stuff all done up and posted.  🙂  Plus, I’ve always felt weird asking bloggers to feature me, even though I know it’s no different than asking a store to sell my book.  Blogs just feel more personal to me – stores are there to sell (that’s how they stay around), while blogs are a part of a person.  With the Press Kits ready to go, people can just copy and paste them onto their own blogs.  🙂

The second thing is the amount of new events added to my calendar.  For those of you who scrolled down, you may have missed the announcement of my event in Clawson on October 23rd, from 11AM-5PM.  It’s at Leon & LuLu, on the corner of 14 Mile and Main St. (which the rest of the Detroit Metro Area may recognize as Livernois Rd – not to be confused with Livernois Ave, from which is separated by the highway. 🙂 ).  It’s a few minutes away from the Detroit Zoo.  I’ll be there to sell LA BASTARDA, and to promote the upcoming release of LA REYNA.

LeonLuLuBookSigning

That’s not the only event added.  I just added something on September 10th, in Charlotte (S.W. of Lansing), starting at 12noon and lasting until…  Well, I’m not sure when, which is quite alright by me, since I love flexibility! 🙂  The location is the American Legion – Post #42, 1000 Lawrence Hwy, Charlotte, MI 48813.  I’m so excited, and I love the fact that it’s so close!  Please, please, please feel free to stop by – I’ll be there courtesy of Bikers 4 Books, a local organization that combines a love of motorcycles and a love of books by fostering literacy amongst area children and helping the community in other ways.  🙂  They’re having a fundraising ride, and…  Well, let me show you the event poster:

Bike4Book

It looks like so much fun!  I grew up around bikes, and my little hometown has a motorcycle club that’s really helped out with a lot of stuff in the area.  I love it  🙂  And yes, that is in less than 2 weeks!  😀

The next thing is the very last event I have planned for this year (so far), and is quite possibly my favorite thing.

LaReynaRelease2

YEPP!  It’s a release party for LA REYNA!  While La R will be available for general sale on November 13th, I decided a Sunday probably wasn’t the best day for a party, so I thought, why not do an “early release”?  From there, things just kind of went to a “Let’s have a party!”.  It will be open to the public, but I will be sending some invitations (by snail mail!) to better let people know about it.  If you’d like a physical invite, even if you won’t be able to attend, please visit the Contact Me page of this site and leave your name & address.  I promise I will not use your name or address for any purpose other than to send you the invitation, and will delete it when your invite is sent.  😀 😀 😀  For those of you who may or will be able to attend, I look forward to seeing you there!

🙂  Anyway, so that’s all of my updates (for now).

The Spanish Obsession (Or, My Own Experience with Frequency Illusion)

Let’s say your mom (or grandmother, aunt, etc.) calls, and tells you some distant family member had a baby – a little girl named Alice. Over the next week, you meet a woman named Alice, see an advertisement for “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, your book club decides to read “Go Ask Alice”, and just as you turn on the radio one night, you end up being treated to “Nights with Alice Cooper”.

Okay, perhaps things haven’t been quite that obvious, but have you ever learned about something new, or even simply spoke about something which you wouldn’t normally mention, only to suddenly hear it everywhere? Colloquially, this is known as Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, but for the purpose of this post (and for the sake of my inner spellcheck, which wouldn’t know what to do with those names), I will call this either “the Frequency Illusion”, or “the Illusion of Frequency”, depending on which phrase I believe best fits my sentence.

When I started writing LA BASTARDA, I had tried for ages to find some story set in medieval or Renaissance Spain. I’m much closer to the Spanish-speaking part of my heritage than I am to the Irish or German, though I’m very much aware that Spain and Mexico are NOT the same. Trust me, I learned that loud and clear when I was very young and a teacher told me I wasn’t Mexican, I was Spanish. Turns out, she thought I was too light & thought I’d been brought up thinking Mexican = Every Spanish-speaking person. Anyway, I noticed there weren’t a lot of Spain-themed historical fiction books in English, and the ones that were tended to Anglicize everything – Felipe becomes Philip, Beatriz becomes Beatrice, and the Spaniards (due to being on the losing side of history, no doubt) have that sly, sneaky portrayal I so adore.

So, of course, I decided to write LA B, and in 2014 I set to work, finishing in 2015, beginning my second book in 2015, as well as planning and sketching out the third and fourth novels. In that time, I’ve come across quite a bit of media set in medieval/Renaissance Spain, including:

  • The Spanish Bridegroom, an older novel which didn’t really show up on my radar until I was ready to publish. If I remember correctly, Felipe is Philip, but despite my hangups, the book is still incredibly engaging for an older piece of fiction. This book was the first Jean Plaidy book I’d ever read, and I think it was a perfect introduction for me, even though it was in a later time period.
  • The Queen’s Vow and The Last Queen, both by C.W. Gortner. Both recent pieces of fiction (2012 and 2006, respectively), I had never heard of either the author nor the books until I started looking into publishing LA B. I have yet to read The Last Queen, but I did enjoy the storytelling in The Queen’s Vow. TQV actually “gave” me permission, in a way, to deviate from the known history, which shows in LA REYNA, especially since there wasn’t a lot recorded about Alionor, the main character, even though she was Queen at the time.
  • Grudging: The Birth of Saints, which I actually learned about through Twitter thanks to #PitMad, is a fantasy set in a world with a heavy amount of medieval Spainish influences – including a well-known saint/pseudo-god, to those in the area, named Santiago. Santiago, or Saint James, is one of the best-known Iberian legends, telling of the evangelism, martyrdom, and subsequent burial of Saint James (“Iago” in the local tongue) in Galicia, western Spain. If you’ve ever heard of Santiago de Compostela, el Camino de Santiago, or have seen seashells laid in the roads or walls of cities all across Europe, you know a portion of the legend.
  • Isabel“, “La Corona Partida“, and “Carlos, Rey Emperador” were actually part of what helped to inspire LA B. I spent a good chunk of writing listening to “Isabel” through Hulu, taking in how the characters were portrayed, and though it wasn’t on purpose, a few of my “ideal cast” members actually came from the series. I enjoyed the show simply because I enjoy period pieces, but it was actually pretty accurate as far as TV shows are concerned. I can’t wait until “La Corona Partida” and “Carlos” are available in the USA – my life will be complete.
  • The Assassin’s Creed movie, due out in December. This one actually came to my attention a while back (I have a thing for II and all its DLC), but the details weren’t known to me until just a few weeks ago – it’s partially set during the Spanish Inquisition (how unexpected!). 15th century! Sevilla! I’m drooling, even if the movie itself is mostly set in the present, and the “genetic memories” scenes may not be an accurate representation of the time period. Allow me my fangirling, okay? 🙂
  • The Spanish replica of a 17th century galleon, El Galeón Andalucia, taking part in a US Tall Ships tour – which happens to take place in my area!

Ultimately, all this has been a major influence on my choice to write and continue writing. I don’t know about you, but when I discover a topic I enjoy, I try to go out and find other things either set during the same time period, or in the same countries. I also believe in the universe giving “signs” to show when something is a good or a bad idea for me – and all of these works of art (yes, even the ship), each with their own followings, have helped me to realize that I did the right thing by publishing. It’s my hope that The Trastámara Series will one day inspire someone else to write, much like all of these pieces inspired me in their own ways. 🙂

Have you experienced a frequency illusion? If so, what was the subject? If not, what was the best/funniest coincidence you’ve ever witnessed?

Social Media for Historical Fiction Writers, Part 5: Instagram

Okay, I know I said part 5 would be about Twitter, but I’m running a sort of mini-experiment on it, so let me get back to you.  Also, I fully admit that I was a little sidetracked this week; more on that later, maybe in a seperate post later this week.

Onto the post!

Social Media for HF Writers Part 5

Honestly, if social media scares you, that’s okay.  It’s pretty terrifying to have to write up posts to share, especially if you’re a relatively private person or don’t feel comfortable with being creative on the fly.  No judgement!  That being said, social media is still important, but something like Instagram might be the platform for you.

“But K., it’s an app for sharing pictures.  My pictures, that I’ve taken!  How is that better?”

1. It’s Informal

For starters, it’s a lot more relaxed.  As long as your picture isn’t completely inappropriate, it’s welcome.  That means you can share anything from a quote in picture form, nabbed off of Google, to your dinner, to your desk or your latest work.  Have ads you want to share?  Post them on Instagram!  Not sure how to make a professional-looking social media ad for little to no money?  Canva has you covered – pay for the usage of a stock photo (usually $1), or choose from their freebies.  Instagram is a lot more informal, too, so you don’t always have to talk about your work/writing quite like you would with a Facebook page.  You can share pictures of your dog or cat, your kids, even your plants!  Whatever you love, you can share.  It’s a way for your audience to connect with you on a personal level, so show them your latest read or favorite hangout!

2. It Shows You More About Your Audience

At the same time, you should use that to your advantage.  Let’s say you’re writing about the apparent decline of penguin chicks per year (bear with me).  Check out your followers.  Do they post recent reads?  Do they visit places you think would be interesting?  Are they part of clubs you think might contain more of a possible reader base?  Are they the type to write manifestos about the lack of research into penguin mating seasons?  Do they post pictures of adorable fuzzy penguin babies?  Do they post pictures of orcas and seals eating penguins?  Do they not care at all?  It’s all about finding a connection – to what kinds of people do you appeal?  Is that your intended audience?  If yes, how do you intend to reach more of them?  If not, how should you market yourself to break into that niche?

I sell historical fiction books.  I’m interested in knowing if my Instagram followers are interested in an indie author from Michigan who sets her novels in the Middle Ages.  As such, I look for people who support indie authors, people from Michigan, often read historical fiction, often post about Renaissance Faires or related items (such as costumes), or a mixture of any of those things.

3. Hashtags

Hashtags are the answer.  It’s easy to “tag” your pictures however you want.  Let’s say you want to show off your latest book signing to the maximum amount of people.  I’d say using #books, #author, #booksigning, #authorslife would be the automatic tags to use.  To make things specific, add your genre, the location of the signing (city and state at least, possibly the specific place if the tag is popular enough), and a few tags about your book itself or some related topics.  Be wary!  Instagram does have a limit for tags, but I haven’t quite worked it out – I heard it was 20, but I’ve used more than that in one post and not had my caption wiped.  I suggest doing your captions in a notepad app and copying them to Instagram, so you don’t lose everything.

So, for example, if I wanted to show off this specific ad

I might caption it as: “Come see me at Past Tense Books in Holly, #Michigan, on September 24th!  It’s only 15 minutes away from the #michiganrenaissancefestival! #book #booksigning #localauthor #michigander #medieval #authorslife #author #event #historicalfiction #writer”.

However, if I was sharing something about working on my upcoming book:

5b517881-4311-45e1-83e8-c31040982730

I would definitely caption it with: ” #amwriting!  Can’t wait until #December – #LaReyna is sure to be a #Kindle and #createspace hit! #thetrastamaraseries #historicalfiction #author #historical #fiction #writer”

The tags I think every author on Instagram should know include:

  • #amwriting, #amediting, #amreading, etc.
  • #book, #books, #bookstagram – for pictures of your book itself
  • #author, #writer, #authorslife, #writerslife, #authorsofinstagram, #writersofinstagram, #authorsofig, #writersofig.
  • Their genre tags.  For me, this includes #historicalfiction, #hisfic, #historical, #fiction, #medieval, #14thcentury
  • Their specific tags.  These are made by the author themself.  I use #TheTrastamaraSeries, #KMGuerin, #LaBasarda, and #LaReyna (the latter two are not specific for my book, but they are rather well-trafficked).
  • #Ebook, #paperback, #Amazon #bookstore…  Tailor to your needs as necessary.

4. You Can Post Whenever

Unlike Facebook, Google+, and even WordPress, Instagram is used at pretty much all hours of the day.   People will see your posts at any time.  Now, there’s an issue with following, where you basically have to doubly-follow certain people to see their posts, but I’ve found it’s relatively rare, unless the account you’re following doesn’t post very often.  😀  There might be a slight optimization depending on your location and where your followers are located, but generally, Instagram is always busy.  You’ll always get likes (hearts or “doubletaps”, so nicknamed because if you tap on a picture twice, you like it.  It’s convenient, and can be a bit too convenient when you’re scrolling through a new follower’s older pictures and accidentally like something from years prior.  Oops.

I think that’s it on Instagram, for now.  Thank you so much!

Note: I’ll be out of commission over the next few weekends, so I’m going to write a couple of posts and schedule them ahead of time.  Not all of them will be social medias.  Also, I may have another post either later this week – Wednesday or Thursday, perhaps?  I might have a few updates. 😀