Today I am delighted to be a guest at Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner.  A special thank you to Kayla for inviting me to follow in the virtual footsteps of such historical fiction favorites as C.W. Gortner, Juliet Grey, Donna Russo Morin, Gillian Bagwell and Christy English.  I am also grateful for Kayla’s insightful interview questions and hope you (oh faithful blog readers) will enjoy them as well.

Here is a touch of historical humor as we head into the weekend.  Those of us on the east coast in particular could use a little levity as Irene bears down on us with all her predicted damage and inconvenience.  So have a laugh or two before the power goes out.  I do believe Jane Austen herself would get a chuckle out of this one.

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August 25th 1248 – Almost four years after taking the cross, Louis IX of France sets sail for the Holy Land from a royal port with the inauspicious name of Aigues-Mortes (dead waters).  The king takes with him a massive army of crusaders.  Marguerite of Provence is also among the crusading party.

The best writings, like the best men, tell the truth.” (Sophie Perinot, The Sister Queens)

This past weekend I read this article in the New York Times about the increasingly prevalent practice of “buying” good reviews in on-line venues to boost salesThis is a despicable practice (and I do not use words like despicable lightly because, as a writer, I know the power of language).

The idea of offering someone a quid pro quo (whether cold hard cash, savings, or swag) to say something good about you is dishonest and demeaning.  I know in the current economic climate competition – whether you are hotelier or a novelist – is fierce, but cheating is still cheating.  I wouldn’t want to win a race because I put pebbles in someone else’s shoes, and, likewise, I wouldn’t want to trick anyone into buying my debut novel.

One of the idiot businesses in the New York Times article claims they are only soliciting honest positive reviews and then rewarding those “loyal” customers with discounts on return visits, but PLEASE—pecuniary interest and honest judgment have never been comfortable bedfellows.  Does it matter that this hotel truly believes it is an excellent place to stay?  Does it matter that the authors who purchase 5-star reviews for their books on Amazon likewise believe what they’ve produced is 5-star worthy writing? No.  The truth of the matter is buying reviews is NOT the same as earning them—no matter how well deserved those stars might be.

We don’t always get what we deserve.  The best man doesn’t always win, nor does the best novel.  But the minute we start to think that we are just “leveling the playing field” or we make other excuses for disguising promotional materials as impartial reviews we diminish ourselves as persons of honor and integrity.  As far as I am concerned honor and integrity are more important than sales.

What about the folks who write these reviews?  Many of them are being hired to do so.  It’s just a job, right?  Surely they are less culpable.  Hm.  Maybe I live in the past (an occupational hazard when writing historical fiction) but what happened to the idea that a man’s word (or a woman’s word) is his bond?  What is an individual’s betrayal of his own word worth?  Surely more than the $5 or $10 dollars per review that he is being paid to prostitute his honor?  As I the bard said, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” (William Shakespeare, All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 3 scene 5) Continue reading »

“If I did that there’d be nothing but a bunch of necks working at the DMV” — truer words than that have never been spoke

August 19th 1245 – Marguerite and Eleanor’s father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence dies and their sister Beatrice inherits Provence.  Because Raymond dies in the midst of a massive power struggle between Pope Innocent IV and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, the question of succession inProvence takes on an international dimension and competition to lay claim to Beatrice’s hand is fierce.

Today is world humanitarian day.  Please join me in celebrating those who devote their energies and their lives to people most of the world prefers to forget. 

What we “know” for certain in history often changes.  New studies, new information, new scholarship can challenge and change accepted facts, and undercut theories that have stood for decades or even longer.

Witness this article in today’s Guardian newspaper reporting that a new work by a well known archaeologist declares the Plague of 1348-49 spread so quickly through London that the carriers were not black rats, as previously thought, but human beings themselves.  Fascinating and a reminder that we ought not be too sanguine about what we know to be “the truth.”

They don’t make men like they used to – heck they don’t even dress em like they used to.  Sigh.  Here’s a video worth salivating over, gentlemen dressed to impress.  And by the way boys—if any men are reading this—any woman who tells you she likes “Casual Fridays” is lying.

Tomorrow would have been Georgette Heyer’s 109th Birthday.  Ms. Heyer’s books introduced many readers to regency romances and she is considered by many to be the Queen of that genre.  To celebrate her natal day her current publisher, Sourcebooks, is offering every single Heyer title in e-book format for only $1.99 each.  The offer is good beginning today and ending on August 21st.  Heyer fans enjoy!