Monthly Archives: January 2012

Author interviews and Historical Research for Hope and the Knight and the Black Lion

Some recent blog interviews for our books. Thank you!

For the “I Want to Write Historical Fiction but I Don’t Want to Research” Writer

I write historical fiction, but I do not like a whole lot of detail in the books I read, nor do I really like to write it. Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion is set in England, originally just sometime vaguely during the Crusades. Actually, I toyed with the idea of the character who returns after an absence going to Turkey under Suleiman the Magnificent. I thought I might be able to tie the story in with the Reformation and even Martin Luther, rather than the Crusades. I spent a year learning about Suleiman and his time, but also discovered how many conflicts an Englishman could have gotten himself involved in and eventually went back to the Crusades. (Fortunately I worked at a state university library at the time.)

I discovered Crusader Songs appropriate to the time period and was able to include them, and they even advanced the plot by showing the changing attitudes of the Crusaders on their sea voyage. I finally found a letter from “Guy, a Knight” describing the battle of Damietta, a port-controlling city in Egypt. Circumstances surrounding this battle included an armada of ships that set out for Alexandria and mistakenly arrived in Damietta after a huge storm. Many ships were also lost in this storm. Since my knight was supposed to disappear in his Holy Land quest, I had found my opportunity. This battle had a specific date, and better yet, a specific historical man, under suspicion of disloyalty to the French crown, who fought there. Providentially I found my time period and my villain, Hugo Brun de March, together. April 2, 1249 was the date of the battle and it took place as part of Louis IX of France’s first Crusade.

This battle is also important to the story because of an orphaned Arab, Sadaquah, who lives in Damietta but is forcibly removed very shortly before the battle, thus saving his life. He is brought to teach Arabic to, and becomes friends with, my main male character, known simply as the Christian Dog to the Arabs. Later Sadaquah refers to this incident that brought them together as both destroying any ties he might have had with his home and says his friend saved his life simply by being where he was when he was.

The names in my story are either local to the part of England where the people live, like Cloyes, or significant in their meaning. Hope’s name has obvious significance to a story of hardship, loss and desperate danger. Hope in Arabic is Raja, and Sadaquah points out that his English comrade said that word many times a day while trying to get back home, hardly understanding fully all the hopes that would and could be realized. Sadaquah refers to the alms Muslims give to the poor, and also means Righteousness. Rasoul, another Arab character in the story, is a messenger of sorts, reuniting friends, providing safety and help, and that is the meaning of his name. Tahira means purity, and the Arab woman in the story learns that God is the judge and restorer of purity.

I had to find an abandoned castle for some of the story to take place. Fortunately, there is Colchester Castle, a well-known and well-documented location. I was able to find industries appropriate to the time period, places of worship, even an oyster festival to help establish Hope’s character at the beginning of the story. Building the setting around Colchester, I was able to create a manor house for my minor nobleman, and learn about how life ran in such a place. I even got to study earlier English government and how common people involved themselves in the affairs of the nobility. One reviewer commented on how much he learned about medieval life, a whole new vocabulary in the clothing and customs of the day. Robin Hood, for example, may not have worn Lincoln Green but Lincoln Grayne, a finely woven linen fabric that could be any color but was often dyed red.

Nobility bedding down in the hallways of a castle and every available fireplace being commandeered to cook meals for a horde of retainers and guests was another “fun fact” I picked up along the way. I made a decision to use modern speech with a somewhat archaic flavor and the insertion of vocabulary important to the occupations, government and activities of the time. Realistically, if I had written in Chaucerian English, few would have understood it. I have a few Arabic words and phrases as well. This story came after more than twenty years of research and reading, checking sources, confirming most of the facts in many different references, online and in libraries, and though it may not be as detailed as some historical fiction, I am comfortable with the idea that it will give the reader at least of taste of a real time and place.

One sidelight is that this book also has an illustrated version. I tried to capture some of the feel of a Medieval manuscript with gilded leaves, jeweled page corners and elaborate designs, though mine are created with shapes and textures from my graphic design program, Photo Impact, and reproduced throughout, instead of painstakingly hand-drawn page by page.

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Filed under Excerpts from our Fiction Books, History, Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging


Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts, in full “Be Our Guest” mode, from the stage show of Beauty and the Beast at Walt Disney World. It was a great show!

Our journey in self-publishing, or indie-publishing, or whatever it is that we do, has recently begun to include the concept of guest-posting. This is when another blogger, usually another writer or avid reader, offers space on his or her blog to others to write. This is a great opportunity for both bloggers, because we have different followers and can reach a wider audience and promote each other.

So far we have only had one guest-poster, as part of a reciprocal agreement with the Indie Writers Unite Facebook page I belong to. But folks should keep in mind that if you submit a blog to use on a topic that fits our site, we will pay you $25 when we post it.

Here are some guest blogs we have done lately and a couple still to come. This gives us a chance to give an extra shout-out to those who help with the hardest part of writing: Promotion.

Nicole Storey’s just went up today. Benny and the Bank Robber and Doctor Dad. It looks wonderful! Thank you, Nicole!

Interview for Vienta (Sorry, old cover, but same book) with Karen Baney. Thank you again, Karen!

Rom Con, scroll down the page for Send a White Rose (with the “New, New” cover, formed by a committee of great suggestions):

Awhile back, we had some interviews for Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion. Thank you again, Angela Fristoe, Spencer Brokaw, David Wisehart of Kindle Authors and Rachel.

And coming soon, so I’ll give a thank you ahead of time, Marji Lane, on The Baron of Larcondale. She promises to include pictures of actors who might play my main male when it’s made into a movie. Can’t wait!

Also coming soon, on the blog of Athansios Galanis, an interview on our Christian perspective, Homeschool curriculum, and our own homeschooling adventures! Can’t wait to see it!

We also have an ad running on WoMen’s Literary Cafe this week, for Vienta. Check it out, on the left side. Next week they will run an ad for our blog. I’m also an “official” reviewer for that site. I will post reviews of books that fit our audience, if I can manage to pick the right books to read.

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Guest Post by Helmy Kusuma

I belong to a Facebook page called Indie Writers Unite! As part of our “membership,” we share blog space with the other writers in the group in something called “blog hops.” Today Helmy Kusuma has the floor. Welcome, Helmy!

I am Helmy Kusuma and a writer from Indonesia. I mostly write in English, though. My background in IT has played a major role on that, beside, of course, my fondness of English as one of rich languages to convey meanings.

I started writing seriously as a career about two years ago. Seriously in the meaning that I dedicate my time on finishing a title that beg to be written, and not, at least for the time being, enjoying financial freedom from it.

I have written two novellas, one is written in Indonesian language while the other one is, obviously, in English titled Mementoes of Mai. Mementoes of Mai is a non-fiction fiction – fiction that based largely on non fiction, my own life experiences that is – that foretells the story of a young man, me, who faces a fork, love or passion, in his journey and has to decide which way to take.

I have also collaborated with other authors in producing a flash fiction anthology, A Flash of Inspiration. It was a tremendous experience for me to be able to work side by side, err email by email, with various writers from England and America. Oh yeah, it’s free.

Inverta: The Truth is the title of my coming science fiction novel, hopefully will be finished by mid 2012, which dwells in the vicinity of parallel dimension and what-if scenario. There Is Hope is my first attempt at writing science fiction, and I was immersed deeply in writing it making me decide to write a longer one.

If you want to know more about me just contact me through these venues :




Twitter @hanzpk

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Curiouser and Curiouser … An Author’s Adventures in Twitterland

I set up a Twitter account awhile back because that was on my promotional “to-do” list. However, I did not really understand what it was for, so I did not use it much. I tweeted our blog posts, and that was pretty much it. My experience with Twitter was somewhat like Alice staring down the rabbit hole. The White Rabbit is marketing, and I want to go where it goes, but I hesitated looking down that small, dark hole. I know that Twitter resembles email, except that you have to be extremely careful what you say. You only have 140 characters in which to say it. Interestingly enough, this ties in with another part of my writer’s journey, inspired decades ago by Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, my pledge to “Omit needless words!”

I never really understood writers who needed to write long books. Some people love long books with complex descriptions of places, clothing and every little detail. I like the characters and the stories. Excuse me while I skip the travelogue at the beginning of every chapter of Jules Verne’s Michael Strogoff. I am not quite at the point of writing phone-screen-sized chapters or text-messaging novels, but I keep hearing that echo, “omit needless words,” and so I edit, trim, and refine my work. As a matter of fact, I have only recently learned the art of text messaging, another thing that resembles Tweeting. Our daughter is hard of hearing and our communication is almost exclusively by texting. I refuse to use all the abbreviations, symbols and jargon. It makes it difficult, but I have my limits.

Back to Twitter. Recently I timidly took the step of retweeting posts by some authors I have befriended and admire. I don’t just randomly retweet, and I don’t even retweet everything I agree with. I do, however, tend to retweet my author friends. In the meantime, our blog posts go on Twitter automatically, and the other day I was startled to discover that our blog followers had more than tripled in the last month. I was also startled to discover that our books were beginning to sell a little. Our chosen niche market is niched indeed, more like Scout and Jem’s secret space in the hollow tree where they exchanged treasures with Boo Radley. I don’t expect to have bestsellers. In fact, more than one blogger has refused to read our books for review or carry posts we have written because they are “too…” Well, I’ll let you fill in the blank and ponder what an unfair world it is.

I noticed also that strange Tweeters were beginning to say they were following me. I’m not going to tell you how many followers I have because it’s still embarrassing, but people do notice when you retweet a lot. The next step in my Twitterland journey was when I joined a Facebook authors’ group that seemed to fit better with my niche than those I had previously joined. I participated, talked, asked for advice, as I always do when I join a group. Then I noticed they were posting Tweets for their books or interviews or blog posts. I grabbed them and retweeted them, and everybody said “Thank You!”

Then someone said, “Where are your tweets? We will repost them all sorts of ways.” Aaaggh! I had no tweets. So I have been forced to create Tweets. I am still struggling to grasp the hashtag thing, but I think it makes it stand out more, like tagging your book on Amazon. I still hate having to abbreviate, to leave out my beloved exact spelling and punctuation, but I press on. And, though in some respects I am still staring down the rabbithole, I am getting the hang of this Twitter thing. Because of something I am doing, our blog is getting a higher profile and our books are getting some sales. A recent article said that Twitter will cease to exist this year. Perhaps. But in the meantime, it seems to be working for me. Go through your Twitter feed every day, look for the ones you want to retweet, decide if you want to follow people who say they are following you, and don’t forget to Tweet yourself!

How to create a Twitter Post (from an admitted newbie.)

Look at what other similar posts contain in the way of hashtags. For example, I write #Historical and #Fiction and #Adventure, my husband writes #SciFi and #Nonfiction, and there are TONS of other hashtags. Just add the Hash or pound sign in front of a word and you have a hash tag. They are subjects that people search for that can get your post noticed, and retweeted, and possibly get you followed. Punctuation and correct spelling take up extra characters, so grit your teeth and leave them out. Use a URL shortening program like bitly to cut down your links. HootSuite is a free program that can be used to schedule recurring tweets, I am told,. That’s the next step in my journey, I guess.

Some examples of tweets using hashtags

#SciFi #Christian The future of persecution. Lunar colony, gas-collection in the outer planets, forbidden romance

#Nonfiction doesn’t have to be dull! 200 illustrations, Nimrod’s worship foundations to founding fathers’ fears

#Mystery Adventure Series, All Things New Doctor tests, Boarding school, secret society, Christmas ball, twin trouble

#romance #suspense #historical Occult attacks, child sex slavery, a lost prince, regain a throne, king’s hole peril

#Blog, #Issues, #History, #Education #Science It’s tough but you need it. From a fan, “Need me some elk jerky, I do”


Filed under Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Rick Santorum Won in Iowa! Or, How Much Difference Can Just One Delegate Make?

To those in states with Primaries, the entire Caucus system seems confusing. We stayed up until 2:00 AM to watch the media proclaim Mitt Romney the winner by 8 votes. But the popular vote is not what counts. What counts is the delegates sent to the national Republican convention. While nothing is certified at this point and things can change, it appears that Rick Santorum might have one more delegate than Mitt Romney. How?

The widely publicized vote is actually a straw poll. The votes are actually for delegates to a state convention on March 10. At this convention, these delegates will vote for the national delegates. Since they are morally pledged to their candidates, it seems the widely proclaimed Romney 13 delegates, Santorum 12 delegates will be the final outcome, plus Superdelegates (delegates picked by the state Republican convention). Not so fast.

First, at least 2 Ron Paul supporters monitoring vote counts have claimed errors in the vote counts. The vote counts are not certified, so the totals, and the winners, could change.

Second, in another long shot, Michele Bachmann could attempt to transfer her few votes to Rick Santorum. While there is a lot of buzz about this on the Internet, none of the candidates in the Republican Party has commented on this possibility. The talk has ranged from “almost a done deal” to “not legal, not possible.” It is legal and possible because the state delegates pledged to Michele Bachmann now have no one to vote for and no legal requirement to vote for anyone in particular.

Third is the important part. From state party workers on caucus night, to county caucus, to state caucus, to national convention, these thousands of workers are all volunteers. This heavy time requirement means some of these delegates, especially on the state and county levels, will be unable to attend and vote. Alternates will fill these positions. The state party attempts to fill these empty delegate positions with alternates pledged to the same candidate so the missing delegates are not even noticed. This year saw a massive change. Ron Paul had a well-planned and well-executed plan to grab all the alternate slots throughout Iowa. Because of the late, close race many Rick Santorum supporters stuck around to provide enough Rick Santorum alternates. So if Ron Paul picks up some county delegates, at whose expense will they come? Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. It is almost certain that Ron Paul will gain some county delegates. The big question is will Ron Paul gain from this strategy or will Rick Santorum be the only beneficiary?


Filed under Current Issues, Politics, History

So Which Republican Candidate Do You Support? And Why?

It seems like every day someone is asking me this. So I am finally writing this blog and from now on will just link to this if anyone online asks me. First, I will support the candidate who most closely supports the United States Constitution and has a chance of winning the general election. The worst Republican candidate has more respect for the Constitution and Law and Order than the best Democratic candidate.

Second, and this is critical, the Constitution of the United States is written in English and anyone who is willing to spend some time on can understand what the writers intended. It is not in code and anyone who is unsure as to the meaning of a word, phrase or even an entire Article in the Constitution can research and find the intended meaning.

Third, how honest is the candidate? Members of his own party constantly “praised” Bill Clinton for “being a really good liar.” The average politician does whatever he wants to do and then attempts to justify those actions by claiming that either the Constitution is unclear in that area or the Constitution does not address whatever it is that he wants to do.

Michele Bachmann had the best grasp of Constitutional principles of any candidate in either party. She confronted Rick Perry with his Gardasil fiasco, for which I am grateful. However, when her entire New Hampshire campaign staff quit and she not only did not know it but also denied it, that ended my support for her.

Jon Huntsman is unelectable, either in the primaries or the general election.

Newt Gingrich is unethical. Though he raised a lot of money, most of it is gone. His bulldog attack style turns many people off. He seems to be conservative on several important issues, but is he really?

Rick Perry would be an excellent choice if not for 2 things He insisted on forcing Gordasil on Junior High girls (which thankfully was stopped by the Texas legislature) and giving free tuition to illegals. The problem with these two major issues is the way he defends them. It seems that this man could justify just about anything in his own mind. Ann Coulter gives a very good reason why he could not win in general election.

Ron Paul can win both the Republican Primary and the general elections. I understand that very few of my friends and family members agree with me on this, so please hear me out. America is a very divided nation. Ron Paul has very strong national support. If he is consistently coming in 2nd and 3rd, he will be a major contender at the Republican National Convention. I do not believe that any Republican candidate will pick up enough delegates to win on the first ballot. So compromises and deals will have to be made. If the Republican delegation goes to a forth or fifth ballot, anything can happen. In the general election, he has one advantage over every other Republican. Certain issues, such as the legalization of Marijuana, immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan and closing some foreign military bases, would take votes away from Obama. People who would otherwise vote Democrat will vote for Ron Paul. Ronald Reagan also took away votes from Democrats. Every one of these votes not only increases his chance of winning but also decreases Obama’s chances. It is the same as picking up two undecided votes. Also, President Obama did not win in a landslide and he has far less support in his own party this time. The margins will be close and Ron Paul has the ability to squeak out a victory by appealing to millions of pacifists who normally do not block vote. While no one knows how many Amish/Mennonites there are in this country, estimates place that number over 10 million. Though many of them do vote, most will not support any kind of military intervention. They will not pick up arms and will only serve in the military in noncombatant roles such as Chaplin’s assistants or medical personal. They did not vote for John McCain or George Bush. Enough of these people voting for the first time could swing several key states where they have large populations such as Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.

Ronald Reagan was our oldest President. He took the oath of office for the first time when he was 70 years old and 74 for his second term. Ron Paul is 76 and would not be sworn in until he was 77. With the average life expectancy in this country being 78.1, the odds are that Ron Paul would not live out his first term. He does not have the health to put his entire agenda into place. So which of his stated goals are most important to him?

The vast majority of Republicans will agree with everything, or almost everything up to this point. I like Ron Paul’s reduction in government. His foreign policy and military positions seem dangerous at best and suicidal at worst. Though Ron Paul and I both believe that recreational use of drugs is destroying the fabric of this nation, we disagree on what to do about it. Because of his age, position on legalizing drugs, reducing our military and his position toward Israel, I cannot wholeheartedly support Ron Paul. Unlike other fellow conservatives, I could vote for Ron Paul if he would miraculously survive the nominating process.

Ann Coulter wrote last week that we must nominate Mitt Romney because he is the only candidate who can win the general election for the Republicans. This seems to be the major point of conservatives who support him. Mitt Romney is an establishment Republican. I am not sure if he is a RINO (Republican In Name Only), but he is certainly not what I want in a President. Compared to Arlen Specter or Chris Christie, Mitt Romney is a conservative. But Ann Coulter also said that the most important 2 issues are stopping the invasion of illegals and ending Obamacare. The very day Ann endorsed Mitt Romney as the only candidate capable of winning, Mitt Romney had a press conference where he said that he would repeal Obamacare as one of his first acts in office. But he also said that he thinks the core of Obamacare, the individual mandate, “is fundamentally a conservative principle.” He defended the individual mandate in Massachusetts with Romneycare. So Mitt Romney believes the details of Obamacare are wrong, but the fundamental principles of Romneycare are “fundamentally a conservative principle.” Mitt Romney believes that Obamacare is wrong in the details, but its fundamental principles are conservative? This is exactly what Ann Coulter condemned as unacceptable, yet she endorses Mitt Romney anyway.

Mitt Romney had questionable judicial appointments and the MA government grew larger under his administration. To be honest, Ronald Reagan saw the government grow while was Governor of CA and while we was President. Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum take the same positions on the illegal issue.

This is sad, but I support Rick Santorum because he has the fewest negatives. Isn’t this the way American Politics usually works out? Rick Santorum can win PA, NY and maybe one or two New England states. It will be very difficult and close but I believe that he can win the general election.

He is a Roman Catholic who opposes abortion, favors the death penalty, will cut trillions from the National budget including eliminating several federal agencies, will reduce (though not eliminate) federal taxes, bomb Iran if necessary, and support the military. He homeschooled his children (which is the major reason he lost re-election to the senate), is a member of the NRA and owns guns, wears sweater vests, is a lawyer, allows (not requires) government funds for contraception, is opposed to all stimulus and welfare, opposes homosexuality, wants to cut all corporate taxes to zero, is in favor of tort reform, believes that the sagging economy is caused by the federal stop sign on oil drilling, believes that the major cause of poverty is the lack of 2-parent families, had a 100% voting record according to the Christian Coalition, wants the President to have a line item veto, believes our trade and labor laws need to change to make the USA more competitive with China, believes that higher minimum wages contribute to unemployment, believes that Social Security, welfare and all other entitlements need to change to remain solvent and that the Bush era tax cuts need to become permanent. Those tax cuts should only be a starting place for more tax cuts.

Stopping short of an endorsement, Rush Limbaugh said that he could sleep well at night knowing that Rick Santorum was commander-in-chief.

Rick Santorum authored the book It Takes A Family to counter Hillary Clinton’s It Takes A Village. I have yet to meet a Republican who did not like Rick Santorum. He is likable, with probably the best speaking abilities of the major candidates. When Rick Santorum had just been sworn in as Senator, I called him and had severe problems reaching him because the Senate refused to give him a phone or office. The only serious complaint I hear is that he is too conservative to win a national election. The last man that charge was leveled against was Ronald Reagan.

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Review of Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion by Michael Findley and Guest blog “Character Interview”for Vienta

Also, please check out our cover redesigns and let us know what you think!
Every Star Trek the fan must admit that nothing exciting ever happens until someone does something incredibly stupid. By writing this story from the first person point of view of a 17-year-old girl, Mary Findley makes the opening chapters very believable. Hope is stubborn, proud, ignorant and keeps the action moving. Unlike Star Trek, TV and movies in general, where the stupidity never seems to stop, Hope learns from her mistakes.
This is a highly readable historical novel. Unlike Tolstoy’s War and Peace, I can remember who the characters are. I both read and studied Tolstoy and he still confuses me. The much shorter Hope and the Black Lion has a consistent point of view and a limited cast of characters. This is a big plus for me, because I can keep them straight.
For those of you who love period vocabulary, this will be a great book. For me, this was the chance to become intimately acquainted with the online dictionary. Just click (or tap if you have touchscreen) and for a brief definition and you may continue reading. For instance, what is damask, anyway? The setting and titles of nobility are historic, though none of the characters are.
The story is set during the time of the Crusades. Hope is a Lady whose father died. Hope and her mother go to live on the estate of her mother’s brother. She pitches a fit for oysters, trades an heirloom for man’s clothes so she can run in a race for boys only, nods off during Latin lessons, sneaks off to meet a boy by climbing down a castle tower and this is all in chapter one. This is followed by seventeen more action packed chapters.
We have action, love, romance, swords, castles and unbelievable stupidity all in the same book. Actually, it’s all very believable; and lovable.

Karen Baney’s Blog features a Character interview with Maeve Collinswood of my Historical Romance Vienta. Please check it out, and thank you, Karen!


Filed under Excerpts from our Fiction Books, Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging