Tag Archives: The Historical Fiction Club

BOOK REVIEW: “The Kiss of the Concubine” by Judith Arnopp

5-star HFP “Highly Recommended” Medal

There are moments when, as a reader, you know the second a book impacts you. And when that impact comes at the very beginning, well, you know you are about to take an exquisite journey. I have felt this many times throughout the years and when it happens, the books become dear to me, and a must-have for my own personal library. This is one of those times.

Reading the blurb, one might think this is just another retelling of the infamous story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, but I am here to say that this book transcends anything I have read to date on this popular subject. When you read lines such as: “…The king’s eyes fly open and his eyeballs swivel from side to side, his disintegrating ego peering as if through the slits in a mummer’s mask.” or “Henry and I are the most powerful couple in all of England and yet, in the face of death, we are powerless,” you are compelled to soak in every last detail. And last, I have to share this… “It is a dead sort of day, the type of day where the sky is white, and there is not even the hint of a breeze. Clouds muffle the horizon and I want to push them away, thrust back the oppression and the fear, and revel for one more day beneath blue skies, feel the wind on my cheeks, the scent of Hever in the air. Instead I am here, in my palatial prison, with no future, no next week to look forward to, perhaps not even a tomorrow.”

Oh, there are so many many more for you to enjoy on this heavenly journey of words. This is just a small sampling.

The immense beauty of Judith Arnopp’s selection of words and phrases is a lesson on how to write a historical novel. She takes what we already know of Anne and Henry to another level, a rare personal glimpse into their personalities, their fears, their hopes, and their love that turned England upside-down in terms of religion. In this book, Anne draws a reader’s sympathy, as she is portrayed as a young naïve girl thrust down a path that ultimately brings her ruin. The delicate way the author shows Anne’s love for her family home, Hever Castle, and the simplicities of that ‘other life’, the life before Henry, fleshes out her character and makes her tremendously relatable; as does the bond she shares with her brother, George, that is taken completely out of context by those wishing to destroy her.

The Kiss of the Concubine is now among my ‘go-to’ books that I will read again and again. Even this review does not do it justice. Simply put… get this book. It is stunning. A must-read!!




Author Takeover with Jim Metzner

In conjunction with The Historical Fiction Club on Facebook, I welcome to the blog, Jim Metzner, during his author takeover on Monday, June 7th. If you would like to join the takeover, please join the club here: The Historical Fiction Club

Author Bio

Jim studied acting at Yale Drama School and enjoyed a brief career working as a singer-songwriter in London, opening for TRex, Free, and Pink Floyd! He has been producing sound-rich audio programs since 1977, including Pulse of the Planet, which has been on the air since 1988 and is now heard widely as a podcast.

For many years, Jim produced features and commentaries for All Things Considered, Marketplace, Weekend Edition, and other public radio programs. He has recorded all over the world and received major grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Grammy Foundation. Stories about his work have appeared in Audio Magazine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic, The Today Show, and the CBS Evening News. His forty-year archive of sounds is now reposited in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

A bee-keeper and avid fly-fisherman, Jim resides in New York’s Hudson River Valley with his wife Eileen.

For more information visit jimmetznerproductions.com and sacredmoundsnovel.com

Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Metzner/e/B087CB75ZT

Book Blurb:

“This is a rollicking, thought-provoking, rollercoaster of a novel. It’s time traveling on steroids, but it asks big questions. Bravo!” – Ken Burns, filmmaker

“A rich, complex tale of supernatural heroism. The novel folds ancient traditional wisdom into the seams of its story with the author’s well-honed narrative skills, delivering the tastes and flavors of its mingling times and cultures with ease and aplomb. One ends up feeling not like an onlooker, but an active participant in the events. The book, from this perspective, is hard to put down. It’s a page-turner, but an intelligent one; one that asks more questions than it answers and left, for one, this reader hoping for a sequel.” – Lee Van Laer, Senior Editor, Parabola Magazine

“The tribe’s descent from late prehistoric mound builders connects the Natchez people to one of North America’s most intriguing puzzles. Archaeologists know how the earthworks were built, but excavations cannot reveal what these monuments meant to the native people who built them. With Sacred Mounds, Metzner embraces the mystery to weave a story across time and cultural boundaries.” – Jim Barnett, author of The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735

“Awesome! Jim Metzner has imbued a page-turner of a book with esoteric truth half-revealed behind a somewhat violent drama. There are keys to a meaningful life hidden behind the carnage. A great read. Can’t wait for the movie!” – Lillian Firestone, author, The Forgotten Language of Children

Author Takeover with J. L. Oakley

In conjunction with the author takeover at The Historical Fiction Club, I’d like to welcome to the blog, J. L. Oakley, the author of The Jossing Affair, The Quisling Factor, and so many more!

The author takeover is on May 31st at the Club – JOIN HERE

Author Bio

Janet Oakley, writing as JL Oakley. writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her characters, who come from all walks of life, stand up for something in their own time and place.

Her writing has been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize for TREE SOLDIER, 2015 WILLA Silver Award for TIMBER ROSE and the 2016 Goethe Award Grand Prize for THE JØSSING AFFAIR. MIST-CHI-MAS, set on San Juan Island after the Pig War, is an 2018 IndieBRAG Medallion book, 2018 WILLA Award finalist and won second place in the Will Rogers Medallion Award, Western Romance.

Though she has lived in the Pacific NW for many years, she has also lived in Hawaii, Washington DC and Pittsburgh. She has been a guide at Mission Houses in Honolulu, a museum educator at a small NW county museum, and a Humanities Washington speaker.

When not writing, Janet demonstrate 19th century folkways. She can churn some pretty mean butter.

To view her books, go to her Amazon Author Page here

My Interview with Karla M. Jay, author of “It Happened in Silence” and “When We Were Brave”


I am welcoming today’s guest, Karla M. Jay, the prolific award-winning author of When We Were Brave and It Happened in Silence.

To purchase Karla’s award-winning books, please click here: Karla M. Jay’s Amazon Author Page

USA Today Bestseller, Ellie Midwood, Talks About Her Writing Life

I am SO THRILLED to have USA Today’s bestselling historical fiction author, Ellie Midwood, on the blog today for an author interview!!

If you haven’t heard of Ellie’s books, well, where are you? In a cave? Well, even if you are in a cave, you have to go and get her sensational books that are soaring to the top of the book world charts.

I’ve read both her novels “The Violinist of Auschwitz” and “The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz”, and needless to say, I adored them both. You can read my reviews (which are both FIVE STARS) at the two links below:



And I cannot wait for the next book, “The Girl on the Platform”!!

So, let me tell you a litte about Ellie Midwood….

Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. She owes her interest in the history of the Second World War to her grandfather, Junior Sergeant in the 2nd Guards Tank Army of the First Belorussian Front, who began telling her about his experiences on the frontline when she was a young girl. Growing up, her interest in history only deepened and transformed from reading about the war to writing about it. After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, “The Girl from Berlin.” Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents.

In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.

Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) – “The Girl from Berlin: Standartenführer’s Wife” (first place)

Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) – “The Austrian” (honorable mention)

New Apple – 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing – “The Austrian” (official selection)

Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2017) – “Emilia”

Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2018) – “A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son”

And now, what we were all waiting for, her author interview!!

  1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? – Before the lockdown I’d been fortunate to visit Auschwitz traveling exhibition here in NYC. Even though the real Auschwitz-Birkenau camp/museum is definitely on my list of must-visit places, this traveling exhibition helped me visualize history I’ve been studying mostly through books and Auschwitz-Birkenau’s virtual map. Reading about it is one thing, but seeing all of these uniforms, spoons, bowls, shoes, suitcases, barracks, and gas chamber doors and gas columns is an entirely different matter. It helped me immensely with descriptions I put in my latest books about Auschwitz.
  2. What is the first book that made you cry? – I’m actually very unemotional, so I don’t really cry while reading books or watching movies. I can feel very strongly about the subject but it usually moves me to action in different ways – I either decide to write about it, donate to the cause dedicated to it, bring awareness to it, but I have to do something. All of my strongest emotions are somehow connected to action. I would say, the latest book that made me feel very strongly was “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller. An extremely raw, honest, and powerful memoir which I’d highly recommend to everyone.
  3. What are common traps for aspiring writers? – Not doing enough research and trying to save money on certain things that are simply must be done by professionals. I always say that the first thing in writing is research, research, and more research. It doesn’t matter what you write – historical fiction or legal thrillers – you simply must know what you’re writing about in detail. Have a novel set in Chicago? Make sure you know the city inside and out. Have a protagonist with depression? Make sure you know how it manifests instead of relying on stereotypes. And after you’ve researched your setting, main character’s profession, and procedural details to death, make sure you hire a good structural editor (this is particularly important if it’s your very first work!) to go over your plot and help you make it stronger, tie up all loose ends, develop the characters, and add or cut descriptions where necessary. Then send it to a good proofreader to “clean it up” and only after that submit it to the publisher/agent or, if you’re publishing it yourself, hire a professional formatter and a cover designer to help you make your book baby as beautiful and professional-looking as possible. Don’t try to save your money on these things as it’s these details that can make or break your literary debut. And good luck!
  4. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? – I never write “for the market”; I don’t think I’d be able to force something out of myself solely because it’s “in” right now but is of no interest to me whatsoever. All of the books I write deal with subjects that either fascinate me personally or have some special meaning to me as an author. I don’t think I’d ever be able to create anything readable just for the big bucks. It would most likely be flat and unreadable, haha!
  5. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly? – Oh yes. This is the case with yours truly – I’m a very unemotional person and always rely on logic rather than heart, but it never stopped me from writing emotional scenes or making the reader feeling the emotions my protagonists experience (according to the reviews and personal messages at least, haha!). I think as long as you can describe emotions in such a way that the reader can virtually feel them as well, you’ll do just fine as an author. It’s the same with historical fiction writers: can you really write a good historical fiction if you never lived in the era you’re writing about? Sure, as long as you can make it real for the reader. Same with emotions.
  6. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? – Oh, there are too many to name here! I’ve been truly fortunate to become friends with so many talented authors, I’ll never run out of books to read if I stick just to the list of my author buddies! One of my first author friends was Carissa Ann Lynch; we began writing approximately at the same time and have been making this incredible journey ever since. We’ve never met in person (I hope to change it soon, when the restrictions are lifted!) but I consider her my writing sister. She’s a truly gifted writer and just a wonderful person I’m very lucky to know. I was extremely lucky to meet my another writing sister, Yolanda Olson, last year and it’s been one of the best afternoons ever spent (in the cemetery. Yes, it was my idea. No, she didn’t think I was weird; she writes horror, so she’s used to it). I have a bookshelf dedicated solely to her signed paperbacks and I guess just by this you can tell that I’m a huge fangirl, haha! Besides these two of my writing besties, I can name so many authors who have supported me, celebrated with me, collaborated with me on different projects, but I’m afraid we’ll run out of time and space. They know who they are. I always thank them in the acknowledgements.
  7. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? – “Don’t abandon that manuscript; this whole writing thing will turn out just fine for you!”
  8. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? – The process itself, believe it or not, didn’t change all that much. I experimented with styles and different points of view for a while but now I’m very set in my ways. I’ve always been a pantser and my inability to work with outlines certainly didn’t change. I became more rigid with my daily word count, if anything. My writing schedule is more organized now. But that’s the only thing that changed.
  9. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? – I’ve just now got us a second pup and that has definitely been the best money ever spent from my book proceeds! We’ve been wanting a sister for our fur daughter Pupper for quite a long time, so we’re in virtual heaven! They say money can’t buy happiness; I say, it can buy dogs and that’s the same thing!
  10. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? – I can’t recall a definite moment but it began when I was very young; whenever I read a quote that resonated with me on a personal level or whenever I heard someone make a speech that gave me goosebumps, I realized that words carry a huge weight. The fact that I can call to action or bring awareness to certain subjects through my works only came to me much later, in my twenties, I’d say.
  11. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters? – Everything. I always say that it’s my utmost honor to be telling their incredible, inspiring stories and that I hope that I do them justice with my words. All of my protagonists who are based on true people are my personal heroes; I decided to tell their stories because they astonished and inspired me so much and that’s why I consider it my duty to research their experiences as best as I can so that I can present them as accurately as possible. I can only hope they would have been satisfied with my modest efforts if they were alive today.
  12. What does literary success look like to you? – You’ll probably laugh at me, but I actually never considered this question. The superficial answer would be, when you get an award or reach a bestseller status or have a movie based on your book… but that’s not really “it” to me personally. I mean, those are all absolutely fabulous milestones but in my personal opinion, literary success is when you write from the heart and readers love your work and can’t wait for your new book to come out. That’s literary success to me.
  13. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? – Research is pretty much a daily occurrence here, so I’m not even sure how to put a timeframe on it. I’ve been interested in the history of WWII since I was a child (I grew up on my grandfather’s war stories), and began researching the subject in my early teens. Since then I’ve been accumulating research sources, collecting memorabilia, digging deeper and deeper into the already-familiar subjects – you get the idea. So, I’d say the basis for my research is always there. As for some specific themes I need to research (Mala’s hair color, for instance, or Edek’s pre-war occupation) I always turn to survivors’ memoirs if they’re available or historical studies and biographies written already after the war. I research before I begin to write, while I write, and when I’m doing rewrites and the first round of editing. I’m a little OCD when it comes to the most minutest details, so I need to make sure that I get everything right. It does take time though, sometimes a few months.
  14. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures? – I think when writing about real people, it’s incredibly important to stick to the facts. Also, it can get quite tricky not to fall into a protagonist/antagonist trap; what I mean here is sometimes authors tend to “villianize” (I think I just invented a new word here) a certain historical figure to the point where they become a cardboard-cut evil caricature or, on the contrary, to idolize another historical figure who serves as their protagonist ascribing qualities to them that they never possessed in real life. In my personal opinion, the more an author explores all shades of gray of their characters based on real historical figures, the more compelling their writing will be. To me personally, as a writer and as a reader, accurate descriptions of historical figures are extremely important, so if I see that a book strays away from it and turns a real person into something they weren’t in real life, I just won’t finish the book. It’s not historical fiction anymore, it’s just fiction.
  15. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? – I do read them, mostly during the first couple of weeks of the release as I’m curious to see how the book is received. Naturally, I love positive reviews but even critical ones can sometimes be very helpful, as long as the criticism is constructive. Of course, some negative reviews don’t even make any sense (a review that is complaining that the plot was weak in the story that is based on true events; or a reviewer claims that something is historically wrong even if you have mentioned that very event in your note in history they clearly were too lazy to read), so I just laugh those off. Reviews never affect me, neither negative not positive. As long as my editor is happy with my book, all is good.
  16. What was your hardest scene to write? – the scene dealing with “Hungarian Action” in “Auschwitz Syndrome.” It was very heavy even for me, who’ve been studying the subject for many years. I think (and many historians agree) that it was the culmination of the Auschwitz hell and naturally, it came out very graphic and very disturbing. I don’t think I’ve re-read it since.
  17. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? – Overcoming the dreaded “block.” But in this case I usually just write myself out of it. I’ve noticed that it goes away much faster if you actively deal with it rather than waiting for the inspiration to return.
  18. Does your family support your career as a writer? – Oh yes! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have such a huge support team behind me who cheer all of my accomplishments and celebrate all of my newest releases. My friends have been a huge support throughout my journey and I make sure to always thank them in the acknowledgments for all their love.
  19. Can you tell us a bit about your book/series and why you chose this topic? – I knew that I simply had to write about Mala after I first read about her incredible story in a survivor’s memoir. I was actually amazed that no one has written about this courageous, selfless young woman, who risked her life to help the others and actively resisted against the Nazis in a place where survival itself was considered resistance. But what she did, what she accomplished together with Edek (I’m being purposefully vague here as I don’t want to give away any spoilers) simply had to be written as a novel. Mala was a true hero and such an inspiration to all of the inmates. Many survived only thanks to her efforts. It was my utmost honor to be telling her story.
  20. What is your favourite quote to leave us with? Something that tells us a bit about you and why? – I have a lot of favorite quotes, each fitting different subjects, but since we’re talking about WWII, I’d say this one: “If you’re going through hell, keep going,” by Winston Churchill. I’ve always lived by these words and I recommend everyone to do the same. Never give up. If you keep fighting, eventually you’ll win all of your battles. Just don’t give up. That’s what’s life is all about.

Thank you so much, Ellie, for joining the Hist Fic Chickie today! I wish you continued success on your novels and I am so glad we connected through social media!!

D. K. Marley – The Hist Fic Chickie

For more info on Ellie and her books, you can visit her website at: https://www.elliemidwood.com

Here are the buy links to her novels:

Featured Spotlight – Mark McLaughlin, Author of “Throne of Darius”

In conjunction with the author takeover on my group, The Historical Fiction Club, I am welcoming to the blog and podcast, Mark McLaughlin, the author of “The Throne of Darius” and “Princess of Persia”.

If you would like to listen to his author interview on the Hist Fic Chickie podcast, click on the link below:

PODCAST https://wordpress.com/post/histficchickie.com/1428 OR https://histficchickie.podbean.com/e/my-interview-with-mark-mclaughlin-historical-fiction-author-of-throne-of-darius/

If you would like to join Mark for his author takeover of the group on April 12, 2021, please click HERE to join the group (answer all the questions) and you will have the opportunity to read his posts, ask him questions, and enter possible giveaways!!


“Someday, you make a game for me, Daddy?” is what little Ryan McLaughlin asked her father, Mark, many years ago. He designed not one but two games for his daughter, and then wrote a novel based on the later of those: Princess Ryan’s Star Marines. Now he has written another novel – a work of historical fiction: Throne of Darius. It is the first in a series about characters (real and imagined) who fought against Alexander the Great.

A free-lance journalist, Mark is the author of two novels and two books on military history and is the designer of 24 published games – most recent of which is Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea by GMT games. Mark also writes for many clients and publications. Although his principal work as a journalist over the last 40 years has been in foreign affairs, he also writes on everything from travel and entertainment to serious position papers.

For more on Mark, his books and his games, please visit: http://www.markgmclaughlin.com/



Ancient Thebes, 335BC. Alexander savagely crushes the Theban revolt against his rule. Swearing revenge for their once glorious city, Dimitrios, a captain of the Theban army, physician Klemes, and soldier Ari, join General Memnon in Asia Minor to fight against Alexander as he sets off to conquer the Persian Empire.

An irreverent portrait of Alexander the Great

Throne of Darius is a story of high adventure, romance and war – especially war, told with heart and a sense of humor. Mark McLaughlin paints a unique and irreverent portrait of Alexander the Great, who certainly was not “great” to everyone. Unlike the majority of historical and literary works, this novel does not glorify the Macedonian king but instead tells the tale of the young conqueror from the point of view of those who fought against him.

What readers say about Throne of Darius

“The description of the Battle of the Granicos River is among the clearest I have ever read. The author knows his history and presents it in a facile style that explains the essentials of the strategy of the campaign and the tactics in skirmishes and battles.” – Christopher Vorder Bruegge

“Military historical fiction is often all about male warriors, complex strategies and vicious battles. There is all of that in this book, but there are also strong female characters in Throne of Darius, like the noble princess Barsine and the brave horsegirl, Halime. Narrating the story from the point of view of Alexander’s opponents is a refreshing take that brings a new understanding of Alexander’s campaign without diminishing historical accuracy. There is humor, fierce battle scenes but also deeply emotional moments – everything to make Throne of Darius an enthralling read that will keep you hooked”. – Krystallia Papadimitriou, editor


Alexander the Great would have been furious at the disrespect shown to him in this novel. His mother, Olympias, would have surely cursed the author for depicting her son as a blood-thirsty glory-hound with delusions of godhood. On the other hand, Darius, the king whose throne Alexander lusted for, and Memnon, the general who was for a time the young Macedonian’s greatest foe, are likely smiling in their graves, relieved that someone west of the Bosphorus has finally told their side of the story.
Princess of Persia is the second book in the series which began with Throne of Darius: A Captain of Thebes. It continues the story of the Greek and Persian men and women – and one woman in particular – to whom Alexander was anything but “great,” and tells the tale of the young world conqueror from the perspective not of those who worshipped him – but of those who fought against him.

Princess of Persia is the second in the series which began with Throne of Darius: A Captain of Thebes. It continues the story of the Greek and Persian men and women – and one woman in particular – to whom Alexander was anything but “great,” and tells the tale of the young world conqueror from the perspective not of those who worshipped him – but of those who fought against him.

Thank you to Mark for being a part of The Hist Fic Chickie blog and podcast today, I truly appreciate it!

D. K. Marley

The Hist Fic Chickie

Book Review – “the Last Blast of the Trumpet” by Marie Macpherson

I had to take a few days to really ponder over this review for “The Last Blast of the Trumpet”; to sort of let the words sink in and absorb them into my mind and soul. Another reviewer compared this book to Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” books and to a certain extent I must agree. I adored Mantel’s books and while Macpherson’s novel, to me, has similarities to her incredible series, there are unique differences that will draw in fans of “Wolf Hall”. Such as, the total immersion into the life of John Knox, as Mantel did with Cromwell. I found myself vacillating back and forth between liking his character and not liking his character, the same as I did with the entire novel. There were times I could not put it down and other times I felt tired over the abundance of flourishing words. Abundant but necessary. I admire Macpherson’s ability to tackle the atmosphere of the time in the use of the language, having the characters actually speak as they might have spoken by using certain phrasing and verbiage only used by Scots. For that I say, bravo, Ms Macpherson, for I am a lover of the beauty of words. That being said, I must use a caveat here and say that the tiredness I felt was from an audacious application of alliteration throughout the entire novel. At first I loved it but after the tenth or so time I found myself trying to locate the next alliterative phrase which distracted me from the storyline. However, I’m not sure this will be a hindrance for most, it was just something that irritated me since I am the OCD sort.

Now, for the story itself. As most other reviewers re-summarize the story, I shall just hit the highlights. During the Tudor era, John Knox was the foremost religious reformer and revolutionist against Catholicism, pitting him against Mary, Queen of Scots, and aligning himself with supporters such as Queen Elizabeth of England and her renowned advisor, William Cecil; all against the backdrop of Scotland. I, like most other reviewers, found the sections dealing with his home-life drawing me closer to his character while his religious life made me feel quite the opposite. To this I say, bravo, again, Ms Macpherson for developing such a well-rounded character, a true three-dimensional person who leapt from the page. The other details of the storyline, including the well-known aspects of Queen Mary, were detailed and immersive, revealing things I did not know or bringing them back to mind, such as the fact that Prioress Elisabeth Hepburn was Knox’s godmother.

I definitely recommend this read and think anyone who loved Hilary Mantel’s books will love this one, as well. It is deep, well-researched, and a good book for reflecting on a powerful and influential man in not only Scottish history but world history. As this is the third in the series and where I began, I am looking forward to going back to book one and two to fill in the rest of the history of his life.

My Interview with Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger, Author of “The Girl from the Mountains”


I am welcoming to the show today, Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger, the author of “The Girl from the Mountains” and the Reschen Valley Series of books, such as the award-winning collection “Souvenirs from Kiev”, to discuss her thoughts on her writing life.

You can buy her new books on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Chrystyna-Lucyk-Berger/e/B0764M2XSY


So this is a question many writers have, to self-publish or to go the traditional route of looking for a mainstream or small publishing house to accept your manuscript?

Here is the reason I chose self-publishing over the traditional way: Many of you may have read my post about grief (and if not, here is the link) and you may have read about my interaction with my once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the literary agent of my dreams in my post about “other Shakespeare authors,” but if you have not read either of those posts, here is a summary of why I chose self-publishing.

First and foremost, I love the idea of going the traditional route. I have many friends who I met during the writer’s retreat I attended who are published authors and secured their book deals from publishing houses. I say, more power to them!

I attended the Writer’s Retreat Workshop in Erlanger Kentucky in 2006 and found myself completely inspired and on fire to finish my first novel and find an agent and trudge through the mire of the publishing industry. Honestly, I was excited and very naive. Two years after that I attended the Writer’s Conference in Myrtle Beach South Carolina where, as I mentioned before, I had the chance to sit down with the literary agent of my dreams. I found her online and researched her background before I went, so I knew what kind of books she took on, but I never in a million years would have thought she might pick me out of the thousands of people at the conference to sit down and have lunch with. But, she did!

What I learned from the talk with her? I have to be honest, I left the conference very dejected and disillusioned because I learned that sometimes you have to learn to be commercial to be accepted rather than rely on your heart, which is hard to take as an artist and writer. I know this isn’t always the case because there are numerous writers out there still making a living on their art and some are far from commercialized.

I continued on after the conference, another two years went by and I finally secured an agent in New York. Again, the naivety on my part blasted me full in the face. Although my agent loved my work and claimed to have sent out my manuscript to numerous publishing houses, every time I asked for verification, well, needless to say, I never got a letter, an email, nothing to confirm what he told me he was doing. All his emails ever said is “St. Martin’s” said no, “Doubleday” said no, and on and on and on…

By that time, I already started work on research for my second and third novel, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I shelved everything from 2011 to 2015 and took up another of one of my favorite hobbies – photography – and my husband and I moved to the Georgia coast. We became wedding photographers and within three years we were voted #2 best wedding photographers in Jacksonville Florida on Thumbtack.com! I also took my artistic and love for storytelling into my photography and started delving into conceptual work. One of my photographs was accepted into an outdoor exhibition in Lithuania, two of my pieces were mounted in a gallery in Houston Texas, an another in Orlando Florida.

And the bottom fell out of my life. February 2, 2015; the most horrible day of my life. The day I lost my daughter and her husband by the hands of a drunk and drugged driver running from the police. They were only one mile from their home. The 20-year-old idiot traveled at 85 miles an hour down the wrong side of a four-lane highway and took them in an instant. He walked away with a scratch on his leg and is now serving 30 years in prison. But my life changed forever. My life, my husband’s life, my son’s life, forever snatched away and we now serve a life sentence of pain and sorrow.

Now it is 2018 and I am slowly climbing out of the despair and depression hole. I don’t think I will ever fully recover, of course, and I acknowledge this fact. I acknowledge that no matter what I do from this point on, nothing will ever return to normal. I am a part of “that group” now. I am now a mother who peruses the MADD website and who will forever carry a hollowness in my heart.

This brings me to the final reason I chose to self-publish. Disillusionment with the whole publishing industry to begin with, and now, grief overtakes me. We are not promised tomorrow. None of us know from one second to the next if we will get that horrible phone call or have a police officer walk up and knock on your door at five o’clock in the morning with a box of your child’s belongings.

I am content to write for my health and sanity and artistry and love. Whether I ever sell one book or a million matters less to me now. Death brings things into perspective in the most tragic way. I choose to do what makes me happy for I have so very few happy days now. Writing makes me happy, or rather a distracted peace I should say. Anything which distracts me from this hole in my heart and life I soak up like a sponge.

And why am I sharing this? Because as writers we often look for acceptance through our writing. We look for another person to connect with, someone who sees the world as we do through our words, and when another person does that there is a measure of joy and happiness which links our art to the world. My advice now to my younger self and to any other young (or old) writers out there looking to plunge into the mad mad mad world of traditional publishing? Let me first say that I am not against it and if you are one of the fortunate ones to hook a deal from a major or small publishing house, yay for you, but for the vast majority of writers who will never see a book deal I say: write for you. Write for your own heart and write what you love.

That literary agent told me no one reads anything having to do with Shakespeare and to a major publishing house, oftentimes, Shakespeare is taboo, but this is what I love. Writers should write what they know and what they are passionate about. I love all things Shakespeare, so this is what I write. I am not a commercial writer and I never will be, for I refuse to become a lemming writer who runs headlong into the ocean of erotica, or gore, or horror, or vampires, or werewolves, or whatever trend moves the reading nation.

My daughter would have loved my novels, and for me, that is enough.

Thanks for reading!

D. K. Marley

The Mind of a Master Discussing a Master

I decided to do some research on the editor of my grandmother’s college book “The Complete Works of Shakespeare”, and get an idea of the man behind the research done in the preface and introductory analysis of each play, and I have to say, I am astounded.

Wikipedia describes him as the foremost authority on Shakespeare and Milton of his time.

Here is the Wikipedia description of him: Hardin Craig (29 June 1875 – 13 October 1968) was an American Renaissance scholar and professor of English. In his 65-year academic career, he served on the faculties of eight different colleges and universities, published more than 20 books as either author or editor, and was one of the few Americans to be elected to the Royal Society of Literature in Britain.

I thought how interesting it would be to continue posting direct quotes of his from the book while adding my own annotations in parentheses since it seems my blog is becoming more and more Shakespearean by the day. Or at least it is starting that way since I have the intention of delving more into Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, as well as some of my other favorite authors: C. S. Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ken Follett, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Rosalind Miles, Daphne Du Maurier, The Bronte Sisters, and Jane Austen.

Shakespeare seems to be a good start to this blog, so I hope you enjoy the journey through Shakespeare, to feel the intensity my own heart feels for the plays and the passion that the words of the Bard can portray in these modern times.

(I love these words of Craig’s): “One does not approach Shakespeare as one approaches authors less well known, authors to whom the track has been opened mainly by historical scholars. The road to Shakespeare is a well-traveled highway. Every modern person who has any pretense to culture knows something about Shakespeare and considers himself in some sense an authority in the interpretation of such characters as Hamlet and Shylock, and usually has a firm rooted opinion that Shakespeare was a self-made man with a proclivity for deer-stealing. To ask a person if he knows anything about Shakespeare is to ask him if he belongs to a respectable family and has had any care in his upbringing. No author ingrained in popular thought as Shakespeare is, no author whose words are proverbs for daily use, can be properly studied without some attention to such questions as how he got into print and how his fame grew and thrived through the centuries.”

(Ah, so true…. opinions about Shakespeare are as common as the noses on people’s faces… and those of wanting to debate whether or not he indeed wrote the plays is becoming more and more common. There was a time when I believed he did not write the plays, but as the time passes, I have come to realize that my belief came simply from my in-depth research into my own novel “Blood and Ink” which delves into the possibility of Marlowe being the actual writer of the plays of the First Folio. When Craig says ‘Every modern person who has any pretense to culture knows something about Shakespeare and considers himself in some sense an authority in the interpretation of such characters as Hamlet and Shylock, and usually has a firm rooted opinion that Shakespeare was a self-made man with a proclivity for deer stealing,’ a smile came to my face. There is such a sacredness for those of us who love Shakespeare, especially those of us passionate about the man and the works, and after immersing into learning the beauty of his words and genius, we indeed feel like we have a firm rooted opinion and consider ourselves in some sense an authority in the interpretation of much of his characters and words.

But, in reality, none of us lived during the 1600s. None of us have had the opportunity to interview the very man, so all the authority and opinions any of us feel like we have, they are indeed just opinion and our own interpretation of our idea of what he may have meant in certain passages, what provoked his thoughts to write quips or scenes or develop certain characters, and what in his background added to his ability to create the incredible blank verse we are so fortunate to have before our eyes in this 21st century.

I have found that as an author myself, experience adds much to writing. My thoughts as to Shakespeare’s experience sometimes wavers and tick-tocks back and forth like the movements of a cuckoo clock. Sometimes I believe, sometimes I don’t, that he is the actual writer. But again, I remind myself on a daily basis, I am just a historical fiction writer, not a historian. I am content to remain an avid Shakespearean geek and leave the philosophizing of his authorship, his education, and background to those who, in reality, cannot, and will not, ever truly know.

I am content to revel and relish his words, no matter if they are Shakespeare’s or not. They inspire me… they make me feel happy when the words filter across my tongue. I think Shakespeare would smile at this thought because after all, isn’t that what all of us as authors wish? To one day, five hundred years from now, for our characters and our words to dance through a stranger’s mind and still, after all those passing years, years after we have passed off this mortal coil, for them to inspire another soul and to bring happiness to another human being. That is what Shakespeare is to me.)

Thanks for reading!

D. K. Marley