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Apricots and Wolfsbane

It’s My Book Birthday!

Book BirthdayHappy Book Birthday to Apricots and Wolfsbane! One year ago today (Friday, October 13, 2017), I became a published author and what a year it has been.

Do any other authors check their Author Central sales daily?

How about GoodReads stats or for new reader reviews?

The best part of having my book out in the world has been hearing the reaction, both the good at the bad.

Thank you to the reader who wrote telling me I’m your new favorite author! (Here’s a video that summarizes why that is so cool: Surprise YouTube Video)

Thank you to the military wife who wrote saying my novel provided the escape she needed during her husband’s deployment. I am so touched to be able to give you something in return – a very minor, minuscule something compared to the sacrifice of your family.

But thank you also for  all the comments from readers wanting to throw their kindles at the wall when they reach the last page. I’m proud to have evoked such an emotional reaction. I knew the ending would be polarizing and therefore also appreciate the majority of comments saying they loved it and it is “the most dramatic ending” they have ever read.

I have enjoyed all book club chats, meeting readers at book fairs, and seeing my book at the Texas Renaissance Festival. I’m looking forward to my first international book club next month!

Thank you to all you amazing book bloggers who dedicate their time to promoting authors like me.

I am still in shock over the Historical Novel Society selecting Apricots and Wolfsbane as an Editors’ Choice Novel, and to be Discovering Diamonds book of the month. To have such reception from trusted historical fiction review sites is validation beyond what I imagined.

Thank you to every author who has swapped cross-promotion or provided advice. With the number of readers dwindling and book sales being incredibly competitive, it is amazing to see how warm and welcoming the author community is. You are all incredible. You are also the only ones who understand what a crazy, wild, insane, exhausting, emotional journey this has been.

Thank you to Filles Vertes Publishing for giving wings to my wild dream.

Most important, thank you to my family who provide such encouragement.

 

What do you think Lavinia would want for her birthday present?

Discuss your thoughts at the Apricots and Wolfsbane Book Chat Group on GoodReads or post in the comments.

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Book Review

Book Review: The Greenest Branch

I wish I had written this book and I can think of no higher praise.

The Greenest Branch as a fictional account of Hildegard of Bingen, a young, spirited oblate who overcomes more than just her gender to become Germany’s first female physician. Written in two parts, The Greenest Branch covers how Hildegard earned the title of “physician” and the early parts of her career.

Synopsis of The Greenest Branch

Greenest Branch eBook Cover Large

(From the Amazon description)

The year is 1115, and Germany is torn apart by a conflict between the Emperor and the Pope over who should have the right to appoint bishops and control the empire’s vast estates. In that atmosphere, young Hildegard is sent to the Abbey of St. Disibod in the Rhineland as her parents’ gift to the Church in accordance with a custom known as the tithe.

Hildegard has a deep love of nature and a knowledge of herbal healing that might make more than one Church official suspicious of witchery, and she hopes to purse medical studies at St. Disibod. But no sooner does she settle into her new life than she finds out that as a girl she will not be allowed to attend the monastic school or use the abbey’s library; instead, she must stay at the women’s convent, isolated from the rest of the community and from the town. It might seem that Hildegard’s dreams have quickly come to an end. Yet she refuses to be sidelined.

Against fierce opposition from Prior Helenger, the hostile head of the monks’ cloister, she finds another way to learn – by securing an apprenticeship with Brother Wigbert who runs the infirmary and is in dire need of a capable assistant. Under his supervision, she begins to train as the abbey’s first female physician and makes rapid progress. When Hildegard’s reputation starts to spread throughout the Rhineland, Helenger’s persecution escalates as he fears losing control over the women’s community. But that is not the only challenge she must grapple with. She has also developed feelings for Volmar, a fellow Benedictine novice, that force Hildegard to re-examine the fundamental assumptions she has made about her life. Is the practice of medicine within the monastic confines her true calling, or is a quiet existence of domestic contentment more desirable?

With the pressures mounting and threatening to derail her carefully-laid plans, Hildegard becomes locked in a struggle that will either earn her an unprecedented freedom or relegate her to irrevocable oblivion.

The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the true story of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician and one of the few women to attain that position in medieval Europe. Set against the backdrop of the lush oak forests and sparkling rivers of the Rhineland, it is a tale of courage, strength, sacrifice, and love that will appeal to fans of Ken Follett, Umberto Eco, Elizabeth Chadwick, Margaret Frazer, Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, and to anyone who enjoys strong female protagonists in historical fiction.

 

My Thoughts

Every word of this book is beautiful. The phrasing, the description. P.K. Adams’ talent for writing is evident upon each page of this notable tale.

True to Hildegard’s life, this book has a slow and perhaps flat plot, but I appreciate the author’s honest recount of the physician’s life. At several points I wished Adams had turned up the tension just a bit more, especially with Hildegard’s potential love interest, but in the Author’s Note in the back, Adams admits such events were already heightened for the sake of the book. Life is often not a perfect story arc or action-packed and I respect the author’s choice to stay true to history. Most historical fiction fans will feel the same.

That being said, the antagonist in this book is Medieval German society and the prejudice Hildegard has to overcome to foster her gift. Adams strikes a fantastic balance in the voice of this novel. Hildegard’s frustration comes across but in balance with how a Sister would have honored the Church, its customs, and her superiors even if they often stand in her way. This is a story I easily related to as a female engineer: how sometimes you just want to scream, but swallow battle losses for the sake of the larger war.

I also loved how historical detail was woven perfectly into the plot. P.K. Adams subtly weaves in the details of how a medieval abbey functioned without a single line of “information dump.” Every detail from religious tradition to the medicinal use of herbs flows naturally from the narrator.

Hildegard would be honored to have her tale captured in such beautiful words and by a female author nonetheless. P.K. Adams has honored Hildegard’s memory and story in a exquisite novel I highly recommend. I can’t wait for part 2.


Order the The Greenest Branch on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Learn more about The Greenest Branch from GoodReads


PKAdams

About The Author
P.K. Adams is a Boston-based historical fiction author, whose debut novel The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a master’s degree in European Studies from Yale. When not reading or writing, she can be found hiking, doing yoga, and drinking tea (though usually not at the same time).

Learn more about P.K. Adams at her website and @pk_adams.


 

 

Apricots and Wolfsbane

Contract Signing Day!

Today I signed the publishing contract for the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane!

(And it was every bit as thrilling as the first time.)

Having tasted publishing once, I wanted it again, which made the stakes feel even higher this time around. I’m comforted by the stories from other authors who have shared similar feelings, to wonder if you can really write a book again. I’m told it never goes away, regardless of how many books are released.

I am so proud of how the sequel turned out and I know the developmental rounds with my editors will only make it better. I am grateful to Filles Vertes Publishing for their continued support and can’t wait to share the next chapters of this story with so many of you who are eagerly waiting. Thank you for all of the notes, tweets, DMs, e-mails, and reviews that call out anticipation for the sequel. They truly motivate my fingers at the keyboard.

So when will you get your hands on the sequel? Publication will be fall of 2019, but stay tuned over the next few months for sneak peeks of the plot synopsis, a title announcement, and the cover reveal. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve already seen some preview lines as well!

Free BookLooking forward to next fall, I’m working to put Apricots and Wolfsbane in as many hands as possible, but I cannot do it alone. The novel is currently free to download from BookFunnel throughout the month of September. Do you have a friend who might like a darker fall read? Please consider suggesting the novel or passing the link to them.

I’m also thrilled to announce Green Man Games and Books will be selling Apricots and Wolfsbane at the Texas Renaissance Festival this season! Please stop by booth 504 (across from the Royal Mint) to support a local author and a local bookstore. You can also challenge a fellow Rennie at one of their wooden games set out in front of the shop.

GreenMan

Lastly, I have created a GoodReads group for those interesting in discussing Apricots and Wolfsbane. While writing the book I aimed to create polarizing plot and character layers to challenge the reader and foster discussion, but I’m finding many of my readers are secluded without a network to have those discussions. Did the book leave you thinking? Do you think Lavinia would have killed again? Come share your opinion and join the discussion: Apricots and Wolfsbane Book Chat

Book Chat

Thank you to everyone for your continued support and stay tuned for more news to come!

Guest Blog

Guest Blog: “Nice to Meet You” – Insight into the writing process of Katherine Hastings, historical romance author

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a guest blog by fellow Wisconsinite Katherine Hastings, author of the new historical romance, In the Assassin’s ArmsI am a plotter to the extreme for many of the same reasons Katherine discusses below. Check out her tips, read an excerpt of her new book, and enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift card in the link below!


“Nice to Meet You”

by Katherine Hastings

The writing world is divided between two types of writers… plotters and pantsers. Plotters plan out their entire story before ever typing a word. Pantsers crack their knuckles and let their fingers go wild, discovering the story as they go. Both ways can turn out incredible stories, and I’ve actually tried both. In the end, this writer turned out to be a plotter. I found that by having my entire story sorted out before I start writing allows me to write efficiently and without having to do much editing to the plot when I’m done. All the plot holes and problems are figured out long before my fingers hit the keyboard and I can write without getting hung up as I go.

However, there is one big difference between myself and much of the plotter world. Even though every novel I write is thoughtfully outlined and structured before I type the first word, the one thing I let expand naturally in my writing is the characters. Other than a few basic details about them like their name, appearance, and where they’re from, I tend to leave the rest open to discovery as my story unfolds. When I’m writing my novels, I’m discovering things about my characters the same way my readers do. Like peeling an onion, I learn more about them one layer at a time.

In a recent novel I wrote there is a supporting character who was barely a thought before I started typing. He didn’t even have a name when he entered that first chapter. The only thing I knew about him was that he was going to be a friend to my heroine and a person for her to confide in throughout the novel. When I started typing out his first scene, I closed my eyes and pictured him walking up. I could see him parting the crowd while my heroine discovered him too. When he introduced himself to her, I felt like he was introducing himself to me as well.

Hello, Mark. Nice to meet you, I thought while I examined him closely wondering how he would play out in my novel. As the chapters went on and he developed, I found myself more and more drawn to him and soon he was playing a starring role in my book. While most of my dialogue comes out without much planning or thought on my part, this particular character had a way of speaking and behaving that had me laughing out loud at the crazy things he did and said. Then I laughed harder realizing I was writing him, and yet he someone found a way to surprise me every time he opened his mouth. It’s a bizarre feeling being shocked by something you typed after you typed it. There may have been a few moments when I saw my husband peering over at me with an arched brow while I rolled in laughter at my computer.

“Aren’t you quite entertained with yourself?” he asked one night.

I shook my head. “It’s not me. It’s Mark. He’s hilarious!” I answered, as if the man I was creating on the page was an actual person I had no control over. However, with this character especially, that is exactly how it felt. He just ran around doing stuff and saying things that kept me giggling away while I hustled around behind him trying to write it all down.

Each character of mine has a mind of their own and I love when they take control of my fingers and tell the story the way only they can. As much as I enjoy planning my novels, and as much as I love how easy it makes writing the story, pantsing my characters is one of the greatest joys of writing for me. It allows me to be surprised and excited while I write, waiting to discover more about them and the things they do and say, the secrets that haunt their pasts, and the desires that drive them on. Every time I start typing a new book, I get excited when my character enters a scene and I can smile and say, “Nice to meet you!”


About the Author:

KatherineKatherine Hastings loves love. It’s why she writes romance novels. Getting lost writing a romantic adventure is one of her favorite pastimes. When she’s not on an adventure in her mind with her characters, she can be found at her home in Wisconsin snuggling her husband, two Boston Terriers, and the world’s naughtiest cat. Two things make Katherine want to leave her happy home these days… going for rides on her dressage pony or floating at the beach in her big inflatable raft. Writing her novels while floating in the lake is one of her ultimate pleasures… that and Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds, of course.

Website: http://www.katherinehastings.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/katherinehastingsauthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/khastingsauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katherinehastingsauthor/


Synopsis of In the Assassin’s Arms

IntheAssassinsArmsJohn Douglas may be a well-trained political assassin, but he has met his match in the woman he once called a friend. When his childhood playmate reenters his life, she’s not looking to rekindle their friendship… she’s out for blood.

With a vendetta to settle, Charlotte Cornewalle isn’t stopping until she finds the man who killed her father. All signs point to Robert Douglas, the leader of the opposing faction of assassins… and John’s father. To get her revenge, no one will stand in her way… not even the boy she once adored.

Fate forces them together as they fight to prove their innocence and right the wrongs they have suffered. Sparks fly from more than just their swords, but will they be able to put the past behind them? Will they be able to find the truth before it destroys them both?


Enter to win a $25 amazon gift card


Excerpt from In the Assassin’s Arms

“John, you’ve got an untreated arrow wound and you were sitting with it exposed in a dank, dirty cell.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“John,” she cautioned.

He rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it up over his head. Charlie tried not to stare but the sight of him illuminated in the warm morning light proved impossible to ignore. His muscles bulged beneath his skin. Chiseled lines marked every hour of training and practice that had carved him into a near ideal specimen. Only a few old scars marred the otherwise perfect physique.

“You just wanted to see me without my shirt on, didn’t you? The whole, ‘I want to treat your wound’ speech was just a ploy?” He had not been unaware of the effect he was having on her.

Clearing her throat, she looked away. “Don’t flatter yourself. If you’re going to fight at my side, I don’t need you dizzy with fever from an infection. Sit over there.” She gestured to the chair while trying to slow the breathing that had quickened from the sight of him.

“As you wish.” He strolled past her. She tried to act casual while she peered from her peripheral vision for another look at him before he sat down.

“Nurse, your patient is waiting,” he said with a smile.

She stood up, walked over to the bucket of water and pulled out the metal ladle, filling the pot with several scoops of water. She placed it on the spit over the fire and hunted around for a piece of rag. John’s eyes followed her everywhere she went.

“Let’s have a look,” Charlie said as she approached.

“My wound is up here,” John teased, following her gaze to his sculpted abs.

“I’m just looking for more wounds,” she lied.

“Likely story.”

“Do you want me to treat you or not?”

“Yes, go ahead. I’ll stop teasing you.”

“Good.” She leaned down and examined the wound closely. The jagged edges were red and weeping. “It looks infected.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” he said, looking down.

Charlie walked over to the fire and used the torn cloth to pull the pot from the flames. She set it on the table beside him and dipped the cloth into the hot water.

“This is going to hurt,” she warned, holding the steaming rag above him.

“Most of the worthwhile things in life sting a bit.”

“Then consider this very worthwhile.” She pressed the hot rag to his skin. He cringed and grimaced as the water seeped into the wound. “Are you all right?”

“Never been better,” he said through gritted teeth.

Charlie laughed and dipped the rag again. She squeezed the water and flushed the wound. John held his breath through the worst of it. After several rounds of washing, she examined the wound once more.

“I think that’s the best we can do for now.” She wiped the area surrounding his wound with the wet cloth. Her hand moved slowly across his chest, wiping away the dirt and exposing his smooth, tanned skin. She watched his chest expand as he breathed, his muscles flexing with each breath. Charlie glanced up to see his green eyes watching her, her own desire reflected back in them.

Buy now on Amazon

 

Book Review

Book Review: War of the Roses: Stormbird

StormbirdSynopsis
(Adapted from the back cover)

This is the first book in #1 New York Times bestselling author Conn Iggulden’s historical series about two families that plunged England into a devastating, decades-long civil war.

In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it the opportunity to oust an ineffectual king.

As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?

My Thoughts

I wanted to love this book which came highly recommended to me by several fans of Tudor historical fiction and perhaps my expectations were too high.

Compared to a history text, this is a vivid recount of the prelude for my favorite period in history. Compared to a fiction novel, the the lack of character development and story line struggled to hold my attention. There is no twist, no foreshadowing, no surprise or tension. I predict a reader’s reaction to this Stormbird is probably dependent upon their expectation at page one.

There are a lot of characters in Stormbird – so many that I’m not sure “character” is the correct description, more name dropping at times. I get it, it’s a complicated historical story, but I still want to be entertained. Because there are so many characters I felt none of them are truly developed. Margaret of Anjou is the closest but she follows a predicable, dull path from naive child to protective queen without significant challenge or conflict. Even though this is a fictional recount of a true story and I knew the ending, I still longed for a character to cheer for or to sneer at. I felt disconnected from everyone which left me unconnected to every event.

That being said, I still finished the book, though I expect that is more due to my love for Tudor history than the writing. Despite being 460 pages (and ~100 pages too long), Stormbird is a fast read. The voice is simple which aids skimming  (which I found myself doing fairly often.)

The Historical Notes at the end were my favorite part. As a historical fiction author I appreciate how Iggulden manipulated history to weave his book and how he reveals what was his imagination and which parts are rooted in historical evidence. The historical notes heightened my appreciate for the piece and left me feeling more satisfied than I expected. It will be a while before I would consider tackling book #2, but I just might…