March 27, 2013

April Online Book Fair

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:17 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

book fair graphic

I will be a part of the 2013 Spring Online Book Fair, April 12-15. Please come back on those dates to learn more about the fair and to participate. Look for my book fair posts in mid April.

November 15, 2012

Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival: Sat, Nov 24

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:57 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

For months, I have thought that the Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival was on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  I’ve told people that date, publicized that date…. and I was wrong!!! It is

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My husband needed some details about the Festival this morning and went to the website and discovered that the festival is

Saturday, November 24, 2012.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to drive the three hours to Mineral Point only to discover that the book festival was the day before, and we missed it.  I feel sick thinking about it.

Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book signings from 1:00 – 5:00 at the Quality Inn in Mineral Point

There are workshops in the morning at the public library and a keynote address in the evening at the Opera House.  For more information visit the Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival webpage.

November 11, 2012

Got a Cinderella For Me?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:04 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Because I’m writing a new version of the Cinderella tale, I’m also reading Cinderella-remake novels.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve read Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine and Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  Cinder, by Marissa Meyer is on my to-read list.

I’ve searched Google, and the number of novels re-telling the Cinderella story is large — much larger than my time available for reading.  Do you have a favorite to recommend?  If so, please let me know in the comments below.

(PS My favorite movie version is Ever After with Drew Barrymore. What’s yours?)

November 7, 2012

Counting on My Fingers

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:24 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

I wrote a month or so ago about the Stevens Point Haiku Marquee. Well, I’m happy to announce that my son Tom’s haiku was chosen to be displayed for the month of November.

Click to enlarge

Tom is our resident funny-guy, so, yes, the irony in the poem is intentional.

(For those who don’t know, the haiku format requires three lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.)

November 1, 2012

Interview with Kim Rendfeld

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:55 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Today I’m welcoming Kim Rendfeld to my series of author interviews. Kim is the author of The Cross and the Dragon, a historical novel of the Middle Ages.

Elizabeth: Kim, how would you describe your book to someone who hasn’t read it?

Kim: The Cross and the Dragon is a tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne’s reign. Here is the blurb.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Elizabeth: The Cross and the Dragon derives some of its characters and much of its storyline from the French legend The Song of Roland. Can you tell us what drew you to that story and how you decided to make it your own?

Odilon Redon’s Roland at Roncesvalles, c.1869
(Landscape)

Kim: A German legend about Roland (Hruodland in The Cross and the Dragon) drew me to The Song of Roland as I tried to figure out who Roland was.

The epic French poem says a lot about courage in the face of overwhelming odds, but it should be appreciated for its artistic merit rather than historical value. Any resemblance between the events in the poem and what actually happened at the Pass of Roncevaux is purely coincidental.

I used some of the characters from The Song of Roland. My hero’s name is a variant of the namesake of the poem. I used the German variant of Oliver, Alfihar, as Hruodland’s best friend, and Alda, Alfihar’s sister, as Hruodland’s love interest. The villain in the poem, Ganelon, has the same name. Interestingly, the poet who wrote The Song of Roland might have named his villain after Guenelon (also spelled Vénilon), a ninth-century bishop of Sens accused of betraying one of Charles’s grandsons.

When I sat down to write the novel, I wanted my interpretation of the disastrous ambush at Roncevaux in 778 to be truer to the history and to still use the German legend.

Elizabeth: Tell us more about what really happened with the ambush and the German legend.

Kim: What I’m about to say is a spoiler, so readers who would like to avoid it should go on to the next question.

**Spoiler**

The ambush was a true disaster for Frankish King Charles, today known as Charlemagne. It was so traumatic that it was not written down while he was alive. Charles’s invasion of Spain did not go according to plan, but he was able to save face when Muslim Saracens gave him gold to leave. As the Franks retreated through the steep mountain passes of the Pyrenees, Christian Basques (also known as Gascons) ambushed the rear guard and baggage train, killing everyone. Einhard, Charles’s biographer, lists Roland among the dead.

The German legend, however, has Roland surviving the attack and returning to a castle on the Rhine that he had built for his bride. But she was not there. When she’d heard he had died, she took a vow of chastity and joined the convent on the nearby Rhine island of Nonnenwerth. Roland spent the rest of his days at a window in the castle, hoping to catch a glimpse of her as she walked to and from prayers. This legend is not true.

** Spoiler Over **

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your novels?

Kim: I try to stay as true to the history and the culture as possible. All those wars in my book are real. I didn’t make up King Charles’s complicated personal life—at the start of my story, he’s going to war with his ex-father-in-law, who is threatening Rome. And I would never have a medieval woman refuse to marry a guy because she is apathetic toward him. Marriages were arranged, and for aristocrats, the primary reasons were wealth and alliances.

However, the key word in historical fiction is fiction. If I stuck only with what is known about the historic Hruodland, I would not have a story. The only factual mention of him is part of a sentence in Einhard’s biography of Charlemagne. Any interpretation of Roland is going to be fictitious.

Besides, I am a novelist, not a scholar. I make stuff up and make it sound real. But I also believe in including historical notes so that I can confess where I lied.

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Kim: My next project is The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, which is about a peasant Continental Saxon woman who has only her children left after losing her husband, her home, her faith, and even her freedom. It’s a story of familial love, betrayal, vengeance, forgiveness, and recovering from devastation. Many of the historical events in The Cross and the Dragon take place here, but they are from a markedly different perspective.

Elizabeth: Enough about your books, tell us about yourself.

Kim: If it weren’t for feminism, I would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, I earned my English and journalism degree at Indiana University and pursued a career as a journalist at daily newspapers in the Hoosier State. My career changed in 2007, when I joined the public relations team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I’m paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoy it.

Yet, I’ve never outgrown my fascination with folk tales and legends, which led me to write novels.

Elizabeth: How do you think being a journalist has helped and/or hindered your career as a creative writer?

Kim: As you’ve indicated in your question, journalism is both a help and a hindrance. The time and space constraints of journalism taught me to get to the point. Maturing as a writer made me care more about the readers understanding the story than showing off my cleverness.

I also had to unlearn some habits. News writing is an objective report that allows both sides to tell their stories and lets the readers make their own conclusions. By nature, it’s distant. Fiction is intimate. You want the readers to feel your characters’ joys and sorrows. You want to manipulate sympathy and emotion.

Perhaps my experience as a journalist also compels me to include historical notes. I want readers to know the truth.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Kim: Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Kim: A toughie, since we have neither in Indiana. Ocean, I guess.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Kim: Hiking. Shopping is so frustrating for me.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Kim: Piano, but I like violin, too.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Kim: Fantasy. But there are times when I’m in the mood for mystery.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Kim: An easy one. Definitely Darcy. He turns out to be a good man. Read all of Wuthering Heights, and you find out Heathcliff is a monster.

The Cross and the Dragon is available in print and e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other outlets.

For more about Kim and her fiction, visit her website or  read her blog. You can like her on Facebook, connect with her on Goodreads, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, and check out her Amazon page.

Thanks to Kim for joining me today.

August 30, 2012

Interview with Heather Webb

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:04 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Today I’m welcoming historical fiction writer, freelance editor, and blogger Heather Webb.

Elizabeth: Hi, Heather. Can you tell us about your book?

Heather: I’ve just completed my first novel titled Becoming Josephine: The First Empress. I’m hoping to go on submission later this fall. My novel is about a young woman of Martinique who has her hopes for love dashed when her haughty Parisian husband abandons her during the tumult of the French Revolution. Narrowly escaping death in the blood-stained cells of Les Carmes prison, she emerges from the grisly Terreur to reinvent herself as the woman known as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. But Josephine’s youth is fading, and she must decide between a precarious independence and the unwelcome love of an awkward suitor who would become the most important man of the century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

Elizabeth: How did you become interested in Josephine?

Heather: I taught French history for almost a decade, and the French revolutionary period always fascinated me. But I really first became interested in Josephine because of a song by Tori Amos about her. Years later, I awoke one morning with Josephine’s voice in my head. Just like that! So I read my first biography of her and I was hooked. Besides, she wouldn’t stop babbling in my ear. The topic for my current work in progress happened in a similar way—my protagonist started talking to me. My husband thinks I’m insane. Hearing voices in your head must not be normal!

Elizabeth: I have the hearing voices problem too! So, tell me, how do you go about researching your novels?

Heather: I research quite a bit, almost compulsively at times–what I like to call researchitis. I read every primary and secondary source I can get my hands on, watch films, visit locations, take classes, etc. That being said, my character’s emotional arc and good story-telling are far more important to me than being strictly factual. My novels are works of fiction and my goal is to both entertain readers and inspire them to branch out to do their own research. I will, however, outline any facts I’ve altered that are important to mention in an author’s note.

Elizabeth: You are represented by Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management. Can you tell us how you got Michelle as an agent?

Heather: I met Michelle at the Backspace conference held in New York City. (It runs every spring and fall.) It’s a fabulous conference with a unique small workshop setting. I highly recommend it to writers seeking representation or just feedback on their queries and pages.

Michelle requested pages after I finished reading my query aloud on the spot! From there, I sent a partial, then a full very quickly—within two weeks. When I received her email about wanting to have “the call”, I paced for two days! I can’t tell you how excited and nervous I was. But we had a great conversation and clicked immediately. I knew she was the one for me when her ideas for revisions gelled with my vision of the novel. It really goes the way everyone says: the agent you should sign with is the one who “gets” your work and LOVES it. I’d like to caution writers to not sign with just anyone. It’s a partnership that could potentially last decades. You don’t want to enter in this marriage of sorts with an agent that isn’t quite right. God forbid divorce! Oh, and when you know, you know!

I’m a firm believer in getting out there to conferences to pitch your work in person! It launches you right out of the slush pile and onto the agent’s desk. I hear this all the time—writers are too nervous to attend conferences so they hide at home in front of their laptops. GO OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE to make your dreams happen! I love to cheer writers on, to help them feel confident with this process. This is how I ended up becoming an editor—I suppose it’s the teacher in me.

Elizabeth: Teacher, writer, editor–and you blog too.  You have a lively blogging voice and write about several topics. How did you first get into blogging?

Heather: Thank you! I first started blogging about two years ago because I noticed that many many authors had one. I started with posts about pop culture, which is a love of mine, but quickly realized I wasn’t the soap box ranty type, at least not on a regular basis. I’m a teacher at heart, as I mentioned before, and I really wanted to reach out to other writers. As I learned and grew into my own writer skin, I began sharing little lessons and hosting contests and found I felt comfortable there. Now I interview authors as well to target readers.

Elizabeth: Enough of your writing—tell us about yourself.

Heather: I’m a former military brat so I’ve become a bit of a culture junkie as an adult. I love everything that goes with travel —food, language, customs, history, architecture and landscapes, most of all people. All of these elements go into crafting a believable world in a historical novel. I always loved writing, though it never occurred to me as a career, despite the stories I wrote as a kid. I also wrote a few essays that won awards and did copy editing for my high school and college newspapers and STILL never considered writing as a profession. I look back and think, what was I thinking? It wasn’t until I had children and resigned from my high school teaching job to be home with them that I began to pursue this passion I never realized I had. Now there’s no going back. I love writing in all its forms and I find the publishing business fascinating and challenging.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Heather: Absolutely coffee—preferably café au lait.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Heather: Ocean. I’m a total beach hound.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Heather: Depends on my mood. Unfortunately for my wallet, I love to spend money, whether it be for myself or someone else. But I feel most alive outdoors and enjoy being in the woods.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Heather: Piano! I wish I played.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Heather: Mystery. Puzzles are so much fun.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Heather: Ohhh, good question. They’re both full of pride, though it manifests itself differently within each of them. I LOVE Darcy, but I may have to say Heathcliff. I always like an underdog, and I can’t help but be attracted to his wild, passionate nature.

Elizabeth; Love scene or death scene?

Heather: To read–love scene. Always. To write–I enjoy both.

Follow Heather on her blog, Between the Sheets

and on Twitter:@msheatherwebb http://twitter.com/msheatherwebb

Thanks to Heather for joining me today.

August 10, 2012

Ya’anmi’il

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:01 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

How do you expect food from another world to taste? Like something you’ve had before? Of course, it doesn’t.

I remember the first time I was offered a ya’anmi’il—I wasn’t even sure it was food. It’s about the size and shape of a walnut shell but a bright, winter-sky blue. Although it looks rubbery, it’s hard and smooth, like a river-washed stone. It has no smell at all, which is why it’s hard to tell it’s edible. The flavor, on your tongue, is like old peaches—except that makes it sound bad, and it’s delicious—sweet and earthy.

The consistency will surprise you. When you bite into a ya’anmi’il, it shatters like glass, but every tiny jagged shard is soft and warm in your mouth, a warmth that quickly spreads throughout your body. It isn’t like drinking alcohol; it’s more like the feeling you get when your very own baby grabs and holds onto your finger for the first time. A tingling warmth of love and awe. A ya’anmi’il doesn’t just feed your body, it feeds your soul.

Well, not exactly.

I’m not describing it well. I wish I had a ya’anmi’il right now, so I could give it to you. Then you’d know.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow on earth and doesn’t survive interstellar transport. If you want to taste one, you’ll have to travel.

This is from a writing exercise I did a few years ago and held on to.  I liked it and wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Thank goodness for blogs!

July 23, 2012

Cheap Appliances

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:27 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

I don’t write a lot of poetry, but sometimes something occurs to me that will only work in poetry form.  So, here’s my most recent poem.  I hope you like it.

Cheap Appliances

My husband is the kind of man who buys cheap appliances

and then tinkers and charms to keep them running.

 

When our car stereo started eating tapes,

he stuck a red and white plastic drinking straw

into its mouth

and it stopped eating

 

When our dishwasher wasn’t cleaning dishes,

he ran it with the door open,

studying its mechanics as

hot water sprayed clean the floor,

then he removed the filter, cut off a layer,

and twelve years later our dishes are sparkling clean

 

When our clothes dryer would not dry,

He took off the top,

rolled the large metal drum this way and that,

played with a giant rubber band,

ordered a part

and dry it does again.

 

I am only forty-six,

but my warranty period must have passed.

My body is failing me; things don’t work as they should:

my eyes

my bladder

my back

my teeth

my memory

but my heart is kept strong by a man I know will not give up on me.

July 1, 2012

Interview with Susan Higginbotham

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, Uncategorized, writing at 7:01 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Today I’m welcoming Susan Higginbotham to my series of author interviews.

Susan is the author of five historical novels: The Traitor’s Wife, about Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, wife of Hugh le Despenser, and lady-in-waiting to Queen Isabella; Hugh and Bess, about Bess de Montacute, who King Edward III chooses to marry Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors; The Stolen Crown, about Kate Woodville, sister-in-law to King Edward IV and wife to Harry Stafford who must decide where he stands when the country is torn apart by the Wars of the Roses; The Queen of Last Hopes, about King Henry VI’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, who must hold her family and her country together when her husband goes mad.

Susan’s most recent novel is Her Highness, the Traitor.

Q: Can you give us a brief description of your most recent book ?

A: Her Highness, the Traitor is narrated by Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk, the mother of Lady Jane Grey, and by Jane Dudley, Duchess of Northumberland, the mother of Guildford Dudley, Jane’s future husband. It’s the story of Jane Grey’s crowning and tragic end, but it’s chiefly the story of Frances Grey and Jane Dudley, whose lives are changed drastically when Edward VI decides to change the royal succession laid out by his father.

Q: What is different about Frances and Jane when compared to some of your other heroines?

A: What drew me to Frances was the enormous difference between the historical Frances and the dreadful Frances that we usually see in historical fiction and popular nonfiction; I wanted to tell her story in a way that freed Frances from all of the myths that have grown up around her. As for Jane Dudley, when I read her will and a letter she wrote I was impressed immensely by her tenacity, her dignity of spirit, and her devotion to her husband. She hadn’t originally been slated to play a major part in the novel, but I came to admire her so much, I knew that she deserved a leading role.

Q: How much historical fact is woven into Her Highness, the Traitor?

A: There’s a great deal of historical fact in Her Highness, the Traitor. All of the characters are based on real people—even Jane Dudley’s green parrot existed, as it’s mentioned in her will. Many of the letters, and all but one of the scaffold speeches, are based on contemporary documents or accounts.

Q: How do you go about researching your novels?

A: I usually start out researching my novels with secondary sources and then use the references in those sources to find as many primary sources—wills, letters, inventories of household goods, diplomatic correspondence, and so forth—that I can. The wonderful thing about the Tudor period is that so much of this material has been put online, I can do much of my research without ever leaving my computer. I still have plenty of opportunity to buy Tudor books, though!

Q: Although your novels cover different time periods, they all focus on English royalty. Why are you drawn to this topic?

A: I’m mainly drawn to stories about English royalty and nobles because they lived such dramatic lives—or at least the ones I choose to write about did! There are characters from other periods and countries that interest me as well, however. For instance, there are a couple of stories from the American Civil War I would like to tell. I won’t say whose, because I may well get to them one day! There are a couple of French women whose stories I would like to tell also, but they’re women who aren’t well known outside of France, and I think I would have to be able to read French sources in order to do them justice. So I’ll stick with England for now! My late mother always wanted me to write about Regency England, but it’s a period I prefer to read about rather than to write about.

Q: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

A: In a moment of insanity, I chose to major in political science in college. Fortunately, I spent a great deal of time hanging out at the student newspaper, which was far more beneficial to me as a writer than anything else I did in college. I later got a master’s degree in English literature and a law degree. Both have helped me in my career as a novelist. My English literature courses helped me learn to read critically, while my legal training helped me develop my research skills.

In preparing us to conduct a mock criminal trial, one of my law school professors told us about the defendants who we had been assigned to defend, “All of these people have some good qualities. It’s your job as their attorney to make the jury aware of them.” I think that’s excellent advice for a novelist too—all of our characters have something in them that can appeal to our readers. We just need to show them what it is.

Q: How difficult do you find balancing your writing career and your full-time job?

A: I’m very lucky, because I have a home office and a fairly flexible work schedule, so if the Muse comes calling while I’m at my day job, I can drop everything and go to my own computer and start writing! But the fact that I do have a full-time job means that I can’t write as quickly as some full-time novelists do.

My day job involves writing summaries of legal cases, so by the time I finish for the day, writing my novels is sometimes the very last thing I want to do. It’s all too easy to start surfing online, and before I know it, the time’s gone. Disciplining myself is something with which I still struggle.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Coffee or tea?

Iced tea, but for me, it’s really Coca-Cola!

Ocean or mountain?

Ocean.

Hiking or shopping?

Shopping.

Violin or piano?

Violin.

Mystery or fantasy?

Mystery.

Darcy or Heathcliff?

Darcy.

Love scene or death scene?

Death scene.

To learn more about Susan Higginbotham, visit her website, her History Refreshed blog,  her Facebook page  and/or her Amazon author page.

Thanks to Susan for visiting today!

June 6, 2012

Dyeing Hair with Henna, Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:41 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

The blog post that gets looked at the most is the one I wrote after dyeing my hair with henna the first time.  That was written about a year and a half ago, and I’ve learned a lot since then, and thought I would share that information.

First, let me note that I’ve only used Light Mountain Natural Henna products.  I’ve not been paid by that company to write this blog.  It is the only henna product I’ve tried.  Others might be just as good, better, not as good—I don’t know.

My intent in dyeing my hair is to hide the gray.  The first few times I used henna, I was not successful in that goal.  The henna seemed to slide off the gray hairs a few days after dyeing.  Doing a little research, I discovered that there are henna products made especially for hiding the gray, and I switched Light Mountain Natural’s Color the Gray (light brown)!

Unfortunately, this new product requires two steps. You mix the first packet, let it cure, apply it, let it sit, rinse it out.  On me, the first dyeing turns the gray hair bright orange:

Next, you mix the second packet, let it cure, apply it, let it sit, rinse it out.  This second henna dye covers the orange and makes my hair uniformly light brown with reddish highlights (which is pretty close to my original color).

I’ve been extremely happy with the results.

Drawbacks:  This whole process usually takes about three hours, and then I can’t wash my hair for another 12 to 24 hours.  (Forget swimming, which I try to do regularly).  I almost always get a crick in my neck because of the difficulty of applying the dye.

Advantages:  Huge money savings.  Each package of dye contains a lot of dye.  At first, I used one package for a dyeing, but I had a lot left over.  After awhile, I decided to divide the packages in half, use half and save the rest in a plastic baggie for the next time, and I still had plenty of dye.  I have quite a bit of hair, too.  After doing that for a number of months, I now divide the packages into thirds.  This seems to be the perfect amount of dye for my shoulder-length hair.

The product I buy costs $7; that’s $2.33 per dye.  A lot less than the $70 I used to pay at the salon.

And, of course, the henna is plant-based and doesn’t make me sick, which the chemical dyes did.

Other Tips:

Don’t worry about getting the dye on your forehead, ears, fingers, etc.  You need to get it close to the scalp to cover the gray, and I’ve found that the dye washes off my skin easily.  That said, I have fair skin that is still (at age 46) extremely oily, so  I can’t promise this will be true for everyone.

Save plastic shower caps from hotel rooms to use to cover your hair.  The plastic head covering that comes with the box isn’t very good.

Those are all the tips I can think of right now.  If you have any questions, ask them in the comment section below, and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

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