Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Aloho Spirit: Linda Ulleseit Part 2

Today it's my pleasure to have Linda Ulleseit back for a second day with Novel PASTimes. Linda took her first creative writing course in seventh grade, accumulating a closet full of stories that she never showed anyone until 2007, when she was already involved in a career as a teacher. Currently Linda is a sixth grade teacher at James Franklin Smith Elementary School, where her students are some of the early reviewers of her books. Her favorite subject is writing, and her students get a lot of practice scribbling stories and essays. Blending her passions for history and fantasy, Linda wrote On a Wing and a Dare, which is set in medieval Wales and features teenagers saving a herd of flying horses. Most recently, Linda released Under the Almond Trees, a novel about three California pioneer women. Linda lives in San Jose, California with her husband, two adult sons, and two young yellow Labrador retrievers. When she’s not writing or teaching, Linda loves to cook, cross-stitch, and read.

Linda, welcome back to PASTimes! I really enjoyed learning more about your books yesterday. As an author I'm always considering what I want readers to remember long after a book ends. What do you hope readers remember after your stories ends?


I hope they always remember that it took more than the famous people to make history. Everyone, every day, contributed in some way to the story of our culture.

What surprised you most as you wrote your books?

To be honest, I was surprised at how well educated women were in California in the early part of the century. There were at least five colleges in the San Jose area: Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of the Pacific (since moved to Stockton), San Jose Normal School (now San Jose State) and University of Santa Clara. California women were among the best educated in the country at the time. I expected to find that they were joining women’s clubs and having tea or some such. They did do that, but they also went to school!

That is fascinating. What’s next for you?

I’ve just started writing Spirit of Aloha, even though I am still researching it. Pleased with the idea of sharing the stories of women in my family, I decided to tackle my husband’s grandmother. She was born on Kauai in 1915, but grew up in Honolulu. Her mother died when she was a baby, her father left her when she was a child, and the family who took her in treated her badly. She married at sixteen and had three children by the time she was twenty. Then her husband left her. Even so, she was one of the most loving, generous, and accepting women I’ve ever known. I’m curious to explore her life and figure out how she developed that strong spirit of aloha.


Do you participate in author book signings or events? Where can readers find you?

I love author book signings. I also do speaking events at schools either in person or on Skype. The easiest way to contact me or follow up on what I’m doing is to check my website: http://ulleseit.wordpress.com  I’m also a sixth grade teacher, so my website includes reviews of YA books and tips on writing and reading. Also, please check out my author pages on Amazon and Goodreads!

What are you currently reading?

I just finished TheLast Aloha by Gaellen Quinn. It’s historical fiction about the last days of the Hawaiian monarchy. It was wonderful and gave me a great flavor for Hawaii in that time period. Currently I’m reading Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen by Julia Flynn Siler. It’s nonfiction, so it’s a little slow for me, but it’s good research for my current book.

Thanks so much for joining us, Linda. You can learn more about Linda and her books at her website.


Readers, Linda has agreed to giveaway a copy of her book Under the Almond Trees. To be entered, just leave a comment below answering this question: 

What do you think was the most difficult social issue that women faced in early California?


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Genealogy leads to Novels: Linda Ulleseit Part One

Today it's my pleasure to invite Linda Ulleseit to Novel PASTimes. Linda took her first creative writing course in seventh grade, accumulating a closet full of stories that she never showed anyone until 2007, when she was already involved in a career as a teacher. Currently Linda is a sixth grade teacher at James Franklin Smith Elementary School, where her students are some of the early reviewers of her books. Her favorite subject is writing, and her students get a lot of practice scribbling stories and essays. Blending her passions for history and fantasy, Linda wrote On a Wing and a Dare, which is set in medieval Wales and features teenagers saving a herd of flying horses. Most recently, Linda released Under the Almond Trees, a novel about three California pioneer women. Linda lives in San Jose, California with her husband, two adult sons, and two young yellow Labrador retrievers. When she’s not writing or teaching, Linda loves to cook, cross-stitch, and read.


Linda, welcome to PASTimes! Thanks for joining us and sharing a bit about your writing world. Tell us about your latest book.

Under the Almond Trees was fun to write. It combines my love for historical fiction with my passion for genealogy. I heard stories, as a child, about the women in my family tree. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how strong they were as a group. The novel starts with Ellen Perkins in New York just as gold is discovered in California. She and her sister support women’s rights speakers like Susan B. Anthony (whom Ellen eventually meets). When Ellen’s husband dies in 1862, he leaves her with two small children and one on the way. Nonetheless, Ellen takes over running his paper mill. The independence that fosters creates in her creates a desire to vote like the men. Many years later, her son marries into the Williams family. His sister-in-law is immediately drawn to Ellen. Emily Williams’ life goal is to become an architect, but her father opposes her and men control the career opportunities. She decides to build a house on her own to show what she can do. When Eva VanValkenburgh, Ellen’s granddaughter, comes along, she has plenty of strong female role models. She chooses to marry and raise a traditional family, but starts her own photography business to pay for her daughter’s college education. These three women represent all the pioneer women who fought for women’s rights to vote, have a man’s career, or choose to raise strong daughters.

Tell us about your books. What drew you to write them?

I’ve told you about Under the Almond Trees. I also have a series of historical fantasies set in medieval Wales. It begins with Wings Over Tremeirchson, an ebook novella. The full-length trilogy starts with On a Wing and a Dare, followed by In the Winds of Danger. It ends with Under a Wild and Darkening Sky, which came out in May of 2014. These novels are set in a remote town in the Welsh mountains. Everything about the plot and setting are realistic except the town protects a herd of flying horses. Once a year they hold the Aerial Games, a tournament in the sky.

I initially started these books when my sons were teenagers. As a parent, I struggled to make them understand that they needed to balance their lives between school, work, and friends—that one of those things shouldn’t consume every minute of their lives. That’s the overall theme of the flying horse books, but each book has its own message, too.

What was the greatest challenge in writing your books?
I loved writing the stories of the women in my life. I even enjoyed the accompanying research. The hardest part was figuring out where to give up on researching the data and just fictionalize it. I simply don’t have enough information about these women to write biographies, but I know when and where the major events of their lives occurred. All dialogue and personal feelings had to be inferred from their actions and the times. That wasn’t always easy.

Love learning about this, Linda. 
Readers, Linda has agreed to giveaway a copy of her book Under the Almond Trees. To be entered, just leave a comment below answering this question: 

What do you think was the most difficult social issue that women faced in early California?



Be sure to come back tomorrow for the second part of the interview.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Winner of The Lady and The Officer

This week's winner of Mary Ellis's The Lady and The Officer is Wendy! Congrats!

Don't forget to leave online reviews of the books you all have received and/or learned about here on Novel PASTimes! We write these books for YOU!

Cindy
Available now: Annie's Stories (Ellis Island #2)
www.cindyswriting.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: When Christ and His Saints Slept


When Christ and His Saints Slept
By Sharon Kay Penman
Random House, 1996

About the Book

A.D. 1135. As church bells tolled for the death of England’s King Henry I, his barons faced the unwelcome prospect of being ruled by a woman: Henry’s beautiful daughter Maude, Countess of Anjou. But before Maude could claim her throne, her cousin Stephen seized it. In their long and bitter struggle, all of England bled and burned.

Sharon Kay Penman’s magnificent fifth novel summons to life a spectacular medieval tragedy whose unfolding breaks the heart even as it prepares the way for splendors to come—the glorious age of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Plantagenets that would soon illumine the world.

My Review

When Christ and His Saints Slept is set in the twelfth century. It begins with the tragic sailing of The White Ship and ends with Henry II ready to be crowned king of England. For readers who like numbers, that would be 1120–1154. This covers the later part of Henry I’s reign: his grief and desperation over the loss of his son and heir, his wanting his daughter, Maude, to be his successor; it covers the war—which lasted over ten years—between Stephen and Maude for the crown of England. Readers also get a chance to see Maude’s son, Henry, grow up to become Henry II.

This is a novel with many strengths. One of its greatest, perhaps, is in the wide range of characters or narrators. Stephen and Matilda, on one side, Maude and Geoffrey, on the other. Readers meet the men and women who supported Maude, including many of Henry I’s illegitimate sons. Readers meet the men and women who supported Stephen’s claim to the throne. If there is a point to When Christ and His Saints Slept, it is this: War is ugly and cruel and pointless. Readers see Stephen and his supporters—his army—do horribly cruel things in the name of war. Readers see Maude’s army do some equally horrid things. One side is not holier than the other. While neither army was as cruel as they possibly could be all the time, without ceasing, year after year, the truth was that England suffered greatly during this tug of war. The truth was very few cared who ruled England, so long as England was ruled peaceably and practically. The burning, the stealing and looting, the raping and killing, the holding of hostages—England was in a big, big mess if this was the best either side could manage.

If the novel has one hero, one main character, it would be Ranulf, a fictional illegitimate son of Henry I. It is not a stretch to fit him in historically since Henry I recognized over twenty such sons! Ranulf along with Robert and Gilbert and Miles and Brien, and countless others supported Maude and her claim to the throne. Although the novel does focus on the battles, the war, the political mess, it also gives a personal side to the time period. Readers see Ranulf grow up a bit, fall in love, make mistakes, find true love, and settle down to marry and raise his own family.

If the novel is allowed to have more than one hero, well, an obvious choice to me is Henry II. The book covers his teenage years, 14 to 19. The last third of the novel truly focuses on Henry, on his relationship with his parents, his relationship with Eleanor of Aquitaine. Those last few chapters are far from clean.

I loved how many characters we get to meet and know. I loved that we get to know men and women from the time period, most of them historical figures, though not all. I loved that readers get introduced to real history. Penman’s pacing was wonderful, I felt!

For readers who enjoy history, When Christ and His Saints Slept is easy to recommend. Penman gives you enough context so that you’re not lost—or at least not past all hope! But it never weighed the text down in my opinion. I admit that being lost in a history book is all a subjective matter based on what one does or doesn’t know heading into a book, but I thought she did a good balancing job.

Becky Laney

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Where Does Author Mary Ellis Do Her Best Work?


Welcome back! Today we have the second part of our interview with author Mary Ellis.



Mary Ellis has written twelve bestselling novels set in the Amish community. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught middle school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. She has enjoyed a lifelong passion for American history and is an active member of the local historical society. She is currently working on several romances set during the Civil War. The Lady and the Officer is her current release.


Describe your workspace for us.

I work outdoors in my screened gazebo in good weather and in my office in bad weather.

Mary Ellis's home office

Mary Ellis's writing porch.
So inviting, Mary! All you need is a cuppa!

If you could be a character from your favorite historical novel, who would you be?

It would be Jo March from Little Women. She was so kind and courageous, besides being a devout Christian.

What is the biggest misconception the general public has about authors?

That we all make the same advances as Karen Kingsbury or J. K. Rowling. Money isn’t everything.

What is the biggest misconception beginning writers have about being published? 

That once your first book is published, life gets easier. Writing is hard work, just like any other job. I put in long hours, but there is nothing else I would rather do.

What would you like readers to gain from reading your book(s)?

I would like them to gain an understanding that there are no easy answers to life’s problems, not now and not for those who lived in bygone eras.


Thanks for joining us here on Favorite PASTimes. Any final words for readers or writers?
Please look for me at:

http://www.maryellis.net//
http://www.maryeellis.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mary-Ellis/126995058236


To be entered into the drawing to win a copy of The Lady and the Officer, leave your answer to the following question along with your email (name at domain name dot com) by this Friday at 8:30AM EDT.

Question: 
Have you ever had to make a choice between family loyalty and political convictions?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Welcome to our Interview with Novelist Mary Ellis!





Mary Ellis has written twelve bestselling novels set in the Amish community. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught middle school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. She has enjoyed a lifelong passion for American history and is an active member of the local historical society. She is currently working on several romances set during the Civil War. The Lady and the Officer is her current release.

Welcome to PASTimes, Mary. Tell us a little about what you write.

I recently changed genres to my first passion, historical romance. I’ve been a history buff since high school, so now I can finally put my trips to battlefields, museums, and restored villages to good use.

Is it hard to become an historical writer after writing Amish for so long?

Not at all, it would have been hard not to change. As much as I love the Amish culture and respect their commitment to faith and community, their Plain lives do not allow for an unlimited number of plot twists.

Are you a full-time writer or do you hold a day job? What is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?

I am now a full time writer, but I wrote for around 10 years before quitting my “day job.” I still have trouble protecting my writing time. No matter how good our intentions, friends, family and real life intrude on a regular basis.

What historical time periods interest you the most and how have you immersed yourself in a particular time period?

I have been fascinated with the Civil War for at least 20 years. Therefore I’ve been reading biographies and non-fictional accounts long before I decided to set a romance during this turbulent time period.

Introduce us briefly to the main characters in your most recent book.



My heroine’s life is destroyed when the war arrives on her doorstep in Cashtown, PA. With little choice Madeline moves to her aunt’s home in the South. When military intelligence practically falls into her lap, how can she not spy to help the man she loves, a general in the Union army?

What are you working on now? 

I am putting the finishing touches on The Last Heiress. My heroine travels to Wilmington, NC, on behalf of her father’s textile business in England. Since the blockade of ports curtails the cotton supply, Amanda must restore trade with the South to keep the mills open. Of course, she falls in love while she’s here…..


A reader once asked me this question, and I thought it was a good one. Is there ever a time when you feel like your work is truly finished and complete?

No, but I usually close my laptop and shut down social media by 6:00 pm. Tomorrow is another day as Scarlett O’Hara used to say.

Describe your workspace and include a photo.

Come back tomorrow to see Mary's workspace and to read the rest of the interview. To be entered into the drawing to win a copy of The Lady and the Officer, leave your answer to the following question along with your email (name at domain name dot com) by this Friday at 8:30AM EDT.

Question: 
Have you ever had to make a choice between family loyalty and political convictions?