26 March 2017

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: P.L. PARKER on RILEY'S JOURNEY TRILOGY

This week, we're pleased to welcome author P.L PARKER with her three-part historical time-travel series, the Riley’s Journey Trilogy: Riley’s Journey, Into the Savage Dawn and Beyond Tomorrow. One lucky winner will receive the novels in the series, format to be determined by the author. Here's the blurb about the series.

The research project was only supposed to be for an "extended period." No one said anything about forever! Sent back 40,000 years to the ends of the last great Ice Age, the time travelers embark on a journey of survival and discovery. The brutal and cannibalistic Cro-Magnons discover the small band and attack. Forced to flee from their high mountain encampment, the tribe heads into the dawn, towards the Pacific Ocean and their dream of ultimately reaching North America. Survival of the fittest - that is the law of primordial earth.

**Q&A with P.L. Parker**

What inspired you to write time travel novels?

I’ve always been a fan of time travel.  One of my favorite old movies was The Time Machine with Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux.  My preference is the older version as opposed to the newer one.  I grew up imagining myself stepping through a portal (consciously or accidentally) and ending up somewhere vastly different from the world today!

How did the idea for the Riley’s Journey Trilogy originate?

            Ancient history, not the ancient history of the Romans or Greeks, but the less “civilized” groups—the Tartars of Russian Steppes, the Celts, the Vikings, etc., is a favorite subject of mine and nothing catches my attention more than some small bit of unusual historical data unearthed and brought to life.
           After a particularly engrossing chapter of the Discovery Channel about the discovery of the Oetzi, the frozen mummified body in the Alps,  http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/08/22/oetzi-iceman.html, the idea for my time travel trilogy came into being.  I was captivated by the trials and tribulations this ancient man must have endured before his eventual death.  Why was he in that place, frozen for all time? 
The Iceman was shot with an arrow--the head of which remained lodged in his shoulder -- that fatally severed his left subclavian artery. He also suffered a traumatic cerebral lesion, the consequence of a trauma from a blow or a fall onto the rocks.

What would modern man require to survive 40,000 years ago?

            My creative juices flowed.  How would modern man measure up under the same circumstances?  Would he fare better?  Worse?   Without modern conveniences, would he even survive?  My personal opinion was…perhaps.  But it would have to be individuals skilled in living off the land, comfortable with crafting and using ancient weaponry, and the daring to go forth and multiply.  A lone person might survive (Nathan in Riley’s Journey, Geena in Into the Savage Dawn), but without human society, would he or she have the will to continue?  Okay, so perhaps a band of time travelers, each with skills essential to begin life in a prehistoric setting would be a better fit under the circumstances.

Why did you pick the time period you did for the Trilogy? 

            In the beginning, I contemplated the trilogy taking place at about the same time period as the Oetzi mummy.  Ultimately, I went back even farther, to 40,000 years ago during the last great Ice Age when Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals both inhabited the earth. 

What about location, why did you select the location that you did?

I needed to set up the location where the time travelers would ultimately end.  Early man is thought to have migrated from Africa and spread out.  See, for example, The Real Eve, Modern Man’s Journey Out of Africa by Stephen Oppenheimer.  Research into the nearby land masses led me to decide on an area of the Far East, in what would eventually be the southern areas of China.  This area’s climatology 40,000 years ago would support the basic needs of life in primordial Earth.  (Id.)
            Early humans were hunter/gatherers.  What animals existed in that time and place and which were predators and which were prey?  In Riley’s Journey, the antagonists were the aggressive Cro-Magnon and their influx into the primitive Neanderthals’ territory.  In the sequel to Riley’s Journey, Into the Savage Dawn, the antagonists are still the Cro-Magnon but with the added twist of a giant cave bear who stalks Geena and Seth (hero and heroine) after they involuntarily intrude on his territory.  In the third of the trilogy, Beyond Tomorrow, once again the antagonists are the savage Cro-Magnon who kidnap Rachel, much to the half-breed Hawk’s dismay.

What fascinates you about this time period?

            Research into primordial Earth is fascinating.  Cave bears, saber-toothed cats and giant sloths were just a few of the many creatures who have suffered from the effects of evolution along with the giant megaloceros (elk), the wooly mammoths and the wooly rhinoceros.

Are any more books planned in this series?

            Not at the moment, but you can never tell!  I’ve had a lot of requests for the series to continue and I’ve played around with a few ideas for another book.  We shall see.
For more information, the following sites are good reading for all ages:

About the Author

Learn more about P.L. Parker:
Romantic Adventure at its Best


24 March 2017

Herstory: Beyond Baby-Making - The Role of Carolingian Queens

Although seldom mentioned in annals, queens in Carolingian era (eighth and ninth century Francia) had a much more important role than a casual 21st-century observer might think.

If the king did not already have heirs, the queen’s primary role was to produce healthy sons to inherit the realm, and some kings tried to divorce wives unable to bear children. My main characters’ inability to conceive becomes a point of contention in my first novel, The Cross and the Dragon(Paradoxically, a Carolingian king would not want too many sons born in wedlock because each one of them would expect kingdom when his father died, and the realm would not pass to the next generation intact.)

Yet a queen’s responsibilities went beyond baby-making, and if the question of heirs was already settled, she could have tremendous influence.

The ninth-century treatise The Government of the Palace says the queen’s role is “to release the king from all domestic and palace cares, leaving him free to turn his mind to the state of his realm.”

This does not mean the queen is relegated to the role of housewife. In the Middle Ages, the personal and political were intertwined. The queen was the guardian of the treasury, and she controlled access to her husband. The courtier and scholar Alcuin wrote to the queen to find out where Charlemagne was spending the winter.

When houseguests were foreign dignitaries, royal hospitality was key to international relations. Hospitality was more than just showing good manners. Frankish royalty would want their guests to report to their own rulers that the palace was beautiful and sturdy, the baths were hot, the table was laden, the host well dressed, and the guards and servants well cared for. All signs of power, important to project even to one’s own allies whose support could shift.

Of course, this time period was hardly ideal for women. Girls as young as 12 or 13 were considered marriageable and their families chose their husbands. Among aristocrats, marriage was most often for political reasons. Canon law gave women the right to consent to a marriage at age 15 or 16, but that could be beaten or starved out of them.

However, the reason for Women’s History Month and for posts like these is that too often women are portrayed only as victims and not as full human beings who could influence events around them and contribute to their societies. Carolingian queens certainly did both.

Illustrations are from Costumes of All Nations (1882).


Women at the Court of Charlemagne, Janet Nelson

Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, Pierre Riché (translated by Jo Ann McNamara)

 Kim Rendfeld is the author of two novels set in 8th century Francia: The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of love set amid wars and blood feuds, and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, about a peasant going to great lengths to protect her children. Her work in progress, Queen of the Darkest Hour, features Fastrada, Charlemagne’s influential fourth wife. Connect with Kim on her website (kimrendfeld.com), her blog (kimrendfeld.wordpress.com), Facebook (facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld), and Twitter (@kimrendfeld).

23 March 2017


This week, we're pleased to welcome author P.L PARKER with her three-part historical time-travel series, the Riley’s Journey Trilogy: Riley’s Journey, Into the Savage Dawn and Beyond Tomorrow. One lucky winner will receive the novels in the series, format to be determined by the author. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the series. Here's the blurb about the series.

The research project was only supposed to be for an "extended period." No one said anything about forever! Sent back 40,000 years to the ends of the last great Ice Age, the time travelers embark on a journey of survival and discovery. The brutal and cannibalistic Cro-Magnons discover the small band and attack. Forced to flee from their high mountain encampment, the tribe heads into the dawn, towards the Pacific Ocean and their dream of ultimately reaching North America. Survival of the fittest - that is the law of primordial earth.

**An Excerpt from Riley’s Journey – Book 1**

The nightmare began in earnest at midnight. Screams echoed through the campsite. Confused team members ran wildly in every direction, attempting to locate the source of the attack. Firelight flickered across faces distorted by fear. Only the Black Ops members retained their composure, hurriedly forming a semi-circle near Jonas and bracing for battle. Another scream rent the air!
Frozen for a moment, the team gaped in horror as an unidentified woman staggered into view, blood dripping from a scalp torn halfway off and partially obscuring her ravaged face.
“There! Over there!” Jonas whirled in response, his bowels contracting at the sheer size of the massive bear stalking the mutilated woman, his hate-filled yellow eyes gleaming wickedly in the light of the campfire.
Jesus H. Christ!” Geena gasped, backpedaling in an effort to gain some maneuverability.
The woman, weak from loss of blood, stumbled and fell as the great beast raked her with a giant claw. Steel jaws seized the woman’s nape, bones cracking audibly as the behemoth ground the neck bones to mush, mercifully ending her suffering. Roaring in rage, the bear began pulling the decimated woman from the campsite, aggressively defending his kill as the team rushed in. Spears shoved deep into the animal’s sides only served to further enrage the beast. Dropping his prize, the bear advanced on his attackers, his elongated canines dripping blood from jaws forged in the fires of hell. Bellowing his defiance, the rotten-flesh stench of his hot breath permeating the pristine air, vicious claws raking and lashing out, he was a creature from some demented fantasy.
Micah wrenched a burning brand from the fire pit, shoving it hard into the monster’s face, singeing fur and charring the fiend’s tender snout. Howling in pain and fury, the bear gave ground, backing off and retreating to the edge of the clearing.
“Behind us! There’s another one!” Allie’s shrill voice pierced the turmoil. From the corner of his eye, Jonas perceived movement. Another bear lumbered into view, fully as huge and terrifying as the first!
“And another one!” The team now faced not one, but three of the ferocious carnivores! Unless they did something quick, there would be no escape!
“Into the trees!” Jonas screamed. “Into the trees!” 

About the Author

Learn more about P.L. Parker:
Romantic Adventure at its Best


22 March 2017

Herstory: An Ancient Cold War Resolved by a Marriage

By Judith Starkston

Toward the end of the Late Bronze Age, in the decade after their colossal confrontation at Kadesh in
Ramses II,  Temple at Abu Simbel
1274 BCE, the two major world powers, Egypt and the Hittite Empire, eyed each other with hostility. Rather like the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War, neither could afford to restart open warfare, but the treaty they had signed formed an uneasy peace.

(If you are caught by surprise at the mention of the Hittites as a major world power at any period, you are merely a victim of what we might call the Forgotten Empire Syndrome. The Hittites got buried and lost to memory until not so long ago when modern archaeology dug them up.)

Rock carving of Queen Puduhepa (far right) making an offering
Into this diplomatic breach stepped Great Queen Puduhepa, the indomitable leader of the Hittites, who frequently took state and judicial affairs into her own hands on behalf of her husband Great King Hattusili III. Theirs was a genuine partnership of equals. Hittite law and custom allowed queens plenty of latitude but few took every inch of that power the way Puduhepa did. She reigned until she was at least 80 and probably started before she passed 20. An impressive run, with many impressive accomplishments.

We often think of the power of women through much of history as arising from their use as brides to kings, sealers of bonds between two dominant men. This reeks more than a bit of chattel. Certainly it isn’t the role we most admire and celebrate when we study women’s history.

But in Puduhepa’s case we get the bizarre mixture of a powerful woman using a lot of mostly anonymous young women as guarantors of her country’s peace and power. She arranged politically adept marriages for her husband’s many daughters and sons, both sending out Hattusili’s girls and bringing in foreign potentates’ daughters for his sons. (Only some of these children were literally Puduhepa’s. Concubines were the norm, but only for the royal family. Before Puduhepa arrived in the palace, there was already a good stock of future political brides and loyal generals. The loins of the king were the supplier of the state department staff and military leadership, so to speak…)

Of all the marriages Puduhepa arranged, the most complicated and tricky was between Pharaoh Ramses II and one of Puduhepa’s own daughters. She had to negotiate for months—years—the appropriate size of dowry, the travel arrangements, the status once of this wife within Pharaoh’s court, and most challenging, she had to first convince Pharaoh that he wanted a new wife.

This marriage was the crowning achievement of her peacemaking. The Hittite Empire needed this surety that Pharaoh would not back Hattusili’s challengers far more than Pharaoh needed anything from the Hittites. Hattusili and Puduhepa had usurped the throne from a secondary son of a concubine who as near as history can tell us was singularly untalented at ruling judiciously. They may have been right to take the throne, but that didn’t eliminate all the challenges of establishing a legitimate claim. Marriage with Pharaoh settled the question.

Rameses smiting the Hittites
A really BIG Pharaoh
in Egyptian iconography
Puduhepa’s other difficulty in making this peace-sealing marriage happen lay in Ramses’s personality. He shows clear signs of an ego even bigger than the one of a certain recently elected U.S. president. Not an easy guy to talk into doing something that might imply that he is equal to, not greater than, his least favorite “Brother” king. (If you were important enough, you got to address your fellow king as brother. Most kings didn’t qualify.)

In defense of Puduhepa’s chattel-like use of her daughter, other than that it was the norm and the best expected outcome for said daughter, the queen took extreme precautions to assure her daughter’s status as Ramses’ “first wife.” He was an old man with a large harem and women tended to disappear into oblivion at his court. They probably led comfortable lives, but who knew for sure? None of the ambassadors Puduhepa sent could reassure her on this point. The Babylonian princess had been denied access to her family’s messengers once the marriage was consummated. Sadly, Ramses went back on his promise to keep this newest wife as the top lady. But Puduhepa tried. If he hadn’t lied, she’d have won that one, too. Along with world peace and economic well being for her country. Not too bad with one marriage deal.

Here are some trimmed excerpts from her most famous letter to Ramses, giving him a hard time
A cuneiform letter similar to Puduhepa's
next to its clay envelope
Istanbul Archaeological Museum
about his complaints. He has accused her of stalling, but she points out putting a dowry together is tricky because the king before Hattusili (whom Hattusili usurped and who is now living in exile with Ramses) stole most of the state treasury (or something like that, the words aren’t totally clear, as is true with pretty much every word in every Hittite document for reasons I won’t go into, but that are fascinating.)

After her dig about the missing treasury, which she tells Ramses to ask his pal the ex-king about, she carries on with some salesmanship:
“To whom shall I compare the daughter of heaven and earth whom I will give to my brother: Should I compare her to the daughter of Babylonia, of Zulabi, or of Assyria? [absolutely not, she’s way better]

[Then back to the dowry quarrels, Ramses wants a lot] Does my brother have nothing at all? Only if the Son of the Sun God, The Son of the Storm God, and the Sea have nothing, do you have nothing! Yet, my brother, you want to enrich yourself at my expense! It (i.e., such behavior) is unworthy of name and lordly status.”

A later bit of salesmanship about the daughter Puduhepa has chosen for Ramses comes in this sentence: “And may the gods likewise endow the daughter whom I will give to my brother with the Queen’s experience and capacity for nurture.”

As she hints in the letter, Puduhepa counted as one of her greatest accomplishments her mothering and loving raising of her children and, quite inclusively, Hattusili’s children by his concubines. Sometimes that poses challenges for the modern mind to get around—just what was this equal partnership really like?

About the author

Judith Starkston is the author of Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War

Her website is a great place to subscribe to if you enjoy engaging windows into ancient history and archaeology. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter

17 March 2017

New & Noteworthy: March 17

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Unusual Historicals!

J. K. Knauss had a great time sharing pertinent medieval Spanish tidbits and dissecting SEVEN NOBLE NIGHTS character psychology with Ed Goldberg at Portland's All Classical radio station. You can listen to or download the interview free at the station's website or at iTunes (March 1 track). 

J.K. will also have a new short story, set during Edgar Allan Poe's youth, in the April issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine.