All posts by histficchickie

Historical fiction author specializing in Shakespearean adaptations, alternate historicals, and historical time-travel.

A “Just Hatched” Book – Vindicated, A Novel of Mary Shelley by Kathleen Williams Renk

Available on November 10th – NOW on Pre-order! I don’t know about you but this is going on my to-read list!! The synopsis sucked me right in. I will give my review when finished and the book will remain on my “Just Hatched” page (click here) to pre-order.

Vindicated, A Novel of Mary Shelley by Kathleen Williams Renk

Synopsis:

Mary Godwin is a teenager with a formidable pedigree. Both of her parents are philosophers but it is Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother she never met, who haunts her waking and dreaming worlds. Reading about her mother’s life and death inspires Mary to keep a journal. Just as the tumult of her parents’ relationship comes alive in her imagination, she meets emerging poet Percy Shelley. Even though he is married and his wife is pregnant, Shelley threatens to kill himself if Mary will not elope with him. It’s possible that Shelley is mad, but their intellectual and creative affinities convince her that she is his Child of Light.

Passionate and intellectual, Mary struggles with the demands of her volatile husband and their circle of friends, including her stepsister Claire and George Gordon, Lord Byron. But as she writes Frankenstein, she also muses about her encounters with her creature and the philosophical questions of life, death, and creation that undergird her novel. Justifying their unconventional life and enduring personal tragedies, Mary follows in her mother’s footsteps, as she contemplates a woman’s place in literature and the world.

Bio: Kathleen Williams Renk taught British and Women’s literature for nearly three decades in the U.S. and abroad. Her scholarly books include Magic, Science, and Empire in Postcolonial Literature: The Alchemical Literary Imagination (2012), and Women Writing the Neo-Victorian Novel: Erotic “Victorians” (2020). Renk studied fiction writing at the University of Iowa with the Pulitzer-Prize winning author James Alan MacPherson. Her short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Iowa City MagazineLiterary YardPage and Spine, and CC & D MagazineVindicated is her first novel.

Editorial Review:

Vindicated is an admiring and graceful tribute to Mary Shelley, who was challenged to bridge her writing with the tasks of motherhood.” —Karen Rigby, Foreword Reviews

“Shelley’s waking and dreaming worlds conspire to create the most famously human “monster” in literature. You’ll read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with new eyes after you have devoured this book.” —Mary Helen Stefaniak, award-winning author of The Cailiffs of BaghdadGeorgia and The Turk and My Mother

Links to purchase Pre-order: https://www.amazon.com/Vindicated-Shelley-Kathleen-Williams-Renk/dp/1944453105

Who’s the Chic?

Hi, my name is D. K. Marley and I am the Historical Fiction Chick!

I’ve always loved reading books since I can remember. I think my first favorite book was Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I remember watching the Disney movie over and over again, reading the book over and over, and then acting out the stories while I played on my granddaddy’s little farm in South Georgia.

I don’t know why but I developed a curious fascination with all things British, even as early as six and seven years old. My mom had several Beatles albums that I played on my little record player and I always tried to mimic their way of talking. My grandmother was also a huge Anglophile and an English Literature teacher, so when I turned eleven and she caught me perusing the pages of her college Lit book and her Shakespeare book, she promptly gave them both to me as gifts and set me on the path. Then, when my mom introduced me to the Victoria Holt series when I was about thirteen, I was hooked with historical fiction. Later on, in high school, I read “The Far Pavilions” and started writing my first novel (which I never published).

Years went by after graduation. I married and had my daughter, then took up writing again while she took her naps. In the vein of The Far Pavilions, I wrote a story about a young girl growing up in Kashmir, half-blooded with a British father and an Indian mother, whose mother and father both die in the Indian mutiny. She is shipped off to Britain to distant relatives she has never met and begins to suffer the cruelty of prejudice and hate. Anyway, it also became a novel that never left the manuscript phase but I like to think they both were my testing ground.

It wasn’t until 1997, my husband and I set off on our anniversary trip to London. We arrived there the month after the death of Princess Diana. I will never forget the sight of seeing the candle wax still embedded in the pebbled walkway in front of Kensington Palace.

During the trip we took a side-trip to Stratford-upon-Avon and to the Globe Theatre in London. While there, they were having some sort of museum exhibition about Shakespeare and one of the walls featured five men who might have been contenders for writing the plays attributed to him. Needless to say, I had never heard the idea but something intrigued me. I said while standing there, “Well, this might make an incredible story!” I took out a pen and some scrap paper and started writing notes, especially about Christopher Marlowe whose eyes seem to draw me in that day.

My journey began that day. After thirteen years of writing, rewriting, setting aside, getting frustrated, almost giving up, going to writing retreats, trashing a lot of the storyline, and more rewriting, I published a small run in 2010 just for family and friends. Sort of testing out if I even was going in the right direction. Some interest but something was still not quite right. I set it aside for another five years.

In 2015, my life changed overnight. The night of the Super Bowl, I lost my daughter, son-in-law, and unborn grandbaby to a stupid drunk driver who was running from the police. My kids were on their way home from a Super Bowl party and were only one mile from their house. Grief changes you irrevocably. After years of grief therapy and wanting to completely give up, my therapist suggested I start writing again,; first, a small journal to my daughter; then second, something that I enjoyed writing about before. After months of writing in the journal, I finally took the old manuscript of “Blood and Ink” off the shelf and did an entire revamp of the story.

I contemplated searching for an agent and going the traditional route but with the suddenness of losing my kids and the fragileness of life still fresh in my mind, I decided to take back my own power and self-publish which I did in May of 2018. Things progressed very quickly. By December I had it in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and Audible (thanks to the incredible vocal stylings of Mr. Jonathan Dixon) and at the end of the year I received the first award from The Coffee Pot Book Club for the Bronze Medal for Best Historical Fiction for “Blood and Ink”. My feet found their path and my eyes were focused on the next three books. “The Prince of Denmark”, “Child of Love & Water”, and “The Fire of Winter” all followed in succession and this crazy year of 2020 the first of my new historical time-travel will come out.

So, I guess you can say I found my voice through tragedy which is very appropriate for a Shakespeare-lover. Every word I write now is for and because of my kids and for my grandmother who set me on the path.

Virginia Woolf – Ahhhh…

For most of you who know me, and even for those who don’t, you will know or come to know of my love for Virginia Woolf’s writings. A while back, probably ten or so years ago, I wrote a short story imagining sitting with her at her home, Monk House. The story was for a submission for a grant in her name (which I did not win, unfortunately, but the exercise of my imagination was so entrancing.

Here is the story, I hope you enjoy it!

A Visit to Monk House 

Virginia Woolf sat across from me. Touching her slender fingers to her cheek as she turned her  stare out the window, she answered my questioning look in a soft, yet resolute, voice.  

“Women have sat indoors all these years, so that by this time, the very walls are permeated by  their creative force, which has, indeed so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must  needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics.” The corner of her mouth curled in a  slight, awkward, smile. “Yes, I remember writing that.”  

“And, Mrs. Woolf, what were your thoughts when you wrote that line?”  

I prodded, hoping that she did not notice the nervous waiver in my voice and the insistent  clicking of the silver knob on the end of my ink pen; an on and off whereby my hand struggles to write  words in her presence, thus lending to my thumb’s pressing habit. Yet, of course, she noticed. How could she not? Even with her contemplative eyes staring through the unveiled window, over the untamed  reaching arms of hollyhocks and tulips bowing over the garden path, and onward set on some distant  thought in the passing cloud, she saw and heard.  

She answered quick. “Oh no, my dear, that is not why you are here. You are here to answer for  yourself. Tell me, if you can, what were your thoughts when you read that line?”  

I felt overcome with clarity, like the sudden warmth rushing through your veins and flushing your cheeks when someone discovers you in a lie. My arm twitched and crooked to scratch an annoying itch  at the spot between my shoulders. I paused in mid-scratching as her eyes rested on me with a knowing  look. Oh dear, I thought, she saw that too. Of course.  

“Well,” I said, swallowing down my fear, “I think women sometimes are their own masons.”  

She struck a match and leaned her head back against the cushioned chair back; the end of her  cigarette glowed orange as she sucked. “Too simple. You’re a writer, give me more,” she answered in a  cloud of smoke, forming an aura around her loosely cinched brown hair.  

I knew what she wanted. That connection. Perhaps she looked for the same electricity flying on  the words of Henry James as he sat in her company. Perhaps he sat in this very chair. I crossed my legs  and arms, fidgeting at the thought.  

“You’re right, Mrs. Woolf, that is too simple. And yet, sometimes it is the simplest things that  bind us in. Maybe not in your generation or even in my mother’s generation. Times were different then.  Then, maybe women were among the trivial things of life, sitting within their four walls, cooking,  cleaning, having babies, with men standing guard to make sure that his woman didn’t see that chink in  the wall. For some, like you, their creative force found their way to pens and brushes, but, more often  than not, so many suffocated in the darkness. I think of my grandmother. She was a college graduate, an 

English teacher, a writer on the verge, yet her little brick and mortar house and her sitting did nothing  but turn her into a sad spirit. Where did her creative force go? It ebbed away down the drains and lay  like dust on the floors waiting to be swept under the rugs. Whether you know it or not, Mrs. Woolf, but  writers such as you laid the cornerstones of writer’s rooms today. Now, when we sit and our creative  force permeates the walls, harnessing to pens, the vibration shudders across our gardens, into our  towns, and floods national and international boundaries. Your sitting in that room of your own has  opened the doors for my generation. As I said before, I think writers build their own barriers today  because there are so many more opportunities for this generation. In some cases, not all. There are still  those who because of circumstance, choice, or mental and emotional problems, who have no idea of the freedom enjoyed in the spinning of a potter’s wheel, or slapping a bold slash of color on a canvas, or the  releasing of demons onto a blank page. That is why writers need other writers, and artists need other  artists. Reminds me of a scripture that says, ‘one mans face sharpens the face of another as iron  sharpens iron.’ As writers who have been there, we can help those who cannot see beyond their walls  and shuttered windows. It is amazing what a gift of a journal and a pen can do in the hands of a person  who is battered, abused, abandoned, alone, sad, feeling unloved, unworthy, scared, tired, or hollow. You  were one of the fortunate ones, Mrs. Woolf, to have a husband give you the freedom of a room of your  own.”  

She took another slug of her cigarette and looked across at me with those dark eyes.  “Fortunate? How can you call me fortunate when every morning I awoke with shackles about my brain?”  

I found it difficult to look into her sad face; so turning my head to gaze through the front  window, I rested my cheek on my palm. The sun broke in little shafts of light through the dancing elm  leaves, casting shadows on the windowsill, and a sudden unexpected roll of thunder shook the pane. I  lifted my gaze to the sky. A dark cloud edged over the tops of the trees, already streaking gray far in the  distance where the River Ouse slumbers along. I knew what she was thinking, so I answered her  question.  

“Yes, I know. I have imagined you, Mrs. Woolf, sitting in your room, the hours passing by, the  temporary consolation in the scribbling of your pen, your creative force throbbing within those four  walls like the rising bubble of magma just before an eruption. You wanted a freedom beyond words,  something that you could bear, and yet, when the struggle seemed hopeless, you chose death. Like so  many incredible artists and writers of your day and before, geniuses who struggled with the gift of the  divine chained in a human form, very like Hamlet crawling between earth and heaven, and opting for the quiet rest from a thundering brain. Some would say that your writing benefited from your suffering, for  in those four walls you struggled for us all, over those common threads that link us: childhood, parents,  relationships, triviality, inequality, sadness, humanity, and death. Therefore, you gave us a gift, the gift  that so many writers sitting in their rooms have given: their minds gushing onto a page. Yet, if you look  closer, you will see the core behind mere words, something real, something true, something lasting  beyond death woven into every letter and every sentence. The gift of their soul. You left us, Mrs. Woolf,  and yet, you still live for the writers after you to learn. You left a legacy, just like my grandmother.  Although she cleaned away her ambition with a rag and a broom, it hid like a film of dust hiding way on 

the top of a bookshelf, waiting for my sticky young fingers to leave a mark and pick up my grandmother’s dust bunny soul. And this is me, now, sitting in your armchair at Monk House.”  

The smell of smoke mellowed and I felt suddenly alone. I turned my head to see that Mrs. Woolf  had risen from her seat and drifted away from me without notice. I ran to the window upon hearing the  front door click shut and pressed my forehead to the cool glass. She paused at the front gate with her  hand on the latch and looked up to catch my eye. The tilt of her head, the suggestion of a smile and the  slight nod moved me beyond words. She stuffed her hands in the pockets of her coat just as the clouds  burst open, drowning her fading form in gray.  

As for me, I sighed and let my gaze caress over the items in the living room, the mementos of her past. Sucking a deep breath to soak in the lingering smell of her cigarette smoke, I brushed my forefinger  over a certain dusty spot on the bookshelf: the spot where she left her final words. Like the sizzling pop  of electricity, my brain throbbed, and, for a brief moment, I thought I felt her presence behind me. My  tongue felt tacky and bitter from the ink pen clenched between my teeth and I imagined I heard her  voice whisper into my left ear. Two words only, but they were enough.  

“Carry on.”

First Post? Shakespeare, of course!

Galileo said, “Facts which at first seem improbable will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty.”

Simplicity often reveals truth, whereas there is confusion in an overabundance of words. I do not claim to be an academic, nor do I ascribe to the level of a scholar who spends her days wrangling with Stratfordians about the identity of “Mr. W.H.” or “the Dark Lady.” I am simply a writer who finds beauty in words, the way certain phrases roll off the tongue, the transcending feeling that a mere paragraph can invoke, or when a novel shows the commonality of the human condition. In that beauty, that naked and simple beauty, stands stark truth uncluttered by a convocation of words. At last, seeing the forest and not just the trees.

Facts that Stratfordians voice as improbable – the fact that Christopher Marlowe is the true writer of the plays and sonnets – even on scant explanation, such as I am able to produce being as I am just another common enthusiast, has indeed, to my mind, dropped the cloak which has hidden them and stands bared for all the world to see. Truth is simple. Truth is the one person shouting that the emperor is naked when all others shut their eyes, look away or refuse to believe. And the simplicity of it relates to the everyday ordinary person, which is the vast majority of the world.

If the world was able to be presented with the simple facts concerning Christopher Marlowe, as I was, there would be no more doubting. Even if the academic world can never produce solid evidence, we have more than reasonable doubt here that William Shakespeare had the skills, education, knowledge of languages, etc. to produce such profound verse. Simply put, he was an actor, not a playwright or poet.

Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, on the other hand, was gifted at an early age with skills that exceeded his years. Educated at the best schools and surrounded by those who prodded him, he travelled to the continent, he excelled in languages and proved himself a capable playwright and poet well before his twentieth year. Where was Shakespeare during those years? Still in Stratford, married with three children, with no evidence that he wrote a single thing.

Again, Galileo, an academic himself, revealed the answer in relation to these two men. Simple truth trumps pretentious fabrications any day. All you have to do is to remove the veil from your eyes, to stop gorging on the Shakespearean propaganda fed to you through the years, and hear the ring of truth sounded in Marlowe’s own words in Sonnet 76: “Why write I still all one, ever the same, and keep invention in a noted weed, that every word doth almost tell my name, showing their birth and where they did proceed?”

D.K. Marley

Welcome, Historical Fiction Fans!

Hello!

First of all, let me introduce myself . . . my name is D. K. Marley and I am a historical fiction author with a special interest in Shakespearean adaptations, British historical fiction, alternate histories, and historical time-travel. (Yes, you guessed it, I am a true Anglophile living in the United States and dreaming of selling enough books to buy a house in Warwickshire!)

What I hope to accomplish with this blog? It is my goal to provide a unique point-of-view on historical fiction, providing readers with new recommendations, new releases, and read-worthy details (sometimes obscure) tucked within the U.K.’s history.

As this blog progresses, I will offer author services, such as: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter promotions; Blog Tours; Book Reviews; Author Spotlights; Newly Hatched Releases; and end-of-the-year Book Awards for books I read during the year.

For now, though, as I build my readership, blogging is my focus and British history is the theme. If you would like to submit an article, please contact me at histficchickie@gmail.com!