Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where Eagles Never Flew - Excerpt 2

The following excerpt from Chapter 2 of Chasing the Wind/Where Eagles Never Flew introduces two of the German protagonists in the book.


The dining room of the mess was far less sterile than the bedrooms. It had gracious dimensions and was decorated with Art Nouveau, including elegant chandeliers. The tables were set with white linen, silver and crystal -- as was standard for the Luftwaffe. There were fresh flowers on every table and the mess stewards, Geuke noted, wore white jackets rather than field grey, as if it were peacetime or they were in the Reich. Geuke was take to the head table, at which the Gruppenkommandeur and his three Staffelkapitaene, including Hauptman Bartels, stat.

Bartels was tall, blond, tanned and fit -- a German officer straight out of a UFA film. He wore the Iron Cross First and Second Class on his tailored uniform, and smoked long cigarettes. He considered Geuke wiht a mixture of disbelief and annoyance. Geuke could hear him thinking, "Have we really sunk so low that we have to take officers like this?"

Geuke wriggled uncomfortably in his brand-new uniform. The collar seemed much too tight. He wished he could have loosened his tie a bit, but instead had to stand at attention, trying to cut a military figure.

Bartels seemed to overcome his disappointment and with sigh, he announced, "Find yourself a free place to sit and have a meal. We're flying at 09:00 -- weather permitting. What do you think, Harmann," he turned to one of the other officers, 'Can we trust Feldburg with a Rotte?" Then answering his own question, he remarked with obvious disgust, "I don't suppose we have much choice. He's at least seen some combat." Then turnign back to Geuke he said, "You'll be flying wingman to Christian Freiherr von Feldburg. I'll send him over after dinner."

The only table with a vanct place wasone occupied by non-flying officers: the intelligence officer, signals officer, paymaster, quartermaster, doctor and chaplain of the Gruppe. These men made Geuke welcome at their table perfunctorily, and then continued their discussion about the relative merits of the British and German early warning systems. Gueke tried to listen, but he knew afr too little about either system to make any kind of intelligent contribution to the debate. He was relieved when the Gurppenkommandeur retired tot he bar.

But Geuke's sense of relief was short-lived. In the bar, the officers clustered together in familiar gorups, and Geuke was more an outsider than in the dining room. Here men could shoulder him aside or turn their backs without being rude. Geuke hisitantly went to the bar and after everyone else had been served, he timidly asked the Luftwaffe bartender for a beer.

"Account number, Herr Leutnant?" the bartender demande without even looking at him.

"Put it on my account," A voice said from behyind hm, and Geuke jumped and turned around.

The officer behind him smiled and heldo ut his hand. "Feldburg. The COG just told me the good news that you will be flyiing wingman to me tomorrow. I think that calls for more than beer, don't you? May I make that beer a glass of Sekt?"

Geuke was so taken aback he heardly knew what to say. This officer was another one of the propaganda-poster-types, and the hand he extended had the distinctive heavy gold ring with the inset stone on which his coat-of-arms must be embossed. Geuke heard the Staffelkapitaen's words rining in his ears, "You'll be flying wingman to Freiherr von Feldburg." The plumber's son did not believe he had ever shaken hands with a baron before. True, he'd encountered the odd Junker at training, but none with this exalted a title.

"Ah, Herr -- Freiherr --"

"Christian," interrupted the other man. "And let's go straight to 'Du.' As a Rotte we have to work together like brothers, after all. No room for formality. What's your first name?"

"Ernst," Geuke croaked out, wtill in a bit of a daze.

They shook hands again, and Christian insisted, "Champagne?"

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First Reviews of Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer

Just ten days after the release of Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer two reviews have already been posted on amazon.com. That's exciting -- especially when both are from people I do not know and to whom I did not send review copies. I hope this is a good omen and the book will continue to attract positive attention.

5.0 out of 5 stars
So Good It Will Make You Stay Up Past Your Bedtime..., September 8, 2011
By
Kathleen Ann Langley "Lucky 7 Tattoo Kings Beach" (Lake Tahoe, California)
(REAL NAME), Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is for: Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer (Paperback)

Yes, once again Ms Schrader has kept me up WAY past my bedtime for "just one more chapter." Rarely in historical fiction does this happen for me. I will hit a boring spot in a book and easily put it down until next time. Not so with the second book of this Leonidas trilogy "Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer." She had a tough job to outshine herself after the first part of this 3 part series, " A Boy of the Agoge" yet the author met the challenge with gusto.

All the main players of ancient Sparta are back, and some new ones add to the story without becoming confusing. Gorgo comes into her teenage years with timeless problems we can relate to. Leonidas becomes a man we would all desire to have in our lives as the ultimate compassionate alpha male. And the folks who surround these 2 ancient royal players have their own stories told too. Not a boring one in the bunch either. It's like a soap opera set in antiquity!

Now that I have plowed my way through this second book I once again cannot wait until the 3rd and final book comes out next year! If you even have a vague interest in what life may have been like for Leonidas, or the Spartan people at this time and place in history, you will dig this book.

AND
5.0 out of 5 stars
Thin rations, September 4, 2011,
BY
Jessica Allan Schmidt (People's Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States)
(REAL NAME)

This review is for: Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer (Paperback)

William Styron, author of The Confessions of Nat Turner once commented that a historical novelist did best when given "thin rations". This book takes those scant rations available from the historical record and extrapolates them, using common sense as well as classical sources, to construct what life may have been like for Leonidas I. There are some interesting inconsistencies with the historical records -- for instance, it is not known if Cleombrotus was Leonidas' twin or younger brother, yet the series paints him quite convincingly as Leonidas' elder twin -- but on the whole, it provides a very interesting look at the dynamics of an unusual society.

Sparta is often treated by modern scholars as a nation of simple brutes, but records do not hold with this -- if the training of youths was simply a matter of testing them until they broke, Greek leaders from all over the peninsula would not have competed to send their sons to the agoge for whatever periods they could. Like military schools of today, Sparta's educational programme was much more clearly devoted to military *and* practical learning, but the relative dearth of universal military training during this period means that its military nature is over-emphasised. Moreover, the fact that attendance at the Spartan agoge meant for some préstige among other Greeks strongly implies that it was seen as a specialist school that was a great honour for youths inclined to eventually rise to rôles of command in their own city-state's military.

The examination of what Spartan adult life was like is an interesting view of comparison and contrast. In the era before supertankers and jet aircraft, military engagements were by necessity no more than half the year, before mud and rain made it impossible to manoeuvre effectively, and, even more importantly, avoid disease decimating the ranks (a killer that was more likely than death by battle wound up through the Second World War), and therefore, even though Spartans were certainly careful to keep themselves in training year round and maintain constant operational readiness, they also had personal, civilian lives that were just as important to them, if not more so. As any tactician can tell you, the most motivated fighter is one who fights to defend a society he feels is integral to his life. Were Sparta a brutal place dedicated to warfare and only warfare, there would be no society to defend.

In this book, it is interesting to see the evolution of Queen Gorgo from girlhood to womanhood, even though most of it is conjecture based on what *is* known of the training of Spartan women. This book is also surprisingly engaging for the middle part of a trilogy, traditionally a time when *any* storytelling lags. The agoge is notorious, and Leonidas' death is equally well-known, but this period could have been fairly dull, yet it is as engaging as the first book in this series. I recommend it strongly.













Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Eagles Never Flew: Excerpt 1

Dear Followers,

To whet your appetite for Where Eagles Never Flew I will be posting here excerpts from "Eagles" for the next several weeks.

Priestman unhooked his oxygen mask and shoved the hood back before he landed, gulping in the fresh air. When he set down on three points, he thought he had never in his life been so glad to have ground under him.  He was aware of a pulsing headache and his eyes felt swollen in their sockets. He taxied absently to the side of the field, too tired to notice if someone was signalling him someplace else. He cut the engine, pulled off his helmet, and ran his hand through his hair -- it was wet and sticky.

He heard someone pant up beside him. "Robin?"

He glanced over; it was Roger Ibbotsholm.

"Aye, aye." Robin was having trouble unclipping his straps for some reason.  Roger was on the wing and bent over to help him.

"Are we glad to see you! We thought you'd bought it!"

"They did rather catch us out -- again. Is everyone else back?"

"The CO's gone for six. Flamed out and went straight in from 10,000. Guy had to hit the silk over Seclin.  Driver swears he saw a parachute land just beside the field so he's almost certainly a POW. Shakespeare says Spotty didn't make it either -- crate flamed before he could get out."

O'Brian and Sellers reached Priestman. They too were panting, having run over from the far side of the field. "Are you all right, sir?"

"I've got a terrible headache, actually," Robin admitted, rubbing his frehead.

"There's a ruddy big hole in the back of your seat, sir!"

"Oh, that. Yes. Good thing about the armor plating."

"You can say that again, sir! Look!"

A crowd was gathering. This Hurricane didn't look nearly as tattered as his old one, but the one neat puncture it did have indicated a cannon shell had lodged deep in the armour plating behind his seat.  The others scrambled up the off wing and peered into his Hurricane. There were a lot of admiring whistles and excited comments. Priestman left the others to it and slid to the ground, leaning back against the trailing edge of the wing.

Only once before had he been so conscious of divine protection -- after capsizing a small boat in a Force Five gale in the Solent. Then he had been a foolish 15-year-old boy who over-estimated his abilities, and for whom a benign deity had no doubt felt pity. Today, with so many others dead, it was hard to understand why he should have been one of the lucky ones.

An airman appeared around the tail and offered him a cup of cocoa. It was almost cold, but Priestman sipped it graefully.

Priestman noticed Yardly approaching but didn't think anything of it -- until the Flight Lieutenant opened his mouth and said: "I'm acting CO now, if you're wondering." Robin hadn't gotten that far, actually, but he didn't like the sound of this. Priestman had never really warmed to Sharp, but he was a first-rate pilot and a conscientious commmander. Priestman had trusted him. Yardly was something else agian. From the day he joined the squadron, Yardly had seemed to resent him. In short, this was not a good development.

Yardly, meanwhile, was remarking, "I see you were lucky a second time, Priestman."

"Yes, sir." It obviously did not occur to the senior officer that maybe this pilot was particularly skilled or a talented dog-fighter.

"And the Blenheims got slaughtered again." The Flight Lieutenant made it sound as if it was Priestman's fault alone. Priestman kept his mouth shut. He might do stupid things when he got backed into a bad enough corner, but he wasn't inherently insubordinate or stupid.

Yaredly was compelled to continue his lecture without new fuel. "Our job is to protect our bombers, not go rushing off on our own. Don't forget it! I'm not going to put up with your nonsense the way Sharp did."

What nonsense? Priestman asked himself. He'd been behaving himself like a damned goody-two-shoes since he'd joined the Squadron!

(This excerpt is from Chapter 1 of Chasing the Wind, soon to be released in Kindle format under the new title Where Eagles Never Flew.)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thank You! and now "A Peerless Peer..."

Dear Followers,

Thank you for participating in my three surveys on the title, subtitle and cover image for the Kindle Edition of Chasing the Wind. There was considerable concensus that the best title is "Where Eagles Never Flew" -- although one or two of you confided in me well-founded reservations. After consulting with the publisher, however, the decision was made to go ahead with Where Eagles Never Flew as the title for the Kindle book.

Although the largest number of readers preferred the longest suggested subtitle, the publisher and cover designer vetoed this for practical reasons. The cover of a Kindle book never appears as anything more than a "thumbnail" and space is therefore at a premium. The publisher felt that we couldn't afford to spend so much "real estate" on the sub-title -- which would probably be almost illegible on a thumbnail anyway. So we opted for the shortest of all sub-titles: "A Battle of Britain Novel."

The cover was also a close call, with a slight plurality in favor of Cover 1. I have asked the designer to look at ways of combining the key features of these two covers and come up with a new design that meets the publisher's preferences but includes some of the features of Cover 1 that (from talking to some of you) was the main appeal of this design. 

Otherwise, all is on track for the release of Where Eagles Never Flew in about 3 weeks time. I will be sure to post information about the release on this blog. 

Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless PeerMeanwhile, the second book in the Leonidas Trilogy, Leonidas of Sparta: A Peerless Peer is available for purchase on amazon.com in both trade paperback and Kindle formats. For more information about the Leonidas Trilogy you can also go to the dedicated website: http://sparta-leonidas-gorgo.com/