Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Author’s Inspiration ~ John Anthony Miller #HistFic #WW2 @authorjamiller

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I welcome historical fiction author, John Anthony Miller, on to the blog today. John is going to share with us his inspirations behind his latest book…

When Darkness Comes

Paris, 1942

 Three lives intertwined in Nazi-occupied Paris: Paul, a brooding banker whose family was killed by the Gestapo, Rachel, a teenage Jew who leads her family's escape from the Germans, Claire, a demure bookstore owner who finds courage and conviction - all confronted by an infamous Nazi collaborator. In the sprawling network of catacombs underneath the Left Bank of Paris, they hide thousands of Jewish refugees, giving them new identities and leading them to safety. Together they move forward, outsmarting a ruthless enemy, overcoming obstacles, defying danger, moving farther and faster, almost invincible – until an innocent bystander notices something amiss and their entire world collapses around them.

Author’s Inspiration

I like to write about ordinary people who are compelled to do extraordinary things, driven by events or tumultuous times. My first four books are about WWII, but not generals or admirals or politicians, but a reporter, a history teacher, a banker, a violinist. They become heroes, just as many other ordinary people became heroes during the global conflict.

One of my favorite websites to research personal accounts is the BBC, who have assembled a database for both the First and Second World War. There are many heroes referenced in their collection who were actually ordinary people, just like you and me. Some of their stories are riveting, difficult to imagine in a world that is now so different, but in some ways, still the same.

I like using the Second World War as a backdrop because it’s a conflict where good and evil are easily defined. My readers can envision the tragedies, easily choosing sides, knowing that the war was waged to preserve the freedom of mankind. That in itself, tends to be a powerful message

I also like to use the location of the novel as a character, often exotic, richly described, a place where people have either been or might someday like to go. My first three books were set in Singapore, Berlin, and Lisbon. For my novel When Darkness Comes, I chose Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and a personal favorite of mine.

The ordinary people featured in When Darkness Comes lose loved ones or personal freedoms and converge to fight the Nazis. They use the only tools they have, given their limited military skills, and decide to rescue Jews from the Germans. I think that the Holocaust, and all the evils it contains, is a story that deserves to be continually told, lest we forget its victims and survivors, or how horrific it actually was, so that it never, in any shape or form, can or will be repeated.

When I first started When Darkness Comes, I wanted to write about a man who gave up everything to save others – his wealth, his reputation, his family, his future – for no reward or recognition. I wanted to develop a character whose life becomes self-sacrifice, simply to serve mankind, a concept that is pure and holistic, but sometimes difficult to imagine. I created a character named Julian Junot, who poses as a Nazi collaborator, while risking fame and fortune to create a network that rescues the Jews. But often when a novel is written, the other characters the author invents refuse to accept the secondary role intended. And such was the case with When Darkness Comes.

While researching the book I created Paul, Claire, and Rachel, those that operate the network required to rescue the Jews, from fragments of sentences I found in historical records. Each described tragedies endured by those in the French Resistance – a man who lost his wife and daughter, a young woman killed by the Germans, a teenage Jew who defied the Nazis. I thought they deserved more than a few words in a forgotten WWII journal and felt compelled to tell their stories, even if fueled by my imagination.

I also read about a French homeowner forced to board a German officer, a very polite man who replaced a wine glass broken accidentally. From this brief paragraph, General Berg emerged – an enemy who doesn’t quite fit the profile. A devout churchgoer who doted on his granddaughters, he loses his life not because of who he was, but because of what he represented. Just like so many millions of others in the Second World War.

Lastly, the book contains horrific tragedies.  Although not based on anything specific, each can be traced to thousands of similar events that actually occurred, spawned by a global catastrophe that should never be forgotten. 

I hope your followers enjoy reading When Darkness Comes as much as I enjoyed writing it.

All the best,
John Anthony Miller

Links for Purchase

About the author

John Anthony Miller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a father of English ancestry and a second-generation Italian mother. Motivated by a life-long love of travel and history, he normally sets his novels in exotic locations during eras of global conflict. Characters must cope and combat, overcoming their own weaknesses as well as the external influences spawned by tumultuous times. He’s the author of the historical thrillers, To Parts Unknown, In Satan’s Shadow, When Darkness Comes, and All the King's Soldiers. He lives in southern New Jersey with his family.
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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Life in the time of King Alfred By Tracy Ann Miller #AngloSaxon #history @tracyamiller1

Life in the time of King Alfred
By Tracy Ann Miller

In the time of King Alfred, in Anglo-Saxon England, there existed a world I knew would make a rich, exciting backdrop for a romance novel. Vikings and Saxons still battled for control, but peace was in sight. This Saxon/Viking aspect, then, was both a built-in conflict between my hero and heroine, and a plausible possibility.

Women were independent. Sort of.

I discovered in my research of the year 877, that married women and widows achieved a higher status, could own and inherit property, engage in legal transactions, and had offences against them penalized heavily. Girls and boys were close to equal in terms of status when it came to inheritances. Though most women were relegated to domestic life, many women came to power as abbesses and leaders of government.

This information gave me enough license to create Amber, my heroine in The Maiden Seer, as a woman who was not beholden to a man for her future prospects. She chose her own path. The same is said of my heroine, Llyrica in Loveweaver.

Learning about Alfred, King of Wessex, also shaped The Maiden Seer.

The events of 877-878 have been told so often that it’s a history lesson simple enough for even me to understand! It tells of how King Alfred escaped the Vikings when they attacked his royal stronghold of Chippenham. With his family and small band he fled to the marshes of Somerset, and from this hidden fort, surreptitiously continued to fight against the Vikings.

I decided I could let Amber be Alfred’s niece, have her timeline parallel his, and have her influence the outcome of her uncle’s struggles.

Of course, I bought in a Viking. But Konnar is not a Viking who fights against her, but one who becomes an ally. And so much more!

As some Vikings began to settle peacefully, marriages between Vikings and Saxons were becoming common. It would not have been out of the question that Amber and Konnar could end up together and become a part of the local community.

It was the details in the time Anglo-Saxon England, though, that most caught my attention. Or rather *lack* of details.

We have rudimentary drawings from the time, wonderful artifacts, and scant descriptions of where and how people lived, what they wore, and what they ate and drank.

With the known facts as my foundation, I exercised freedom embellishing how things *might* have been, from earthworks and forts, towns and harbours, homes and their interiors, mode of dress and accessories, hair styles, and meals.

When I learned about the Elder Futhark and runes, I knew the story Amber would tell.

The Elder Futhark originated as an alphabet, a writing system, dating back to perhaps the 1st century. When it took on mystical attributes as runes is debated, but it was this divinatory use that sparked my interest. Amber would know how to “read” runes, and would be her power and defense in the dangerous time of King Alfred.

Tracy Ann Miller

Although Tracy Ann Miller is primarily a graphic designer, (see her work at she has been writing novels for over 20 years.

She was an active member of the National Romance Writers of America with her local chapter, The Virginia Romance Writers. It was there she honed her craft by attending workshops, conferences, and by coordinating The VRW's Fool for Love Contest.

Before being published, she entered and won numerous writing contests, including The Fool for Love Contest for Loveweaver, and the Between the Sheets best love scene contest for The Maiden Seer.

She writes to keep the hero and heroine interacting in story as much as possible (no long separations) and of course they get a spectacular happily ever after.

Tracy invites you to read The Maiden Seer, and her other book, Loveweaver.

The Maiden Seer

Konnar doesn't believe in the power to tell the future or to see into the unknown. But that changes when Amber comes into his life.

Amber, known in her homeland of Wessex, as the Maiden Seer, seeks refuge from her dark foretelling dreams of war. The rune readings she gives to her followers have also become too much to bear. But this can only happen after she fulfills her blackest dream ... one in which she foresees herself killing a man.

Konnar hopes the violent memories of his life as a Viking raider and tragic losses will be quieted when he leaves England forever. This upcoming task will pay for his future and provide for the village that depends on him. But, abducting the Maiden Seer and delivering her to the wealthy client goes wildly awry.

Amber seems to know Konnar's painful secret and claims to foresee a solution. While it enrages him that she negotiates her freedom with this knowledge, should Konnar dare believe the prophetess can help him?

He is her captor, but hiding behind his might and violent history, is a man in need of forgiveness. It is that vulnerable side of him that she learns to love, as she enlists him on her dangerous mission to help the king of England.

The Viking and the Maiden Seer journey throughout England to carry out her prophetic vision. Yet, they struggle with their mutual passion for each other, each unsure of the others true intentions.

But what could it mean, Amber's dark dream that began it all?