Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Researching a Historical Novel, a guest post by Holly Lynn Payne

Researching a Historical Novel
Holly Lynn Payne

To create three dimensional, almost holographic characters and story worlds, I believe you have to inhabit your story as if you are living it yourself. That's the only way I know how to draw authentic characters. I have to travel deep into the story world on the page and in real life. I'm a trained journalist so research is a natural part of my work, and often what I love most about it.

I usually spend time in the location of my story world first, regardless of the time period. My books are set in fairly exotic destinations, which is just a great excuse for me to explore new cultures. I spent a winter and summer in Dubrovnik, Croatia for The Sound of Blue, my second novel set during the Balkan War in the early 90s. I needed to see the landscape, architecture, the light, the foliage, all the colors, smells and sounds. I absorbed so much more than I could have ever learned in a book or online. I made some friends and was able to ask questions about the war that I would have never been able to learn otherwise. That level of human interaction is the most valuable resource for any book I write. I need to immerse myself in the place and get to know the people first and foremost, even if I have to leap back in time while I write.

When I was writing my first novel, The Virgin's Knot, I spent many months traveling through Turkey over the course of a few years. I needed to know about the rug producing regions and meet the weavers, because my protagonist was a famous weaver in the 1950s. This brought me to Konya, Turkey—home of the Whirling Dervishes. I ended up at Rumi's tomb in Konya.

At the time, I had no idea who Rumi was, what he had written or what he stood for. Everything changed after that day. I literally felt a charge in the air at the tomb of the tekke, the dervish monastery that's been converted into a museum, where millions of people visit each year to pay homage to the great poet and mystic. I couldn't believe I had no idea who Rumi was and I was eager to learn as much as I could when I returned to the United States. Fifteen years later, I ended up writing Damascena: The tale of roses and Rumi.

It was during my travels in Turkey when also had learned about rose oil production. I had a friend and colleague who was traveling with a group of aromatherapists on a mission to buy rose oil—a powerful healing agent. I saw an article in the Turkish magazine, Cornucopia. The pictures blew me away. I had never seen so many rose petals. It was gorgeous. The writer said something about being able to smell roses as far as one mile from the distilleries. I couldn't believe that it took nearly four tons of rose petals to distill one kilogram of rose oil. I also couldn't believe that rose oil was the binding agent for all perfumes and could not be synthetically reproduced. No wonder it cost nearly $1000 for a kilogram of rose oil. I was immediately hooked and compelled to travel to the world's most famous rose production region, Bulgaria's Valley of The Roses to learn as much as I could for Damascena.

One of the most magical travel experiences of my life happened during that trip. I hired a translator, a young woman my age, who had never set foot in any of her country's villages. She kept kidding me, calling me "Crazy American lady," when after befriending some of the rose pickers in a field, I accepted their invitation to pick with them at 4 a.m. the next day. They were actually joking with me but that's why I had come. I wanted to know what it was like to pick the rosa damascena, the kind of roses that yield the most power rose 'attar' oil in the world.

Picking rose petals required my translator to accompany me, and we ended up in one of the rose picker's houses, sleeping shoebox style in a single bed, head to feet and feet to head. In the middle of the night, we left with the other workers to pick roses on a full moon. We climbed into a truck bed, covered with canvas, sitting knees to chest with only the cherry embers of cigarettes flashing in the darkness. When we arrived at the field, the workers continued to smoke, which only slightly masked the intoxicating scent of roses all around us. I would have never had this experience if I hadn't prioritized traveling for research, and I'm so grateful I did.

This is where you can find Holly:

Goodreads author page:

Google Author Talk:

 Book blurb:

Holly Payne's spellbinding tale brings the unparalleled poet, Mevlana Rumi, to life, and transports readers to the enchanting world of 13th century Persia. Simply but elegantly told, the story unravels the mystery surrounding a legendary orphaned girl, who discovers her gift of turning roses into oil. Named after the flowering rosa damascena, the girl reluctantly assumes the role of a living saint for the miracles she performs-longing for the only one that matters: finding her mother. Deeply wounded by the separation since birth, Damascena undergoes a riveting transformation when she meets Rumi and finally discovers the secret of the rose. Imbued with rich historical research and inspired by the devastating disappearance of Rumi's most lauded spiritual companion, Shams of Tabriz, Holly Payne has courageously opened herself to receive Rumi's teachings and offer a timeless love story. 
An excerpt of Damascena is available to read here:
Buying Links

Barnes & Noble:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Awesome FREE authors event @ Clark Public Library

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Join the event page on Facebook

Clark Public Library will be hosting an Author Meet & Greet on Saturday, December 6 from 2-4pm.

This relaxed, casual setting will offer readers, fans and book lovers alike time to meet and greet some of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania’s very own authors.

Delve into the mind of an author who may just become a new favorite!

Authors range in all genres from YA to Adult.

This event is free to attend and open to the public. The authors will have signed books for sale so be sure to bring cash if you’d like to purchase one.

Authors attending:

Michael Cupo
Karen L. Schnitzspahn
Mary Wasowski
Amy Evans
Marissa Carmel
Trudy Stiles
Jill Prand
Rebecca Brooke
Alivia Anders
C.L. Foster
Rhoda D’Ettore
Eric Nierstedt
Maria DeSouza
Starla Huchton
Amanda Lance
S.J. Pajonas
Jennifer Collins
Joy Ann Lara
Heather Dahlgren
Alice Montalvo-Tribue
Theresa Kay
Krystal Wade  
Jennifer Benson
Felicia Starr
Livia Jamerlan
Faith Andrews
Dinescu Twins
Ashley Pullo
Jenna Galicki
Jenn Nixon
Adrianne James

Where: Clark Public Library
           303 Westfield Ave.
           Clark, NJ 07065
When:  Saturday, December 6 from 2-4 pm
Please send any questions to

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book review: The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel


After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

NOTE: I received the eARC directly by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

When I picked up The Book Of Ivy, I hoped that it would be good. However, I was in no way prepared for the actual blast of it. The Book Of Ivy is an incredible read that talks about the values of society and family; the importance of love and trust; of the sick ambitions of the few who disregard everyone and everything who dares get in their way to power.

Writing style:
Clean and engaging, this story is told from Ivy's 1st person POV. it captures the attention and doesn't let go days after turning the last page.

Story line:
In a not so distant future, after a war takes care of the world as we know it, a community of people form a city with strict rules. People have no real choice in what they do, who they marry or even when they marry. Everyone is expected to follow the law, no questions asked, for the greater good. Just like sheep with no brains. Most of the citizens do exactly that, but some plan a rebellion, while others just want to do the right thing.

- Humanity - or what's left of it
- Thinking about the community or following the leader blindly
- Selfish thirst for power
- Survival
- Building love and trust
- Sacrifice


Ivy is in no way an ordinary girl. Being the daughter of a powerless (and power hungry) leader, she's been brainwashed for years in the righteousness of a cause she knows very little about. What I really liked about Ivy was that once she was out of the poisonous clutches of her father and sister, she became open-minded and decided to use her own brains and become her own person. Not without a price, of course. Her decision in the end, both stunned me and had me cheering. It showed I was right about her all along and that Ivy was a strong, spirited character who knew well what was black and what white.

Bishop, Ivy's target, and husband, was such a nice guy from the very beginning. Put in a situation he had no way out of, he tried to make the best he could do and win the heart of the girl who ruled his own. Bishop, despite initial appearance of being a part of the flock, had his own opinions, dreams and view of the world. He didn't openly criticize the authorities (a.k.a. his father), but he did whatever he could to help those wrongly accused and 'put out'. He was patient with Ivy, eager to learn from her and help her adjust in their new life. An adorable and loveable character.

Victoria, the woman who took Ivy as assistant in the court, was a strong, spirited woman with her heart in the right place.

Ivy's father and sister I don't even want to talk about. They were so incredibly selfish, I just wanted to strangle them. It is awful though, what a person is ready to do in order to get up the ladder.

In conclusion:
Do not miss out on this fabulous novel. For fans of Matched, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and other dystopian YA novels.  

My rating is: