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Last update: 2013-06-30

Highly Recommended #Histfic Off the Beaten Path #HNS2013

2013-06-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

This list began as a panel at the 2013 HNS Conference called 'Historical Fiction Off the Beaten Path', presented by Andrea Connell of The Queen's Quill Review, author Heather Domin, Audra Friend of Unabridged Chick, and author Julie K. Rose. We drew up a short list of books published within the last five years that fall outside current publishing trends in one or more of the following ways:
lesser-known locations or time periods unusual protagonists or points of view lack of famous historical figures POC (people of color) or LGBTQ protagonists mixing of genres or sub-genres unusual choices in style or structure To that list we've added all the books suggested by the panel audience, as well as additional books suggested since. (initials are included) This list is by no means exhaustive and will continue to grow, so check back to see what's been added, and send us your suggestions!

We're focusing on books published within the last decade, but older books worth mentioning are fine too. 

AC = Andrea Connell
AF = Audra Friend
HD = Heather Domin
JR = Julie Rose
Panel = suggestions provided during the panel
Initial.Lastname = suggestions provided via comment or email

Ancient World
Alcestis (2010) by Katharine Beutner — Greece
[HD, JR]: genre mixing (fantasy), unusual setting, LGBTQ

Part Greek mythology, part women’s fiction, part metaphysical rumination, part literary opus, with a bonus lesbian liaison – this book defies categorization, and the result is a truly unconventional historical novel. - HD  

Augustus (1972) by John Edward Williams — Rome
[panel]: unusual style (epistolary)

Daughter of Kura (2009) by Debra Austin — Paleolithic Africa
[HD]: unusual setting

Set on the plains of Paleolithic Africa, this story of a young woman’s journey from matriarch to outcast paints a fascinating picture of our early human ancestors without the use of fantastical elements. - HD  

Lavinia (2008) by Ursula K. LeGuin — Etruria
[JR]: unusual setting

The Sweet Girl (2012) by Annabel Lyon — Greece
[AF]: unusual setting

The Wedding Shroud (2009) by Elizabeth Storrs — Etruria
[HD]: unusual setting

Thunderbolt: Torn Enemy of Rome (2012) by Roger Kean — Carthage
[HD]: genre mixing (action/romance), unusual setting, LGBTQ

Written in Ashes (2011) by K. Hollan VanZandt — Egypt
[AF]: unusual setting
  1st Century Lily of the Nile (2011) & Song of the Nile (2011) by Stephanie Dray — Rome, Egypt
[AF, JR]: genre mixing (magical realism), unusual setting 

The Soldier of Raetia (2009) by Heather Domin — Rome, Germany
[JR]: genre mixing (adventure/romance), unusual setting, LGBTQ

One of my favorite books. Beautifully written and engrossing. You feel transported in time and place. - JR
  2nd Century Eromenos (2011) by Melanie McDonald — Rome
[AF]: unusual setting, unusual style, LGBTQ
  3rd Century The Siege (2011) & The Imperial Banner (2012) by Nick Brown — Syria
[HD]: unusual setting, unusual protagonist
  6th Century The Dragon's Harp (2012) by Rachael Pruitt — Wales
[JR]: genre mixing (fantasy), unusual setting
  7th Century The Woman at the Well (2011) & The Sword of God (2012) by Ann Chamberlin — Syria
[JR; Kim Rendfeld]: unusual setting, POC
  8th Century Seidman (2012) by Erich James — Iceland
[HD]: genre mixing (paranormal/romance, YA), unusual setting, LGBTQ

The Cross and the Dragon (2012) by Kim Rendfeld — Francia
[AC, HD]: unusual setting

Under Heaven (2010) by Guy Gavriel Kay — China
[JR]: genre mixing (alternate history), unusual setting
  9th Century The Bone Thief (2012) by V.M. Whitworth — Wessex
[HD]: unusual setting

Pope Joan (1996) by Donna Woolfolk Cross — England, Rome
[T. Pilgrim]: unusual protagonist
  11th Century Illuminations (2012) by Mary Sharratt — Germany
[AF]: unusual setting

Shadow on the Crown (2012) by Patricia Bracewell — England
[JR]: unusual setting

Shieldwall (2011) by Justin Hill — England
[P. Bracewell]: unusual setting

The Forever Queen (2010) & I Am the Chosen King (2011) by Helen Hollick — Anglo-Saxon England
[P. Bracewell]: unusual setting, unusual protagonist
  12th Century Mistress of the Art of Death (2007) by Ariana Franklin — England
[panel]: unusual protagonist
  13th Century A Thing Done (2012) by Tinney Sue Heath — Florence
[JR]: unusual setting, unusual protagonist

Cuzcatlán Where the Southern Sea Beats (1987) by Manlio Argueta — Pre-Columbian South America
[panel]: unusual setting

Something Red (2010) by Douglas Nicholas — England
[HD]: genre mixing (horror), no famous figures

Sultana (2011) & Sultana's Legacy (2012) by Lisa Yarde — Moorish Spain
[HD, JR]: unusual setting, POC protagonists
  15th Century A Prince to be Feared (2012) by Mary Lancaster — Romania
[AF]: unusual setting

I, Iago (2012) by Nicole Galland — Venice
[AF]: unusual setting
  16th Century Equal of the Sun (2012) by Anita Amirrezvani — Persia
[AF]: unusual setting

In the Garden of Iden (1997) by Kage Baker — England
[HF]: genre mixing (light sci-fi)

The Queen's Rivals (2013) by Brandy Purdy — England
[panel]: unusual protagonist

The Raven's Heart (2011) by Jesse Blackadder — England

Tom Fleck (2010) by Harry Nicholson — England
[HD]: unusual protagonist, no famous figures

A delightful, folksy adventure set in rural England and Scotland, this novel uses a likable everyman to tell the story of ordinary people in an extraordinary time, including a rare look at Jewish life in Tudor England. - HD
  17th Century A House Near Luccoli (2012) by D.M. Denton — Genoa
[K. Rendfeld]: unusual setting, genre mixing (literary)

Peony in Love (2007) by Lisa See — China
[T. Pilgrim]: unusual setting, POC protagonist

The Book of Seven Hands (2013) by Barth Anderson — Spain
[JR]: genre mixing (paranormal), no famous figures, LGBTQ

The Midwife's Tale (2013) by Sam Thomas — England
[AF]: unusual protagonist

The Orphanmaster (2012) by Jean Zimmerman — Amsterdam
[AF]: unusual setting

The Tito Amato series series (2004-2009) by Beverle Graves Myers — Venice
[panel]: unusual setting, unusual protagonist

The Tsar's Dwarf (2006) by Peter H. Fogtal — Russia
[panel]: unusual protagonist

White Heart (2013) by Julie Caton — New France
[panel]: unusual protagonist, no famous figures
  18th Century Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (1985) by Patrick Suskind — France
[panel]: unusual protagonist, genre mixing (horror)

Sea Witch (2006) by Helen Hollick — "Pirate Round" South Africa to the Caribbean
[AC]: unusual setting, genre mixing (fantasy)

Spirit of Lost Angels (2012) by Liza Perat — France
[AC]: unusual setting, LGBTQ

A bittersweet, multilayered tale that will touch your heart, told in a humble yet strong and powerful voice during a time of revolution and female suppression. – AC  

The Blighted Troth (2011) by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer — New France
[AF]: unusual setting, genre mixing (Gothic)

The Mirrored World (2012) by Debra Dean — Russia
[AF]: unusual setting

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones (2013) by Jack Wolf — England
[AF]: unusual setting, genre mixing (horror)

Ti Marie (2007) by Valerie Belgrave — Trinidad
[HD]: unusual setting, POC protagonist
  19th Century Bone River (2012) by Megan Chance — Washington Territory
[panel]: unusual premise, genre mixing (paranormal)

Burning Silk (2010) by Destiny Kinal — France, America
[AC]: unusual setting, unusual protagonist

A sensual and sensitive story written in lush prose. – AC   

Butterfly’s Child (2011) by Angela Davis-Gardner — Japan, Illinois
[AF]: unusual setting

The Crimson Petal and the White (2002) by Michael Faber — England
[panel]: genre mixing (literary, romance)

Daughter of the Sky (2013) by Michelle Diener — South Africa
[AF]: unusual setting

Gillespie and I (2011) by Jane Harris — Scotland
[AF]: unusual protagonist

Gods of Gotham (2012) by Lyndsay Faye — New York City
[AF]: unusual setting

Island of Wings (2011) by Karin Altenberg — St. Kilda islands
[AF]: unusual setting

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke — England
[panel]: genre mixing (fantasy)

Miss Fuller (2012) by April Bernard — Rome, New York
[AF]: unusual protagonists

Parlor Games (2013) by Maryka Biaggio — Chicago
[AF]: unusual protagonist

Syncopation: A Memoir of Adèle Hugo (2012) by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt — France
[T. Heath]: unusual protagonist, unusual style

Slant of Light (2012) by Steve Weigenstein — Missouri Ozarks
[AF]: unusual setting

The Family Mansion (2013) by Anthony C. Winkler — Jamaica
[AF]: unusual setting

The Golem and the Jinni (2013) by Helene Wecker — New York City
[AF]: genre mixing (mythology), POC main characters

The Luminist (2011) by David Rocklin — Ceylon
[AF]: unusual setting

The Master (2003) by Colm Tóibín — England
[panel] unusual style

The 19th Wife (2008) by David Ebershoff — Utah
[panel]: unusual protagonist, time-slip, genre mixing (literary)

The Personal History of Rachel duPree (2008) by Ann Weisgarber — South Dakota
[AF]: unusual setting, POC main characters

The Oracle of Stamboul (2011) by Michael David Lukas — Turkey/Ottoman Empire
[AF]: unusual setting

The Rose of Sebastopol (2007) by Katharine McMahon — England, Crimea
[AF]: unusual setting

The Thing About Thugs (2010) by Tabish Khair — England
[AF]: POC protagonist

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno (2010) by Ellen Bryson — New York City [panel]: unusual characters and premise

The Virgin Cure (2011) by Ami McKay — New York City
[AF]: unusual protagonist

Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards (2012) by Kit Brennan — England, Spain, France
[AF]: unusual setting
  20th Century A Different Sky (2010) by Meira Chand — Singapore 
[AF]: unusual setting, POC protagonist

Cascade (2012) by Maryanne O'Hara — New England
[AF, JR]: unusual setting, no famous figures

Complicated, frustrating, very real characters and a lovely evocation of 1930s America, beautifully written. - JR  

Dina's Lost Tribe (2010) by Brigitte Goldstein — France
[panel]: time slip, unusual premise

Fires of London (2012) by Janice Law — England

Oleanna (2012) by Julie K. Rose — Norway
[AC, AF, HD]: genre mixing (literary), unusual setting, no famous figures

A gently told tale with quiet depth, atmospherically stark yet richly detailed. - AC  

Our Man in the Dark (2011) by Rashad Harrison — Southern U.S.
[AF]: POC protagonist

Seal Woman (2007) by Solveig Eggerz — Germany, Iceland
[JR]: genre mixing (literary), unusual setting 

So beautifully written and so present and real—I felt like I was reading a biography and not a work of fiction. - JR  

Skeleton Women (2012) by Mingmei Yip — China
[AF]: unusual setting, POC protagonist

Small Wars (2009) by Sadie Jones — Cypress
[AF]: unusual setting

The Concubine's Gift (2011) by K Ford K — China, Nevada
[AC]: unusual setting, genre mixing (fantasy)

A tastefully handled and respectful exploration of sexuality and a lightening-fast fun read. - AC  

The Detroit Electric Scheme (2010) by D.E. Johnson — Detroit
[AF]: unusual setting

The Edge of Ruin (2010) by Irene Fleming — New York City
[HD]: unusual setting and premise

This short, fast-paced mystery is set in the early days of the American film industry, with an ensemble of quirky characters, an unusual setting and premise, and an interesting peek into a little-known world.  – HD  

The Farming of Bones (1997) by Edwidge Danticat — Haiti
[AF]: unusual setting, POC protagonist

The Orchardist (2012) by Amanda Coplin — Pacific Northwest
[AF]: unusual setting, no famous figures
  Upcoming in 2013 Ancient
Heirs of Fortune by Heather Domin (Germania) [JR]
Hetaera by J.A. Coffey (Greece, Egypt) [AF]
Medea by Kerry Greenwood (Greece) [AF]
Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson (Ice Age Europe) [HD]
The Golden Dice by Elizabeth Storrs (Etruria) [HD]

3rd Century
The Far Shore by Nick Brown (Syria)[HD]

6th Century
The Secret
by Stephanie Thornton (Constantinople) [AF]

7th Century Hild by Nicola Griffith (Britain) [AC, AF, JR, P. Bracewell]
The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin (China) [HD]

9th Century
The Traitor's Pit by V.M. Whitworth (Britain) [HD]

11th Century
Godiva by Nicole Galland (Britain) [AC, AF, JR]

13th Century
Sultana: Two Sisters
by Lisa Yarde (Spain) [HD, JR]

18th Century
Benjamin Franklin's Bastard by Sally Cabot (America) [AF]
Revolutionary by Alex Myers (America) [AF]
The Purchase by Linda Spalding (America) [AF]

19th Century
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Iceland) [AC, AF, JR]
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown (nautical) [AF]
Linen Shroud by Destiny Kinal (America) [AC]
Palmerino by Melissa Pirtchard (Italy) [AC, JR]
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (Malaya) [JR]
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (American Midwest) [AF]
The Mask Carver's Son by Alyson Richman (Japan, France) [AF]
The Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan (India) [AC, AF]
The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent (Texas) [AF]
The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill (New England) [AF]
The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber (New York) [AF]
The Specimen by Martha Lea (England, Brazil) [AF]

20th Century  
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout (UK, Himalayas) [AF]
A True Novel by Minae Mizumura (Japan, America) [AC]
The Book of Fate by Parinoush Saniee (Iran) [AC]
The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert (South Africa) [AC]
  Additional Resources Europa Editions
Historical Novel Society Review Index
Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews
Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Book Bloggers
A Bookish Affair  Confessions of an Avid Reader  Historical Novel Review   Historical Tapestry  Let Them Read Books   Oh for the Hook of a Book Passages to the Past  Peeking Between the Pages  Queen's Quill Review  Reading the Past Royalty Free Fiction  So Many Books So Little Time  The Lit Bitch   The Maiden's Court  Unabridged Chick  


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#HNS2013 Panel: Historical Fiction Off the Beaten Path

2013-06-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

I'm super excited to be part of the Historical Fiction Off the Beaten Path panel at the HNS conference. I'll be chatting with book bloggers Andrea Connell and Audra Friend, and fellow author Heather Domin, on Saturday, June 22 from 2:45-3:45 p.m. (in Plaza C).

Here's a bit of background on our panel, and a clarification about what we mean when we say "mainstream" and "off the beaten path":

There’s nothing wrong with popularity! But with so many books out there and only so much time and space for promotion, the most popular themes naturally get the most attention, while others remain out of the spotlight.
In this panel we will explore current themes and trends in historical fiction and take a look at some books that veer off these paths. Our goal is to show readers the wide variety of historical fiction available to them, and to show writers that there is an audience for every story. If you’ve ever asked, “Doesn’t anyone write (…)?” this panel is for you.

In this panel, “mainstream” refers to the most well-known settings, eras, characters, and/or styles in current historical fiction.

What our definition of mainstream is NOT:
- A method of publishing
- A list of targeted topics
- Overdone (aka “popular = bad”)

As part of the panel, we'll also be providing a list of our favorite off the beaten path historical fiction from the last few years, as well as books coming out soon that we can't wait to get our hands on! …


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#HNS2013 Q&As with Panelists and Speakers

2013-06-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

As part of the run-up to the 2013 Historical Novel Society conference (next week!), Q&As are being hosted each day with different event panelists and speakers—and today, Margaret Cook at Just One More Chapter is hosting a Q&A with me!

You can find the full list of all of the Q&As at the HNS Conference website.


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#Histfic Publishing & Reviewing Trends for Feb/May 2013 #HNS2013

2013-06-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

As part of the preparation for our HNS2013 panel on Off the Beaten Path books, we wanted to get a really solid grounding and definition—one can have an intuition about what's off the beaten path, but we wanted to have facts.

As a reminder, our definition of mainstream was:

There’s nothing wrong with popularity! But with so many books out there and only so much time and space for promotion, the most popular themes naturally get the most attention, while others remain out of the spotlight.
In this panel we will explore current themes and trends in historical fiction and take a look at some books that veer off these paths. Our goal is to show readers the wide variety of historical fiction available to them, and to show writers that there is an audience for every story. If you’ve ever asked, “Doesn’t anyone write (…)?” this panel is for you.

In this panel, “mainstream” refers to the most well-known settings, eras, characters, and/or styles in current historical fiction.

What our definition of mainstream is NOT:
- A method of publishing
- A list of targeted topics
- Overdone (aka “popular = bad”)
So, what does the HF landscape look like? We did a combined analysis of both the February and May 2013 Historical Novels Review, both print and online (which included Big 5/6 and their imprints, independent presses, small presses, and self-published books).

What we found was interesting but, honestly, not super surprising.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Lead the Way
The 19th and 20th century represent 65% of all books reviewed England and America are neck and neck for most popular location (England most popular in the February HNR, America in May) The Big 5/6 and their imprints comprised 40%+ of all books reviewed In May, 20th century England comprised almost 50% of all Big 5/6 books Independent, Small Press, and Self-Published Books Fill in the Gaps
Self-published books lead the way for settings Ancient to 11th century Small press & independent represent most 12th through 16th "Unusual" locations (e.g., not America, England, Australia, or France) represent only 20% of the books during the period Independent publishers (e.g., large publishers not affiliated with Big 5/6 or imprints) and Self-Pub have the widest variety of location and time period Continuing Challenges
Only two books out of the hundreds reviewed were not heteronormative Protagonists who are persons of color represented only a very small number of books published in the period Big 5/6 Are Dipping Their Toes
While the other publishing types do take the most chances in terms of off the beaten path settings, eras, or protagonists, the Big 5/6 and their imprints definitely go off the beaten path (though it tends to be the exception)
Sarah Johnson also did a fantastic analysis of the February 2013 Historical Novels Review if you're interested in more detail.

Why Go Off the Beaten Path?
It can be intimidating to go outside your comfort zone when reading (or writing)—and mainstream books are popular for a reason (they're interesting and good!).

But sometimes you just want something different. Why read off the beaten path?
Intellectual stimulation; boredom with existing trends You're naturally curious Over-saturation with current trends Wanderlust (a particular affliction of mine!) A desire to see fresh life given to old themes and stories A desire to see protagonists that are more relevant to your life experience (LGBTQ for example) For writers, it's a kind of blank slate; readers don't necessarily have pre-conceived notions and aren't armchair experts on your era/location
Finding Off the Beaten Path Books Can Sometimes Be Challenging—But Worth Your While
Because these kinds of books don't necessarily get the attention a mainstream book would, they can be more difficult to find.

Some fantastic resources for finding these kinds of books are:
Historical Novels Review (both print and online) Goodreads (both friends' feeds and their List feature) Unusual Historicals Book bloggers (Unabridged Chick, Queen's Quill Review, A Bookish Affair, Passages to the Past, The Maiden's Court, Let Them Read Books, Oh for the Hook of a Book, The Lit Bitch, Historical Novel Review, So Many Books So Little Time, Peeking Between the Pages,Confessions of an Avid Reader, Historical Tapestry, Royalty Free Fiction, Reading the Past) Our ongoing list of Highly Recommended Historical Fiction Off the Beaten Path …


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Summer Banquet Hop: Oleanna Winner!

2013-06-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Congratulations to Jessica McCann! She won paperback copies of Oleanna and Andreas Viestad's wonderful cookbook, Kitchen of Light as part of the Summer Banquet Hop.

Jessica, I'll be in touch to make arrangements.

Thank you to everyone who visited and commented. And big thanks to David and Maria for organizing this blog hop; I learned so much! …


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Summer Banquet Blog Hop: A Norwegian Midsummer Feast

2013-06-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

I'm so excited to be participating in this blog hop! Foodways and food history absolutely fascinates me.

A great way to get quickly to the heart of a foodway is to look at holidays and celebrations; this is where the traditions are cherished and while sometimes improved upon, not changed without a lot of fuss.

At this time of year, I think most about the Midsummer feast.

Midsummer is important throughout Scandinavia; in Norway, it is known as Sankthansaften (St. John's Eve) or Jonsok (John's wake, from the Norse Jonsvaka), as it is always celebrated on the night before St. John's feast day (June 24). In the days before Christianity came to Norway (approximately 1,000 AD), Midsummer was a pagan celebration, marked by large bonfires throughout the countryside and along the coast.

The bonfire tradition, which is particularly prevalent along the coast, goes back to pagan days, and was believed to produce fertile soil, while protecting from witches and evil spirits. Some believed the witches to be especially active on midsummer nights, gathering their witchcraft ingredients and preparing for witchery at evil gatherings. 
The magic of the fire was seen as a remedy against the evil magic of the witches. However, not only was the fire seen as magic; so were plants and herbs – a belief that gave birth to a tradition that may still be found today: If a girl could find seven different sorts of flowers and hide them under her pillow on midsummer night, her dreams would reveal the image of her future husband. (Norwegian consulate in America)
The Midsummer bonfire, and later the St. Hansbål (St. John's Bonfire), have been celebrated with relish for more than a thousand years; the artist Nikolai Astrup captured many of these Midsummer scenes in the late 19th and early 20th century. Astrup grew up near, and later returned to, the area of Jølstravatnet (Lake Jølster, where Oleanna is set), and his bonfire scenes are some of his most vibrant and beloved works.

St. Hansbål ved Jølstravatnet, Nikolai Astrup These days, the local fire brigade keeps close watch on bonfires, so most families make do with a municipal bonfire, or their own campfire over which they roast sausages and pølse, and even marshmallows. Other families will have a good old fashioned BBQ with your traditional BBQ fare, and maybe finish up the day with some vafler for desert.

But how did they celebrate Jonsok in Oleanna's day, and indeed for centuries before? Norwegians would eat foods associated with celebration—specially brewed celebration beer, akevitt, whatever is fresh from the lakes and streams and ocean. But above all, you can't have a celebration without rømmegrøt.

What in the world is rømmegrøt?

It is a savory sour cream porridge often served with cured meats like spekemat (cured dried leg of lamb) and flatbrød (crisp bread), but it can also be served as a breakfast or dessert dish. Versatile!

Ingeborg Nygaard, the chef at the Norwegian Embassy, said, “Why we eat sour cream porridge on this day? Well, it is a tradition. Eating sour cream porridge on special holidays is a strong tradition in Norway, and St. Hans is a special holiday. Sour cream porridge is a tradition that goes far, far back in time. It is such a simple and timeless recipe."

OK but really. Porridge? Doesn't sound terribly festive, does it? Well, according to Kathleen Stokker, an expert on Norwegian holidays and foodways,
Porridge has a long history as a festive food in Norway...Regardless of its origins as a Christmas treat, porridge is the oldest warm dish known in Norway, and it constituted for centuries the main staple of the Norwegian peasant diet...To stir the porridge the husmor [house wife] used a tvare (branched stirring stick) made from the trunk of a spruce tree, which her husband had selected, then shaped and smoothed into usefulness. Traditional Norwegian porridge had to be thick, some said "so thick you could dance on it," but at least thick enough to cling to the tvare or even make it stand up straight... (71-72)
In Norway rømmegrøt still appears on festive occasions, though more likely on St. Hans (Midsummer's Eve, June 23) and Olsok (St. Olav's Day, July 29)... (267) 
Kathleen Stokker, Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land; Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2000
So, this midsummer's eve, bust out your BBQ, indulge your inner pyro, drink some akevitt (...after the pyro bit), stay up late, and make up a big pot of rømmegrøt. You'll be partaking in an ancient Norwegian tradition!

Rømmegrøt (Sour Cream Porridge)
Recipe courtesy of the Norwegian Embassy

This recipe serves 4

1 pint thick sour cream
12 tablespoons flour
1 pint milk

1. Boil the sour cream, covered, for 2 minutes. Add half of the flour and stir carefully to bring the butter to the surface. Skim it off, reserve it and keep it warm.
2. Stir in the rest of the flour and add the milk. Simmer the porridge for 5-6 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

If one prefers a slightly tangy sour flavor, half of the milk added may be sour milk or kefir.

Sour cream porridge is eaten sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and with the reserved warm melted butter. Red juice, such as raspberry or currant, is usually served with the porridge.

If you'd like to learn more about Norwegian foodways, here are some other food- (and holiday-) related posts:
Beer traditions in Norway Syttende mai (Norwegian Constitution Day) The history of akevitt and the art of the toast The "Seven Kinds" of traditional Christmas cookies
As part of this blog hop, I'm giving away two paperback books (open to participants worldwide):

Enter between now and 11:59 p.m. PDT on June 7; winner will be announced by June 10.

How do you enter? Simple. Leave a comment here on this post before the deadline. Tweet about this post (and let me know @juliekrose), and get an extra entry!

Below are the links of the other participating blogs in this Summer Banquet HopSkål!

Random Bits of Fascination (Maria Grace) Pillings Writing Corner (David Pilling) Anna Belfrage Debra Brown Lauren Gilbert Gillian Bagwell Julie K. Rose Donna Russo Morin Regina Jeffers Shauna Roberts Tinney S. Heath Grace Elliot Diane Scott Lewis Ginger Myrick Helen Hollick Heather Domin Margaret Skea Yves Fey JL Oakley Shannon Winslow Evangeline Holland Cora Lee Laura Purcell P. O. Dixon E.M. Powell Sharon Lathan Sally Smith O’Rourke Allison Bruning Violet Bedford Sue Millard Kim Rendfeld
This giveaway is now closed.


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Gratulerer med dagen! Norway's Constitution Day May 17

2013-05-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Gratulerer med dagen (congratulations on the day)! It's Syttende Mai!

Wait. What?

The 17th of May is Norway’s Constitution Day. It is a celebration on the anniversary of the declaration of the Norwegian Constitution signed in 1814. Denmark had ruled Norway since the early 1500s but because they were on the losing side of the Napoleonic wars they traded Norway to Sweden. Norway took this opportunity to reclaim independence, signing their constitution on the 17 May to govern their country – however, the celebrations only lasted 10 days. Sweden was on the winning side of the Napoleonic wars and used their power to overthrow the Norwegian claim for independence. Norway was forced to enter into an agreement with Sweden which is known as The Personal Union of Sweden and Norway. It wasn’t until 7 June 1905 that the union was dissolved and Norway regained its independence. (However, Norway’s independence was not recognised by the Swedish king until October 26 the same year.)

Today the 17th of May is a national holiday and a celebration of Norwegian traditions and culture. The focus of the day is the Children’s Parade which takes place in cities, towns and villages all over the country.  (From My Little Norway)
ThorNews has a wonderful description of what happens on a typical Syttende mai in Norway, and there are some fantastic pins at Pinterest, with photos and artwork celebrating the day.

Syttende mai is also celebrated throughout the world in Norwegian immigrant and ex-pat communities. Unsurprisingly, the celebrations in the upper midwest and Pacific northwest are the largest, with parades, bunad, lefse, pølse, music, kransekake, and lutefisk dinners (which is...well, kind of like a dare, honestly). (Learn more about Syttende Mai around the world at Wikipedia and find a Syttende Mai celebration in the US.)

Norway Day for me is pretty low key; I'll put on my mom's sølje pin and maybe make some Norwegian waffles (my family's recipe here, as part of an interview with Oh, For the Hook of a Book).
But in 2004, my husband and I were lucky enough to be in Oslo on Syttende Mai. All photos are (c) Craig Allyn Rose.
The view down Karl Johans gate from the palace toward the Storthing, May 16, 2004.

The view down Karl Johans gate from the palace toward the Storthing, May 17, 2004.

The children's parade is the centerpiece of the day's celebration.

In Oslo, the parade winds past the Royal Palace, where the King and Queen greet the crowds, and then down to the harbor and the City Hall on Oslofjorden (site of the Nobel Peace Prize awards).

In Oslo, after the parade, it seemed everyone relaxed at sidewalk cafes--both real and makeshift.

Of course, it's a great excuse to wear your bunad!

Even the little ones get in on the bunad action!

Syttende mai was very important for Oleanna and her family in 1905 as well--especially when we meet them in the book, as it's John's last Constitution Day with his family. Plus, there's a new excitement in the air...could it be true independence at last?

So, gratulerer med dagen! Raise a glass of akevitt, or at least maybe a pølse (hot dog), in honor of Norway today!


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Historical Fiction Enticements: Find Your Next Favorite Read!

2013-05-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Debra Brown has very graciously included Oleanna in her latest Historical Fiction Enticements feature--synopses of great historical fiction reads that may just entice you into adding five more books to your To Be Read list/pile!


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"So evocative that it verges on poetic." #OleannaVirtualTour visits Let Them Read Books

2013-04-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The last stop of the Oleanna virtual tour brings us to Let Them Read Books, where Jenny has some really lovely things to say!

"It's not often you'll hear me complain that a book is too short, but in this case, I liked it so much that I wanted more...Oleanna is more than enough to carry the story on her own, the setting is fresh and inspiring, and the love story is both tender and tumultuous. I was also very impressed with Ms. Rose's ability to write honestly and naturally and yet so evocatively that it verges on poetic. And her author's note at the end cinched it for me with an old letter that brought tears to my eyes, a sweet homage to the natural magic of the land that had such a hold on Oleanna. Oleanna was a very different read for me, and very satisfying, and one I would recommend to anyone looking for a change of pace in historical fiction.
She's also hosting an international giveaway, which ends on April 19.
Virtual Book Tour Schedule Monday, April 1
Feature and Giveaway at Passages to the Past (giveaway ends April 11)

Tuesday, April 2
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 3
Review, Interview,
and Giveaway at The Lit Bitch (giveaway ends April 10)

Thursday, April 4
and Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages (giveaway ends April 20)

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, April 8
and Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court (giveaway ends April 21)

Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview,
and Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (giveaway ends April 23)

Wednesday, April 10
and Giveaway at Let Them Read Books (giveaway ends April 19)


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"characters that will stay with you long after you finish the book" #OleannaVirtualTour visits Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

2013-04-09 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Erin from Oh, for the Hook of a Book! has reviewed Oleanna, and says,

"Oleanna is a novel that will slowly seep into your subconscious as you read it, provoking at first angst, frustration, and emotional sadness that will leave you breathless, then giving you encouragement and strength as you draw fortitude from the cast of characters that will most certainly stay with you long after you finish the book."
She also hosted a very in-depth (and very fun!) interview—complete with my family's Norwegian Waffles recipe! Plus, she's hosting an international giveaway of Oleanna (through April 23).
Virtual Book Tour Schedule Monday, April 1
Feature and Giveaway at Passages to the Past (giveaway ends April 11)

Tuesday, April 2
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 3
Review, Interview,
and Giveaway at The Lit Bitch (giveaway ends April 10)

Thursday, April 4
and Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages (giveaway ends April 20)

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, April 8
and Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court (giveaway ends April 21)

Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview,
and Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (giveaway ends April 23)

Wednesday, April 10
and Giveaway at Let Them Read Books


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Oleanna Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court

2013-04-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Heather at The Maiden's Court is hosting an interview and a giveaway of Oleanna!

Don't forget, there are international giveaways still running at Passages to the Past, The Lit Bitch, and Peeking Between the Pages!

Virtual Book Tour Schedule Monday, April 1
Feature and Giveaway at Passages to the Past (giveaway ends April 11)

Tuesday, April 2
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 3
Review, Interview,
and Giveaway at The Lit Bitch (giveaway ends April 10)

Thursday, April 4
and Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages (giveaway ends April 20)

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, April 8
and Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court (giveaway ends April 21)

Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview,
and Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 10
and Giveaway at Let Them Read Books


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A primer on bunad, the folk dress of Norway #OleannaVirtualTour

2013-04-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The latest stop on the Oleanna virtual tour brings us back to So May Books, So Little Time, where Denise has been kind enough to let me give a brief overview of bunad, the folk dress of Norway!

The tour continues next week, with more reviews, interviews, and giveaways.

Don't forget, there are international giveaways still running at Passages to the Past, The Lit Bitch, and Peeking Between the Pages!

Virtual Book Tour Schedule Monday, April 1
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, April 2
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 3
Review, Interview & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, April 4
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, April 8
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 10
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books


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No Joke! Win Oleanna at Passages to the Past

2013-04-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

So excited to be starting my Virtual Book Tour for Oleanna today!

The festivities kick off at the fabulous Passages to the Past blog, with a feature and international giveaway. The tour schedule is below, or you can follow the tour on Twitter, using #OleannaVirtualTour !

Virtual Book Tour Schedule Monday, April 1
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, April 2 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 3
Review, Interview & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, April 4
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, April 8
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 10
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books


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"...beautiful, lyrical writing." The #OleannaVirtualTour visits Peeking Between the Pages!

2013-04-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Dar at Peeking Between the Pages has reviewed Oleanna as part of the virtual book tour (which is a blast so far!) and she has some wonderful things to say about the book!

Oleanna by Julie K. Rose is quite simply a beautifully written book. The story was inspired by the author’s great-great aunts and takes place in Norway in 1905. This novel paints such a vivid picture of life at this time in history and you feel drawn in from the very first page. You feel the hardships, love, loss, loyalty and family that flow from the pages of this book all the while feeling haunted by the shadows of ghosts past. I don’t often turn the last page of a book and want to go right back to the beginning but that’s how this novel has made me feel with all the beautiful passages and the quiet but deep and touching tale.
 Dar is also offering a giveaway copy of Oleanna (open internationally); enter by April 20!

Virtual Book Tour Schedule Monday, April 1
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, April 2
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 3
Review, Interview & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, April 4
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, April 8
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 10
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books


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"You do not want to pass up this sweeping novel!" #OleannaVirtualTour Visits The Lit Bitch

2013-04-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The Lit Bitch has reviewed Oleanna as part of the Oleanna Virtual Book Tour, and gives it 4 of 5 stars!

I was astonished at the breathtaking use of setting! Norway sounds absolutely stunning! The flourishing landscapes, forest, and lake all drew me in and made me feel like I was reading about a place both foreign and familiar at the same time. But the novel isn’t just about a refreshing setting, it’s a novel about love, loss, and a woman’s journey to find peace within herself...You do not want to pass up this sweeping novel!

Plus, she was kind enough to let me ramble on in response to her awesome interview questions, and is hosting a giveaway.

Tomorrow's stop on the tour is a review and giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages!


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An "absolutely beautiful story": #OleannaVirtualTour visits So Many Books, So Little Time

2013-04-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The second stop on the Oleanna Virtual Book Tour is at So Many Books, So Little Time, and the review is just lovely. Here's a snip:

I was very surprised by what an absolutely beautiful story Oleanna is.  The writing is superb and every last character is well-developed and unique...I really enjoyed the author's description of the fjords of Norway.  I am not familiar with Norway at all so it was new and exciting for me. 

Big thanks to Denise for the review, and for hosting me this Thursday, when I'll have a guest blog on bunad! …


Share: An "absolutely beautiful story": #OleannaVirtualTour visits So Many Books, So Little Time

2013-03-22 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Stuart MacAllister, indies review editor for the Historical Novels Review, and proprietor of the historical fiction blog Sir Read-A-Lot, has posted a lovely review of Oleanna. Here is a snippet:

Julie Rose is a talented writer who deserves a wider audience. Oleanna is based in part on a distant relative and her character is crafted with care and intelligence. There is a great deal of deep thinking and emotional turmoil weaved through the main plot and the story will stay with with you long after you have finished the book.  I would urge my male followers to read "Oleanna", even if they would initially dismiss it as a novel aimed at the female market, because the writing is exceptional and proves that independent writers are equally as good, if not better, than those in mainstream publishing.
He has also kindly let me ramble answers to his excellent interview questions and is hosting an international giveaway of Oleanna through March 31!

Thank you, Stuart! What a grand time I've had at your blog!



2013-03-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Well, this is most excellent. Audra at Unabridged Chick has named her top 10 of 2012—and Oleanna is one of her picks!

This historical novel set in early 20th century Norway hit all the right notes for me. Reminding me of Willa Cather and Sigrid Undset, Rose's sparse, simple narrative style swept me away and I was charmed and moved by Oleanna.  While without a flashy plot, the simple evocation of Norwegian life -- both modern and old-fashioned -- and the pain and loss of ordinary individuals was delightfully articulated.  I miss Oleanna and the world Rose evoked.  

What wonderful company the book is in—including Maryanne O'Hara's wonderful Cascade!

This is the right way to start the week!



I'm Going--Are You? #HNS2013

2013-03-02 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Starting to get really excited about the Historical Novel Society North American conference! It's a fabulous conference for both readers and writers--a great program and plenty of opportunities to chat with fellow attendees.

It will be held June 21-23 in St. Petersburg, Florida; if you are interested and haven't registered yet, you can do so at http://hns-conference.org/. 

I'll be on a panel with Heather Domin, Audra Friend, and Andrea Connell, looking at Historical Fiction off the beaten path—novels that explore unique settings, overlooked eras, or non-traditional relationships (or all of the above!).

And if you can't make it, you can follow the shenanigans on Twitter #HNS2013


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Oleanna Q&A and Give@way!

2013-02-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Today, Melissa at Confessions of an Avid Reader asks me some really interesting interview questions; I hope my answers are interesting too!

She is hosting an international giveaway of Oleanna through March 5, so if you are interested, make sure you stop by her blog and leave a comment to enter to win.


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"...a beautifully written story of loneliness, guilt and hope."

2013-02-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Melissa at Confessions of an Avid Reader has just posted her review of Oleanna. Needless to say, I'm pleased!

"One of this novel's greatest strengths is Rose's lovely prose, which is particularly striking when describing the setting.  Indeed, it is not difficult to envision the sheer beauty and peacefulness of the fjordland as one reads this novel...Oleanna is recommended to all readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in reading about a time and place not generally featured in the genre"

Melissa has been kind enough to host an international giveaway of Oleanna as well! Simply comment on the review by midnight (EST) on March 5, and you'll be entered to win a paperback copy of the book.  She's also been kind enough to let me blather on, so look for the Q&A this Thursday!


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Oleanna Virtual Book Tour

2013-02-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

My goodness, has it been almost two months since my last blog post?

I've been busy working on two of my works in progress, and it's getting serious now with one of them, so I've been focusing a lot of my attention on that.

I've also been posting quite a bit over at my Facebook page — updates on my WIPs, tidbits from Oleanna's world, and the like. Come on by!

Plus, I'm so excited to announce a virtual book tour, with huge thanks to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and all of the participating bloggers. You'll have the chance to win one of FIVE copies of Oleanna!

Virtual Book Tour Schedule Monday, April 1
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, April 2 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 3
Review, Interview & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, April 4
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, April 8
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 10
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books


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Patronymic Naming Patterns in History

2013-02-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Oleanna Tollefsdatter Myklebost was beset by ghosts: winter ice in her veins, chill and stiff even during the long summer days of the midnight sun.

That's the first line of Oleanna. And you might wonder to yourself: what is up with that name?

All the way up until the 1920s, Norwegians named their children based on patronymic format (like many, many cultures around the world)--that is, you are the son or daughter of your father, and hereditary surnames were not widely used. In Oleanna's case, it's clear that her father is Tollef. Her sister is Elisabeth Tollefsdatter Myklebost, and her brother is John (Johan) Tollefson Myklebost.

But, of course, there were thousands of men named Ole, Anders, Tollef, or Samuel throughout Norway, and throughout the ages. So to differentiate (a bit!) Norwegians added the name of their farm. In this case, Myklebost--and that might change if they left the farm where they were born and grew up and moved to a different part of Norway. Which of course gets very complicated when trying to do genealogical research.

To add to the complexity, women used their patronymic throughout their lives, even when they got married; however, this had begun to change along with the turn of the century.

It gets complicated enough that there are websites dedicated to helping genealogical (and historical!) researchers understand when patronymics were used, and when the shift to hereditary surnames began.
before 1850: traditional system of given name, patronymic and farm name 1850-1923: gradual change starting in cities moving towards hereditary last names [note: as with many other things, the rural farmers and fisherfolk--the majority of the country--retained traditional ways, including naming] 1923-1965: Norwegian Names Act: everyone had to take a hereditary last name. Children would have their father's last name. Women would use their husband's name 1965: Women could again keep their name (as before/tradition) and children could use either parents' last name, typically both (one as middle name)  Information via http://arvegods.blogspot.com/2012/02/norwegian-names.html

For additional reading, check out this article, Ancestors from Norway

When immigrants came to America, both men and women, they generally took their farm name as their surname; thus, Johan Tollefson Myklebost became John T. Myklebust.

John T. Myklebust, ca 1910, in North Dakota
Had he kept the naming pattern of the old country, he would have become Johan Tollefson Starkweather (Johan, son of Tollef, living on the farm in Starkweather, ND). I'm glad he kept Myklebust (moehk-leh-boost) though the Americanization changed the pronunciation entirely (michael-bust).

Of course, many immigrants changed their names completely to fit in--thus, my Danish great-grandfather changed his beautiful Christianson to Hunt. Which isn't a bad name at all, but it doesn't quite roll off the tongue the way Christianson does.

What are the naming patterns you've found in your family history? What has surprised you about naming patterns you've seen in other historical fiction? …


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Oleanna Makes Another Best-Of List!

2013-01-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Now that the holidays are over and the dust has settled, I can finally check in here again!

It's been a good week, getting back into the groove at the day job, and getting back into the groove on my current WIP. I love the holidays, but I love getting back into a rhythm and schedule as well.

In any case, here's a few things I think I neglected to share here during the festivities:
Stephanie at Layered Pages kindly took a few moments to interview me about Oleanna Deborah Swift's fantastic Royalty Free Fiction is a great resource for historical fiction that features regular people and non-royals. My post about the genesis of Oleanna is now live! I was very, very pleased and humbled to learn that Oleanna has made a number of Best-Of 2012 lists:
Ana at Historical Tapestry A Bookish Affair Darlene Elizabeth Williams  Queen's Quill Review 2012 was an amazing year, and I'm so thrilled that I was able to share Oleanna's story with so many of you. Here's to a 2013 filled with creativity, joy, and peace!


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The Timeless Nature of Patience

2012-12-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Hello and happy holidays! Dropping in for a quick happy note—my friend Anna Scott Graham has released the very satisfying final book in her Alvin's Farm series, The Timeless Nature of Patience.

Anna's characters will get under your skin—they show up in my dreams! If you enjoy character-driven family sagas (and don't mind ugly sobbing as you follow their ups and downs...have your kleenex handy) then I definitely recommend these books.


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The World of Oleanna: Juletid (Christmastime) in Norway

2012-12-14 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Ghost stories and animal sacrifice. Getting completely hammered and sleeping with your farm hands (on the floor). Malicious trolls and toasts to Frey, Odin, and Thor. 

Not exactly what you'd associate with Christmas. But in Norway, these are all part of the rich history of the winter celebration, changed since Oleanna's time in 1905—but not that much.

Kathleen Stokker's excellent book Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land is a treasure trove of information on Juletid through history.

The contemporary Norwegian Christmas represents a rich mixture of ancient heritage and modern impulses, merging elements of pre-Christian solstice celebrations, Viking jól, and early Christian practices with more recent folklore. As ancient rituals lost their original function, new customs arose to fit new social realities. Yet a surprising number of today's yuletide practices have their roots in the distant past. (17)
Was it a celebration held for the dead, who were thought to return to their homes during the long, dark nights of the winter solstice? Was it a "festive conclusion to the autumn slaughter and beer brewing"? Or was it "a solstice celebration like those found in many cultures around the world"?

As with many things, the turn of the century in Norway was a time of transition for Christmas celebrations as well.
Christmas Trees

The Christmas tree was an import from Germany, by way of Denmark, in the early 19th century. Many rural Norwegians resisted the tree, considering it pagan (while probably also believing in nisser and huldrefolk), but the upper and middle classes took to it quite early.

The tradition of the Christmas tree spread to the isolated peasant communities of Western Norway later, likely in Oleanna's parents' generation. The tradition was not commonly found in all parts of Norway until after the turn of the century, and then became the focus of festivities (including the tradition of holding hands and circling around the tree, singing carols on Christmas Eve).

But before the tradition of home trees became widespread, schools held juletrefester (Christmas tree parties), where children received gifts and sang carols. I expect during the short time John, Elisabeth, and Oleanna went to school, they may have participated; their uncle in town in Bergen likely adopted a home tree quite early.

The tree, at home or at school, was a kind of gift tree, adorned with gingerbread figures, apples, and oranges, and "also featured Christmas baskets (julekurv) shaped like cones and hearts to hold hard candies and raisins."

Adding strings of paper Norwegian flags to the tree started in 1905, after the separation from Sweden; I like to think that Oleanna and her family took especial pride in adding their flags to the tree that Christmas.

Christmas Eve
The dark days of winter and the ongoing echoes of the Viking jól made Christmas Eve a time of more apprehension than you might think. 
Beliefs that ghosts and other normally hidden beings returned at Christmas caused many Norwegians to seek comfort in each other's company on Christmas Eve, when they shared a bed of straw on the farmhouse floor. It was these fears that the Christian Christmas sought to soothe and mediate. But even as the real fear subsided, the telling of ghost stories--including the legend of the Midnight Mass of the Dead--remained a favored custom of Christmas... (15) 
The most famous hidden being associated with Christmas is the nisse (plural nisser). "According to long-standing popular belief, a farm's prosperity derived from this elf's hard work. To ensure continuation of good fortune, the farmer had to reward the nisse appropriately at Christmastime by providing him with a generous portion of porridge..." If Oleanna or one of her siblings didn't leave out the porridge, they might be doomed to trouble on the farm in the coming year--so it was always best to share your special Christmas porridge with the nisser, just in case.

With the long, dark night and the feelings of apprehension, fellowship was important. Christmas Eve often featured "flickering candlelight, a comforting cleanliness, and much finer, more abundant food than the family had eaten since the last Christmas." (85)

They would probably eat ribbe (spareribs) or pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs) and perhaps sing carols, newly revised older songs or those new-made in the mid-1800s, including Jeg er sa glad hver julekveld (I am so glad each Christmas Eve). 

Unsurprisingly, as with many Norwegian holidays (including Constitution Day), strongly brewed celebration beer was traditional. In fact, as far back as the Viking days, it was required. The Law of Gulating (devised at the assembly at Gula), called the Gulatingslov,
...required that beer be brewed by each peasant and drunk on Christmas night in honor of Christ and the Virgin Mary while uttering the toast "Til árs ok friðar" (for good harvest and fertility and peace). The formulation "til árs ok friðar" is so intricately bound up with the Old Norse way of thinking that scholars theorize that the Viking jól featured similar toasts to the gods Frey, Odin, and Thor--toasts that the identical, attested ones to Christ and Mary merely replaced. (8)
Nothing like strongly brewed beer to make you forget about ghosts and evil spirits and the deep, cold snow and the long, cold night.

Christmas Day
So, you've got a rockin' hangover. What sounds awesome? Rowing (or walking) to church! Norway in 1905 was a Lutheran country (with pagan underpinnings) and church on Christmas was universal.

But given the unique geography of Norway, and the fact that, just after the Reformation, there were not enough Lutheran ministers to go around, it would be impossible to reach all congregations on December 25. With the "deeply ingrained Norwegian sense of equality", the people demanded "institution of a no less sacred Second Christmas Day (annen juledag). While the necessity that mothered this invention disappeared long ago, Norwegians continue to observe December 26 as a full holiday." (12-13)

So First Christmas Day was spent at church, and then at home; Second Christmas Day was spent visiting with friends. And what goes better with Church (and visiting with friends), than beer?  
"The only permissible activity away from home on forste juledag was the church service...While the idea of attending church seems tranquil enough in our day, in earlier times the journey seldom proceeded without event. Beer and other strong beverages, available in plentiful supply at Christmas, often came along to ward off both the cold weather outside and the damp chill inside the unheated churches." (90)
I expect that, given all the celebration beer consumed, not much work got done between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, the official end of the Christmas season!

Christmas Today
I think Oleanna and her family would probably recognize Christmas in Norway today. Yes, there are nods to modernity, with lots of presents and lots of electric lights.

But they'd also recognize echoes of the Vikings and the Lutheran experience: Christmas trees with straw julebukk and Norwegian flags. Ribbe or pinnekjøtt on Christmas Eve. Setting out porridge for the nisse (who have been conflated, to an extent, with Santa Claus), and lots of joy throughout the whole Juletid, holding back the darkness with the light of fellowship.

So, here's to fellowship, joy, light, and of course, lots of celebration beer (if you're so inclined) to you and yours this holiday season!

Want to know more about the world of Oleanna? Click here for all of the posts that give context to her world--Norway in 1905.


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The World of Oleanna: Luciadagen

2012-12-13 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

St. Lucy with her eyes on a plate. Gruesome! St. Lucia's day, December 13, is observed throughout Scandinavia, but particularly in Sweden and Norway. The only other saint's day observed in Norway is St. Olaf, who codified Christianity in the country in 1024; he was Norway's king from 1015-1028 and was canonized in 1164.

The observance of St. Lucia (Luciadagen) fell out of favor in Norway after the Reformation, well until after WWII. And though Oleanna and her family probably didn't observe Luciadagen, it's just such a lovely thing, I couldn't help but share. 
Lucy was a 3rd century virgin and martyr in Sicily, the patron of blindness (as her eyes were put out), whose name means "light". So why on earth would Scandinavian countries embrace the celebration of a 3rd century saint?

As with most celebrations and feast days, the history is more complicated. Here's a nice, concise background on the historical observance of Luciadagen from My Little Norway:

St Lucia Day was introduced to Norway when Christianity spread over the country in the late 1000s. This day became a mark on the farmer’s primstav – a wooden calendar stick.  
With the elements from Catholic faith mixed with ancient traditions, Lucia being confused with Lucifer and with the use of the Old Julian calendar which made the 13th of December the darkest day of the year, came the tradition of Lussi langnatt (Lucy Longnight).  
As such, Ã…sgÃ¥rdsreia (Asagard parade – a trail of unsettled dead souls) became a tradition. The restless souls would travel from farm to farm seeing if people were preparing for Christmas.  If the people weren’t the lost souls could vandalize the farm. Also, people who were not preparing for Christmas could be abducted into the trail. To protect themselves people would paint tar crosses above doors of houses and barns.
Isn't it a beautiful tradition? The tradition morphed, and the darkness of Lussi (Lucifer) was said to be chased away by the light of Lucia.

Luciadagen stayed alive in Sweden, but died out in Norway after the Reformation, and wasn't re-adopted by the Norwegians until after WWII.

Thus, it's not a day Oleanna and her family would have observed, but the generations of Myklebosts that preceded her on that farm on the banks of lake Jølster surely would have.

So, how do Scandinavians observe Luciadagen today? In Sweden it is quite an important celebration, with both public and private activities, while today in Norway the focus is on schools.

Traditionally, the eldest girl in a family would get up early on December 13, donning a white robe and a crown full of candles, then serve her parents Lucia buns (Lussekatter) and coffee or mulled wine.

These days, the observance centers around schools. There is a Lucia selected, and the other girls are her "maids", and the boys are "Star boys". They process through their school and sometimes town, singing the Sankta Lucia song, and taking  Lussekatter to places like senior centers and nursing homes, bringing light in the middle of the dark days of December.

Here's a fantastic recipe for Lussekatter. They're delicious warm with butter, and though it's probably not traditional, some lingonberry jam. There's very little that can't be improved by lingonberry jam.

I hope you have a Luciadagen filled with light, hope, and delicious treats :)

For more information:  
New Advent catholic encyclopedia


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Historical Holiday Blog Hop

2012-12-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Amy at Passages to the Past has put together the First Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop, running from December 10-17.

What is a blog hop? It's a chance for you to discover new blogs dedicated to reading in general and historical fiction in particular. Plus, at each stop on the hop, the blogger is giving away prizes--Sarah Johnson at Reading the Past is giving away a copy of her Historical Fiction II: A Guide the Genre (Libraries Unlimited, 2009). Meg at A Bookish Affair is giving away six books, including a signed author copy. And Audra at Unabridged Chick is giving away some fantastic prize packages, including a copy of Oleanna (available to international entrants)! 

Check out all the stops on the blog hop to see what they're giving away, and enter by the end of the week.

The Grand Prize packages at Passages to the Past are pretty spectacular, too. Amy is sponsoring a $25 Amazon or B&N gift card, along with four prize packages of literally dozens of books.

Oleanna is included in Prize Package #2 (open to U.S. entrants only):

Prize Package #2
The Master of Verona by David Blixt (HC) 
The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick (PB w/Signed Bookplate) 
At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill (PB) 
The King's Grace by Anne Easter Smith (Signed PB) 
Oleanna by Julie K. Rose (PB) 
The Sumerton Women by D.L. Bogdan (PB)
Rebel Puritan by JoAnn Butler (Signed PB) 
The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen (Audiobook) 
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchahan (ARC, sponsored by Penguin Publishing) 
The King's Concubine by Anne O'Brien (PB) 
The September Queen by Gillian Bagwell (PB) 
The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd (PB w/Tower of London Tea Sachets) 
Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice (PB) 
The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase (PB) 
The Sign of the Weeping Virgin by Alana White (PB) 
The Queen's Mistake by Diane Haeger (PB) 
The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig (Signed HC) 

So check out all of the stops on the Hop (and follow the fun on Twitter at #HistoricalHolidayBlogHop) and don't forget to enter to win Oleanna at Unabridged Chick, or as part of Prize Package #2 at Passages to the Past!



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HNS '13: Historical Fiction Off the Beaten Path

2012-11-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The Historical Novel Society 2013 conference is next June in St. Petersburg, Florida. It's such a great place to connect with other historical fiction enthusiasts and attend some fascinating panels and workshops.

The full list is now available at http://hns-conference.org, along with links to registration for the conference.

I'm so thrilled to let you know that one of those panels is near and dear to my heart: Off the Beaten Path: Reading and Writing Outside the Historical Fiction Mainstream

Trends in historical fiction are beloved for a reason, but readers (and writers) have broader tastes than many realize. There is a wealth of historical fiction available that veers off the expected path, from non-traditional relationships to rarely-visited locations to blended genres, with surprising protagonists and fascinating journeys hard to find elsewhere.
In this panel, comprised of both readers and writers, we'll discuss motivations for writing outside the mainstream, the challenges of doing so, and take a look at some unique historical fiction--both recently published and upcoming. 

I'm even more excited to announce my fellow panelists!
Heather Domin, an amazing historical fiction author whose books The Soldier of Raetia and Allegiance bring non-traditional relationships in Augustan Rome and 1920s Dublin beautifully to life Andrea Connell, former Managing Editor and Indie Reviews Editor of the Historical Novels Review and current proprietress of The Queen's Quill Review Audra Friend, very widely read and enthusiastic proprietress of Unabridged Chick 
If you have an off-the-beaten-path novel coming out in 2013, or a favorite that you've read recently, please leave a comment here. The panel isn't until June, so we'll be gathering additional information for the next few months. …


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Oleanna and Passages to the Past Holiday Blog Hop

2012-11-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

I'm so pleased to announce that Oleanna is part of the Passages to the Past Holiday Blog Hop!

The Grand Prize is pretty amazing: a $25 amazon or B&N gift certificate, plus all of these fantastic books!

1. Oleanna by Julie K. Rose (pb) 2. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell (pb) 3. Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell (Audio Books) 4. The King's Daughter by Barbara Kyle (pb) 5. The King's Concubine by Anne O'Brien (pb) 6. Royal Romances: Titillating Tales of Passion and Power in the Palaces of Europe by Leslie Carroll (pb) 7. The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell (pb) 8. The September Queen by Gillian Bagwell (pb) 9. The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick (pb) *w/signed bookplate 10. The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick (pb) *w/signed bookplate 11. Sea Witch by Helen Hollick (pb) *w/signed bookplate 12. Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell (pb) 13. Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell (pb) 14. The Queen's Vow by Christopher Gortner (pb, UK edition) 15. Into the Path of Gods (Book 1, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (pb) 16. In the Shadow of Dragons (Book 2, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (pb) 17. The Anvil Stone (Book 3, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (hc) 18. A Land Beyond Ravens (Book 4, Macsen's Treasure Series) by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (hc)  19. Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth (pb) 20. The Rose of York: Love & War by Sandra Worth (pb)
21. A Dance of Manners (A Regency Anthology) by Susan Flanders, Cynthia Breeding, Kristi Ahlers, Gerri Bowen and Erin Hatton (pb)
22. The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose (hc)
23. The Sumerton Women by D.L. Bogdan (pb)   
And more books are being added all the time!

What is a blog hop?
Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list. The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.

Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can "HOP" from blog to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

When can you enter to win?
Between December 10-17, from any blog participating in the blog hop.

But wait, there's more! :D
I'm also giving away a second copy of Oleanna at Unabridged Chick during the blog hop!

Learn more about Oleanna, and read reviews (and ratings) at Goodreads.


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Oleanna book club: holiday cookie exchange!

2012-11-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

A book club recently asked me about menu ideas for a December meeting to discuss Oleanna. What a great time of year to talk about life in Norway!

Norwegians have some fabulous traditions around the holidays, and of course many revolve around food. But I don't think you'll want to get into hours-long preparation of pinnekjøtt (salted lamb ribs) or julepølse (Christmas sausage) or lutefisk (ling cod soaked in lye...not that you'd want to).

So a great idea for an Oleanna book club meeting in December is a cookie exchange!

It is traditional in Norway to always serve seven kinds of cookies; if there are not seven, it's not been a proper holiday. The origins of this tradition are hazy; it possibly started in the coffee houses in Sweden in the 19th century, but in any case, it became an unofficial requirement for the holiday season in the 20th century. And the "official" list of seven is a bit hazy, too: it seems everyone has a slightly different list of the seven kinds.

Krumkake, Fattigman, and Spritz. Via Brianna at I Do All My Own Stunts.
As a Norwegian-American, I've kept up the spirit of the seven kinds, but not the specifics. I have a traditional krumkake iron, but...well, let's say I don't have the patience for using it properly. So, I usually make fudge, (my world-famous) chocolate chip, berlinerkranser (recipe from the 1930s via my grandmother), and spritz, while trying out three new recipes each year. I'm particularly fond of this Scottish shortbread, pfeffernuße, and Russian tea cakes.

For your Oleanna book club meeting, try out one or two of the traditional Norwegian cookies, and bring a cookie representative of your holiday traditions to share. If you're interested in Scandinavian baking, this book is fantastic.

Round out the festivities with strong, hot coffee (Norwegians have always loved it, and consume a lot of it—21 pounds per person, per year) or gløgg (mulled wine). As with most recipes, there's no definitive "right" way to make it, but here are two versions that look particularly yummy.

In addition to the Oleanna book club questions (opens a PDF), you might also consider these topics over your gløgg:
The long, cold nights of winter forced families indoors and enforced a lot of togetherness; Oleanna coped by learning to weave. How do you cope with the long dark of winter? Traditions and rituals help bind a community together, and help bind families together. In Oleanna, Constitution Day is an important day to bind a country together. During this holiday season, what are the traditions that bring your family together? What are your community's traditions? If you do have a cookie exchange, please let me know what kinds you shared. I'm always looking for new recipes to add to my seven kinds rotation! …


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The Supernatural in Norwegian Folklife

2012-10-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

What goes bump in the night? In Norway, quite a bit...

Norske Folkeeventyr (Norse Folktales) is a collection of stories compiled and published by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe in the mid-19th century, and republished in its most popular form (still used today) in 1879. Asbjørnsen and Moe share the huge range of supernatural creatures featured in Norwegian folklore; here is just a sampling of those you should watch out for, should you find yourself alone in the woods, or walking along the shore...

Nøkken by Theodor Kittlesen, via Wikipedia Nøkken are male water spirits. They lured women and children to drown in lakes and streams by playing enchanted songs on the violin. The music was particularly dangerous for pregnant women and unbaptized children, and was supposedly most active on Jonsok, Christmas Eve, and on Thursdays. However, not all nøkken were necessarily evil--in fact, some would even teach you their songs if you brought him a gift of three drops of blood, or perhaps a black animal.

But if one did run across a nøkk with malevolent intent, one would simply need to find out its name and speak it aloud: this would kill him. But beware: the nøkk was also an omen for drowning accidents. The word is derived from Old Norse nykr, meaning river horse.


Draugen is a generic term for revenants in Norway (apparently, the Nynorsk translation of The Lord of the Rings uses the term for both ring-wraiths and the dead men of Dunharrow) but it's largely associated with the sea.

Draugr by Theodor Kittlesen Ella Valborg Røvaag in her article "Norwegian Folk Narrative in America" tells us that "The draug, found mostly in northern Norway, is the most terrifying of all the sea creatures. His appearance is usually an omen of drowning or trouble at sea. He is described as being a headless fisherman, dressed in oilskins and riding through the storm in half a boat. He often hangs around the boathouses, and has the ability to disguise himself -- usually as a large seaweed-covered rock."

The Encyclopedia Mythica goes on,

"Having been denied proper burial themselves, they haunt the shores of Norway to bring doom upon any mariner who sees them. Conversely, they are only visible to their future victims.

Draugs are said to have seaweeds for heads and to sail around in half a boat. Some accounts portray them as shapeshifters who take on the appearance of stones in the shoreline. When a mariner treads upon such a stone he faces certain death, unless he would first spit on it. "


By Erik Theodor Werenskiod According to Encyclopedia Mythica:
"In Scandinavian myth, trolls are ugly, malicious creatures and the enemies of mankind. They are much bigger and stronger than humans, and leave their caves only after dark to hunt. If they are exposed to sunlight they will instantly turn to stone. Trolls are very fond of human flesh. In later myths they are roughly the size of humans or elves, and thought to be the owners of buried treasures. They are sometimes, although very rarely, portrayed as friendly, less ugly creatures."
They are big, stupid, hairy, and are often outwitted in Norwegian folk tales by Askeladden (the Ash Lad). They live in the mountains, under bridges, and at the bottom of lakes. There are also smaller trolls living in burial mounds and mountains, known as troldfolk (troll-folk) or tusser. They are said to turn into stone when exposed to the sun.


The shapeshifting huldrefolk are common throughout Scandinavian tales and are a subset of the larger group of legends which deal with the haugfolk (hill folk) or underjordiske (those who live underground). Røvaag discusses the huldrefolk in detail, both the legends in the "old country" and how they appear and change when immigrants arrived in America.
"Next to the belief in ghosts, the belief in hulder and the hidden world has remained strongest among the people...
"Since they are believed to be so much like humans, people in the inland districts believe the hulderfolk are farmers with houses and barns and with large herds which have to be sent to the mountain pastures to graze. Near the coast the hidden people are seamen and fishermen. There, too, like their human neighbors, they also have their houses and barns, but fishing is their main occupation, and, in the olden days, they made yearly trips to Bergen to sell fish and to buy provisions...
Huldra via Wikipedia "By and large, the hulderfolk are thought of as ageless, though there are stories about death and funerals in their world. People who visit them often find everything topsy-turvy -- humans, it is said, have to have their eyes twisted or their pupils slit in order to see things in the hulder world as the inhabitants themselves see them. The hulder people are supposed to be visible or invisible to humans at will; they have the ability to disguise themselves; they throw no shadows and leave no footprints; and they are eager to move into the human world and live like humans. It seems that the only way in which they can achieve that is by marriage with a human, or by taking someone into their world. (This to some extent explains why small children are kidnapped and changelings left in their places.) They are very thankful when human beings show them consideration and respect, and they are very revengeful when they think that their rights have been slighted."

Huldra by Theodor Kittlesen Typically, the story focuses on the huldra, who kidnaps men and requires sexual pleasure; if he pleases her, she rewards him. If he doesn't, she kills him. Norwegian huldra are not quite as bloodthirsty, often merely kidnapping the men, and possibly taking them with her into the underworld.

So how does she kidnap men? In Norwegian lore, she is described as your typical dairymaid (a nod perhaps to the perceived sexual freedom of the saeter), though somewhat more attractive than the girls from the nearby farms. At first she seems like the prettiest dairy maid you've ever seen--until you see her back. If you look closely, she has a cow's tail, and a hollow back, like an old tree trunk. The huldra is also known as the Lady of the forest, and also had a disturbing tendency to kidnap human children and replace them with her own huldrebarn (changelings).

So how could you protect yourself?

The huldrefolk held powerful sway for many long centuries. Kathleen Stokker in her Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land discusses the pains new mothers went to in order to protect her newborn from the huldrefolk.
"Because the short time between birth and baptism was believed to influence a newborn's future, the almue carefully observed rituals to ensure a positive future...Belief in the huldrefolk slowly waned in the nineteenth century, but it inspired enduring practices such as swaddling. After bathing the newborn child, the birth assistant swaddled it, first by covering it with several small cloths and inserting a large wad of very absorbent, unwashed wool between its legs. Then she wrapped the baby in a larger thin, homespun cloth, kept in place by winding a long, narrow, handwoven band around the infant several times around." (Stokker 134)

"Risking a final opportunity for the huldrefolk to steal the unbaptized child, the trip to baptism was fraught with hazard. Protecting the infant was the principal function of the baptismal sponsors, usually five or six in number during the nineteenth century. The child's decorative clothing had the same function. Embroidered with crosses and fastened with pewter, the long dress or swaddling clothes might also feature a silver brooch or a pocket to conceal the extra safeguard of a silver coin or darning needle. Before the baptismal party set out for the church, some parents made the sign of a cross with a burning branch over the child and recited the Lord's Prayer." (Stokker 136-7)
According to an article by Jody Grage Haug for the Daughters of Norway (Døtre Av Norge) February 1998:
Silver was magical in Norway, the stuff of superstition and legend. The mines were thought to belong to the mountain trolls who were the very best silversmiths. Silver was used to protect against storms, heal sickness, make beer work, consecrate water, etc. A small silver brooch was pinned on a baby's clothing so the trolls couldn't make a swap with a troll baby. Silver pieces handed down from previous generations were especially valued because of their ancestral and spiritual connections.

Silver sølje jewelry was particularly helpful: both mirrored (to dazzle the eyes of the supernatural being) and silver, they protected the living and the dead--and look beautiful doing so.


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Women's Suffrage in Norway, 1905

2012-10-22 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

While doing research for Oleanna, I was so pleased to find this book by Sylvia Paletschek and Bianka Pietrow-Ennker, Women's Emancipation Movements in the Nineteenth Century: A European Perspective (Stanford University Press, 2004).

The women's suffrage movement in Norway can be seen as a kind of natural extension of the largely agrarian society. From Patelschek and Pietrow-Ennker:

"The last few decades of the nineteenth century saw a growing protest against the strictly gender-divided society of the urban middle class. In agrarian and working-class life, women and men often worked side by side and took part in the same leisure activities."
Oleanna and Elisabeth, I think unconsciously, assumed a kind of equality in their relationships with men--everyone has to work hard, everyone has to pull their weight. Oleanna was surprised by the gender divides she saw when she visited Bergen.
"But in the urban middle classes, femininity was circumscribed by many taboos…For a woman to enter a restaurant, even a fashionable one, without male company, not to speak of smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, was deemed very dubious behavior."
That said, across the social strata, "...the younger generation wanted husbands who saw them as equal partners in marriage."

The push for suffrage in Norway was driven by urban middle-class women, I suspect largely because they did not enjoy the same kinds of social freedoms that their more agrarian sisters did. Plus, as Oleanna says to Anders many times, the world of politics was so far removed from the reality of her daily life, it was difficult for her to really connect the dots between suffrage and her own life and well-being.

The way the dots were connected for rural women was the 1905 dissolution of the union of Norway and Sweden. But before that could happen, the suffrage movement had to begin in earnest.

"The fight for the vote owed a great deal of its success to a new organization, formed in 1896, Norske Kvinners Sanitetsfoering (the Norwegian Women's Sanitary Association). It was meant to support national opposition to the political union with Sweden by educating nurses and preparing medical materials to be used in the case of a war between the two countries. The organization spread to all parts of the country and recruited from all social groups. It soon broadened its activities to health problems in general, especially the fight against tuberculosis…"

By 1901, female trade unions and the Labor Party had come together in the Labor Party's Women's Association. In that same year, women obtained limited suffrage in local elections.
"The National Association for Women's Suffrage, headed by Frederikke Marie Qvam, who for some time was also leader of the Sanitary association and president of the Women's Rights Association, quickly established local branches all over the country. It cooperated closely with the new Sanitary Association. By 1902 it had 1,566 members, and it concentrated on the struggle for general suffrage."
But the old divide between the urban middle class and the agrarian and working classes made it difficult to create a country-wide movement.
"Attempts were made to attract working-class women to middle-class organizations, but cooperation across class lines was rare. Even the fight for the vote was mainly fought as two parallel, but separate wars."

When Oleanna joins Katrine at a Labor Party meeting, it's clear that there is tension between the upper and middle class women and the working class women. They might have the same goal--suffrage and women's rights--but they are coming from quite different places.

Yes, we love our country! Postcard in support of the Yes referendum campaign.

A contributing factor to women gaining the vote in Norway was the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905. A coalition government was formed in 1905 to establish the separate Norwegian corps of consuls; the law was passed by the Storthing, but King Oscar II of Sweden refused to accept it, and the Norwegian coalition government resigned on June 7, 1905, declaring a dissolution of the union.

The Swedish government insisted on a Norwegian referendum to understand the citizen's view. During the summer of 1905, a "vote yes" campaign spread throughout Norway, encouraging men to vote in the referendum on August 13. It was a landslide victory; 99.95% of (male) Norwegians voted in favor of dissolution (368,208 votes in favor, 184 opposed).

But the parallel women's campaign, in which over 200,000 women signed a symbolic petition, was just as powerful a rhetorical statement.
"Limited national suffrage was not obtained until 1907. The women's cause no doubt profited from the support given by the Sanitary Association to national policies in the dispute with Sweden over the political union. A cunning signature campaign in support of the dissolution of the union in 1905 also greatly enhanced the image of women as politically sensible and responsible individuals."
I think the "cunning" signature campaign was a strong rhetorical statement, but I also think it was a true reflection of women's stance on the matter of the dissolution and Norwegian nationalism and pride. Full national suffrage was finally achieved in 1913.

My short Norwegian history primer can be found at the Reading the Past blog.


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Beer Traditions in Norway, and an Oleanna Excerpt

2012-10-15 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Kathleen Stokker's Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land is a fantastic resource for readers and writers who have an interest in folkways and the immigrant experience.

One tidbit of information I found incredibly interesting, and ended up using in Oleanna, was the long history of beer traditions in Norway.

"Early Christian law required that landowners brew beer to share with their neighbors during Christmas and at other times of celebration, threatening the noncompliant with stiff fines and the loss of their land. For centuries, beer (øl) remained the essential drink for observing the yuletide (known as Ã¥ drikke jul, or 'drinking Christmas'), as well as betrothals, (festerøl, engagement beers), christenings (barnsøl, child-beers), and funerals (gravøl, grave beers). 
"The brew that accompanied these celebrations had to be strong. It stood out from the weak beer made for daily consumption by recycling the malt first used to make the festive brew. Norwegians looked forward to celebrating the milestones of life and the yearly cycle as a welcome break in their otherwise dreary, work-filled lives, and they drank on these occasions with the aim of getting drunk. A good host made sure that they did…
"'Velkommen grande I mit hus' (Welcome neighbor to my house), reads the inscription on an 1843 ale bowl from Todalen in Møre og Romsdal, 'Sæt dig ne dog drik en rus' (sit yourself down and get soused). 'People thought drinking made them happy,' observed Armauer Hansen in his 1910 memoir, 'a misunderstanding that can be fitting for Norwegians who are otherwise too inhibited to let themselves go.'" (179-80)
Ale bowl with rosemaling decoration; from my collection
Elisabeth and Oleanna were definitely not averse to a bit of akevitt during any time of celebration (or frustration) but the beer was brewed special for Christmas, and for Syttende Mai (Constitution Day)--and the sisters had a unique tradition of their own.
Oleanna looked back to find her sister laughing and angling herself so the men could not see her taking four bottles for herself. Oleanna chuckled and shook her head: for many years, liberating as much beer as possible had been their private Constitution Day tradition. At that moment, Elisabeth looked up at her and flashed a wicked grin. Oleanna smiled, then turned and pushed open the door to the dark, empty church. 
After they'd liberated a few bottles, they headed out of sight.
“Come on,” Elisabeth said, pulling her out of the church, spilling more of the precious, and strongly brewed, celebration beer in the process. They hurried around to the side of the church, and up into the dark wood which was never very far away.
Elisabeth led them deeper into the forest and they settled with their backs against a fallen log. After a few moments, Oleanna took a long drink; the beer wasn’t theirs—sharp with too much new grass—but she swallowed nearly half the bottle at one go, and then quickly dispatched the second.
Elisabeth finished off her own bottles and set them on the ground. They sat together quietly, feeling the beer work its magic, listening to the chatter of the crowds just beyond the curtain of trees.
Learning a small tidbit about beer traditions in Stokker's book uncovered an interesting quirk in Oleanna's personality; good lord I love writing.


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Folk Medicine in Norway

2012-10-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

While writing Oleanna, Kathleen Stokker's Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land was incredibly helpful in understanding how people living in remote villages and farmsteads might deal with things like illness or childbirth.

It's an interesting time in Norway--1905, when the cities have grown quite modern, but the people living in geographically isolated and physically remote villages and farmsteads are in a liminal state, clinging to what they know and have always known, but beginning to understand that the modern world will not be held back.

For example, when Oleanna catches a fever and cold, Elisabeth asks Anders to go into the nearest town, Skei, to bring back both aspirin and whiskey—modern and traditional approaches to healing. Elisabeth, being a regular newspaper reader, would know about aspirin, which had been popularized by Bayer, who began selling it around the world in 1899. One of the remedies Stokker shared for fever and cold is:

"Rx for bad cold and coughs: Concentrated pine oil ½ oz., good whiskey 2 oz., Mix and shake well. Dose: teaspoonful to tablespoonful every 4 hours." (236)
Other traditional options included camphor oil, turpentine (rubbed on the chest), warm mustard plaster (applied to the chest), goose grease (rubbed on the chest), or goose oil WITH turpentine (rubbed on the chest and back).

Another popular cure-all seemed to be onions, fried or raw, tied into some kind of cloth and placed on the chest or throat. Can you imagine what a fragrant sick-room that would be? Yikes.

Kvann (Angelica archangelica)
Herbs were of course heavily used in remedies, and through history, Norway was well-known for one in particular: angelica, or kvann in Norwegian. Again, from Stokker:
Kvann (angelica)
"By the Viking era (ca. 800-1000 AD), kvann (Angelica archangelica or angelica) was already an important item of trade. Snorri's medieval Saga of Olav Tryggvasson describes the king buying it at the market place in Nidaros. The 1164 Law of Gulating emphasized kvann's continued importance, urging landowners to set aside special kvanngarder (patches to grow these leafy stalks, which in western Norway reached six or seven feet tall). Strict punishments were imposed for stealing kvann from another farm…

"Monks grew kvann in Norway's medieval cloister gardens, and many wore it as a protective amulet or carried it in their pockets to ward off sickness and danger…In addition to warding off food poisoning, kvann could be eaten to cure gikt (rheumatism) and taering (consumption)…When the Black Death struck Europe in the late 1340s, kvann gained a reputation for curing the afflicted and stopping its spread…According to legend, it was at this time kvann got its Latin name, Angelica archangelica…
"In addition to its high Vitamin C content, kvann has aromatic oils and tannins that stimulate digestive juices. Along with its sweet taste and fragrance, these properties have long made kvann an important component of the French liqueurs Chartreuse and Benedictine, along with their Norwegian counterpart, St. Halvard likor." (108-10)
Elisabeth and Oleanna's mother was, like all good farm wives, well studied in the herbal arts for medicine, for wool dyeing, and for general wellness. Practitioners today note angelica's healing properties--soothing anxiety and promoting general well-being.

Elisabeth seemed to have learned well (to Oleanna's surprise and happiness).
Torjus emerged from the farmhouse and ran toward her [Oleanna]. She opened her arms and he tumbled into her lap. “What is it?” He wriggled around until he could look up into her face, and she smiled.

“Mama said you smell bad and should come take a bath.” He reached out and pulled at a strand of hair that had worked its way out of her braid.

Oleanna smiled, tipping Torjus out of her lap and standing up. “Is that so? She can smell me all the way from the farmhouse?”

He nodded earnestly. “I had to take a bath, too. It’s alright, Lea, it doesn’t hurt.”

She laughed and took his hand. “You’re very brave.”

Torjus pulled his hand free and ran away, down the hill. “Mama, mama, she’s coming,” he hollered.

Oleanna stretched her arms up over her head, grinning, and then wandered down the hill after him. She pushed the door open and was greeted with the sweet, musky smell of angelica. Elisabeth was bent over the fire, picking up a boiling pot of water to pour into the small tin tub.

“You’d better hurry,” Elisabeth said. “It takes ages for your hair to dry.”

“Lisbet, you didn’t have to go to the trouble—”

Elisabeth straightened and put her hand up. “Hush. Hurry up. You’re starting to smell like Terna.” She picked up a pile of linens from the bed and bustled out, shutting the door firmly behind her. Just outside the door, Oleanna could hear Elisabeth shushing Torjus and his whining complaint as they walked up the hill to the store house.
If you have any interest in folkways, the history of medicine, or the maintenance of tradition in immigrant communities, I strongly recommend Stokker's book. It is fascinating and well researched, and will make you very glad that you live in the 21st century.

As a side note, I'm definitely putting her Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land on my wishlist!


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I've been tagged: The Next Big Thing Challenge

2012-10-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Lisa Yarde has tagged me in the Next Big Thing Challenge! I'm a little hesitant, as I'm completely ridiculous and superstitious about talking about my WIPs, but here goes. I've got three on the go at the moment, but I think I'll go with the one that's most complete.

The rules are simple: Answer 10 questions about my current WIP (Work-In-Progress). Tag five writers and link their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers.

What is the working title of your book?
Dido's Crown

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
The idea has been evolving, but it started with the relationship and interaction between the three main characters: Mary, Will, and Tom, in pre-WWI England. My brain presented me, practically fully written, with the image of two friends chatting together in a smoky pub about their frankly tragic love lives.

But it became clear fairly quickly that I needed to expand the scope of the story, and suddenly they were standing on a balcony in Tunisia 20 years later, looking out across the turquoise water, fanning themselves with their hats and preparing themselves for some rather nefarious business.

Why Tunisia? I keep a dream journal, scribbling them down in scratchy hand (nearly) every morning, and I particularly love the exhilarating flying dreams. I've had a couple of dreams about flying along the coast of Tunisia, and I knew it had to be incorporated somehow.

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Eva Green would be a fabulous Mary. I think she could play the undercurrent of danger and recklessness very well, and she's got a unique look that's just about right.
Matt Smith would be perfect for Will. He's got fantastic range, and could play the quiet moments and angst beautifully with only a shift of his mouth or eyes. 

Benedict Cumberbatch would be wonderful as Tom. He's just a damn good actor, and I'd love to see him perform this more emotional, romantic role.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I've only recently finished the first draft, so this is probably premature, but what the heck.

Mary Wilson can't remember her childhood; but in her past lies the key to a mystery the Nazis are desperate to solve--and her friends are desperate to keep hidden.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Great question. Time will tell.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About 18 months. The time period and location was completely new to me, so there was a lot of research. I was also doing the final edits to Oleanna while writing this draft, and then launching and promoting that book, so my time (and brain) were a bit split.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It's hard to say, as the book is still in the midst of being formed. Provisionally, I would say it's a literary historical spy thriller. How's that for a mouthful?

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Honestly? I was at my day job, waiting in the tech center for my laptop to be repaired after a blue screen of death. I was sitting at one of the loaner computer stations, positively bored out of my mind, and literally out of thin air the conversation between Tom and Will in the pub appeared in my brain. So I opened my Gmail and started taking transcription.

It's a different kind of book than The Pilgrim Glass or Oleanna, in that there's more action and there's violence. But, at least at this point, the story has equal measures of adventure/espionage and angst--I can't seem to write a story that doesn't somehow investigate themes of death, grief, guilt, memory, and choice.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Tunisia, 1935. Mary Wilson has found herself in the middle of a dance floor, in the middle of a cover up, with the man she loves but knows she cannot have--and a gun she didn't know she knew how to use. 

I'm not going to tag anyone, but I will say I'd love to see posts from Maryanne O'Hara, Anna Scott Graham, Pat Bracewell, V.E. Ulett, and Gillian Bagwell!

Also, check out the answers to this meme by the brilliant Heather Domin!


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In Praise of Pinterest (no, really)

2012-10-02 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

I was quite skeptical of Pinterest at first. Like Tumblr, I didn't really get it at the beginning, and I was very hesitant to add yet another social media site to my daily rounds. But I have to admit, it's really grown on me.

The Oleanna board is a collection of images related to all things Norway and historical, providing a visual overview of a time and place. It's a fun way to share early 20th century Norway with my readers, and I love being able to keep my images in such an easy way (rather than a folder on my computer or an unending scroll of bookmarks).

I've got a board for The Pilgrim Glass (focusing on Vézelay, stained glass, and Mary Magdalene), and I'm also using Pinterest to collect images for WIPs and ideas for future stories.

Plus, it's fun (and inspiring) to see what other people I'm connected with are collecting: Unabridged Chick's book reviews, Sandra Gulland's images of France, Yves Fey's beautiful art, Heather Webb's fabulous fashion, to name just a few.

Admittedly, there's some weird stuff on Pinterest (and so hilarious to see scores of pins about weight loss right next to another score on super sugary fatty recipes) but if you pick your spots, it's a pretty great tool and a pretty great way to connect. …


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Oleanna Soundtrack: Reprise #histnov

2012-09-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

This is an update to the soundtrack for Oleanna I posted back in February. Learn more about the world of Oleanna by searching the tag here.

Music is an integral part of writing for me. I prefer to have it on in the background as I write, and I need to have music without lyrics I can understand, so I don't get distracted. My go-to music is usually soundtracks for movies I haven't seen (that way I don't associate the songs with specific scenes), and lately that has meant Becoming Jane, Pride & Prejudice (2005), and The Duchess.

While I was writing Oleanna, Trio Mediaeval's (Grammy-nominated) Folk Songs was the only thing I wanted to listen to. The album is comprised of Norwegian folk tunes, many from the Middle Ages. The three women's voices are both heart-thrillingly crystalline and strange, like a shimmering aurora, often with the earthy counterpoint of a rope-tensioned drum. There are samples of all of the album's songs at the link above, and you can listen to the full version of Villeman og Magnhild here.

But for me there's the music you listen to while you write, and there's soundtracks that represent the story you've written.

Other authors see soundtracks differently--which is why I hosted a podcast in 2008, Writers & Their Soundtracks, sharing the stories and soundtracks of writers as diverse as Elizabeth Chadwick, Ekaterina Sedia, Heather Domin, Jason Erik Lundberg, C.C. Humphreys, and Jeff Sypeck.

I like to create my soundtrack after the fact, choosing songs that I find representative of the story and the characters. Here's the soundtrack I've created for Oleanna.

Vi Skal Ikkje Sove Bort Somarnatta (We Shall Not Sleep Away The Summernights) by Lief Sorbye

I Mine Kate Ungdomsdagar (In My Reckless, Youthful Days) by Trio Mediaeval (which also shows up as a song Anders sings in Oleanna)

In my reckless, youthful days – I recall them well
I was free of worries and was such a happy soul
Then I began to think about just how it all would end,
if I could find a decent boy on whom I could depend.
Det Star Ein Friar Uti Gare (There's a Suitor in the Garden) by Lief Sorbye
Falling Through the Ice by The Ocean Blue
Jealous of the Moon by Nickel Creek

Staring down the stars, jealous of the moon
You wish you could fly.
But you're staying where you are
there's nothing you can do
if you're too scared to try.

I hate to see a friend of mine,
Laughing out loud when she's crying inside,
but you've got your pride.

Stay by The Blue Nile
Stay, stay, stay and I will understand you
Stay, I will understand you

I write a new book everyday

A love theme for the wilderness

How Distant Your Heart by Robin Guthrie

This Joy by Stephanie Dosen
Send up the sun now
the midnight darkness
is nearly through
I'm one day older
but this love is still as true
and hey its gonna be taking me over
this joy is gonna fill the inside out...
Short Trip Home by Joshua Bell, Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, and Sam Bush

Hljómalind by Sigur Rós


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Oleanna, 2nd Edition Now Available

2012-09-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Very happy to announce that the 2nd edition of Oleanna is making its way into distribution right now. The content has not been updated, but the formatting has.

When Andrea Connell (The Queen's Quill Review and Historical Novels Review) reviewed the book this summer, she pointed out some important formatting issues, which I have addressed in this second edition. This includes new formatting of the book's interior, as well as an updated back cover (which I had a lot of fun doing, actually).

I'm very grateful to Andrea for the honest feedback on the formatting; the book is much better for her constructive input. She's kindly blogged about the update here.

The second edition will be available from all online retailers in the coming weeks; the first edition remains available for now. The electronic version of the second edition is available now for Kindle and Nook. …


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And now for something completely different

2012-09-16 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Very excited to let you know that the latest in the Alvin's Farm series by Anna Scott Graham, The Farm at Sam & Jenny's, has now been released.

Anna was kind enough to entrust her cover design to me for these latest books in the series, and I have to say I'm quite pleased with the results. The last two books in the series, An Innate Sense of Recognition and The Timeless Nature of Patience, will be released in the coming months.

I provide book cover design services, as well as editorial consulting, to a limited number of clients. If you have a need, please email me at juliekrose at gmail.com. …


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HNS London '12 Conference + Dream Dinner Guests

2012-09-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The wonderful Helen Hollick, in the run-up to the Historical Novel Society conference in London at the end of September, is hosting a different guest each day, to talk about the Historical Novel Society, and writing (and reading) historical fiction.

Plus, she has the coolest feature: choosing nine guests for your dream dinner party!

Helen was lovely enough to ask me to participate, on behalf of all HNS members and lovers of historical fiction who can't make it to the London conference.

Check out the blog post, including my nine guests, here: http://bit.ly/Sf6Xfs

The full list of participants can be found here:  http://bit.ly/Sf76zD


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Two Copies of Oleanna: You Still Have Time!

2012-08-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The lovely Audra at Unabridged Chick is giving away two copies of Oleanna. This U.S. and international giveaway is open through 8/31.

There's elegant restraint in how Rose articulates love and loss, passion and madness, the rhythm of farm life, the quietude of rural Norway. In this book, I saw shades of both Sigrid Undset and Willa Cather. Rose's story of a strong woman at an isolated Norwegian farm reminded me immediately of Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter while the novel's theme of emigration, place, and identity felt like a companion to Cather's O Pioneers!.


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Fantastic Historical Fiction

2012-08-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Just a quick note--print copies of Heather Domin's fantastic books are on sale. You can get The Soldier of Raetia for only $11.04 and Allegiance for only $5.10.  (If you prefer, her books are also available for e-readers.)

Seriously, do yourself a favor and get these books. She is an outstanding writer with an uncanny ability to transport you to another time and place--in this case, Augustan Rome or 1920s Dublin.


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Oleanna interview and international give@way

2012-08-14 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Audra at Unabridged Chick asked me some very fun interview questions over at her blog, including the things that surprised me about writing Oleanna.

She's also hosting an international giveaway of two copies of the book--simply fill out the short form at her blog by August 31 to be entered to win!


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"...shades of both Sigrid Undset and Willa Cather." Oleanna review + give@way #histnov

2012-08-06 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Audra at Unabridged Chick has reviewed Oleanna and has some incredibly kind things to say:

There's elegant restraint in how Rose articulates love and loss, passion and madness, the rhythm of farm life, the quietude of rural Norway. In this book, I saw shades of both Sigrid Undset and Willa Cather...Even if you aren't typically a historical fiction fan, consider this novel -- it's a wonderful snapshot of a place and a time set in tradition but uprooted by enormous transition. A story of ordinary women, unique and astounding in their own way, that will charm and captivate.

She's also kindly offered to host a giveaway. There are two copies of Oleanna available to international entrants; simply fill in the form at Audra's site by August 31. …


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Historical Novel Society Reviews Oleanna: Recommended!

2012-08-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

Every quarter, the Historical Novel Society reviews the latest in historical fiction, both traditionally and independently published.

Andrea Connell, who is a long-time Historical Novels Review editor, now heads up the HNS' indie reviews. The August reviews have been posted, and she has reviewed Oleanna quite positively:

I was touched by this book, by it’s very poignant starkness. As I wrote in a twitter feed: “Oleanna: a gentle tale with quiet depth, atmospherically stark yet richly detailed like the culture and people of Norge herself. Beautiful.” The prose was simple yet expressive; no fancy writing gimmicks or extraneous details, but every word was carefully chosen.
Andrea's expanded remarks, and the link to the HNS review, can be found at her blog, The Queen's Quill Review. …


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For God and Country

2012-07-16 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The wonderful Anna Scott Graham has just published her latest, a dark science fiction tale, For God and Country.

On a planet where homosexuality is prohibited, actor Cade Walton has been imprisoned and sleep deprived for participating in a gay pride march. Cade is rescued by Drew Clemmons, a closeted doctor who spirits both to another universe where there is no such persecution. Cade suffers physically from his ordeal, but Drew shows more subtle signs of living in denial.

Long and short-term effects of torture are explored under a domed universe where both men initially revel in their freedom. Cade gets involved with a nurse, Annie, while Drew falls for Bill, a technician where the refugees landed. But Cade still can’t sleep and Drew can’t fathom the openness of this new society. As the men begin to unravel, Annie and Bill wonder if their partners can cope with their adopted surroundings and the accompanying liberty. 

Of course, I'm always so pleased when Anna releases a new book, but I'm particularly proud this time, because she again trusted me with her cover design!



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Talking Oleanna and Norway in 1905 on Bookmark Radio

2012-06-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

The file for my interview with Michael Scott at Bookmark Radio last week is now posted.

We talked writing inspiration, Norway in 1905, and the themes of Oleanna, among many other things.

I'm stunned by how thin my voice sounds over the phone line! When I do voice over work, I get into my "NPR" voice (good times!) but I guess my enthusiasm overrode my voice modulation this time. :)

What I'm not stunned by is how often I say "Uh", alas.

Anyway, it was a blast to do. The file works best in-browser with IE or Safari (it's 75MB so probably not a download candidate!).




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When Supporting Characters Take Over

2011-02-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (Julie K. Rose)

This week, Heather, Rima, and I talk about that frustrating and wonderful phenomenon: when supporting characters take over. Of course, I gotta be a little different, so I recorded a short podcast on the subject. Check it out! Check out Heather's take and…


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Julie K. Rose

Julie K. Rose

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