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About James Conroyd Martin
Little did he know what he had unloosed.
I went down to the Hollywood Public Library and took out at least a dozen books on the period and the reign of Justinian and Theodora. The empress seemed to me like the Eva Peron of the sixth century, and I was hooked. I made a good start on her story, but life threw some curves. I went back to finishing Push Not the River, but when it didn't sell, other agents came and went. One publisher held on to it for two years. I returned to teaching and the years passed. When St. Martin's Press picked up Push Not the River in 2003, I figured my Theodora book would follow. Ah~but St. Martin's wanted a sequel, so that led to other books and more years.
Fate goes ever as it must.
So~now Theodora is getting her just due. Please give Fortune's Child a chance.
Well, this was a surprise! Just a year after winning a Gold Medal IPPY for THE BOY WHO WANTED WINGS, the Independent Publisher Book Awards presented THE POLISH TRILOGY Box Set e-book with their 2018 Gold Medal for the Best Regional E-book, Fiction. How cool is that!
So excited! THE BOY WHO WANTED WINGS: LOVE IN THE TIME OF WAR has won a 2017 GOLD MEDAL in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, nicknamed the IPPYs. The organization is the world's largest book awards competition. The novel, which culminates in the September 11-12, 1683, Battle of Vienna, won in the Military/Wartime Fiction category.
On another note~
You can't make this stuff up, even if you are a writer~
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED UPON ARRIVING IN HOLLYWOOD
Some--as in many--years ago I resigned from a short teaching career, turned my young back on the Midwest, and landed in Hollywood, anxious to learn screenwriting. I landed a job, two actually, and started taking screenwriting classes. All was going according to plan--until I met a young man who insisted I read his translation of his great-great-great-great grandmother's diary.
Out of politeness, I did read the diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska, who began her journaling in 1791 when her parents died and she was forced to live with an aunt, uncle, and two nefarious cousins. The diary held me spellbound as I read of her falling in love with neighbor Jan, while being obstructed in her happiness by crude Walter and scheming Zofia. The background to all of this was the nation at war and on the cusp of destruction. Margaret Mitchell could have outlined it.
But this didn't call for a screenplay--that could come later. I would create a novel, yes--a novel. To cut my own serpentine story short, over years, the manuscript could not survive three agents, countless would-be editors, one lying publisher. Even the weight of Bette Davis, who read it with an eye to an eventual screenplay, didn't seem to matter.
Return to the Midwest and to teaching. Keep the telling short, James, I tell myself. OK, one day print-on-demand comes along and I publish the book myself, hoping to catch the eye of one of the big publishers. Fates smiles. St. Martin's Press purchases Push Not the River. Anna's story gets told. I pray it's told well, I whisper to the spirit I've felt on my shoulder for so many years. Why, her story is translated back into Polish--full circle--and Nie ponaglaj rzeki becomes a bestseller in Poland. Na zdrowie!
Oh, the publisher wants a sequel? Cool. Done--Against a Crimson Sky. I'm flying now, pun intended. Wait--my editor is leaving St. Martin's? What, without her on board they are declining the final part of the trilogy? Publish it yourself, my agent urges. How do I do that? Oh, yeah--I do know how. And so I do--The Warsaw Conspiracy.
Now what is it they call writers like me--those who have been published by the big boys, as well as by their own big bad selves? I always forget. It's some kind of flower or plant, isn't it? Hybrids?--yes that's right.
I'm a hybrid author. And do you know what? I wouldn't change a thing.
Oh, a screenplay? It'll happen one day.
You just wait.
James Conroyd Martin is the award-winning author of PUSH NOT THE RIVER, a novel based on the diary of a countess in 1790s Poland; AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY, which continues the family saga into the Napoleonic era; and The WARSAW CONSPIRACY, detailing the young Polish cadets' rising against the mighty Russia. It is now a best-selling e-book boxed set.
HOLOGRAM: A HAUNTING is a Piers Anthony recommended ghost story with a modern twist.
The latest: THE BOY WHO WANTED WINGS is a story of love and war as a young man seeks to become a hussar, one of the elite Polish lancers who rode into battle wearing wings of eagle feathers on their backs. The book culminates with the Battle of Vienna, 1683, which occurred on September 11-12, 1683. It was the FIRST 9/11, pitting the Ottoman Empire against Christian Europe. As crucial and consequential as the Battle of Hastings, this battle changed the course of European history.
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KIRKUS REVIEWS: "A meticulously researched historical account presented in the form of a thrilling political drama."
Theodora: actress, prostitute, mistress, feminist. And Byzantine Empress of the civilized world. Stephen: handsome Syrian boy, wizard's apprentice, palace eunuch. And Secretary to the Empress. How does this unlikely pair become such allies that one day Empress Theodora asks Stephen to write her biography?
From a very young age, Theodora, daughter of a circus bearkeeper in Constantinople, sets her sights well above her station in life. Her exquisite beauty sets her apart on stages and in the eyes of men.
Stephen, a Syrian lad of striking good looks, is sold by his parents to a Persian wizard, who teaches him a skill in languages that will serve him well.
By the time Destiny brings them together in Antioch, Theodora has undergone heart-rending trials and a transformation, while Stephen has been sold again . . . and castrated.
Discover the enduring bond that, however imperfect, prompts Theodora—as Empress—to request palace eunuch Stephen to write her biography.
“A historical novel set in sixth-century Constantinople charts the extraordinary ascent of a woman from poverty to royal power. In this ambitious novel, the author vividly brings to life the cinematic story of Theodora’s life, chronicling her rise, more halting than meteoric, to spectacular power. Martin’s command of the historical period—not just the chief political events, but also the nuances of its cultural mores—is masterful. Furthermore, he conjoins that scholarly rigor with novelistic excitement—the entire tale is intelligently conveyed with great emotional poignancy. [This is] a meticulously researched historical account presented in the form of a thrilling political drama.” KIRKUS REVIEWS
"Martin not only unfurls the vast canvas of history, but he paints the deeply personal side of the men and women who lived it. His settings and characters come to life in meticulously researched detail. I felt like I was there." —Lisa Wingate, New York Times Bestselling Author of Before We Were Yours
"A treasure for historical fiction fans—richly detailed, immersive, and heart-pounding. Martin paints a vivid and satisfying portrait of one of history's most remarkable women."
-Olivia Hawker, bestselling author of The Ragged Edge of Night
Longing for the breadth and grandeur of a Gone with the Wind or Doctor Zhivago? A story, characters, and setting that will draw you in and hold you? This is the series that will do it!
A 2018 Gold Medal IPPI Winner, Best Regional E-book Box Set
Immerse yourself now in this riveting family saga and ride a true whirlwind of fascinating historical fiction!
Based on the diary of a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the Third of May Constitution years, 1791-94, PUSH NOT THE RIVER paints a vivid picture of a tumultuous and unforgettable metamorphosis of a nation--and of Anna, a proud and resilient woman. AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY continues Anna's saga as Napoleon comes calling, implying independence from her neighbors would follow if only Polish lancers would accompany him on his fateful 1812 march into Russia. Anna's family fights valiantly to hold on to a tenuous happiness, their country, and their very lives. Set against the November Rising (1830-31), THE WARSAW CONSPIRACY depicts partitioned Poland's daring challenge to the Russian Empire. Brilliantly illustrating the psyche of a people determined to reclaim independence in the face of monumental odds, the story features Anna's sons and their fates in love and war.
For fans of James Michener, Ken Follett, Philippa Gregory, Bernard Cornwell, and Jeffrey Archer~
Looking for historical fiction that will transport you to another time and place? One with the sweep of a Doctor Zhivago and Gone with the Wind?
Based on the diary of a countess, this story will enthrall you.
A book club favorite and IPPI Gold Medal Winner!
Anna and Zofia~two cousins~different as sun from shade.
One chooses love and patriotism~the other, deceit and treason.
And yet~love binds them even as their country hurtles toward the abyss.
Suddenly alone in the world, Anna falls prey to the schemes of Cousin Zofia even as she falls in love with Jan, a patriot ready to put his life on the line for Poland’s Constitution. Zofia refuses to submit to an arranged marriage and will go to any lengths to avoid it, no matter who it may hurt.
Based on a true diary, "Push Not the River contains all the sweep and romance of the classic romantic epics, such as Gone with the Wind and Doctor Zhivago, with a heroine who remains strong in the face of both personal and political tragedy....Anna Maria's story is at once timeless and timely." --India Edghill, author of Queenmaker and Delilah
A panoramic and epic novel in the grand romantic style, Push Not the River is the rich story of Poland in the late 1700s--a time of heartache and turmoil as the country's once peaceful people are being torn apart by neighboring countries without and divided loyalties within. At the vulnerable age of seventeen, Lady Anna Maria loses both of her parents and must leave to go to live with relatives, thrusting her into a world of love and hate, loyalty and deceit. Even kind Aunt Stella, Anna's guardian who personifies Poland's courage and spirit, can't protect Anna from the uncertain future of the country.
Anna turns to love and comfort in Jan, a brave patriot and architect of democracy, unaware that her beautiful and enigmatic cousin Zofia has already set her sights on the handsome young fighter. Thus Anna walks unwittingly into Zofia's jealous wrath and darkly sinister intentions. Surviving several tragic events, some orchestrated by the crafty Zofia, a strengthened Anna learns to place herself in the way of destiny--for love and for country. Heeding the proud spirit of her father, Anna becomes a major player in the fight against the countries who come to partition her beloved Poland.
Push Not the River is based on the eighteenth-century diary of Anna Maria Berezowski, a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the Third of May Constitution. Vivid, romantic, and thrillingly paced, it paints the emotional and unforgettable story of the metamorphosis of a nation--and of a valiant and resilient young woman.
The year is 1794, and the beautiful and resilient Countess Anna Maria Berezowska has narrowly escaped death amidst the chaos caused by the violent dissolution of Poland. Anna is soon reunited with her longtime love, Lord Jan Stelnicki, and the two lovers marry even as their beloved country is ripped apart. As the couple struggles to raise a family in the face of an uncertain future, Anna's capricious cousin Zofia returns with a surprise of her own. Although Zofia's past schemes still resonate, Anna's doubts turn to fear as Jan's patriotism draws him to the battlefield.
Offering new hope for a conquered Poland, Napoléon Bonaparte arrives in all of his pomp and glory. With the aid of new Polish legions~Anna's friends and family among them~Napoléon battles his way across Europe an effort that culminates in the march into Moscow and the subsequent doomed winter retreat.
Against this backdrop, Anna and Jan valiantly fight to hold on to a tenuous happiness, their country, and their very lives.
A Gold Medal IPPI Winner
Engaging and opulent, The Warsaw Conspiracy unfolds as a family saga set against the November Rising (1830-31), partitioned Poland's daring challenge to the Russian Empire. Brilliantly illustrating the psyche of a people determined to reclaim independence in the face of monumental odds, the story portrays two brothers and their fates in love and war. Michal is a seasoned veteran soldier, cautious of the evolving conspiracy; Jozef, his much younger brother and impassioned cadet, finds himself caught up in the vortex of a daring plot to abduct the Grand Duke of Russia. With Siberia or emigration to France looming as heart-rending contingencies, matriarchs Anna and Zofia stay steadfast in their resolve to steer the clan through ever-muddying waters.
Expert archer Aleksy has his heart set on joining the elite hussars at the Battle of Vienna.
Countess Krystyna turns his heart in a different direction.
As an outsider, Aleksy knows that both dreams are forbidden. And yet, one day he finds that he must choose between the two.
~2017 GOLD MEDAL IPPI WINNER ~ ~Romeo and Juliet with a Twist~
~"A pitch-perfect follow-up to his Poland Trilogy"~Historical Novels Review
Aleksy, a Tatar raised by a Polish peasant family, wishes to become a Polish winged hussar, a Christian lancer who carries into battle a device attached to his back that holds dozens of eagle feathers. As a Tatar and as a peasant, this is an unlikely quest. When he meets Krystyna, the daughter of the noble who owns the land that his parents work, he falls hopelessly in love. But even though she returns his love, race and class differences make this quest as impossible as that of becoming a hussar. Under the most harrowing and unlikely circumstances, one day Aleksy must choose between his dreams.
That day is September 11, 1683.
~For fans of Philippa Gregory and Bernard Cornwell~
"History comes alive in this captivating saga of a desperate war to stave off conquest and extermination. A young man with dreams of greatness is swept up amid the deadly clash, but will he have to sacrifice love itself to become an elite defender of his homeland? The Boy Who Wanted Wings is a powerful, emotionally moving story, highly recommended."
~MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
"Characters are complex, well developed, and consistent. Their emotional lives are exposed even as the horrors of war loom. The Boy Who Wanted Wings is an excellent read whether one’s preferred genre is historical fiction or not."
~PORTLAND BOOK REVIEW
"In the tradition of Eric Kelley’s The Trumpeter of Krakow, James Conroyd Martin’s novel The Boy Who Wanted Wings tells the story of a heroic young Polish boy. Aleksy Gazdecki, a native Tatar raised by a family of Polish peasants, is a skilled archer who dreams of someday joining the ranks of the famed Polish hussars and riding into battle against the forces of the Ottoman Empire that are rampaging all over Europe in the year 1683. Aleksy’s simple life is complicated when Countess Krystyna, the daughter of the local lord, returns from years away at convent school and quickly captivates Aleksy’s heart. This classic different-worlds love affair provides the human grounding for a larger story replete with well-researched period details about the struggle of 17th-century Europe against the forces of Islam, and Martin is a skilled enough storyteller to keep the whole narrative moving forward briskly to a very satisfying conclusion. The author has written a pitch-perfect follow-up to his Poland Trilogy. Recommended."
~Historical Novels Review
"This is a very well researched and authentic-feeling novel set in 17th century Europe. A unique perspective comes via the hero, Aleksy, being of Tartar descent but having been raised with a Polish family. As the Turks lay siege to Vienna (culminating in the battle of September 11 1683) he finds his military and amorous wings.
The author impressed me with the detailed depiction of warfare, military operations and equipment, class, culture and societal norms. While such details can be distracting in other novels, here they were spot on and served their purpose well. I learned a lot about the era, about Poland, the Tartars and the siege of Vienna.
Best-selling Fantasy and Science Fiction writer PIERS ANTHONY: "This is not an ordinary haunt story. There are nice bits of original thinking along the way, especially in the relevance of the title, and the denouement left me with mixed feelings, identifying as much with the haunts as with the protagonist. I saw the terminal fillip coming, and it gratified me."
The Haunted Reading Room Reviews: “What I didn't expect was that this haunting story would continue to linger, playing on the empathy I had developed for the characters, and the unexpected identity of the hauntings. This one is definitely 12-star.” Mallory A. Haws
Chicagoan Margaret Rockwell falls in love with a wonderful old Greek revival home in Hammond, Indiana, and convinces hesitant husband Kurt that fate meant it for them. So begins a journey that will take them down a circuitous path fraught with the unknown—and danger.
Why do the Rockwells, expecting their first child, seem at once welcomed and repelled? What does it mean when Margaret starts to dream of the family that built the house in 1910? For her the house comes alive with its own sounds, sights, thoughts, and intentions. How could the death of a child ninety years before impact their lives? And why?
Hologram opens when Chicagoan Margaret Rockwell falls in love with a wonderful old Greek Revival home in Hammond, Indiana, and convinces hesitant husband Kurt that fate meant it for them. So begins a journey that will take them down a circuitous path fraught with the unknown—and danger.
Why do the Rockwells, expecting their first child, seem at once welcomed and repelled? What does it mean when Margaret starts to dream of the family that built the house in 1910? For her, the house comes alive with its own sounds, sights, thoughts, and intentions. How could the death of a child ninety years before impact their lives? And why?