So many readers have asked me questions about my novels and about the characters, that it seems appropriate to elaborate a little about the process of collecting information from interviews, letters, and research and turning them into stories. I'm hoping some of you will want to write, too, and perhaps this will help you get started. This may also help you who are conducting book clubs. Your readers always want to know the background of a story.
Except to change the names to protect the innocent, or the guilty, my historical fiction is based on true stories and events.
I'll try to tell you how each book came into being. The novels are listed here from newest to oldest. If you have any questions or comments, I hope you'll "contact the author" and I'll try to answer any concerns you may have. I'd like this to be a "dialogue" and not just a "monologue.
The Voices Know My Name Working and living around the military, including my former pilot husband, I couldn't help but be aware of the problem of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I got interested from reading letters from some young friends with the problem, and wanted everyday citizens to understand, start a debate, and perhaps find ways to help. From the research, I found
that we are all probably victims of PTSD through one trauma or another, since nobody has a life free of trauma, and we all meet our trauma in differing ways. Perhaps it was time for a lay person to look at the problem, not just the counselors. So this novel was born. At first, few were willing to share their pain with this disorder, but after a few former students found out on Facebook that I was having trouble finding subjects, and even more trouble getting counselors to talk to me, ("we can't talk to you if you are not
the patient") I heard from several who were quite willing to get this problem out in the open where we could all talk about it. A
labor of love in many ways. But now it's out there, and I'm hoping those who read it will see a little of themselves in these five friends, and understand hope is the way out. Many need counseling, but many also need camaraderie and the support of their friends and family. This is a hopeful story, as my characters are helping each other find the way through. I can't thank enough those who were willing to share their stories with me. They wanted this book out there as much as I did.
Truth Lies Six Foot Under. Visiting an old friend from Bamberg days, he asked if I'd consider writing about a cold case for whom nobody was ever investigated or punished, and they were threatened when anyone asked questions. He had me at "cold case," even though I'd not tackled a mystery before. Interviewing the family members, and having the mother of one of the murder victims send me autopsy reports that were done twenty years too late, was invaluable. The family was so kiind and helpful. Then I talked with our own County Coroner, and by phone for hours with one of the people in the New Mexico coroner's office who saw the case in 1981, because I needed to learn how to read autopsy reports and something about shotguns, blood spatter, and Mexican Mafia. That was when I realized that not only names of people would need to be changed, but also even the towns. Not wanting to cast aspersions on any sheriff by just picking a different town in the same state, I decided the only safe way for the surviving family members to stay out of the clutches of the mafia still operating in that area was to "make up" names of towns and locations. So, don't bother looking for them on a map--they don't exist. My husband pointed out that my name and contact informaion was
all over the book, too, and wasn't I worried? My defense is that I'm hoping mafia members don't read! We trust law enforcement
to "fix" whatever goes wrong. But what does one do if the law enforcement people are crooked, too? It could get you killed. This young family's murder became a part of my life, too, and I dearly wanted them to have some justice, even after all these years.
Stand Silent, Stand Free For centuries people who could not see, hear, or move well, were locked away in "asylums" with the insane. In the last couple of centuries, parents began hiding away their handicapped children to keep that from happening. Helen Keller's family, for instance, was probably the most recognized of that view until an Annie Sullivan came along to help little Helen break out of the mold. In the 1880's, two small children survived an epidemic, only to be left deaf and mute. At a time when most were hidden away, one of these refused to go along with that plan. The two, Freeman and Dolly, were my father's parents, and Freeman's sister, Rhoda, was my great aunt, a family matriarch who was especially courageous, and had no handicap except a soft heart. She became her brother's champion in many ways. But it fascinated me that my Grandpa Freeman stood up for not only himself and his family, but he also paved the way for those handicapped who came after him. It was hard, then, to break out of being hidden, and take part fully in society. When I first started, I thought of this as just a good story about someone I was too little to appreciate at the time. But the more I delved into Freeman's story, (interviews and historic events = research), the history of handicapped accommodation, or lack of it in the early times, and the steps Grandpa took to live among hearing and speaking people, even though they called him names and refused him education, the more I realized that he was a genuine hero of his time. He broke down barriers to full participation in society for the handicapped, and in doing so, was something of a pioneer in freedom for others as well as a pioneer in farming and horse training. I wish I had understood more about his efforts while he was still alive, but I hope he is "listening" to my story now and smiling.
Dancing in the Wind When we are young, we're convinced old age will never come. And then one day we look in the mirror and see "our mother" or "father," and the day has arrived. It comes fast. What goes through the mind of an elderly person when children and grandchildren start talking about retirement or nursing homes? What can young people do to not only honor
their parents for years of devotion and keep them safe and comfortable as they age, but also to keep their own life going? How can an elderly person fight to keep from losing independence when life begins winding down? News articles about the "sandwich generation," the last year of my step-mom (on the cover with a great niece), and friends putting themselves through the difficulty
of dealing with aging parents or grandparents made me feel this topic is one we need to talk about more openly. Again, interviews proved most important, for both sides of the dilemma. In the Sidony family, we see the arguments and human fallacies that surface whenever generational issues come up. Martha Sidony, however, at 92 years old, is not going without a fight. I wanted us to see the world through Martha's eyes, and make decisions through her experience. So it was necessary that she be our POV character. She is surrounded by a large extended family who all seem to agree on her move, except nobody asked her. I made Martha a retired teacher, simply because I know a lot of retired teachers. They are the most independent people I know, and they are full of the
kind of true stories Martha tells about the problems of her "kidlets." The successes she had with students years ago make her feel competent to handle her own affairs now. Martha's desire to keep her independence is probably echoed in every home across the country, but she is also getting a little eccentric, forgetful, and has fallen a few times. Her children agree the time is right for
Martha to move. She doesn't. It is a bit of irony that Martha's main ally is her tattooed and pierced great-granddaughter, of whom she is not quite sure she approves. But the two develop a bond, and it will be Granny to the rescue when the girl finds trouble. Martha puts her family first above all, and her actions show her desire for a choice in how to end her life with dignity.
I Think I Can, I Think I Can What are little children thinking? Children are quite open and honest, often to our surprise at how they have interpreted our casual comments. To know the hearts of my characters, and still show them with compassion and humor became quite a task in this story. There are weak characters who can hurt, and those who help a child along the way. It always bothered me that people talk in front of little children as though they were part of the furniture. It has been my experience, on the contrary, that a child under five, even under three, not only hears and understands more than adults think, but they will remember what they hear their whole life, and may build their view of life based upon that understanding...or misunderstanding. Even at/or under three, they will remember how a person's tone of voice made them feel. Very young children form their views of what life is, and their own place in the world, based on what they see and hear, what they touch, and how people around them seem to value them. I felt that if even one adult curbed their tongue because of my story, it would have achieved my goal. This is probably the most autobiographical story I've attempted. I never intended to write it at all, but one day, I woke up thinking of a peculiar smell. I couldn't figure why I couldn't get that thought about the smell out of my head. Where had I smelled that before? Finally, I wrote down the words of the strange smell, and suddenly I was three years old again, abandoned with an old gentleman who was a farmer by day and a barber by night, so when he picked me up, there was that smell of milk-warm barn combined with Burma Shave. That smell, once I'd placed where it came from, triggered the story I couldn't seem to deny any longer. My high school students always asked when I would tell the "real story" about the little girl who told tales to her cat, because no one else would listen. Here it is. Katie (my persona) draws her own conclusions as to why she was abandoned, and at three, her understanding of all she hears and sees makes her believe that she must have been at fault, a bad baby that no one wanted, and she conducts her life accordingly. What will it take to free a child of her feelings of rejection and guilt? How will she reach her goals, when they are so improbable? How will she find out the truth of living, when so many people in her life have chosen to hide their motives?
Mama Told Me Not to Come If you know anyone accident prone, you'll see why the Eiffel Tower on the cover is falling down. This novel is based on true travel adventures in Europe and the Middle East. The two main characters are composites of several real people, most of them in DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependent Schools teaching overseas during the Cold War), so we cannot blame all the disasters on any one person in particular. How's that for camouflage?...smile. This is a comedy, even including the little caracature drawings taken from various friends' travel diaries, as is. Don't expect "art." But all of the stories and situations are true. DeeDee and Megan manage to get into probably far more trouble than most people. Truth is always stranger than fiction, isn't it? From a burlesque stage in Berlin to a hit and run accident in Vicenza, from PLO in Bethlehem to erratic driving in Rome, these two bounce from disaster to disaster and, in the process, they finally learn what a growing and valuable friendship they have found. DeeDee (real name Dolly Dozie, so you can see why she goes by DeeDee) is a 29-year-old virgin whose clock is ticking loudly for marriage and babies, a fact she tells every man she meets. This is not exactly conducive to enduring relationships. You met my alter ego Megan James in Shadows on an Iron Curtain, when she was quite naive herself, and she struggled with recovery from the death of her young husband. By now, she tends to be a little skeptical about men, and extremely accident prone. This may not be the best person to help DeeDee reach her goals, learn social skills, and survive in the overseas Cold War mileau, but they are thrown together for trip after trip. DeeDee naively thinks because "nothing ever happens to her," she can save Megan from her innate, Murphy's Law disasters, while Megan is something of a jinx to every travel experience. Some people won't even get on a plane with her. (And that's TRUE, folks!)... Should you like to hear more what this story is about, please feel free to Google a video You Tube interview with the author, (Margaret Brettschneider) at a.Pikes Peak Writers Conference and judge for yourself. This book is good recreational reading, or a gift for someone down in the dumps, a tale of travel to all the places where you've ever wanted to go, and you can have a good laugh on us.
Street Smart on a Dead End Sometimes we may try too hard, but we can never give up on a child. In the 1960's we teachers assumed drugs and gangs were isolated incidents--something that happened someplace else and had nothing to do with our little neighborhood of white picket fences. We were in for a rough awakening when Olivia came to our school. I finally decided I needed to write this story, but it still hurt to write it. I took the first three chapters to my Critique Group for comment. All under 40, they read the chapters in manuscript form. They liked the story, but they thought it was impossible to believe that six adults stood around an overdosed 12-year-old and didn't know what to do. The conversation sounded something like this. "...and not one of you called 9-1-1?" said one critique member. "We didn't have 9-1-1 then," I answered. "You could have called her mother."
"We did, again and again, but she was never there, and we couldn't have taken her to an empty house." "Couldn't you have left a message?" "No message machines. Besides, we had reason to believe her mother was abusive." "Then you should have called the Abuse Hot Line." "No Abuse Hot Line then. That didn't come until we went to Sacramento and begged for such laws to be passed." "Well you could have taken her to rehab." "There was no rehab for kids then, either. The closest thing to rehabilitation was the Midnight Mission down on Los Angeles' Skid Row where all the old winos went." "Well, what about Juvenile Hall?" "Juvie had more drugs inside than on the outside. Besides, we hoped we could help her ourselves, since there was no place to get help for a kid on drugs then. We didn't want her to have a record if this was the first time she'd over-dosed. We found out later it wasn't the first, but we didn't know how to tell." "Didn't you have any teacher training on drugs? Teachers have all kinds of training." "No teacher training on drugs, then. We didn't know yet that it would become a massive problem. That was accomplished on another trip to Sacramento." I was beginning to wonder if I was telling a story that no one younger than 40 would understand. I have never felt so old as with these younger people from the age of technology. Should I abandon the whole project? But the group convinced me that it was a "dynamite story," just that they had to get used to the idea that all they knew of life today, wasn't even around in the 1960's. "So, what did you do with the overdosed girl?," they asked. "When we teachers couldn't think of anything we could do with her until we could find her mother or her drugs wore off, I wound up taking her home to my family. The trouble was, I kept going to the office to call home, and no one was there yet, so I had to take Olivia home with no warning. Here I was bringing a foul-mouthed, drugged, armed gang member home to my calm family, and I didn't know how they would all react." One critique member sighed loudly. "Well, the least you could have done was to call home in the car on your cell phone to warn them!" "No cell phones!" I give up! Now that the book is done, they all like it, but you'll never know how close I came to dropping the whole project because I felt like my generation had come from another planet, at least according to the tech generation. So I guess this one is "historical" fiction, too.
Between Duty and Devotion This novel came about because, through my affiliation with the military overseas for 21 years, skiing and traveling with the people involved, we became good friends and confidants. As I watched their rank going upward, I also noticed their marriages going downward. As a curious writer, I wondered why that might be happening. What mysterious effect of the military environment could also affect a marriage? My subsequent interviews with friends and other military people led me to
tell the story of the difficulty of sustaining military relationships. While a good marriage where two people understand and support each other's work, and where their communication is good enough they can talk things over before they escalate to an argument, is a great thing, in or out of the military, all marriages are not that solid. If a woman loves the idea of marriage, sees her military man going up through the ranks as part of her security, and sees walking under those crossed swords as Cinderella-style romance, the couple is in for a rough ride. It means she doesn't understand that when she married that guy who looked cute in his uniform, she was also marrying his military duty and responsibility. When my ski buddies found I was creating this story as a novel, which would also camouflage their identities, they came forward with letters and diaries, to be sure I had enough information for my research. One officer even gave me a copy of his divorce papers! Now, that was more information than I needed! But they felt
this story "needed to be written" and they were eager to supply personal case studies, since they felt that military relationships are greatly misunderstood by the public at large. Most people don't realize the extra stress that is placed on the shoulders of an officer who is responsible for the lives of others, and the stress that fact places on the rest of his family. Also, most civilians do not understand that a military person may have to give up a great deal of his or her personal freedom in order to protect the freedom of others. It takes a strong marriage indeed, to survive under all the additional stressors of frequent deployments, the fear of war's death rate, loneliness, infidelity, raising children alone, not to mention any excess "baggage" brought into the marriage by either partner. In this story, there was a lot of "baggage," as there often is in any marriage. With the War against Terror going on, it is no wonder that the military divorce rate has doubled in the last year. This story traces a dysfunctional relationship intensified by the military life style, yet convoluted by restrictions on divorce, while in the service. One could see it as either about an unorthodox
love story that lasts into Eternity, or about the marriage from Hell, but I've long since discovered that everyone reads into a story what they need to read into it, so opinions will vary. Young wives at a nearby Army base laughingly told me they had selected this story as their "textbook" for how NOT to be a military wife. I gave a copy to a young cadet from the Air Force Academy who had already reserved their beautiful chapel for his wedding the day after graduation (the magic of those crossed swords again) and he had not even chosen the girl yet! I told him that he needed to read this book before making any further decisions. He did, and e-mailed to say he'd cancelled his reservation. Though many husbands and wives are strong and caring, if there are any cracks in the foundation of a marriage, the officer's life will certainly exacerbate those cracks into canyons. I hope there are very few women like "Faye" in the world, but I'm sure anyone who has served their country will recognize someone like her. She comes to life in this novel. This particular officer, "Neil," is on his way up, which pleases his wife, but while she loves the idea of marriage for its security and status, she also hates the man, and tells him so, frequently. His dearest dream is a love of warmth and intimacy to support him in his demanding job. While he can meet his wife's need for status, she, for whatever reason, cannot meet his need for emotional warmth. But in his loneliness, he accidentally finds a woman whose warmth and self-sacrifice counteracts his rejection and lack of confidence at home. The resulting catastrophe is probably unavoidable. Can he meet his obligations to the military responsibility he loves and still save his children and the woman who loves him, or will the "most painful decision of a lifetime" ruin all hopes and dreams? As readers, you might like to know that I did some experimentation in this novel. While it, too, takes place in Cold War Germany, it is not as much about the dangerous life of the Border as it is about the relationships that develop under those pressures. I experimented with telling the story from three different points of view, chapter by chapter, as three very different characters inevitably approach the conflagration where all must face painful decisions. Sadly, two of the composite charactors in this novel passed away shortly after completion of the story, one only six days after the other. "Neil" was a good man who perhaps tried far too hard to protect everyone and everything--an impossiblity--but God Bless him for trying. It was a hard year for me to lose these loving friends to cancer. "Skip" and "Neil," of Between Duty and Devotion are now both gone, as well as "Big Ed the Spook" and "Emily" of Shadows on an Iron Curtain. I'm grateful that at least all four good and faithful friends had a chance to read "their" stories before they died. I've tried to portray them honestly for my readers to know and appreciate them as I have. "Skip" was fond of paraphrasing Goethe when he said that every day we should appreciate something "good, fine, and reasonable." Friendships are to me, so very precious...good, fine, and reasonable.. Sleep well, my dear and loyal friends. I'll miss you all.
Shadows on an Iron Curtain A good friend, Ron Hosie, drew the cover of this novel from a photo of the East/West communist Border near Hof, Germany. You can see the communist guard towers, the mine field, and the razor wire fence. (A friend gave me a piece of this fence Churchill labeled The Iron Curtain that I dearly cherish.) I lived near this Border seven years, and I took this "forbidden" photo while hiding my camera in my coat collar.. This novel came about because I was angry. Now that the Cold War is over, we won, the fences and walls came down, the communists went home, yet all anybody seems to remember about all those years of our history is the Berlin Wall. Of course, the Berlin Wall was a powerful symbol of resistance to the communist juggernaut because it was very visible, being in one of the world's largest cities, and anything that happened there was heard all around the world in minutes on international newswires, so it was also very public. But the Border stretched all across Europe, dividing the East and West, dividing farms, families and small towns into free and communist enclaves. It was
much less visible, and far more secret than the Berlin Wall. No one ever publicized the intrigue of the Border. But as a school teacher sent by the Department of Defense to teach children in Bamberg, a military base whose soldiers guarded that Hof/Coberg/Fulda Border 24/7, I quickly learned that their mission was a potentially suicidal one, putting them on the edge of extinction with every "Alert." Of the seven years I lived on that Border, I wrote of two years during which our troops were actually on Alert more days than they were off. Who would make better impartial observers of our military Border activities than four ditzy, naive new school teachers who are sent to the base without even knowing it's a Border base? They, too, had only heard
about the more famous Berlin Wall, and never realized the Border existed. Over their first few weeks, they become acquainted (naturally--smile) with several of the single military officers whose troops are responsible for Border security. Because of the imminent potential for a communist invasion, the teachers and officers become part of the protective "family" of the Border-- to keep each other safe...sometimes from their own depression. While everyone loves to ski and party--about the only two recreations Border folks were allowed--they also gradually discover the mysterious "Spooks" (undercover operatives-spies) who "haunt" both sides of the Border and seem to have their own agendas and gun battles. With each Alert, more is discovered of the "training accidents" that are not really accidents, the "shortage of equipment" that disappears, the "nukes" that both sides hide cleverly, the sabotage of military facilities, the terrorist threats of Bader Meinhoff, and the problems of aviators flying the Border in all weather, which occasionally precipitates accidental international Border incidents. It is interesting that many people in the U.S. considered they were "at peace in Europe" for all those years. They would be surprised to know how many times we were within a hairsbreadth of World War III, (usually when one of our national leaders opened his mouth to give a speech). Any war then, would most definitely have been nuclear. Most Americans did not seem to realize that it was our SAC planes constantly in the air, and our Cavalry and their supporting Infantry, Artillery, Aviation, Intelligence, and Engineering counterparts on the ground at that Border that kept us out of a war for all the years until the Soviets gave up and went home in November of 1989. As a young widow, I was grieving and could rarely sleep. I spent the night writing long letters to my stepmother in California. When I was ready to write this story, she said, "Do you want your letters back?" I never dreamed she had kept them all. I laughed and cried and remembered, but it was all there! As readers, you might find it interesting that I simply wrote the whole story, not giving "military security" a thought. Though it seemed everything was top secret while I was there, I thought the passage of time since the 1974-76 time period, and the retreat of the Soviets, would have eliminated any need for military secrets. But, being around military people for so long (21 years teaching on bases overseas plus marrying an Army pilot), I began to get a little nervous about security once the manuscript was nearing completion. What if I had inadvertantly said something that could still hurt our soldiers? To ease my mind, I e:mailed chapter by chapter to an old friend, the "Spook, Big Ed" in this story, to have him check it out through his circles at Langley and Monroe. Sure enough, there were still three "classified" things I removed from the book, and one thing I had to "move." He said, "It's sealed, camouflaged, and no one knows it's there, but if we ever have problems in Europe again, we'll need it. You can tell stories about it, but don't give away its location." So I "moved" it in the novel. Then he said, "By the way, how did you know about that, anyway?" I told him, "I think you told me." He laughed, and said, "Oops." Unfortunately, after he ran the story through his channels for security issues and accuracy, and only a year after the publication of Shadows on an Iron Curtain, "Big Ed" died. He'd been paralized for many years, but he could still write his little "one-finger messages" and we remained friends via the internet. A wonderful man, and I really miss his daily instant messages. We also lost our dear friend, "Emily" in 2007, and she remained her usual "dramatic" self up to the end. She was a much loved member of the original "fearsome foursome" of teaching friends in this book, who faced all the dangers of the Cold War together. I hope you'll want to meet the "family" who defended the Border--all are seen through the naive eyes of a suicidal young widow who gathers strength to live from the example of men facing the possibility of death with every Alert. This novel is both comic and tragic, but it tells their story. I wanted you to know that it was the vigilance of these soldiers who kept the Cold War from becoming a Hot War, yet few would ever know of the secret shadows against that Iron Curtain.
Mutti's War How well would we fair under a dictatorship? I pray we never have to find out. Not surprisingly, even living in Germany for 21 years, I found most people were reluctant to talk about World War II. Some reticence may have been collective guilt, some a fear that the interviewer might be critical, and some just because people couldn't bear to remember the sadness of that era. In Mutti's case, she truly believed that if she never talked about the war, her sons wouldn't remember all the ugliness they had seen. So, once the war was over, she never spoke of it again. She changed the subject whenever I asked her questions, even after I married her eldest son and became her "American" daughter-in-law. Perhaps she was right, because my husband, "Willi" in the story, remembered only the physical elements of the long trek--being tired, cold, hungry, (especially hungry) scared of strafing planes, and anxious to find his Vati. But he had no idea of all his mother had endured to keep him and his brothers alive, or the Nazi laws she had broken to smuggle them across a country at war. He had only been nine at the time, and the physical events had been quite traumatic enough. After many futile attempts to get Mutti to talk, since I was interested in the history of the era, and she had lived it, I finally had her alone one day when the rest of the family was out for their "obligatory" after-dinner four hour walk. I had stayed behind to keep her company. I guess I finally asked the right question--a journalist's question, with no easy yes/no, or evasive answer, because she finally answered. I asked her, "When in your whole life were you the most frightened?" I assumed she would say something about the bombings, but at least that might lead to more open conversation. She paused, and then said quietly, "I think it was when I was lying in a muddy ditch, watching two Russian sentries on the road above me, and I was trying to count how many seconds it took for them to pace to the end and return, so I'd know how long I had to run across the road and the minefield to get into the trees." She added with a grin, "I was so scared that I kept forgetting the numbers." I almost fell out of my chair! Our dear, delicate, quiet Mutti had actually run the Cold War Border between East and West Germany to get her children to the west zone, and no one in the family even knew it! At that point, I gasped, "Mutti, you must tell me the rest--people need to know." She made me promise I wouldn't write the story until after she was gone. I realized later that she had to make decisions no one should ever have to make, and she couldn't bear to have her sons ask questions after all these years. In spite of all the pain, she loved her man until the day she died and sobbed uncontrollably at certain points of our many interviews. After that first day, it was almost as though I had unzipped the heart, and all her life fell out. She seemed actually eager to tell me everything and get it off her chest after so many years of holding it all in. I began taking copius notes on whatever I happened to have in my purse when we were alone and she felt like talking--napkins, envelopes, laundry lists. But I had to take them home and just throw them in my drawer because I had promised. After her death, two years later, I got out the drawer, sat in the middle of my living room rug and "sorted" all my scraps of paper into a logical order. "Willi" was quite shocked when I eventually asked him to read the manuscript. "Why didn't I know about this? Why didn't she ever tell us?" were some of the questions he could stammer. He was obviously in awe of all his mother had accomplished and all she had kept secret for her whole life. Mutti didn't think anyone would be interested in her story, but I find each reader sees her resourcefulness in bending every rule, walking every road, and foraging every forest to keep her children alive through the endless trek across a horrible war zone. as an example of the strength to which we all hope we can rise, when tested. Hemingway would call it "grace under pressure," and declare her a heroine. Her story has become the universal story of a woman's physical courage, as well as the political and emotional courage to make life-shattering decisions when she must, regardless of her own pain in doing so. I'm grateful Mutti finally shared her story with me before she slipped away from us, and I hope she would be proud of what I've done with it. It was a labor of love. She was a great lady to all of us even before we knew her story--just as a loving mother and grandmother that no one ever saw lose her grace or raise her voice. Her sons deserved to know of her heroism, and we all can enjoy the mystery she kept secret all those years to protect those she loved.
I hope this first novel is one you will enjoy as well.
Let me know what you think. You can always send me your questions on the "contact the author" page, and I hope you will.
Novels by M.J. Brett
(a.k.a. Margaret Brettschneider)