Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blog Tour Guest Post by George Steger, Author of Sebastian's Way: The Pathfinder

Please join me in welcoming author George Steger to Let Them Read Books! George is touring the blogosphere with his debut historical fiction novel, Sebastian's Way: The Pathfinder. I had the pleasure of working with George in an editorial capacity as he prepared this book for publication, and I designed the cover too! It's a wonderfully written story of a conflicted young noble in Charlemagne's court during the religious wars of the ninth century. Read on as George enlightens us on the Middle Ages, and enter to win a copy of Sebastian's Way: The Pathfinder!


The Middle Ages: A Thousand Years of Darkness
or the Gateway to the Empowerment of a Continent?

The other day I was asked to talk about Sebastian’s Way at the local public library. It was a Sunday, a bright, sunny day in winter, and the NFL Division Playoffs were on. I thought that nobody would be there. The first surprise was that it was a pretty good crowd. The second was how misinformed so many of the audience seemed to be about the Middle Ages, the early part of which is the background of my novel.

Just a few preliminary questions revealed some glaring misconceptions. “The Dark Ages,” people called them. “A thousand years without a bath,” one young man said, quoting a more famous ignorant man. At best, the general consensus was that the Middle Ages were a dormant period between the golden age of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Most people said they really didn’t know much about them.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I bet you know more than you think you do. What about King Arthur and the Round Table? Richard the Lionhearted, Bad King John, and Robin Hood? Barbarians at the gate, Attila the Hun, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Magna Carta, Black Death, 100 Years’ War, Joan of Arc, Vikings, Mongols, Crusades?” It was at least a little gratifying to hear a few people mutter, “Oh yeah, that.”

I warmed a little to the subject. “And what about the notion that law checks the power of government? That was in the Magna Carta, don’t ya know. And then there are the seeds of capitalism, the birth of systematic education for many, the founding of charitable institutions like hospitals and care for the sick, aged, and poor, even a breath or two of representative government, and the stupefying growth of Christianity. Why, every American town has a Gothic church!”

I waxed on expansively: “Our whole society and culture, even you and I, were shaped by the Middle Ages. It’s where we got our language, our dress, ideals, manners, the way we write—our script, even the alcohol we drink. Would anyone care for a Scotch?”

“OK, OK,” they admitted grudgingly, “we do know about some of that stuff.. What about the book?”

“Not so fast,” I countered, “you still haven’t heard about all the inventions of the Middle Ages.” They sighed. I plowed on, punishing them for their initial disregard.
                                                           
“Did you know that Europe began to abandon slavery in the Middle Ages? Instead, they began to invent stuff—hundreds of labor-saving devices that made slavery, if not entirely obsolete, at least far less relevant.

“True, there were a couple of hundred years or so, off and on, when things got a little dark, like right after the fall of the Roman empire, when those German barbarians were running amok, and then there was that time when the Vikings were running amok, and a sticky period when it looked like the Mongols might be running amok all over Europe.

“Nevertheless, amidst all that war and chaos, and in spite of it, there was a slow but steady progress, upward and out of the muck. There was, for example, the extraordinary phenomenon of the Agricultural Revolution of the Middle Ages, when the tinkering a bunch of simple peasants did to save themselves some back-breaking labor resulted in amazing change. They hammered out instruments like the horse collar and horseshoe, the tandem harness, the stirrup, the deep plow, the three-field system, the rotation of cereal crops with legumes, the crank, the wheelbarrow, the windmill, etc., etc.

“And, lo and behold, ladies and gentlemen, all that invention resulted in SURPLUS! It became less and less necessary to spend all one’s time scratching in the dirt to produce something to eat, constantly afraid that the weather or crop failure would bring on starvation. And surplus led to the renewal of trade, and trade led to the growth of towns, the specialization of labor, the reestablishment of cities, and cities meant new ideas and enormous CHANGE in the way people lived and worked and thought.

“OK, already,” someone said. “What about the book?”

“Well, my friends,” I replied, “that is the book, or at least a good part of it. It’s about change and a different way to do things, not just in the way people produced in order to survive, but also in the way they began to find different ways to solve problems and build a new society. Of course, it was not all that simple. Change, like birth, is often accompanied by great pain and struggle. And there was plenty of that. But at the end of it, there was an enormous difference in the way that people lived and worked and thought. It was the beginning of prosperity and power in the West. By the time of the Renaissance, Europeans were on their way to becoming ‘the Masters of the Universe.’”

At the end of the talk, my friend Sam came up and said, “Damn, George, I thought you were going to talk about the story.”

“I just did, Sam,” said I. “The story of the Middle Ages is one of the greatest tales of our entire civilization. Too bad most people don’t recognize it.”

Thanks, George! You did a great job of painting  the changing landscape of politics and progress in Sebastian's Way!

This giveaway is closed and the winners have been selected.
Check my sidebar for more great giveaways!


GIVEAWAY!

Wanna win your own copy of
Sebastian's Way: The Pathfinder?

One lucky US resident will win a hardcover edition and one international resident will win an ebook! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with your email address and tell me if you're US or INT!

This giveaway is open internationally and ends at 11:59pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!

Sebastian's Way: The Pathfinder is on a blog tour!
View the tour schedule ~ Visit George's website


In a dark age of unending war and violence, one young warrior opposes a mighty king to forge a new path to peace…

During the savage Frankish-Saxon wars, the moving force of his age, Karl der Grosse, King Charlemagne, fights and rules like the pagan enemies he seeks to conquer. But in the long shadow of war and genocide, a spark of enlightenment grows, and the king turns to learned men to help him lead his empire to prosperity.

One of these men is the unlikely young warrior Sebastian. Raised in an isolated fortress on the wild Saxon border, Sebastian balances his time in the training yard with hours teaching himself to read, seeking answers to the great mysteries of life during an age when such pastimes were scorned by fighting men. Sebastian’s unique combination of skills endears him to Charlemagne and to the ladies of the king's court, though the only woman to hold his heart is forbidden to him. As the king determines to surround himself with men who can both fight and think beyond the fighting, Sebastian becomes one of the privileged few to hold the king’s ear.

But the favor of the king does not come without a cost. As Charlemagne's vassals grapple for power, there are some who will do anything to see Sebastian fall from grace, including his ruthless cousin Konrad, whose hatred and jealousy threaten to destroy everything Sebastian holds dear. And as Sebastian increasingly finds himself at odds with the king’s brutal methods of domination and vengeance, his ingrained sense of honor and integrity lead him to the edge of treason, perilously pitting himself against the most powerful man of his age.

This fast-paced adventure story brings Charlemagne's realm to life as the vicious Christian-pagan wars of the eighth century decide the fate of Europe. Filled with action, intrigue, and romance, Sebastian's Way is a riveting and colorful recreation of the world of Europe’s greatest medieval monarch.

15 comments:

  1. I really REALLY want to read this one, thanks.

    nanze55(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  2. I've read lots of novels set in the Middle Ages, but am not very familiar with Charlemagne. Would love to read this new novel. Thanks for the giveaway.
    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. This novel sounds fascinating. Thanks for the giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  4. Thanks for this feature which interests me very much. Your excellent review caught my interest. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  5. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, it's practically all that I read, but I know nothing about Charlemagne. Looking forward to reading Sebastian's Way. Especially after reading the interview, I can see the author is good with dialogue!

    DeniseK1 at Outlook dot com

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  6. would love to read this book!!!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!
    I'm in the US.....

    cyn209 at juno dot com

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  7. shamy at post.harvard.edu -- Thanks for this great contest; it sounds like a great book!

    --Kara

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  8. I'm actually right now reading another HF on Carloman [Charlemagne's uncle], so would love to try that one! thanks for the giveaway. Emma [in the US]: ehc16e at yahoo dot com

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  9. When I read this post it brought to mind one of my favorite books, Pillars of the Earth- because it is about history and the stories of change. I would love to read Sebastian's Way. It sounds fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing. :)
    ~Jess
    US
    haightjess@gmail.com

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  10. I just found this site via Anna Belfrage's VT blog, and I am so glad! I love your design, and the reviews are wonderful. I'm an Historical Fiction lover, but not very familiar with this subject. Thanks for the chance!

    US ceeceelaws@gmail.com

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  11. Looks intriguing! I'm US - xuwriter (at) gmail.com

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  12. I just in the mood for this, thanks.
    US nanze55(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. Thank you for the giveaway. This time period has become my new favourite.
    International, Canada actually.
    denannduvall(at)gmail(dot)com

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  14. This sounds really interesting.
    jmcgaugh (at) semo (dot) edu

    ReplyDelete

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