Margaret Frazer

Circle  of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

Midwinter Blog Tour - The Alexandrian

Let’s pop over to the Alexandrian, where Justin Alexander is Designing a Cover. Justin has been designing the covers for the e-books releases of my short stories and Dame Frevisse Mysteries, and he threw himself into the task of designing the cover for Circle of Witches. He created more than a dozen unique drafts of different covers for me to consider, slowly working through a dual process of elimination and refinement until we finally ended up with the very handsome and very dramatic piece which blesses the front cover of the book today.

- Margaret

Circle of Witches – Chapter 6

December 17th, 2012

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

Start with Chapter 1!


Autumn dwindled into early winter, with the last ploughing done and the sheep and cattle driven down from the farthest hill pastures. The weather continued wet and chill, and Damaris came down with the fevered cold and cough she had helped treat in others with her aunt all autumn. It took deeper hold with her than it had with most. She was moved from her high room to one near her aunt’s and uncle’s. There she was nursed through the nights, turn and turn about, by Aunt Elspeth, old Agnes, and Betty, for more than week. Even when the worst was past, she remained weak, only too happy to lie abed or – when she was stronger – sit at a window for hours, first in the bedchamber, then in the parlor, watching cloud-shadows shift along the winter-grayed dale or, in worse weather, the rain falling in icy sheets.

Her body’s exhaustion as it struggled to heal had exhausted her mind, too, but when she was well enough for visitors, she was stirred a little more aware by Irene’s company a few afternoons and even several visits from Lauran. Irene brought fashion magazines and chattered on about nothing in particular, requiring only slight answers from Damaris in response. Lauran, unexpectedly more thoughtful, came his first time with a book of ballads and read aloud to her – strong, stirring ballads of danger and daring; of desperate battles won or heroically lost; of perilous loves and fatal sword fights and wild rides to safety.

“Irene says I should be reading you softer stuff,” he told Damaris as he settled into a chair. “That these aren’t for ladies. Are you become a lady, Damaris?”

“No,” she said. She might be presently too weak to do even embroidery, but she was quite sure of that. So he had read to her by the hour, and when he was done she was no stronger in body, but her mind was stirred more awake than it had been since she fell ill.

He came twice more, the last time bringing not the ballads but a novel of dire doings in Scotland’s past. This he left with her after having read from it. “To keep your mind from having nothing but Irene’s fashions to think on,” he teased before giving her a surprising kiss on the cheek and leaving while she was still too startled by that to say anything. Read more »

Circle of Witches – Chapter 5

December 16th, 2012

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

Start with Chapter 1!


For the next few weeks, however, Damaris found that her best chance of seeing Lauran again was not by way of visiting Irene, but by being out and about with Nevin and Kellan, since her cousins and Lauran were together more days than not.

“Making up for lost time,” Kellan told Damaris.

“And avoiding his mother,” Nevin added.

“And you two having no more sense when you’re around him than you ever had,” Aunt Elspeth said the evening her sons came to supper late and damp from climbing near a waterfall farther up the dale with Lauran who was going to be even later to his supper, having farther to go to home. “Let you be glad you weren’t with them today, Damaris.”

Uncle Russell shared a grin with both boys and said, “They’re sensible enough under it all. Lauran has been talking to me, and my guess is he’ll steady to his duties at Ashbrigg by autumn’s end, once these two are off to school again and stop bringing him into ill ways. There are brains in that handsome head of his, no matter what he pretends. Which is more than I’m willing to say about these two oafs of ours,” he added with a dire look at them that no one, including them, took seriously.

The trouble for Damaris was that when Lauran grew used to her sometimes being with Nevin and Kellan, he was the same toward her as they were, and it was impossible for her to remember he was handsome and think him charming while he and Kellan were trying to put a frog down the back of her dress and she was both avoiding it and throwing stream water at them. As the summer went through July, Lauran became less the handsome youth from the next manor and more like simply another cousin.

But she could not be always with her cousins and him. Instead, she often kept company with Irene, a kind of friendship growing between them. Their talk – mostly Irene’s talk – was of clothing and of all she had seen and the admirers she had had while traveling with her mother. Damaris could not quite understand how she could have had so very many admirers, being only two years older than Damaris and not even come out yet. Irene talked much of her coming out. “Not that it can be here in Glavedale,” she said more than once. “There’s simply no society here, just friends. It will have to be in York, with my aunt and uncle. They’ve a very fine house that will suit perfectly. I might even be able to use their carriage instead our shabby old one. Surely I will. They won’t want to be embarrassed by their niece!”

She also confessed to Damaris in absolute and utter confidence that she had romantic hopes of both Nevin and Kellan. “I’m awfully used to them, of course, but they are handsome and there’s no one else nearby at all.” Read more »

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

A Midwinter Blog Tour - Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman started as one of my very favorite authors and has become a very dear friend. For the Midwinter Blog Tour, we had a very long discussion of where the ideas that lay at the heart of Circle of Witches came from… and what the book means to me. Please join us for a thoughtful lingering as the blog tour marches on.

- Margaret

Circle of Witches – Chapter 4

December 15th, 2012

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

Start with Chapter 1!


Damaris went to breakfast the next morning embarrassed by how promptly she had fallen to sleep and expecting to be teased, but her cousins and uncle were deep in talk of the sheep-shearing and the likely price of wool this season. They gave her smiles and nods as she joined them but nothing else. Damaris supposed they might be trying to be kind, but she thought resentfully they could have done that better by letting her go to the bonfire last night.

Aunt Elspeth was not there, and Damaris asked Betty, coming in with a plate of fresh-baked muffins, where she was.

“Already gone out to the garden,” Betty said, setting the muffins closer to Damaris than to her cousins, giving her first chance before their quick hands.  “Says you’re to come out when you’re done, Miss.”

With nothing to say about sheep or wool and refusing to ask about last night – especially whether Nevin or Kellan had danced with Virna – Damaris ate in silence, left the men still talking sheep, and went out to the garden that was now in the full-leaved richness of late June, the flowers of high summer blooming in their scarlets and yellows and a few blues among the varied greens of other plants that had finished their year’s glories or were still to come to them. Aunt Elspeth, in the far corner from the gate, looked around as Damaris entered and raised a dirtied hand in greeting.

Damaris joined her, scooped her skirts around herself, and sat down on the grass. She thought maybe her aunt would say something about last night, but rather than that and as if yesterday hadn’t happened at all, Aunt Elspeth began to talk about the herbs she was weeding, just as usual. Damaris still felt wronged, but being wronged did not lessen her pleasure in learning; she leaned close and listened.

“You see how it spreads by its root along the surface,” Aunt Elspeth said, holding aside the spear-pointed leaves of a thick-grown bed of lily of the valley. “It grows abundantly, given the chance, and is useful…”  She paused and looked at Damaris.

Pleased she remembered what her aunt had told her in the spring when the plants were flowering, Damaris said, “It’s useful against inflammation of the eyes, palsy, and apoplexy. It comforts the heart and vital spirits, and in quieting disorders of the head and nerves. It need be used in only very small amounts for any of those.”

“Do you know why?”

Damaris paused, then shook her head. “Why what?”

“Do you know why it should be used in only very small amounts?”

“Oh.  Because that’s all that’s needed and enough is better than too much. Waste not, want not.”

Damaris stated that with assurance. It was something her mother had often said about almost everything, from a serving of dessert to rising early rather than late in the morning.

“Yes,” Aunt Elspeth agreed, but then added, “And also because the entire plant is deadly poison if too much is taken.” Read more »

Circle of Witches – Chapter 3

December 14th, 2012

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

Start with Chapter 1!


An outgrown pair of Kellan’s boots solved the problem of shoes, though it was three days before Damaris’ sore and swollen feet would fit into anything at all. The wrought iron bench in Aunt Elspeth’s garden was cushioned with pillows for her the first day, but then the weather turned rainy and she and her cousins spent the time in Uncle Russell’s study, building towns and fortresses and palaces with his books and the boys’ set of wooden blocks that Nevin and Kellan resurrected from an abandoned toy chest to amuse their cousin – and themselves, if they would have admitted it.

Nevin was a little too grown to lose himself in the game, though he was the best at structuring books into improbable towers; and twice he was called away to manor work with his father, a reminder that he was growing into other duties. But Kellan willingly let loose what dignity his fourteen years might have had.  When Damaris protested – because the edge of the study carpet was the shore, the bare stone floor the gray sea – “You can’t put a secret passage there. It’ll be under the harbor. They’ll drown,” Kellan easily answered, “They won’t. The tunnel is stone, beautifully mortared and sealed with magic against the sea coming in.”

“But you can’t build under the water.”

“They drained the harbor, built the secret passage, and let the water back in.”

“You can’t drain a harbor!  There’s a whole ocean outside of it!”

Kellan brooded over his creation briefly, then answered cheerfully, “They drain acres and acres of ocean out of Holland all the time. It was like that. Only here they let the water come back in. To hide the tunnel.”

He always had an answer that made sense, if she insisted on it, and their game went on, through the rise and fall of kingdoms and natural disasters – earthquakes were particularly satisfying, bringing all the book-built towers down in tumbled chaos – but on the fourth day after her first adventuring out beyond the safety of Thornoak’s walls, both the weather and Damaris’ feet were well, freeing her to go out into the plans her cousins had for her, and under the dark edge of her parents’ deaths, the summer turned to gold for her. Never once did Aunt Elspeth protest at her coming home torn or muddied or tired after hours of roaming with her cousins on foot and even more often on horseback, because Uncle Russell gave her a horse of her own, a pretty bay mare named Fansome, and gave her her first lessons in riding. Read more »

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

A Midwinter Blog Tour - The Authoress

Today the Midwinter Blog Tour returns to the Authoress (where the cover remake contest is still going strong!) so that I can sit down and have a proper, digital chat with Amelia. Our conversation starts with Rosemary Sutcliffe and Jane Austen, winds its way pleasantly through any number of literary topics, and then ends with Rudyard Kipling and… Jane Austen.

Somehow, as I stare out my window at the deep Christmas snows, that feels appropriate for Circle of Witches.

You can find the interview by clicking here.

- Margaret


Circle of Witches – Chapter 2

December 13th, 2012

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

Start with Chapter 1!


For Damaris the days after that were nightmare. Dressed in endless black, she moved through them in a hurting that blurred all else around her.

Everyone was kind to her. Her aunt and her uncle. The strangers who came and went so much through the days before the funeral. Agnes who had tended Damaris’ mother as a baby and known her grandmother and now saw to Damaris without questions or too many words at all. Sometimes it was Virna who would sit and talk to her when everyone else had other things to do. Having someone, anyone, talking to her helped fill the great emptiness in Damaris, who seemed to have very few words of her own left in her. But usually and best it was Aunt Elspeth or Uncle Russell who were with her through those days, explaining what things were happening and why and, at the last, who all the people were, all the strangers, come to the funeral in St. Cuthbert’s church in Gillingthwaite down the dale.

Through those days Damaris nodded to their voices, understanding what they were saying while they said it and doing what she was told; but when they were no longer talking to her or she had finished what they asked of her, almost all of what they had said and what she had done slid out of her mind again because nothing was very real to her just then except the pain around the emptiness where her parents should have been.

Her father’s Uncle Robert came to the funeral. Afterward, in the parlor at Thornoak, Damaris was introduced to him and was told he would be taking her parents to be buried in her father’s family church in Lancashire. She nodded, accepting that because it did not matter. He was not taking her parents, only their bodies. She had seen the bodies lying in their coffins and known those empty, motionless shapes were not her parents. Her parents were gone. They had left those bodies behind, and this stranger could take them if he wanted; it did not matter. But to his face she only nodded and let him shake her hand while he looked down his broad nose at her and said in deeply doubtful tones, “A pretty little thing. If she were a boy now, I’d be able to manage maybe. But a girl…”

Behind her, hands resting lightly on Damaris’ shoulders, Aunt Elspeth answered, “There’s no worry. She’s more than welcome here.” Read more »

The Maiden's Tale - Margaret Frazer

The Maiden’s Tale has been released for both the Kindle and the Nook. It can also be read on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device using either the free Kindle Reading Apps or the free Nook Apps for those platforms. It will also be available through the iBookstore shortly, but Apple takes much longer to process new e-books than Amazon or B&N.


It is an hour of desperate need for St. Frideswide’s. Thrust into financial ruin by the incompetence and corruption of their former prioress, the nuns have become trapped under the thumb of Abbott Gilberd as he pries into every possible corner of the priory’s life.

In an effort to escape their desperate straits, Dame Frevisse is forced to journey to London in order to seek both a new prioress and financial aid for her beleaguered sisters. Once there, she turns to her wealthy cousin Alice, lady wife of the influential earl of Suffolk. But with a new Parliament warming to its arguments, Frevisse discovers that Alice’s need may be even greater than her own. Caught between the powerful Gloucester, the machiavellian Bishop Beaufort, and the darkly handsome Duke of Orleans, Alice is torn by the broken loyalties of those she loves the most.

Before she can unravel the twisted turns of romance and deception, Frevisse herself is caught up in the intrigue, carrying secret messages which will determine England’s future. But the mystery deepens when one of the other messengers is killed, and Frevisse must solve the murder in order to save not only herself, but Alice’s immortal soul.

Buy Kindle Edition / Buy Nook Edition


“Frazer’s books will be among those I read as soon as I see them…” – Houston Facts

“Frazer successfully captures the essence of 15th century England – the sights, smells, and sounds fill the pages, drawing us in as we become immersed in the language, manners, and customs of a far off time and place.” – Rendezvous

“It’s a fine time to introduce yourself to this smart and sensible nun… Weaves a budding romance and a grand, unrequited passion with a bold and dangerous plot… A historical tale that teems with period detail. Great fun for all lovers of history with their mystery!” – Alfred Hitchcock Magazine

There are few things that hurt an author like their book(s) going out of print. It’s as if your child has been abandoned by those who had joined you in nurturing it into the world. This, of course, is an idealized notion to have about publishers, and after a time an author becomes inured to publishing realities. But times are changing, and so I am delighted to take a brief break today from the Midwinter Blog Tour for Circle of Witches to announce that The Maiden’s Tale, eighth in Dame Frevisse’s series of medieval mysteries, has joined the wonderful world of e-books.

Better yet, this has given me a chance to rework the book. When I wrote it, I was finally past the ghostly presence (never fear; she yet lives) of my erstwhile co-author waiting to modify whatever I wrote, and I’m afraid I got carried away by the freedom. The book came out far too long, and both agent and editor assured me I had to lose a lot of words. “Take out the subplot,” I was advised, but there was no subplot, and so the cutting of over 100 pages (I told you I got carried away) had to be accomplished in bits and pieces. A word or phrase here and then there, with occasionally a heady moment of eliminating a whole paragraph at once – that was the way I had to do it.

I smoothed and mended as best I could, and I doubt the effort showed when I was done. What problems there might be were unobtrusive. At least my editor pointed none out to me. Still, when my e-editor got hold of the book, he found every weak and unclear or confusing point, and had no scruples in pointing them out to me, which happily gave me the chance to work again in the duchess of Suffolk’s household, with characters I enjoy, making their world a little better. The Maiden’s Tale is still the story that it was, but better crafted than it had been, and that is very pleasing to an author – and hopefully to anyone now coming to The Maiden’s Tale for the first time or for another time.

- Margaret

Circle of Witches - The Midwinter Blog Tour

A Midwinter Blog Tour - A Novel Toybox

A Novel Toybox is a fun, playful little corner of the web. If you pop over there today, you’ll find Lilian and I going for a delightful tour through a few of our favorite things.

(Those things being almost entirely books, of course.)

I always find myself at a loss for words whenever someone asks me about my favorite book or the best book I’ve read, but Lilian was very clever in wrestling the answers out of me.

Oh! And if you’re wondering what I’m working on next… Lilian has the answer.

- Margaret

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