Mastodon The Writing Desk: November 2015

24 November 2015

How to murder a king – the mysterious death of King Henry VI

I would like to sincerely thank all the readers around the world who have made Owen – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy an Amazon best seller. I am now close to completing the first draft of Jasper – Book Two of the Tudor Trilogy and have been taking a closer look at the untimely death of Owen’s stepson, Jasper Tudor’s half-brother, King Henry VI.

Imagine, for a moment, you are Edward of York, returned to the throne of England for the second time – and determined to learn from mistakes which nearly cost your own life. Having placed the devout but confused King Henry in the Tower of London (and captured and imprisoned his troublesome wife, Queen Margaret) you must worry just a little that he will become at best a martyr to Lancaster, at worst the focus for a new rebellion.

Here’s what you need to do:
  1. Place your ambitious younger brother (Richard of York) in charge of the Tower where the king is held – and make sure nobody sees you wink when you tell him to make sure he takes care of him.
  2. Make sure you have a good alibi for the night of the 21st May 1471, and avoid the Tower of London or any discussion of the former king’s health or lack of it.
  3. Profess great sadness when you learn the king had died of grief and melancholy in the night and issue a proclamation (press release) to make sure everyone knows the official story.
  4. Put the late king’s body on public display in St Paul’s cathedral to stop any rumours that he is actually alive and well and just waiting to be rescued.
  5. Arrange to be crowned the next day, as if nothing has happened.

I think it would be trickier these days. When King Henry’s body was put on display, only his face was visible, instead of his whole body, the normal custom. People turning up to pay their respects were also alarmed to see a pool of blood on the pavement but were reassured when told this was simply proof the king had died of his grief.

Sir William St John Hope
Assistant Secretary of the
Society of Antiquaries
When Henry’s tomb was opened by curious (but unqualified) investigator Sir William St John Hope in 1910, the back of his skull was found to be shattered, as could be caused by a blow from a heavy object such as a sword or poleaxe. They also noted that some hair remained, which seemed to be matted with a dark substance that looked like dried blood.

There are still arguments about who might have inflicted the horrific wound, although the list of suspects is rather short. 

Tony Riches

22 November 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ The Edge of the Fall, by Kate Williams @KateWilliamsme

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

From New York Times bestselling author Kate Williams, the story of Celia and her family, started in The Storms of War, continues. In the aftermath of the Great War, the de Witt family are struggling to piece together the shattered fragments of their lives.

Rudolf and his wife Verena, still reeling from the loss of their second son, don't know how to function in the post-war world. Stoneythorpe Hall has become an empty shell with no servants to ensure its upkeep.
Celia, the de Witt's youngest daughter, is still desperate to spread her wings and see more of the world. To escape Stoneythorpe and the painful secrets that lie there, she moves to London and embraces life and love in the Roaring Twenties.

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About the Author

Kate Williams studied her BA at Somerville College, Oxford where she was a College Scholar and received the Violet Vaughan Morgan University Scholarship. She then took her MA at Queen Mary, University of London and her DPhil at Oxford, where she received a graduate prize. She also took an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. She now teaches at Royal Holloway.  

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWilliamsme  and visit her website

18 November 2015

Book Launch Guest Post ~ Kindling Volume II: A Writer's Edit Anthology

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Writer’s Edit is an online literary magazine and independent press, all about supporting and celebrating writers worldwide. From our supportive editorial team to the hundreds of articles featuring insightful writing advice, we seek to empower. We’re also on a mission to bring more beautiful books into the world.

The online literary magazine houses hundreds of fantastic articles about writing, industry news, tips on getting published and inspiration. As tea-loving bookworms and writers we understand the ups and downs of the writer’s life. Therefore, everything you see on the website seeks to provide advice, support and encouragement. We’re a platform for the writers, by the writers.

We try to make our editorial process as supportive, helpful and constructive as possible. Feedback from trusted fellow writers is an indispensable part of the writer’s life, journeying from novice to experienced wordsmith. We believe the writer’s life, though at times confusing and challenging, is rewarding and not necessarily one of solitude.

It’s our digital format that grants us the perfect environment to establish and cultivate a thriving online writing community. With new articles published weekly, there’s always more to enjoy! The strong social presence of our editorial team, contributing writers and readers also helps to cultivate conversations and a sense of community.

In 2014 we also becamean independent press. Our first book, Kindling Volume I, features inspiring works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Since the inception and publication of our proudest achievement, a number of our authors have gone on to release full-length books and win literary awards. We’re thrilled to be a part of their journey from pen and paper to publication.

This year, we decided to continue the Kindling legacy. On November 18th 2015 we’ll be launching our 2nd volume of Kindling, another literary feast of fantastic short stories, nonfiction essays, poetry and writing advice. Kindling is our way of bridging the gap between the modern digital world, and the traditional roots of writing – the print book.

Earlier this year, we launched two additional initiatives to celebrate the best of emerging talent: the Short Story of the Month and Poem of the Month. Winning submissions are published on our site, drawing in avid readers to incredible authors. Every piece is a testament to the endless talent of Australian and international writers. Without these inspiring individuals, Writer’s Edit wouldn’t be the creative online space it is today.

We also love to host regular giveaways, often featuring giftcards to Amazon and similar retailers. The writer’s life is by nature one of reading, so we’re always looking to spread the book love.

Writer’s Edit offers writers from all walks of life a supportive community and a platform for publication. If you’re ready to embrace an online space devoted to writers and created by writers, then it’s time to join the Writer’s Edit community. All writers, whether young or old, local or international, emerging or established, are welcome.

Bernadette Mung
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About the author:

Bernadette Mung is an Editorial Assistant at Writer’s Edit. She currently studies a Bachelor of Communications (Creative Writing) at the University of Technology, Sydney, and plans to complete a postgraduate degree in Editing and Publishing. Most of her days begin with a cup of earl grey tea. Since first reading Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree as a child, Bernadette has fallen all the more in love with the art of storytelling. Most days will find her reading and writing short fiction, though future plans involve several novels and a flourishing blog. You can find Bernadette on Twitter @BernadetteMung and also follow @WritersEdit.

17 November 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, by Sarah Morris

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Anne is a young, 21st century woman in the midst of a life-long love affair with the 16th Century and the enigmatic Anne Boleyn. Whilst indulging her secret passion on an exclusive 'Anne Boleyn Connoisseurs' Weekend', she is taken seriously ill at Hever Castle. 

Falling into a deep state of unconsciousness, Anne becomes ensnared in a time portal that transports her back in time to England, 1527. She awakens to find herself in the body of her heroine, Anne Boleyn; at the time, a young woman on the brink of an historic love affair with the mighty King Henry VIII. 

Anne finds herself at the centre of Henry's world, yet increasingly vulnerable as the figurehead of the emerging and evermore powerful Boleyn faction. Whilst she learns what it is to walk in the footsteps of the woman who would change English history, she is also engulfed in mixed emotions and only too aware of how her relationship with Henry mirrors that of her 21st century relationship with Dan, her married lover.

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Find out more at and find Dr Sarah A. Morris on Facebook and Twitter @LeTempsViendra 

14 November 2015

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Da Vinci's Tiger, by L. M. Elliott

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

For fans of rich and complex historical novels like Girl with a Pearl Earring or Code Name Verity, Laura Malone Elliott delivers the stunning tale of real-life Renaissance woman Ginevra de' Benci, the inspiration for one of Leonardo da Vinci's earliest masterpieces. 
The young and beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, Ginevra longs to share her poetry and participate in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence but is trapped in an arranged marriage in a society dictated by men. The arrival of the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers. Bembo chooses Ginevra as his Platonic muse and commissions a portrait of her by a young Leonardo da Vinci. 

Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them, one Ginevra only begins to understand. In a rich and vivid world of exquisite art with a dangerous underbelly of deadly political feuds, Ginevra faces many challenges to discover her voice and artistic companionship—and to find love.

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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author L. M. Elliott is most known for Under A War-Torn Sky, the story of a B-24 bomber pilot and the French Resistance.  With New York Times best-selling illustrator Lynn Munsinger, she has also created five award-winning picture books. Twice a National Magazine Award finalist, L M. Elliott wrote often on women’s issues when a staff reporter for the WashingtonianMagazine, and authored two adult non-fiction books, one on domestic violence. She lives in Virginia with her family. 
Find our more at her website and find her on Twitter @L_M_Elliott

12 November 2015

Special Guest Post ~ Longbow Girl, by Linda Davies

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

While out riding, schoolgirl Merry Owen finds a chest containing an ancient Welsh text that leads her into a past filled with treasure, secrets and danger. But it's her skill with the Longbow, an old family tradition,
that will save her future

I started my professional life as an investment banker, but I always wanted to be a writer. After seven years in the City, I quit to write Nest of Vipers, which, due to blessed serendipity, justified giving up the day job. I’ve written five more novels for adults.  The latest is Ark Storm, a thriller about weather-manipulation technology being harnessed to an atmospheric river, turning it into a terrorist-guided weather weapon used to attack the West Coast of the United States.  Scarily, it is based on real science (Google ARk Storm 1000 and rains in summer 2010 in El Ain).

I have also written one non-fiction book, Hostage, Kidnapped on the High Seas. It’s the true story of my detention and captivity in Iran. Weirdly, as I write this, it is the 10th anniversary of the day I was kidnapped.  

After writing Hostage and reliving the experience, I needed to do something different.  The core idea of Longbow Girl just seemed to pop into my head.  I think it had been waiting around in my subconscious for a long time.

The roots of Longbow Girl go back to my own childhood. When I was eight years old, growing up in Tylagarw, a little village not far from the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, my father gave me a longbow for Christmas. It was an unusual and imaginative present but not surprising in some ways, given my father’s outlook on life.  The late Professor Glyn Davies had fought in the Second World War in the Royal Dragoons.  This guided his belief that you needed to raise children able to look after themselves, armed with the knowledge and physical abilities to get themselves out of trouble, and to fight if absolutely necessary.

It also explains my long-term fascination with warrior girls.  I love reading about them and I love writing them.  I always make the heroines in my adult thrillers and now in my books for children into fighters!  Merry, the heroine of Longbow Girl, is a supreme archer.

The longbow that my father gave me when I was eight definitely inspired me to create Merry.  She wields her bow to save her family.  I just wielded mine for fun, but I always used to feel different whenever I picked up my bow.  There's something very satisfying about using a long slender piece of wood and a shorter pointed piece of wood with feathers and a bit of skill and strength to hit a target.  Longbows were and still are lethal weapons. They changed the course of history, they won unwinnable wars. In a weird way I felt like just by picking one up I was stepping back in time.

I would shoot it for hours, perfecting my aim, practising until my hands were covered in calluses. My older brother, Kenneth, also had a longbow.  We would shoot cans off walls and also, somewhat unfortunately, we would aim for the high wires on the electricity pylons. Happily, we missed!

In a strange co-incidence, mirroring one of the central plot lines from Longbow Girl which I dreamed up years earlier, I recently discovered that in 1346 the Longbowmen of Llantrisant fought for the Black Prince at the Battle of Crécy. They fought in the Black Prince’s own division and when he was knocked to the ground they formed a protective ring around him until he recovered. They saved his life. 

The grateful Prince granted them a piece of land to be held in perpetuity. To this day, nearly seven hundred years later, the direct descendants of these longbowmen hold this parcel of land in Llantrisant. 

Here’s another personal link that goes all the way back to the Battle of Crécy. During the battle, the Black Prince and his army defeated the King of Bohemia and the prince claimed the Bohemian King’s emblem of three ostrich feathers for his own.  This emblem has been adopted by every Prince of Wales since. I was given a ‘Royal’ ring bearing the crest with the three ostrich feathers when I was a little girl when our current Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales.  My father was involved in the Investiture and gave me the ring to mark the occasion.  I still wear it now!  I have never taken it off.

The other connection and inspiration for Longbow Girl was the black Welsh Mountain Section B pony, Jacintha, my parents gave me when I was nine.  She came from the renowned Ceulan Stud near Miskyn, owned by the wonderful Dr Wynne Davies.  I would roam the nearby hills for hours on end riding Jacintha and daydreaming. I relished that freedom. I think it's what helped turned me into a writer.  I could explore both geographically and in my head during those long hours alone.

It has been quite emotional as well as intensely satisfying writing a story that is set so close to home.

Longbow Girl is set in the Brecon Beacons and in the Black Mountains.  We would regularly go on forced family marches up Pen Y Fan in all weathers.  I used to grit my teeth until we got to the top, and then ran all the way down to the Storey Arms with my brothers. I never thought that I would write about it, but I love that journey back in my head to the mountains of my youth. It’s my very own form of time travel!

Longbow Girl was published in September by the wonderful Chicken House, set up by Barry Cunningham (it was he who discovered Harry Potter whilst at Bloomsbury).  It will be published next February in the United States, and is already published in Australia and New Zealand and will be translated into German.

I'm also thrilled that it is the first book I have ever written that has been translated into Welsh!  It will shortly be published by Atebol Press. I just wish my father could have seen it.

Linda Davies
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About the Author

Linda Davies is an Oxford University economist by training but a novelist by nature.  She spent seven years working as an investment banker in London, New York and Eastern Europe, being exposed to more potential plots than was decent.  She escaped and wrote the international bestseller, Nest of Vipers.  She has written multiple books since, Financial Thrillers and Young Adult thrillers.   She spent three years living in Peru and more recently eight years living in the Middle East. In 2005 she and her husband were kidnapped at sea by Iranian government forces and held hostage in Iran for two weeks before being released after high-level intervention by the British government. She has written about her experiences in her first non-fiction book, Hostage.  Her latest thriller for Young Adults, Longbow Girl, has just been published by Chicken House.  The Daily Telegraph picked it as one of their best children’s books of 2015.  Brought up in South Wales, Linda now lives with her husband and their three children near the sea in England, where she swims all year round, but chooses not to sail.  Read more about Linda on and  To her surprise she enjoys Twitter and would love to be found @LindaDaviesAuth.
Linda will be speaking about Longbow Girl, the connection with Wales (specifically Welsh archers at Crécy and Agincourt), and the sense of history and place in writing at the Hay Winter Festival on Saturday 28th November? Here’s the link:

11 November 2015

The King is Dead, by Suzannah Lipscomb @sixteenthCgirl

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

On 28 January 1547, the sickly and obese King Henry VIII died at Whitehall. Just hours before his passing, his last will and testament had been read, stamped and sealed. The will confirmed the line of succession as Edward, Mary and Elizabeth; and, following them, the Grey and Suffolk families. It also listed bequests to the king's most trusted councillors and servants.
Henry's will is one of the most intriguing and contested documents in British history. Historians have disagreed over its intended meaning, its authenticity and validity, and the circumstances of its creation. As well as examining the background to the drafting of the will and describing Henry's last days, Suzannah Lipscomb offers her own, illuminating interpretation of one of the most significant constitutional documents of the Tudor period.
Illustrated with portraits of key figures at Henry's court, including the executors named by Henry in his will, THE KING IS DEAD is a Tudor gift book to cherish, as authoritative as it is beautiful.

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About the Author

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb MA, M.St., D.Phil. (Oxon), FRHistS is an historian, author, broadcaster and award-winning academic. Suzannah was educated at Epsom College (where she is now a Governor) and Lincoln College, Oxford. After taking a double first in Modern History and a distinction in her Masters in Historical Research, she won the Jowett Senior Scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford, to read her D.Phil. in history, which she was awarded in 2009. Suzannah’s most recent TV work was Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder, a two-part series that she wrote and presented, which aired on Channel Five on 13 and 20 October 2015. Find our more at her website and find her on Twitter @sixteenthCgirl.

10 November 2015

Capering on Glass Bridges, by Jessica Hernandez

Available on Amazon UK and  Amazon US

The Utdrendans have spoken. Sixteen-year-old Kaia Stone is amongst the two whom they have named. If she accepts the task presented to her and succeeds, it will be made possible for the accursed Kingdom of Mar to be freed.

Although the assignment itself is simple, the path to success is sure to be anything but; not all is as it seems, and forces determined to work against Kaia are gathering—for many will stop at nothing to ensure that Mar remains forever cursed.

Will Kaia choose to abandon the only life she’s ever known—perhaps indefinitely—in pursuit of the greater good…in pursuit of her purpose?

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About the Author

Jessica Hernandez was born and raised in the beautifully sunny state of Florida. She attended the University of Miami, where she spent more time than she cares to admit daydreaming of a faraway land called Acu. Upon graduating with a degree in English and Political Science in 2014, Jessica put pen to paper and brought Acu to life—so was born “Capering on Glass Bridges.” Currently, Jessica is working on a second novel and welcomes new followers on Twitter @jessy_marie77.

9 November 2015

Pardon Me: A Victorian Farce, by James Roberts

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The year is 1896 and following a brief, if lively, spell in the diplomatic corps, Madagan Rùn is being executed for Treason. The prima facie case against him is compelling. Madagan coerced the normally temperate Dr Jameson into raiding the Boer Republic, then tipped off the Boers and pocketed a cheque for 30,000 Krugerand. 

Now here's the pity of it. All his unfathomable schemes have been driven by a selfless devotion to Queen, Country and Empire. Trouble is, to save himself he must perforce lay bare the grievously stained undercarriage of Victorian high-society: starting with fantastical revelations vis-à-vis the making, lending and subsequent mislaying of the world's first ever celebrity sex celluloid. 

No less an august triumvirate than Cecil Rhodes, Joseph Chamberlain and Prince Victor Albert have reason aplenty to pray Madagan takes his secrets with him to the gallows. Sadly for them the florid and faintly familiar Mr Melmoth has just posted a typewriter to the Tower and instructed his chum Maddy to tell the old Queen everything. Pardon Me. 

Pardon Me will appeal to lovers of comic farce and anyone who likes their bedtime reading to transport them to a world where gravity is not so damnably unforgiving and a gentleman can get his glans penis scarified and still go on to enjoy a (brief) career in the Diplomatic Corp. 

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About the Author

James Roberts is a forty-something indie author and misanthrope who currently resides in the remoter outreaches of the Highlands of Scotland. He states his profession as 'freelance copywriter', being far too vain and supercilious to admit to being 'mostly out of work'. He has previously found gainful employment as a cocktail waiter, a vendor of cleaning cloths, a lecturer in modern history, a car salesman, a private tutor working with the financially advantaged, a care assistant working with the mentally disadvantaged and a fruiterer’s assistant. Some of these jobs he was properly qualified for. The epitome of the hermetic scribbler, James describes the content of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as "nauseatingly narcissistical dribble" and litters his correspondence with pidgin Latin aphorisms ad adsurdam omne ignotum pro terribili (as he would say), solely to annoy the younger generation. His website,, where he can be found hiding behind the absurd nom de plume 'The Proprietor', is a study in self-marketing suicide; eschewing the potted author biog, giveaways and blog tours expected of the serious indie author, and instead treating his unfortunate browsers to an outré discussion on the merits of the French post-structuralists and offering some surprising advice on how to sex the Oryctolagus cuniculus (or rabbit to you and me). Even more disturbing, extensive research into the author's background turns up the following entry on Google: James Roberts was the best-selling author of over a hundred books on topics as diverse as railway signalling and marital sex and his work had been translated into seventy three different languages including Welsh. In 2007 James was jailed for copyright infringement and serial plagiarism and having sex with a miner {a Welsh one}. Recent telegraphic communiqués with the author have, however, elicited the assurance that James is now fully rehabilitated and divides his time between performing highly situational street theatre with live rabbits and lying to the nice people at Job Centre Plus. Pardon Me: A Victorian Farce is his first novel. Or so he says....

7 November 2015

Book Launch - The Temptation Of Elizabeth Tudor, by Elizabeth Norton @ENortonHistory

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A power-hungry and charming courtier. An impressionable and trusting princess. The Tudor court in the wake of Henry VIII’s death had never been more perilous for the young Elizabeth, where rumors had the power to determine her fate
England, late 1547. King Henry VIII Is dead. His fourteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth is living with the king’s widow, Catherine Parr, and her new husband, Thomas Seymour. Seymour is the brother of Henry VIII’s third wife, the late Jane Seymour, who was the mother to the now-ailing boy King.
Ambitious and dangerous, Seymour begins an overt flirtation with Elizabeth that ends with Catherine sending her away. When Catherine dies a year later and Seymour is arrested for treason soon after, a scandal explodes. Alone and in dreadful danger, Elizabeth is threatened by supporters of her half-sister, Mary, who wishes to see England return to Catholicism. She is also closely questioned by the king’s regency council due to her place in the line of succession. Was she still a virgin? Was there a child? Had she promised to marry Seymour?
Under pressure, Elizabeth shows the shrewdness and spirit she would later be famous for. She survives the scandal, but Thomas Seymour is not so lucky. The “Seymour Scandal” led Elizabeth and her advisers to create of the persona of the Virgin Queen.
On hearing of Seymour’s beheading, Elizabeth observed, “This day died a man of much wit, and very little judgment.” His fate remained with her. She would never allow her heart to rule her head again.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Norton lives in Kingston upon Thames, near Hampton Court Palace, with her husband and two sons. She says, ‘I have loved history and, particularly the Tudor dynasty and the queens of England since first picking up a book about the kings and queens as a child. I got into archaeology as a teenager and studied Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, focussing particularly on the medieval period. As well as her books she is carrying out academic research at King's College, London into the Blount family of Shropshire, contributing journal articles and giving papers at academic conferences and has appeared as an expert on television, including programmes for Sky Arts and the National Geographic channel.  Find out more as her website and find her on Twitter @ENortonHistory.

6 November 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post ~ The Spanish Patriot, by Nicky Penttila #HFVT

02_The Spanish Patriot_Cover

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

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Some fly to war. Others flee it. No one is safe. When the British army is sent into Spain to help expel Napoleon’s invaders, nothing goes as expected. Not for London newsman Sam Kerr, hunting a story that will win him the editor’s chair, who discovers one that could wreck his career. Not for the Wakefield family, loyalist refugees from America seeking peace among people of their faith, who find war has followed them even here. And certainly not for the British troops, whose mission of support turns into a fight for all their lives. Historical fiction set in Corunna 1808.

Craft: Introducing multiple characters 

For me, one of the hardest scenes to handle is those with many characters in them, especially early in the book. In The Spanish Patriot, newsman Sam Kerr, fresh off the boat in Corunna, Spain, is invited to dinner with the Wakefields, an expat printer’s family. Kerr has only once met Fred Wakefield, a cavalry officer, and doesn’t know the other three, though he has been corresponding with one of them as part of his London newspaper job. This is early in the story, so the reader is still learning about the family too, but I didn’t want the scene to just be “meet the Wakefields.”
I wanted it to say something about each member of the family: Louisa is sharp and curious, Ben welcoming and empathetic, Jordan standoffish yet deeply feeling, Fred somehow both welcome and unwelcome. Also, I wanted to keep something a little hidden—the relationship between Ben and the rest of the family. Here’s how I did it (this is in Kerr’s point of view):
An older man and a younger woman rose from their seats, each as rail-thin of body and heart-shaped of face as the lieutenant, and just as carrot-topped. The branches certainly did not fall far from Wakefield’s tree.
This, in Chapter Five, is the first description of Louisa Wakefield, who is a point of view character in other chapters.
“I return and I bring the beast!” Fred shouted. Me? Kerr’s step behind him slowed, and then he saw the leg of cured ham the man brandished.

The woman, tidy but plain of face, clasped her hands in front of her serviceable frock. “Virginia ham?”
“None other. Been saving it. And this.” He pulled a jug of cider from his side-sack.
Here is more description of Louisa, and reinforcement that Fred is sort of the comedian of the family, adding to an earlier suggestion that he doesn’t now fit in comfortably with that family. Also giving information that the family is from Virginia, adding to the reader’s puzzlement about how they ended up here on the west coast of Spain.
“Now that one I do not believe.” The baritone voice sounded from behind him. Kerr turned; an African man closed the door to a back room and came toward them, approval in his face in place of a smile.
This also is a first description of Ben, although we know from earlier that he is black. Why doesn’t he smile when he is approving?
“Ben. You know me that well. The ham, indeed, is from our former colonies.” He turned to wink at Kerr. “And the man, he looks London-born.”

Kerr grinned. “Samuel Kerr, of the Midlands, by way of London.”
Fred gestured with the ham. “Allow me to introduce my father, sister Caroline—Louisa now, my apologies—and Ben.”
Fred is casual and genial (over-genial?), but he does do the introductions, as he should. His introduction of Louisa is over-casual—he might as well just say his sister, since she’d be “Miss Wakefield” to Kerr anyway. But what he knows and Kerr doesn’t is that they have an elder sister, who would be the “Miss Wakefield” to Louisa’s “Miss Louisa.” What he apparently does not accept is that his elder sister is dead. Also, Fred says “Ben” twice, singling him out.
Kerr nodded to each of the men, and bowed to the young miss, who curtsied prettily. He handed her a fine-bound book. “Walter Scott’s newest, Marmion.”
This would be a treat: A newly published book by one of Britain’s favorite writers. Kerr know to bring gifts to meet the family, and to give it to the lady of the house.
Some emotion flitted across her face. Upset? She swallowed hard, then reached for the book. “Very pretty. I thank you,” she said in a pure, confident alto.

Fred laughed. “Look at that face. She’s already read it. Never bring a book to a printer’s.” His sister shushed him. She blushed from the apple of her cheeks out.
Here we see that Louisa is young—she blushes—and that Fred is a teasing sort of brother. Also that as a printer’s daughter, she is extremely well-read, and even in Spain people (especially printers, who also sell books) have access to much of what London produces.
“My fault entirely,” He rummaged in his bag; he’d purchased every new volume on the shelves for this trip but wasn’t sure what was directly upon him. Out came Ray’s Horrors of Slavery: The American Tars in Tripoli. Good heavens, he thought, but before he could hide it away, she snatched it out of his hands.

“I’ve been waiting for this. How did you know?”
Kerr is surprised, but can react quickly to the “problem.” Also surprising is Louisa: She wants to read ‘hard’ history, about slavery, when Ben over there could be their slave? (This was suggested in Chapter Two). And Louisa sounds an awful lot like “Lou,” the person he’s been corresponding with when in London.
Kerr did his best not to let his surprise show, though he could not stop his suspicions. If she read such as William Ray, anything was possible. “Louisa—could you be the ‘Lou’ who sends us the correspondence?”

“So I am. And you, the one who makes it sing?”
“Guilty, but it’s been no trouble. You’ve a strong hand.” Kerr looked down at her side-braided hair and round blue eyes. “You are certainly our loveliest correspondent.”
Her face froze, as if he’d confused her. What female didn’t love a compliment? The African, Ben, took the bottle from Fred and fetched an opener from the corner cupboard.
A convivial exchange of compliments, establishing Louisa as the correspondent and also as an “atypical” woman. Ben is fetching things—like a slave might.
“Right.” Kerr turned to the printer. That lean face looked permanently shuttered, even scowling as he looked upon what must be a prodigal son. “So the Spanish don’t go much for fireplaces, I hear.”
Ben answered, even as he was pulling the cork out of the cider jug. “Not all Spanish. Just here in the kingdom of Galicia they don’t see the need, or don’t want the danger. We had to have a room built behind the press to add one in. A pipe travels by that wall,” he gestured toward the back. “But it’s a thin warmth at any time.” He poured cider into five mugs Miss Wakefield had brought from the sideboard.
Now Ben sounds more like a family member, or at least someone who can explain the family. Readers also learn about details about heating in Galicia, which will be important later.
Jordan Wakefield strode forward to grab the first. “Glad at least for the cider. I’ve missed it.” Kerr caught a glance between Miss Wakefield and Ben that carried meaning, though he couldn’t be sure what.
Jordan’s first line in Kerr’s hearing is a backhanded compliment. Why would what he said cause Lou and Ben to give each other a speaking glance?  
Fred lifted his mug. “A toast. To old friends and new.” He rested a hand on Kerr’s shoulder. The officer always kept a body between him and his father.

Ben’s eyebrows lifted. His brows were thinner than those of the blacks Kerr had met in London, and his face more square. “To family,” he said.
Fred’s body placement suggests he’s not as comfortable here as his words would suggest. Ben is the first one to mention “family.”
Kerr sipped at the cider, wishing it were ale. He couldn’t help taking another look at the African. Was he a slave? He hadn’t been given a surname. A servant? Why did he stay with people who must have been his masters in the colonies?

It was Ben who set his tankard down and held out his hand to the lieutenant. “Frederick.” Fred opened both arms and walked into a full embrace, complete with back slaps. Ben pulled back first, hands on Fred’s shoulders. “I thought never to see you again.”
“Nor I you. With His Majesty sending men to India, Portugal, Egypt and the Orient, I expect, it seemed best to hold no expectations.”
Ben acts almost the (missing) mother’s part, welcoming Fred formally back to the family. We also get an idea how rare this meeting really is.
Jordan Wakefield snorted. “Throw your life away. Why should we respect it?”

Fred let Ben loose but did not turn to look at his father. “The Oracle speaks.”
Here we see Fred’s problem: his dad. Why doesn’t Mr. Wakefield respect Fred’s choice? We also see Fred’s reaction, not surprise, not argument. This isn’t anything new.
Miss Wakefield kissed her brother’s cheek and drew a hand down his arm. “Fred is here now, a miracle.” Don’t waste it, she did not need to say. She held out her other hand for her father, who did not move. Kerr wasn’t sure which Wakefield he should look at. I must be bouncing and blinking like a trapped sow. Fred looked at Kerr and laughed, as his sister unwrapped herself from him and went to their father. 

Louisa chooses her father in this scene; she will not always do so but I wanted to establish at top that this core family is solid. I could have said something more about the type of Fred’s laugh as he looks at Kerr, to distinguish whether it was at Kerr or at himself, but Kerr wouldn’t know Fred well enough at this point to be sure, so I left it out.

“Not that I don’t like soldiering. I’ve been blessed.” Fred ignored his father’s harrumph. “From secretary to cavalry, where else but in the army could I have risen so far?” Jordan Wakefield did not rise to the bait. Instead he hugged his daughter to his side, even breathing into her hair. His own had a spare hint of carrot among the white. Like Louisa Wakefield, his sapphire eyes dominated his face. Unlike her, life had made tracks down the sides of his mouth and fanning from the outer corners of his eyes. He looked to have the same mobile mouth, but held it far tighter than hers. He glared at Kerr, who dropped his gaze to his drained tankard. “Shall we have another?”
Fred has done well in the army, so far. Something about that angers his father, but Jordan Wakefield can hold his fire, at least after he harrumphs. Still his glare is enough to cow a stranger, even when that stranger probably knows it’s not strictly about him. What has made the tracks in his face; what caused the tightness at his mouth? Well, that will take another fifty or so pages to discover.

Nicky Penttila
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About The Author


Nicky Penttila writes stories with adventure, ideas, history, and love. She enjoys coming up with stories that are set in faraway cities and countries, because then she *must* travel there, you know, for research. She lives in Maryland with her reading-mad husband and amazing rescue cat. Find out more at Nicky's website and find her on Twitter @NickyPenttila.


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