Mastodon The Writing Desk: July 2021

29 July 2021

Guest Post by Savannah Cordova: How to Balance Accuracy and Narrative When Writing Historical Fiction

If there’s one thing that seems to shore up endless debate and contrary opinions in the historical fiction realm, it’s the question of accuracy vs. narrative. People can’t seem to agree on an ideal ratio: some would attach references to every last detail, while others are fine taking generous creative liberties.

The balance of each story is ultimately up to its author. However, I’ve found that the very best historical fiction books seem to take similar tacks to strike that balance. Here are some useful guidelines on how to mimic them when walking the fine line between fact and fiction!

Research extensively, but prepare to only use a fraction

When authors and even readers think about historical fiction, research is often the first thing that comes to mind. This is for good reason; as noted in my previous post, writers must familiarize themselves with the era they’re writing about if they want their work to stick the landing.

Indeed, don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort you’ll need to get your facts 100% straight. Remember, many of these facts aren’t just a backdrop, but important elements of your story. Everything you learn through your research, from the events of great battles to the exact Tudor line of succession, will bolster your portrayal of both the atmosphere and plot.

That said, you should be selective about which details to explicitly include. After spending countless hours on research, it may be tempting to cram all those nuggets of wisdom into your pages, no matter how small. But this is where hyper-accuracy can be a hindrance rather than a strength! While historical fiction readers typically do have an interest in the era of your novel, at the end of the day, they’re reading it for the story — not the trivia.

You want to offer just the right amount of information to keep readers feeling immersed in authenticity, without forfeiting your story. This means no tangents or info-dumps about anything that’s irrelevant plot-wise. In the end, you will likely only end up using a fraction of the research that you have gathered, but that’s okay: as established by Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory, this restraint on your part will actually help build a better story.

Filter the facts through your characters

Historical fiction is compelling because it takes real-world events and settings, then makes them tangible to the reader. To do this, of course, an author must center a character (or small group of characters) and their specific experiences of the period. Luckily, this technique almost automatically achieves a nice historical fiction balance — focusing on characters is a fantastic way to be accurate in your depictions without sacrificing the human pull of narrative!

Say your main character is a seamstress at court and you know a great deal about the practices of the time. Instead of having a long, fact-laden description of the profession, concentrate on what it means for your character. Describe their sore fingers after a long day; the headache after trying to finish a garment by candlelight; the fear of not meeting their master’s requirements. Just be careful to avoid anachronisms or imposing too much hindsight — if there’s about to be a revolt, your character might hear rumblings of it, but she shouldn’t be able to predict the outcome.

Characters departing from the norms of their time is a particularly tricky instance where you’ll need to balance accuracy and storytelling. It might be unlikely, for example, that a seamstress at court would become involved in a plot to assassinate the king. However, as long as you clearly show how your seamstress has gotten into this situation, you can safely bend the facts a bit to create intrigue. (Besides, wouldn’t it be more unrealistic to have everyone conform to the norm?)

Make the most of your dialogue

Another thing I touched on in my previous post is not getting bogged down by strictly historical dialogue. Instead, you might want to go more for the impression of accuracy.

Your execution depends on when your historical novel is set — recent, Western civilizations are obviously closer to modern English than others — but most authors draw the line at attempting to replicate dialogue older than 200 years or so. Instead, try to have your dialogue match the tone of your narrative voice, while still allowing each character’s individuality to shine through. 

Many historical fiction authors choose an “invisible narrative style” for their story that requires removing expressions associated with any specific time periods. More often than not, this means avoiding colloquial language and idioms that might be jarring to the reader. However, the dialogue itself can still be lively — again, so long as you focus on the characters and how their personalities influence what they think and say.

This strategy will hopefully help you steer clear of any “Meat’s back on the menu, boys”-type follies, while still allowing your dialogue to sound authentic and colorful. And one more pro tip: for historical fiction taking place in 1500 or later, you can use Google NGram to see whether an unusual word was in common use at that time. Indeed, even with the most neutral of tones, you sometimes need to fact-check to ensure you’re not being anachronistic.

Take care when twisting history for dramatic effect

When it comes to injecting fiction into history, choose your areas of embellishment wisely. You don’t want to invent something major in the context of an extremely well-known period; this will ring immediately false to readers and can undermine your entire book. For example, imagine you were writing an otherwise-accurate — e.g. not alternative history — novel about the American Revolution, and you killed off George Washington before he could become the president. You’d lose all narrative credibility after that!

To combat this issue, simply focus on twisting history where there is plentiful room to do so. After all, there are so many genuine uncertainties and unanswered questions in history, it shouldn’t be difficult to find one to try and untangle. (Just think of all the famous historical enigmas, like the construction of Stonehenge and the abandonment of the Mary Celeste.)

You may have to do a bit of extra research to find the right gap to fill, but trust me, you’ll be glad you did. As a reader, it’s so much more satisfying to have a solution posed to an actual mystery than to have plot points conjured out of thin air! So as an author, don’t be afraid to lean into those gaps — and present your own plausible explanations.

Utilize the author’s note/historical note

Finally, know that departing even substantially from facts doesn't have to be a problem in historical fiction, as long as you acknowledge the liberties you have taken. Aim for transparency and cover your bases by taking full advantage of the author’s note, or historical note, in your back matter, where you can explain the divergences you made and why.

Specifically, you should talk about any ambiguities and/or discrepancies you discovered during your research — anything that historically knowledgeable readers may have questions about. This will allow you to remain consistent in the main body of your novel, yet also show that you’re aware of where your work might digress from historical records, and that you’ve made a deliberate decision to do so.

With the help of these tips, you should be more than ready to write historical fiction that is both accurate and engaging. Happy balancing!

Savannah Cordova 

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About the Author

Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading and writing short stories. Naturally, she’s a big fan of historical fiction — when it’s done right. Find out more at and on Twitter @ReedsyHQ

See Also: Guest Post by Savannah Cordova: Five Crucial Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

28 July 2021

Book Review: The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings, by Sarah Bryson

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Four generations of Brandon men lived and served six English kings, the most famous being Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, best friend and brother-in-law to King Henry VIII. Yet his family had a long history tied closely to the kings of the Wars of the Roses back to Henry VI.

I should begin by mentioning that I studied Charles Brandon and his wives for four years while researching and writing my Brandon trilogy. This means I feel unusually well placed to confirm that Sarah Bryson’s new book is impeccably well researched. (At one point I realised I was following in her footsteps, tracking down locations in Suffolk.) 

I particularly like the scene setting at the start, and the overview of the so-called ‘Wars of the Roses’. As well as providing a context for what follows, the preamble should help readers understand the background to the rise of the Brandons.

Chosen as Henry Tudor’s standard bearer, loyal Sir William Brandon chose death rather than dishonour on that fateful day at Bosworth field by failing to defend himself. His gesture seems futile, as the banner fell, yet it proved the making of his son, Charles Brandon. 

Despite almost killing Henry VIII in a jousting accident, Charles Brandon and the king were lifelong friends (perhaps Henry’s only true friend). I think Brandon would have been surprised to know he would Henry would outlive him by just eighteen months, and join him in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Well referenced and highly readable, this much needed account is supported by extracts from letters and papers, and spans four generations and the reigns of six English kings. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

27 July 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Robin Hood’s Return (The Robin Hood Trilogy Book 3)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

“A Wonderful Retelling Seamlessly Merging History and Legend”

England, 1154-1194
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.

Part one of an exciting three-part retelling of the 
Robin Hood legend!

Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood. Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family.

As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance.

From the mists of an ancient woodland, to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land—Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.

Robin Hood’s Widow (The Robin Hood Trilogy Book 2)

Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube. From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade, to harrowing sea voyages, to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.

Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader—and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan. Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.

Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith-like fury of the woman he once loved. How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime? He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption, while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.

And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues.

Robin Hood’s Return (The Robin Hood Trilogy Book 3)

The Legend of Robin Hood is born when he is outlawed after returning from the Holy Land.
Finally reunited, Robin and Marian, along with their band of men, must face both an army led by the mysterious Sheriff of Nottingham and the wrath of a ruthless Queen Eleanor. Confronting betrayal and forging new alliances, they fight against the sheriff’s tyranny, determined to uncover his secrets.

With King Richard in captivity, Queen Eleanor must collect an unprecedented king’s ransom, while an increasingly reckless Prince John pursues the throne at any cost. As opposing forces battle for control of the English throne, the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, conspire to end the Plantagenet dynasty forever.
Dark secrets and unexpected revelations could destroy the future of England. 

The course of history hangs in the balance. Robin and Marian must prove their innocence while saving both King Richard and Prince John. But can they prevail in the ultimate battle between the future and the past?

A thrilling, fast-paced finale to a unique retelling of the 
Robin Hood Legend!

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About the Authors

Olivia Longueville has always loved literature and fiction, and she is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and the arts. She has undertaken in-depth research into the French Renaissance and the history of the Plantagenet, Tudor, and Valois dynasties. She has several degrees in finance & general management from London Business School (LBS) and other universities. At present, she helps her father run the family business.  Olivia is also the author of Between Two Kings, an alternative history of Anne Boleyn, and its forthcoming sequel, Queen’s Revenge. She is interested in creating strong and diverse characters, while giving voice to stories that are compelling, inspiring, and amusing. Find out more at her website and follow Olivia on Facebook and Twitter @O_Longueville

J.C. Plummer (Jennie) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology. She later earned a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Dartmouth College. As an author and historian, Jennie’s goal is to provide thoughtful and entertaining storytelling that honors the past, is mindful of the present, and is optimistic for the future. Find out more at and follow Jennie on Facebook and Twitter: @JC_Plummer

25 July 2021

Visiting Windsor Castle - The Tudor History & Travel Show

Dr Sarah Morris of The Tudor Travel Guide kindly invited me to talk about visiting Windsor Castle - the oldest castle in permanent occupation, in the new episode of her Tudor History & Travel Show: 

St George’s Chapel is within the grounds of Windsor Castle and was founded by King Edward III. Many successive royals have made their own ‘improvements’ and the chapel was seriously damaged by looters during the English Civil War.

There is a real sense of being at the heart of English History as you enter, as it is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter and burial place of many kings. I spotted the portcullis badge of Margaret Beaufort everywhere, as well as the Dragon and Greyhound of King Henry VII.

The chapel is also full of surprises. I found I was looking at the tomb of King Edward IV, buried with ‘Elizabeth Widvile’.  The tomb had been ‘lost’ then rediscovered during restoration work in 1789, which explains its modern appearance. (When the tomb was found many ‘relics’ were taken, including locks of Edward's hair – and liquid from the bottom of the coffin!)

I was listening to the audio tour as I entered the quire and was amazed when I was asked to look up to the left of the altar. That morning I’d been writing about Catherine of Aragon watching Henry VIII’s jousting from an ornate wooden gallery.

There above me was another - the wooden gallery from where Queen Catherine would sit to watch services in the chapel, as well preserved as if she is expected to arrive at any moment.

I think Catherine would have approved of Prince Harry's marriage - and would perhaps have some useful advice about the challenges of being a young, foreign princess in the English royal family!
Henry VIII’s tomb occupies the middle of the quire and is surprising both for its simplicity and the company we’ve chosen for him to keep in eternity – as well as Jane Seymour, Henry is buried with the beheaded body of King Charles Ist and a stillborn son of Queen Anne. (If you’d like to know more about Henry’s tomb see Natalie Grueninger's post at 'On The Tudor Trail'.)

Having failed to find the tomb of Charles Brandon, I asked a guide and discovered it in the south transit, half covered by a wooden bench seat and under a life-sized portrait of King Edward III adjacent to the tomb of King Henry VI.  Interestingly, it refers to Mary Tudor as ‘Married Mary daughter of Henry VII, Widow of Louis XII King of France.

And what about Mary Tudor’s tomb? She died in Suffolk on 25 June 1533 and Charles Brandon paid for a fine tomb Bury St Edmunds Abbey. When the abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, her remains were taken to St. Mary’s Church, also in Bury St Edmunds, and placed under a modest slab – another long trip from Wales which I talk about here

Tony Riches

23 July 2021

Special Guest Post by Stephanie Kline, The Tudor Enthusiast

Thank you so much, Tony, for inviting me to share a little bit about The Tudor Enthusiast here today! It’s an exciting time for me and my Tudor Enthusiast community, as today marks 10 years maintaining this blog and website and keeping up with this ever-growing community of likeminded sixteenth-century fans! I’m thrilled to be sharing the story of The Tudor Enthusiast, as well as my plans for the future, with you and your readers today in celebration.

It’s been a fun road getting here! It started as a simple online journal of sorts (because I, a Tudor enthusiast myself for 5+ years at the time, couldn’t seem to find enough people with whom to discuss the fascinating Tudor period!). I thought that writing a blog would be fun – a place to ask my own questions about the period, initiate my own research, and talk about virtually anything and everything to do with the Tudor figures, places, and events that interested me most. 

This led to the creation of a Tudor Enthusiast Facebook page, which (much to my pleasant surprise) gained followers and fans quickly (now up to around 4,400)! In time, I was sharing book recommendations and writing reviews on Tudor fiction and nonfiction – which attracted the attention of a number of authors and publishing companies, all of whom began generously sending me books to review. (To date, my “Book Recommendations” tab remains one of the most visited pages of my website.)

Today, The Tudor Enthusiast has expanded to three social media platforms – creating active communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My popular “On this day in Tudor history…” posts are shared most days, and I try to write more extensive blog posts at least weekly. Of course, I continue my book reviews, with a goal of posting at least one per month (which always involves both a full book review blog post, as well as a shorter synopsis of my thoughts on the “Book Recommendations” page). Excitingly, I’ve also been able to share a number of exclusive author interviews, which prove to be some of my most popular posts. Adding authors and fellow historians to The Tudor Enthusiast community is truly one of the best parts of running this website!

My most exciting Tudor Enthusiast update to date is the book deal I signed in February with Pen & Sword Books UK. They kindly asked me if I would be interested in writing an updated biography of King Edward VI for them, and I have been busily working on the manuscript for the last five months. 

This will be my first traditionally-published book, and while the research and writing of it has been a challenge (I am a full-time employee, wife, and mother living in the US – far from any primary sources held in the UK, and prohibited from travelling during the pandemic!), I am nevertheless finding it incredibly fun and fulfilling. It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to publish history books (both fiction and nonfiction), so my work-in-progress on Edward VI is well worth the challenge. 

In addition, I’ve been working on a fun side project for the past several months, and though I hesitate to share too much (as I can’t be sure how it’ll turn out at this point), it is my first real attempt at Tudor fiction. I have chosen to create a fictional Tudor midwife as my main character, who’s called to attend the new Queen of England, Anne Boleyn, as she delivers King Henry VIII’s child in 1533. 

What will ensue from there is an account of Anne’s time as queen, her struggle to provide the long-awaited son and heir, and my character’s view of her ultimate downfall. Of course, there is much left to write (as of now, I have only around 30,000 sloppy words), but this is a project that has been great fun to explore in my free time. I’m excited to see what comes of it, and of course I’ll keep my readers updated! 

It’s been a whirlwind 10 years of writing The Tudor Enthusiast and engaging with my incredibly supportive, enthusiastic, and intelligent readers. It’s amazing to look back at the simple origins of this website and to think how far it’s come – culminating in thousands of readers, a book deal, and the demand to keep churning out blog posts and social media content! 

I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts and writing with my Tudor Enthusiast community, and to have so much to look forward to in the future. With any luck, this website will continue growing in the years to come, and I’ll have plenty more exciting updates and opportunities to share. Here’s to another 10 years!

Stephanie Kline

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About the Author

Stephanie (The Tudor Enthusiast) is a historian and author based in Northern Virginia, USA. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from George Mason University (2014), as well as a Master of Studies degree in Modern British and European History from Mansfield College, University of Oxford (2015). Her post-graduate dissertation topic of research explored the posthumous reputations of late-Plantagenet kings during the Tudor period, and their influences on sixteenth-century England.  When not writing, Stephanie can be found reading, riding horses, or spending time with her husband, Jason, and son, Henry. Find out more at The Tudor Enthusiast and on Facebook and Twitter @TudorEnthusiast

21 July 2021

Guest Interview with Barbara Greig, Author of Discovery

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

When Elizabeth Gharsia’s headstrong nephew, Gabriel, joins Samuel Champlain’s 1608 expedition to establish a settlement at Quebec, he soon becomes embroiled in a complicated tribal conflict. As months turn into years, Gabriel appears lost to his family.

I'm pleased to welcome author Barbara Greig to The Writing Desk: 

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book, Discovery, is set against a back-drop of European persecution and New World conflict, and weaves together the stories of three generations of one family, the Gharsias, during the tumultuous early seventeenth century. Centred on the feisty Elizabeth Gharsia, the narrative sweeps from England and south-west France to North America. 

I wanted to depict the power of love and friendship, the searing nature of loss, and the tremendous courage that can be found in challenging circumstances. Discovery highlights the role of women in the seventeenth century and the tragedy of dispossessed people. It is also a story about family secrets.

Eager for adventure, Elizabeth’s headstrong nephew, Gabriel, joins Samuel Champlain’s 1608 expedition to establish a settlement at Quebec while her father, Luis, struggles with the frailties of old age.

Unbeknown to Elizabeth and Luis, Gabriel chafes at the monotonous, restrictive life of a colonist and he soon becomes embroiled in tribal conflict as Champlain supports the Montagnais and Huron tribes against the fiercest of the Iroquois nations, the Mohawk. As months become years, Gabriel appears lost to his family, raising the issues around separation, especially its impact on those left behind.

At home in Cahors, south-west France, Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of Pedro Torres, a Morisco refugee like her father. Rescued from starvation on the streets of Marseille by Elizabeth’s brother, Thomas, Pedro is a victim of the brutal expulsion of his people from Spain. I have always been interested in the fate of the Moriscos ever since I learnt about them in school many moons ago and my debut novel Secret Lives was inspired by this interest. Although Secret Lives was about Luis Gharsia, I wrote Discovery as a standalone book as I wanted to avoid creating a sequel in a series. 

Initially antagonistic, Elizabeth gradually comes to appreciate Pedro’s qualities while she copes with the sorrow of her father’s death. Confused and grieving, she discovers her mother’s journals hidden by Luis and searches for the reason why her father died with a woman’s name on his lips which was not her mother’s. As she reads her mother’s words, Elizabeth comes to understand the complexity of her family and to acknowledge her own feelings.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I prefer to write in the mornings as I’m a morning person. I always used to write by hand and then word-process my work in the afternoon, editing it as I typed. I still do this for trickier sections e.g. when I was writing the journal extracts for Discovery. However, after typing thousands of words I suddenly found that I could type at speed and think simultaneously. It was a revelation!

The above sounds quite structured and organised which is misleading. I have to be in the mood to write, family life can be very distracting, and my ‘study’ is a table in the corner of our spare bedroom. I do need complete silence in order to work and I still edit as I go along, chapter by chapter. I have my research notes handy but don’t refer to them while actually writing. – I revise what is historically relevant for a chapter before I start and then concentrate on the story.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I’m not sure that I’m established enough to pass on advice but here goes. I believe you should be true to yourself. Listen to others but don’t be unduly influenced by them. The myriad of books published shows us wonderful diversity.

When you read advice it is often conflicting. “Write about what you know” – yet I have had great fun researching what I don’t know. Perhaps find a balance? For me, I write the type of books I like reading. I definitely agree with “Read as much as possible, anything and everything”. 

One final piece of advice would be to persevere. Write, write, write – if you are not happy with your work you can edit it until you are. You can do it!

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Not sure I have cracked that yet! On a small scale word of mouth has worked well. There is a difference between awareness and sales. With Secret Lives I did talks to various local groups and really enjoyed it, getting good feedback which generated sales. This opportunity isn’t available at the moment for Discovery so I’m hoping writing this and being online does the trick!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Mist rising from the St Lawrence

My “something” is related to my research for Gabriel’s experience in the ‘New World’ in Discovery. My husband and I drove the length of Gabriel’s journey along the St Lawrence and down Lake Champlain. I was aware of the St Lawrence being the mighty River of Canada but I was unprepared for its awe-inspiring vastness and how emotional I felt. A photo I took of the river was the inspiration for the book’s cover. 

Inspiration for the cover

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

When Elizabeth Gharsia arrives to find Luis dead. It is very hard to write about the death of a character who is so real to you and it invokes your own personal memories. Sadly, fictional characters like our own loved ones can’t be immortal. I did toy with the idea of writing a novel without any death in it but that proved impossible if I wanted the story to be realistic.

What are you planning to write next?

I am planning, researching, and have started writing a novel inspired by my Shetland forebears. At this stage, it is a dual timeline narrative set in the nineteenth century and in the present day which is a new departure for me. Before the pandemic stopped us travelling.

Ruined croft, Shetland

I visited Shetland to do some research and immediately felt at home. I hope I can do the islands justice in my writing. I’ve included a picture of me soaking up the atmosphere by regarding a ruined croft where my great great grandfather could have lived.

Barbara Greig

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About the Author

Barbara Greig was born in Sunderland and lived in Roker until her family moved to Teesdale. An avid reader, she also discovered the joy of history at an early age. A last-minute change of heart, in the sixth form, caused her to alter her university application form. Instead of English, Barbara read Modern and Ancient History at Sheffield University. It was a decision she never regretted. Barbara worked for twenty years in sixth form colleges, teaching History and Classical Civilisation. Eventually, although enjoying a role in management, she found there was less time for teaching and historical study. A change of focus was required. With her children having flown the nest, she was able to pursue her love of writing and story-telling. She has a passion for hiking, and dancing, the perfect antidotes to long hours of historical research and writing, as well as for travel and, wherever possible, she walks in the footsteps of her characters. Find Barbara's on Facebook and Twitter @BarbaraGreig_

20 July 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight - ‘Tho I Be Mute, by Heather Miller

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Home. Heritage. Legacy. Legend.

In 1818, Cherokee John Ridge seeks a young man’s education at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. While there, he is overcome with sickness yet finds solace and love with Sarah, the steward’s quiet daughter. Despite a two-year separation, family disapproval, defamatory editorials, and angry mobs, the couple marries in 1824.

Sarah reconciles her new family’s spirituality and her foundational Christianity. Although, Sarah’s nature defies her new family’s indifference to slavery. She befriends Honey, half-Cherokee and half-African, who becomes Sarah’s voice during John’s extended absences.

Once arriving on Cherokee land, John argues to hold the land of the Cherokees and that of his Creek neighbors from encroaching Georgian settlers. His success hinges upon his ability to temper his Cherokee pride with his knowledge of American law. Justice is not guaranteed.

Rich with allusions to Cherokee legends, ‘Tho I Be Mute speaks aloud; some voices are heard, some are ignored, some do not speak at all, compelling readers to listen to the story of a couple who heard the pleas of the Cherokee.

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About the Author

Heather Miller has spent twenty-three years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, she is writing it herself, hearing voices from the past. Miller’s foundation began in the theatre, through performance storytelling. She can tap dance, stage-slap someone, and sing every note from Les Misérables. Her favorite role is that of a fireman’s wife and mom to three: a trumpet player, a future civil engineer, and a future RN. There is only one English major in her house. While researching, writing, and teaching, she is also working towards her M FA in Creative Writing. Heather’s corndog-shaped dachshund, Sadie, deserves an honorary degree. Find out more at Heather's website and follow her on Twitter @HMHFR

19 July 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight - The Queen of the Citadels (The King’s Germans, Book 3) By Dominic Fielder

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

October 1793: The French border.

Dunkirk was a disaster for the Duke of York’s army. The French, sensing victory before the winter, launch attacks along the length of the border. Menen is captured and the French now hold the whip hand. Nieuport and Ostend are threatened, and Sebastian Krombach finds himself involved in a desperate plan to stop the Black Lions as they spearhead the French advance. 

Werner Brandt and the men of 2nd Battalion race to Menen to counterattack and rescue Erich von Bomm and the Grenadiers, whilst von Bomm struggles to save himself from his infatuation with a mysterious French vivandière.

Meanwhile, dark and brooding, the citadel of Lille dominates the border. The Queen of the Citadels has never been captured by force. The allies must now keep Menen, which guards Flanders, and seize Lille to open the road to Paris. 

All of this must be done under the watchful eyes of a spy in the Austrian camp. Juliette of Marboré is fighting her own secret war to free Julian Beauvais, languishing in the Conciergerie prison, and waiting for his appointment with the guillotine, as the Terror rages in Paris.

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About the Author

Dominic Fielder has had careers in retail and the private education sector and is currently working as a secondary school Maths teacher. He has a First-class honours degree in history and a lifetime’s interest in the hobby of wargaming. The King's Germans series is a project that grew out of this passion He currently juggles writing and research around a crowded work and family life. Whilst self-published he is very grateful for an excellent support team. He lives just outside of Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor. where he enjoys walking on the moors and the occasional horse-riding excursion as both writing inspiration. Find Dominic on Twitter @Kings_Germans

16 July 2021

Special Guest Post by R.A. Denny, Author of The Alchemy Thief

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration.

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Tony.  I’m excited to talk about my journey writing The Alchemy Thief.

I began this journey surrounded by leather bound books in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, when I was 11 years old.  My mother had brought me along to help with her genealogy, but we weren't just looking for names and dates, we were looking for stories.  

Years later, after retiring from my career as a criminal lawyer, the seeds that were sown in that library led me to the narrow, crowded streets of Tangier, Morocco, my nostrils filled with the familiar smell of leather and the exotic scents of cinnamon and cumin.  

Dar El Makhzen, Tangier, Morocco 
 seen from the Place de Mechouar

As a child, I was enamored with my Mayhew ancestors who settled on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1640’s.  My direct ancestor, Hannah Mayhew, managed her own extensive real property from the time she was 18, raised ten children, and was known as the “Deputy Governor” of the island.  The details of her life shatter the stereotype of the submissive Puritan woman.  My 11-year-old-self longed to travel back in time to meet her.

Hannah’s brother, Reverend Thomas Mayhew, Jr. was a missionary among the more than 3,000 Wampanoag who lived on the island.  He and the young schoolmaster, Peter Folger, (Benjamin Franklin’s grandfather,) taught the indigenous girls and boys on the island to read and write.  Two of the Wampanoag children later matriculated to Harvard University.  

In 1657, when Reverend Mayhew embarked on a voyage to London to gain support from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, he chose the son of the minor sachem Myoxeo to accompany him.  This young Wampanoag’s name has been lost to history, but in The Alchemy Thief, I call him Daniel.  A grand procession of Wampanoag bid them farewell.  But the ship, the Hopewell, never reached London.  Many sources jump to the conclusion that all the passengers drowned.  But did they?  One line haunted me for years.  Reverend Mayhew’s father hoped they were captured by “Algerines.” 

As an adult, I returned to the mystery of the lost ship.  In an effort to learn what happened to the Hopewell, I delved into 17th century New England and Moroccan history.  

Thanks to Disney, when most people think of pirates, they think of the pirates in the Caribbean.  But they weren't the only scourge of the seas in the 1600s.  The "Algerines" from Northern Africa were a very real danger.  

When ships captains crossed the Atlantic, they faced not only the forces of nature but the Salé Rovers, corsairs from Morocco who sought foreign loot and Christian slaves. The Salé Rovers didn’t just attack ships, they raided the coasts as far away as Iceland.  They owned the Island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel and they sacked Baltimore, Ireland.

Between 1600 and 1700, from 800,000 to a million Christians were captured by “Algerines” and sold as slaves in North Africa.  Numerous captivity narratives became popular during that time, both as fiction and nonfiction. 

The character of Robinson Crusoe in Daniel Defoe’s famous novel was captured by Salé Rovers but then escaped before being stranded on an island.  Anne Bradstreet, the first poet published in America, wrote about her son’s narrow escape from danger onboard the sister ship to the Hopewell.

Have you ever wondered why the British and Continental Europeans colonized the New World but the North Africans and Ottomans did not?  In the late 16th century, Ahmad al-Mansur of Morocco planned to colonize North America to create a Muslim caliphate that spanned the Atlantic.  

He approached Elizabeth I of England and proposed that they unite to conquer Spain’s American colonies.  Elizabeth I turned him down.  In 1603, both Elizabeth I and al-Mansur died.  After the plague ended his life, al-Mansur’s empire crumbled and his dream of an American caliphate was lost during in-fighting between his sons.  

In 1609, the Moriscos, Muslims who had converted to Christianity, were expelled from Spain.  Many Moriscos fled across the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa where they settled in an abandoned fort along the Bou Regreg River and built the city of New Salé, which is modern Rabat.  

Kasbah wall with cannon in Tangier, Morocco

The Moriscos funded acts of piracy against Spain.  Sailors from all over flocked to New Salé.  Many European sailors “turned Turk,” by repeating the Shahada and submitting to circumcision.  The Salé Rovers formed the Independent Republic of Salé (Bou Regreg,) a pirate republic.  Employing advanced shipbuilding and navigation techniques, the Salé Rovers ranged far across the Atlantic, capturing Christians from multiple nations to sell in the slave markets.

By 1657, when Thomas Mayhew and his young Wampanoag set sail on the Hopewell, a Sufi group called the Dili-ites controlled New Salé, but the Salé Rovers were allowed to continue capturing ships and selling the slaves, as long as the Dili-ites received their 10%.  

Governor Mayhew believed his son and Myoxeo’s son may have been captured by “Algerines” in 1657 when The Hopewell went missing.  My research led me to believe this was entirely plausible and besides, it makes a great story.  I hope readers of The Alchemy Thief will agree.

During my research, I discovered that John Winthrop, Jr., the 17th century governor of Connecticut was an alchemist.  He believed investigations into natural philosophy along with the conversion of the American Indians to Christianity would lead to the Second Coming of Christ and a return to paradise. 

As part of his efforts to achieve these goals, Winthrop had invited Reverend Mayhew to bring his Wampanoag converts to Connecticut to help convert the other tribes.

Likewise, al-Mansur had sought to create a transatlantic caliphate to bring about paradise and the end times, fashioning himself as the Mahdi.  Apocalyptic prophecies still motivate many groups of people in modern times.  I couldn’t resist the parallels of people disparate in time and place, all seeking their version of paradise.  So I added the twist of time travel.

In creating historical fiction, half the fun is the research.  When I started writing The Alchemy Thief, I had spent years researching the Wampanoag and Puritans and their role in New England history, but I knew next to nothing about the history of Morocco.  I found Moroccan history to be fascinating!  I hope The Alchemy Thief inspires my readers to take their own journey into the enthralling history of cultures different from their own.  

R.A. Denny

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About the Author

R.A. Denny is the author of two historical fiction and five fantasy novels.  Readers have described her books as deep, spirited, and imaginative. After receiving her Juris Doctor from Duke University, she practiced criminal law for over twenty years.  During that time, R.A. developed creative methods to educate the public about the law, presenting dramatic programs to over 300,000 people across the United States.  She produced a full-length feature film that screened internationally.  R.A. left the law to pursue her passion for writing.  She had promised her mother she would finish the research they had begun in the Library of Congress when R.A. was 11 years old.  One mysterious line about her 9th-great-grandfather led to years of research and a trip to Morocco.  The result is R.A.’s latest novel, The Alchemy Thief. An adventurous traveller, R.A. enjoys swimming, kayaking, and horseback riding.  She delights in pursuing creative projects with her two adult sons and playing with her two young grandsons.  Find out more at her website and find her on Goodreads and Twitter @RADennyAuthor

10 July 2021

Book review: The First English Hero: The Life of Ranulf de Blondeville, by Iain Soden

Available from Amazon UK 
and for pre-order from Amazon US

I believe Ranulf de Blondeville would have raised an eyebrow at hearing he’s become known as the first English hero. Said to be shorter than average, bad tempered, a heavy drinker and gambler, he seems an unlikely hero - but there is no question he had a talent for being in the right place at the right time.

This highly readable, impeccably researched new book from Iain Soden succeeded in challenging my thinking on many aspects of early English history, from Richard the Lionheart to the Magna Carta. Like many, my knowledge of Ranulf was patchy at best, so I enjoyed following his ‘journey’ to support five kings and almost become regent of England.

Ranulf inherited his fortune when he was only eleven years old. His father, Hugh of Cyfeiliog, 5th Earl of Chester, died (possibly from poisoning), and at eighteen Ranulf was forced into a most unsatisfactory political  marriage to Constance, Duchess of Brittany (although it seems he later remarried for love).

I found Iain Soden’s comments on early English sources thought-provoking, as so much can be lost in translation. The absence of surnames doesn’t help the inevitable confusion between the different Ranulfs, as he was the third earl to bear the name.

Iain Soden suggests that without Ranulf de Blondeville, England would have been very different today, and after reading this book I have to agree. Highly recommended. 

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Iain Soden read Classics at Durham University and for over thirty years has been a professional archaeologist, specialising in aspects of medieval England. He is the author of numerous archaeological reports, journal articles and conference papers and has been a regular contributor to radio and television. He is Director of Iain Soden Heritage Services Ltd and lives in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire.

Disclosure: A review copy was kindly provided by the publishers,  Amberley.

9 July 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Mendota and the Restive Rivers of the Indian and Civil Wars 1861-65, by Dane Pizzuti Krogman

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

This is the fictional story set in Mendota, Minnesota of the Simmons family who are faced with the consequences of the Dakota Sioux Uprising of 1862 that swept across the state as well as the Civil War.

The father, Dan enlists in the 1st regiment of Minnesota volunteers as a teamster. His two sons, who are both underage join the 2nd Regiment. John, aged 16 becomes a bugler and William, aged 15 becomes a drummer. Their sister, Sara is left behind with their mother, Louise to fend for themselves. Dan is sent east to fight with the Army of the Potomac while his sons are sent to the western theater to serve in the army of the Cumberland. Back in Mendota, their neighbor and close friend, Colonel Henry Sibley is ordered to stay in the state to control the Indian uprising.

Dan will see action up through the battle of Antietam. He will later find himself in the hospital in Washington DC where he befriends a comrade also from the 1st Regiment. His sons barely miss the action at Shiloh but after, are engaged in all the major battles in the West. While they are passing through Louisville, William falls for a young woman, Mary who works as a hospital nurse. Back in Mendota, Sara befriends a young Chippewa native boy while her mother struggles with the breakup of her family. After Colonel Sibley defeats the Sioux, he is promoted to General and ordered to round up all the Dakota and push resettle them in the Dakotas.

This leads to the punitive expeditions that he and General Sully will command up until 1864. William is captured at the battle up Missionary Ridge and then sent to the prison camp at Belle Isle, VA. and then onto Andersonville. GA. John receives a 30 day furlough and returns to Mendota before he re-enlists. Louise and Sara wait for the war’s end so the family can be reunited, but events may not turn out as anticipated.

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About the Author

Dane Pizzuti Krogman was educated in the fine arts at the University of Minnesota, receiving BFA and MFA degrees. In 1998 he took a full time teaching position at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where he taught art direction, life drawing, set construction, and Asian film studies, eventually becoming chairman of the department. He has lived in Kyoto, Japan for the past 20 summers studying Japanese kimono and obi design of the Heian and Edo periods. In 2002 he won the Grand Prize for the best graphic novel at the Hiroshima manga competition. His graphic Novel Skeleton boy was selected for inclusion into the Hiroshima peace memorial library in 2007. Dane was most recently an adjunct faculty member in the Graduate Program in Digital Filmmaking at Stony Brook Southampton. He is also an award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay, The Schooner was produced as the Australian film, AUSTRALIA in 2008. He has other award-winning films that have been optioned for production or are in production. He also works part-time as a crew member on a Grand-Am Rolex series race team. The team won the national championship in 2008. Find Dane on Twitter at @dekester09 

Special Guest Interview with Eric Schumacher, Author of Sigurd’s Swords (Olaf’s Saga, Book 2)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

AD 968. It has been ten summers since the noble sons of the North, Olaf and Torgil, were driven from their homeland by the treachery of the Norse king, Harald Eriksson. Having then escaped the horrors of slavery in Estland, they now fight among the Rus in the company of Olaf’s uncle, Sigurd.

I'm pleased to welcome author Eric Schumacher to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book.

Thank you for having me on your blog! The latest book is the second book in my series about Olaf Tryggvason, who is one of the more colourful Vikings of the 10th century. The first book, Forged by Iron, tells the story of how Olaf was driven from his home in Norway by the treachery of his kinsman. Sigurd’s Swords recounts Olaf’s time fighting by his uncle’s side in the kingdom of the Rus (which we know today as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine). It is a tumultuous time in that area of the world and Olaf and his oath-sworn friend, Torgil, must use all of their cunning and all of their skill to stay alive.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Ah, I wish I had a daily routine. I have a day job, so my writing happens when I can find the time. Usually at night or on the weekends. I suppose the common thread, though, is that I need about two to three hours of quiet, uninterrupted time. Any longer and I find my writing starts to go stale. Any shorter than an hour and I feel like I haven’t had time to get into a groove.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Keep writing! Writing is a craft, and the only way you improve is by writing more. Oh, and find a good editor.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I’ve found blog tours like this one to be great ways to raise early awareness. After that initial boost, I’ve found a combination of advertising, promotions, and give-aways to work well. My publisher has historically taken care of the advertising and promotions, but I know it’s kept my books consistently visible on Amazon, which is my main retailer.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

The one that stands out most is from an eyewitness account of a battle fought on the Danube in AD 971. It is a battle in which my characters find themselves toward the end of the book. In the historical account, written by a Byzantine eyewitness to the battle, the Greeks find female warriors among the dead Rus/Vikings. The existence of female Viking warriors is an ongoing debate among historians, but apparently, in this battle, they were there, at least according to this one eyewitness.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

One of the book’s main characters, a female named Turid, is torn between her desire to follow her dream and the pressure she feels to do what society demands of her. The main character, Torgil, has difficulty understanding her dilemma and has his own personal feelings, too. All of this comes to a head in one particular scene in the book. I really wanted to get it right because it was so important for each character’s development and also for the plot, and so I laboured over each word, each body movement, and each expression. I must have written that scene ten different times.

What are you planning to write next?

Next up for me is book 3 in Olaf’s Saga, which will place Olaf in Northern Germany fighting for the German king, Otto II. I’ve already begun the writing and hope to release it late next year (2022).

Eric Schumacher
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About the Author

Eric Schumacher is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego. At a very early age, Eric discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God's Hammer, was published in 2005. Find out more at Eric's website: and find him on Facebook and Twitter @DarkAgeScribe