Mastodon The Writing Desk: October 2021

28 October 2021

Guest Post by Ron Blumenfeld, Author of The King's Anatomist: The Journey of Andreas Vesalius

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1565 Brussels, the reclusive mathematician Jan van den Bossche receives shattering news that his lifelong friend, the renowned and controversial anatomist Andreas Vesalius, has died on the Greek island of Zante returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jan decides to journey to his friend's grave to offer his last goodbye.

Grandpa Writes a Novel

If internet surveys are to be believed, most debut novelists are thirty-somethings, the outliers being a smattering of teenage wunderkinds and a British woman who in 2019 published her first novel at age 93. “The King’s Anatomist” was accepted for publication in my 74th year, far distant from the crowd of newbies young enough to be my grandchildren and within sight of that extraordinary nonagenarian. But what of it? In the end a novel gets written when the author is ready, willing, and able.
When I was a high school senior thinking about a career in medicine, my mother’s employers, rare book dealers, made me a gift of “Andreas Vesalius of Brussels 1514-1564.” They wanted me to know about Vesalius and his great 1543 textbook of anatomy. I gamely waded into the scholarly biography, but gave up after 20 pages; it was quite simply over my head. 

Nevertheless, the book remained on my shelf for fifty years, and when I retired, I gave it another try. I was ready to read it, and discovering the intriguing life of Andreas Vesalius became the inspiration for “The King’s Anatomist.” My grandfather status did not deter me; the writer in me, ageless but at the same time a veteran of life’s ups and downs, was up for the challenge.

With the “Andreas Vesalius of Brussels” as a foundation, I sought books and papers that helped me develop a feel for his personality and those of his contemporaries. And I certainly sought to understand what made his textbook, “The Structure of the Human Body,” a scientific, artistic, and bookmaking milestone. Other books provided a window into the turmoil of 16th-century Europe.

A stroke of luck brought me to a 2014 symposium on the Greek island where Vesalius died returning from a pilgrimage. There I met medical historians, anatomists, and artists with a deep interest in Vesalius, some of whom have been gracious in answering questions that arose during the writing of the novel.
My research and writing routine was steady but not rigid. Mornings were best, but I snuck away to write when other time slots presented themselves. I wrote (always on a computer) at home, but also in a corner of the public library or on short but productive solo “retreats.” I required coffee for morning writing sessions, and I often listened through headphones to an eclectic range of ambient music. Just as often, I preferred silence.

For me, much of writing is problem-solving. I resolved major issues with the plot, the characters, and who the narrator would be by writing sketches of the major characters and making a detailed timeline of Vesalius’ life. But I hunkered down to resolve the small problems as well – problems that can distract and annoy readers. 

I also realized that including images in this novel would enrich the reading experience. Takeaway #1: patient, organized forethought makes for confident and efficient writing, and helps avoid stumbling into plot holes or letting characters not remain true to themselves. Takeaway #2: open your manuscript to critiques from trusted beta-readers and your editor; your book will be the better for them.

Declaring the manuscript finished was deeply satisfying, but what followed was a year-long string of rejections and dashed hopes. Finally, my manuscript found a happy home at the indie publisher History Through Fiction. Takeaway #3: Thick-skinned persistence.

In the not-too-distant future, my granddaughter will read her grandpa’s novel. For me it will be well worth the wait.

Ron Blumenfeld

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About the Author

Ron Blumenfeld is a retired pediatrician and health care executive. Ron grew up in the Bronx, New York in the shadow of Yankee Stadium and studied at City College of New York before receiving his MD degree from the SUNY Downstate Health Sciences Center. After completing his pediatrics residency at the University of Arizona, he and his family settled in Connecticut, but Tucson remains their second home. Upon retirement, he became a columnist for his town’s newspaper, a pleasure he surrendered to concentrate on his debut novel, The King’s Anatomist (October 12, 2021). Ron’s love of books springs from his childhood years spent in an antiquarian book store in Manhattan, where his mother was the only employee. He enjoys a variety of outdoor sports and hiking. He and his wife Selina currently reside in Connecticut and are fortunate to have their son Daniel and granddaughter Gracelynn nearby. You can find Ron on Facebook and Twitter @BlumenfeldRon

26 October 2021

A Light Shines in Darkness, by Elizabeth M Hurst

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Perugia, the Papal States, 1375: Noblewoman Angelina Angioballi has sworn a vow of chastity, to continue serving the poor and avoid a loveless political marriage that is the plight of other women in her life.

I first learned about Angelina di Marsciano during a writing retreat in Umbria, Italy. We were at a wine-tasting event at the nearby Castel di Montegiove. A little way into the tour, the owner mentioned that the castle was the birthplace of ‘Beata’ or Blessed Angelina, and that she had founded an order of chaste, lay religious women who cared for the sick and gave bread to the poor within their community. 

He made one tiny, passing comment about the fact that she had educated girls who didn’t want to marry... and that was it: I was fascinated. Unfortunately, I found little online that told me anything about her – just a single book, written by a modern-day nun who is a member of the order founded by Angelina. As this nun is at pains to point out, nothing was written about Angelina until at least two hundred years after her death; that information which can be found is scant and contradictory.
As a novelist, this is both good and bad. Good, because it means you can allow your imagination to tell your story without the restrictions of the facts; bad because there is so much you don’t know, yet you want to remain historically accurate in your representation of the setting of the book and the events that took place.

The answer became clear, eventually. I would research as much as possible for the setting and events, and the plot would be entirely my own invention. So that’s what I did.

I have visited Italy a number of times over the years, so I felt able to describe the landscape, the flora and fauna and the climate without too much difficulty. Learning about life as the youngest child in a pious, medieval noble family in the 14th century was a bigger challenge, and a little daunting, but not insurmountable. Even so, I feel there must have been a couple of things I have got wrong!

Something I really want to get across was the idea that marriage for a fifteen-year-old girl in Angelina’s position was entirely normal. Life expectancy was lower in those days; many people didn’t live beyond middle age, especially the poor. In noble families, once a girl reached sexual maturity, she was expected to marry and produce heirs to secure the family’s wealth and status. 

Marriages were arranged with neighbouring noble families, cementing a relationship between the two houses and creating valuable political allies. The idea of love was not even considered. Neither was the girl’s consent.

It is believed that Angelina took a vow of chastity aged twelve, so this gave me great opportunity to show she has a reason for fighting against the wishes of her family to marry. Although, eventually, she does go through with the wedding to Giovanni di Terni – out of obedient duty and respect towards her family rather than affection for her intended, it must be said.

What happens after that, I doubt any of the characters would have predicted...

Elizabeth M Hurst

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About the Author

Elizabeth M Hurst was born and bred in the picturesque harbour town of Whitehaven in the northwest of England, where the long, wet winters moulded her into a voracious reader of fiction to escape the dismal weather. Having started writing around the age of 40, she later set about creating a freelance editing and proofreading business, EMH Editorial Services. In 2018, she quit the corporate world and concentrated her energy towards her love of the written word. Elizabeth now lives with her partner in the warm and sunny south of France. Find out more at her website and find Elizabeth on Facebook and Twitter @LizHurstAuthor

25 October 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Mistress Constancy (The Armillary Sphere, Story of Lady Jane Rochford Book 1) by G. Lawrence

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Lady of the Tudor Court, servant of queens, courtier, wife, spy... and constant heart. This is the story of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.

In death she would become infamous, yet in life passed often unseen. Jane Parker, daughter of the scholar Lord Morley, leaves her home at a tender age, embarking on a career in the dangerous Tudor Court. 

From the halls of her father's house to the palaces of London, from England to Calais and the Field of the Cloth of Gold Jane will travel, seeing much of this world, and others.

Promised in marriage to George Boleyn, Jane is drawn into the future of his family and their advancement... and as Anne Boleyn catches the eye of the King, Jane becomes part of the tempest about to be unleashed upon England.

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About the Author

Gemma Lawrence is an independently published author living in Cornwall in the UK. She studied literature at university says, 'I write mainly Historical Fiction, with an emphasis on the Tudor and Medieval periods and have a particular passion for women of history who inspire me'. Her first book in the Elizabeth of England Chronicles series is The Bastard Princess (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 1).Gemma can be found on Twitter @TudorTweep.

21 October 2021

Excerpt from Traitor's Knot: A romantic action adventure (Quest for the Three Kingdoms) by Cryssa Bazos

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace . . .  Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government after the execution of King Charles I, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Excerpt from Traitor's Knot

From nowhere, a racing black horse flashed past her window, the rider passing close to the carriage. Startled, Elizabeth craned her head, wondering at his reckless pace. Without warning, the coach veered off the road and pulled up, throwing her onto the floor. The others shrieked and braced themselves. They heard panicked shouts from the driver and the deep, jarring voice from another.
   “Stand and deliver!”
   Elizabeth heard the measured clopping of a single horse drawing close and the nervous shifting of their team. She crept to regain her seat. Mistress Pritchett shook with terror, and Elizabeth reached out her hand to reassure her.
   “One inch more and your brains will lie in a pool at your feet.” They heard the click of a cocked pistol.
   Elizabeth froze, fearful that he spoke to her. But with his next words, she knew that he still dealt with their driver.
   “Toss your musket over the side.”
   “You’ll have no trouble.” The driver’s voice cracked, and the carriage swayed and creaked as he scrambled down from the top seat.
   “Everyone out!”
   Elizabeth followed the Pritchetts, nearly stumbling on her skirts. Her foot found the first step and froze. A pair of pistols trained upon her, unwavering and baleful. Slate-grey eyes burned with equal intensity above a black scarf. Although every instinct screamed retreat, Elizabeth descended the coach.
   The highwayman rode a large black horse with a white blaze on its forehead. He commanded the powerful animal by his slightest touch, moving like one, rider and horse, fluid and instinctive. The highwayman wore all black from his heavy cloak to his mud-splattered boots.
   “Richard Crawford-Bowes.” The highwayman’s voice cut through the stunned silence. “Step forward. I would fain make your acquaintance.”
   Sir Richard did not twitch.
   Provoked by the absence of a response, he pointed his pistol at Sir Richard’s stubborn head. “Mark this well—I never repeat myself.”
   “I am he,” he said and stepped forward.
   The highwayman circled Sir Richard with the imposing horse. “This is a unique pleasure, my lord. Are you beating the countryside looking for desperate souls to fill your court, or have you reached your quota?”
   “Now listen here,” Sir Richard sputtered. “If you persist in this venture, I vow to bring you before the assizes and see you hang!”
   The highwayman shrugged. “You deserve nothing more than to share the same fate as the honest men you rob in the name of your Commonwealth. Strange idea that—common wealth. As though the wealth stolen from the King would ever be given to the common man. Deliver your coin or die.”
   Sir Richard’s brow darkened. From his pocket, he withdrew a handful of shillings.
   A shot fired. Elizabeth jumped and smothered a scream, pressing her hand to her mouth. Shouts and shrieks erupted from the people around her. The highwayman lowered his smoking pistol. Sir Richard remained standing, a foot back from where he had been and pale as chalk.
   “My patience is nearing an end,” the brigand said levelling his other pistol. He tucked the spent one in his belt and replaced it with a primed carbine. “A few pieces of silver. I’m sure you have more than thirty.”
   Colour returned to Sir Richard, and his thin mouth pressed into a resentful line. “You will regret this.” He drew a larger pouch from his cloak and took a step forward, but the rogue’s next words stopped him.
   “Take one more step and it will be your last. I care little for the honour of judges and trust their intent even less. Hand the purse to someone else.” His flinty gaze passed over the huddled couple and singled out Elizabeth. “Come forward, mistress. You’re neither fainting nor quivering.”
   Startled, she considered pleading to be left alone but smothered the impulse. She would not show fear to this villain. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth walked towards Sir Richard. A sheen of sweat beaded his forehead, and his Adam’s apple bobbed in this throat. She held out her hand and tried to keep it from trembling. Her nape prickled as if the pistol pressed against her skin. Sir Richard clutched the purse, glaring at her as though she was the villain.
   “Your purse, my lord,” she whispered. “Please.”
   Sir Richard hesitated for another moment before shoving it into her hands.
   Greedy wretch. Elizabeth’s annoyance with Sir Richard gave her the courage to walk up to the brigand. With every step, her determination grew. She would be quite happy to hand over Sir Richard’s money.
   The rogue motioned her to give him the pouch, and when she dropped it into his outstretched hand, she met his direct gaze. Elizabeth expected to see the cold eyes of a ruthless madman, but to her surprise, she did not. There was a hardness in those grey depths, but also a keen, calculating intelligence that heightened her curiosity. He stared back at her boldly, and she could not look away.
   “My thanks.” His tone was an unmistakable dismissal.
   Elizabeth stood puzzled. Old Nick’s small purse rested under her cloak, the sum of everything she owned. She would have been sick over parting with it but wondered why the highwayman had made no demands on her or the others.
   “Was there anything more, mistress?”
   She was about to shake her head and back away, but the muffled weeping behind her ended thoughts of retreat. Having reached the end of her endurance, Mistress Pritchett began to cry, soft at first and then with more violence. She would have collapsed to the ground had her husband not supported her. Elizabeth grew outraged for the hysterical woman. The audacity of the scoundrel, with all that he dared, awakened her. “Pray, what is your name, sir, so that we may know the coward who threatens us behind a scarf?”

Cryssa Bazos

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About the Author

Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusi-ast. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chau-cer Award. For more information visit Cryssa's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @CryssaBazos.

19 October 2021

Book Review: Woodsmoke and Sage: The Five Senses 1485-1603: How the Tudors Experienced the World, by Amy Licence

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

With an inspired format, historian Amy Licence has found a way to offer a fresh look at the complex world of the Tudors.

Impeccably researched, this is a book you can open at any page and learn some new detail - or  find your pre-conceived ideas about Tudor life challenged.

Using the five senses, the book is divided into sight, smell, sound, taste and touch, to make the reader really think about how these were the same as today - and different from what we now know.

I particularly like the way Amy Licence uses portraiture of the time to highlight tiny details. Much has been written about the symbolism of Tudor paintings, but we can learn as much from the 'props' used by the artists, the background, and even the textures of the clothing they wore.

This is a book to cherish, and would make the perfect gift for anyone with an interest in understanding what it was like to live in the world of the Tudors. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Amy Licence is an historian of women's lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also a fan of Modernism and Post-Impressionism, particularly Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Cubism. Amy has written for The Guardian, the BBC Website, The English Review, The London Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement and is a regular contributor to the New Statesman and The Huffington Post. She is frequently interviewed for BBC radio and in a BBC documentary on The White Queen. You can follow Amy on twitter @PrufrocksPeach or like her facebook page In Bed With the Tudors. Her website is

18 October 2021

Special Guest Post by Charles Edward Williams, Author of The Dacian Enigma (Vialegio Book 1)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The sly deceit and deception of the Dacian King unleashes an Emperor's revenge. A soldier learns the wily crafts of war and politics as he rises through the ranks of the legendary Legion of Gemina. Overreaching ambition lays the framework for fissures within the Roman Empire.

Like millions before me I was struck by the sheer beauty and antiquity in Rome during a visit. As a knowledgeable tour guide led my wife and I up the rather narrow and deeply worn down stone steps of the imposing Colosseum, a masterpiece built by the Emperor Vespasian and in antiquity known as the Flavian Amphitheater, I began to sense and grasp the hidden terrors that lurked within the formidable structure. 

Thousands of exotic animals and countless numbers of captives, criminals and indeed innocents had bled out on the arena sands during monstrous acts of murderous bacchanalian entertainment for the citizens. I recall shuddering as an innate sense of their suffering seized my thoughts. I shrugged the malevolent feelings aside as we strolled towards the rebuilt Arch of Titus. 

The magnificent Arch commemorated his subjugation of Jerusalem and the friezes depict the humiliation of the Jews. The guide told of the obligation of Jews entering Rome that they had to pass through the Arch to show their obesiance to Roman Rule. The thought struck me again as to the brutal power of the Roman military machine to capture vast tracts of territory to construct their Empire. 

A feeling of brutal power and sadness and nothing more . I strolled on towards the side of the magnificent Arch. Suddenly, a jet black raven flew over overhead. I felt as if a soldier’s voice pleaded from the blood soaked stone and sands of the Empire to not be forgotten. Reduced to dry splintered bone dust his spirit may have been lofted up by that striking and malevolent bird. 

The first thought of writing a soldier’s tale in the Legions began to form within my mind. Lurching as I nimbly navigated the huge, dark uneven flagstones of the Roman Forum, I began to visualise a character whom I named Cletus, a simple farmer’s son born blessed with physicality and a strong sense of valour. The walk during the spitting misty rain consolidated my commitment to telling the soldier’s incredible story as he rose within the Legion Gemina and saw service during the imperium of the fascinating Emperor Trajan, a soldier Emperor whose indomitable will ensured that the Empire raised itself to its largest extent. 

Frustrated by Dacia on the eastern frontier where agreements were sullied by multiple transgressions Trajan sought to subdue and subjugate the region once and for all. The Dacian Enigma, my first book in the Vialegio Series tells the soldier’s tales during the expansionary eastern frontier campaigns of Emperor Trajan. 

Follow the Centurion Cletus on further adventures in the second Vialegio Series book - The Arc of Dacicus, set during the Parthian and Arabian campaigns. 

Charles Edward Williams
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About the Author

Charles Edward Williams lives in Dunedin, a coastal university city in the South Island of New Zealand. His abiding interest in the first two centuries CE of the early Roman Empire led the author to relate a soldier’s tale. The author’s aim is to provide the reader with an enjoyable holiday read and to enable them to share the thoughts and dreams of this remarkable period through the eyes and thoughts of a soldier serving in the legion. Find out more at and find Charles on Twitter @LegioVia

16 October 2021

The Complex Relationship between Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and Queen Elizabeth I

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon became a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wondered if they were lovers.

The truth is far more complex, as each had what the other yearned for. Robert Devereux longed for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amused the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had.

Their close relationship began in 1587, soon after Elizabeth ordered the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. At this troubling and uncertain time for the country, the queen descended into hysterical denial and depression, and even her most loyal courtiers feared for her health.

Essex returned from his adventures fighting in the Netherlands, with his stepfather, Robert Dudley. In a typical gesture of misplaced chivalry, he defended the queen’s unfortunate secretary, who’d been thrown in the Tower for delivering the queen’s death sentence to Fotheringay Castle.

He risked the queen’s anger, as she could call in his significant debts and ruin him, yet instead he was rewarded with her indulgence. His servant, Anthony Bagot, wrote in a letter to his father, ‘When she [Elizabeth] is abroad, nobody [is] near her but my Lord of Essex, and at night, my Lord is at cards, or one game or another with her, that he cometh not to his own lodging till birds sing in the morning.’ 

Essex was ambitious and eager to please – the perfect distraction from the discontent Elizabeth had created in the country. Court gossips noted the twinkle in her eye when she danced (exclusively with Essex) and how often they hunted in the woods together. 

In June, 1587, the queen appointed Essex as her ‘Master of the Horse’, a position with a good income, formerly held by Robert Dudley, which meant they could spend even more time together. Elizabeth seemed amused by the gossip, and the attention of her young admirer, yet treated him more like a favourite pet than her lover.

Essex would learn how fragile their relationship was in July, when the queen banished his sister for marrying without permission. He confronted the queen, accusing her of dishonouring his family. To his astonishment, Elizabeth screamed insults back at him about his mother, Lettice Knollys, for marrying Robert Dudley) and he galloped off in the night to return to an uncertain future in the Netherlands.

Discover what happens next in my new book Essex Tudor Rebel – Book Two of the Elizabethan series:  

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Amazon CA:

Amazon AU:

15 October 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight: After Gáirech, by Micheál Cladáin

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The battle of Gáirech is over; the armies of Connachta, Lagin, and Mumu are destroyed! Survivors are ravaging The Five Kingdoms of Ireland!

While working to resolve the Kingdoms’ issues and bring peace, Cathbadh is murdered, dying in his son Genonn’s arms. Genonn vows to avenge the death of his father.

For his revenge to work, he needs Conall Cernach and the Red Branch warriors of Ulster. But Conall is gone, searching for the head of Cú Chulainn. Genonn sets out to find him, aided by the beautiful Fedelm, the capricious Lee Fliath and the stalwart Bradán.

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About the Author

Micheál Cladáin studied the classics and developed a love of ancient civilizations during those studies. Learning about ancient Roman and Greek cultures was augmented by a combined sixteen years living in those societies, albeit the modern versions, in Cyprus and Italy. As such, Micheál decided to write historical fiction, trying to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. Because of his Irish roots, he chose pre-Christian Ireland as his setting, rather than ancient Italy or Greece. Micheál is a full-time writer, who lives in the wilds of Wexford with his wife and their border terriers, Ruby and Maisy. Find out more at Micheál's Amazon Author Page and find him on Facebook and Twitter @Phil_Hughes_Nov

14 October 2021

Special Guest Post by R.A. Denny, Author of The Sultan's Court

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A vivid and powerful sequel to The Alchemy Thief. A tale of stolen secrets, kidnapping, slavery, and death.

Left behind as a slave in Morocco while Daniel journeys to the New World with the fearsome corsair Ayoub, Peri gives birth to a daughter. The drive to protect the imperiled lives of those she loves leads Peri to the court of the ruthless sultan, Moulay Ismail. In a city built on the backs of slaves, Peri’s rescue plot hangs by a thread, dependent on a dubious disguise and the man she despises. It will take all of her wit and perseverance to survive.

Tony, thank you so much for your interest in my Pirates and Puritans series!

The second book in the series, The Sultan’s Court takes place primarily in Morocco and New England in the years 1675-1676.  During these years, the young sultan, Moulay Ismail fought to consolidate his power in Morocco.  At the same time, New England was enveloped in the horror that was Metacom’s War (aka King Philip’s War.) Read on if you are curious how these two seemingly disparate events and places are connected!

Metacom was the sachem of the Wampanoag in America whom the English nicknamed King Philip.  I was inspired to write The Sultan’s Court by stories of my ancestors who either fought or lost their lives during Metacom’s War, the bloodiest war per capita ever fought on North American soil.

In 1643, a group of Congregationalists (Puritans) traveled into the wilderness on the western frontier of the Plymouth Colony to found the English settlement of Rehoboth near Metacom’s Wampanoag village on Mount Hope.  The first settlers of Rehoboth built their houses in the Ring of the Green, a circle of houses that was two and a half miles in circumference. 

Many historians believe that although Metacom was planning to wage war, some young Wampanoags jumped the gun and started the war before Metacom was ready.  At any rate, in June of 1675, while most settlers were in a church meeting, several Wampanoags were caught raiding homes outside Rehoboth, a teenager shot at them, they shot back, and the war was on.  

My ancestors in Rehoboth lived in fear from the moment that first shot was fired.  After burning several outlying homes, the Wampanoag were able to disappear in the “swamps,” where they knew how to live off the land, and then reappear without warning to ambush the settlers.  

After some Wampanoag were captured or killed fighting the militia, Metacom and many of his men were able to escape north.  The English colonists’ worst fear was realized when Metacom convinced other Native American groups to join him.  Nipmucs attacked and burned Mendon to the north of Rehoboth.  The war continued to expand.    

In February of 1676, Reverend Noah Newman of Rehoboth wrote a letter containing harrowing tales of men, women, and children being slaughtered in Medfield, and requested that Plymouth send troops to protect Rehoboth, fearing a similar fate for his town.  

While they waited for relief, fearful men slept with muskets by their sides, tended their fields in groups in which some guarded while others worked, and even prayed with their weapons in hand.  They knew an attack would be forthcoming, they just didn’t know when.

Rumors of Indians gathering near Rehoboth grew.  Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Plymouth Colony ordered that none of the inhabitants within the jurisdiction of Plymouth Colony were allowed to abandon their town under the penalty of forfeiture of their estates.  My ancestors all stayed.

Plymouth sent about 60 militiamen and about 20 allied Indians to help defend the town.  On March 26, 1676, the militia captain decided to go on the offensive and marched his army into the wilderness outside Rehoboth to root out the Indians.  

The soldiers were led into a deadly ambush, surrounded by over 1000 Indian warriors, and suffered a devastating defeat.  3 soldiers and about 11 allied Indians escaped to tell the story.  Two militiamen were captured, tortured, and killed after the battle.  

Men from Rehoboth stumbled onto the field of dead bodies that had been stripped of their weapons, ammunition, supplies, and clothes.  The full horror of their situation dawned on them.  The defensive troops were dead. No other help was coming.  The fewer than 400 men, women, and children of Rehoboth would have to defend themselves.  

Many residents of Rehoboth rushed to Noah Newman’s home which had been turned into a garrison.  My Fuller ancestors who lived on the Ring of the Green created a ruse, placing sharpened and blackened sticks around their house to make it appear from a distance to be heavily guarded.  They hoped and prayed that the Indians would believe their home was a garrison and leave it alone.    

The next day, Native American warriors spread out across the fields of Rehoboth and slaughtered the livestock, but they did not come near the garrison where the residents huddled together, waiting in dread.  As night fell, the Indians disappeared, but the settlers knew they would be back.

The next morning, up to 1500 Indian warriors descended on the Ring of the Green and attacked, firing on the garrison, while whooping and yelling to increase the terror of the residents.  The whole town was engulfed in flames.

Forty houses and thirty barns were burned.  The gristmill, sawmill, and all the crops were destroyed.  Miraculously in addition to the garrison houses, the Fuller’s house was left untouched.  The ruse had worked.  Besides the Fullers, five other families who lived on the Ring on the Green were my ancestors.  They lost everything except their lives and the clothes on their backs.

The next day, the Native American warriors crossed the river and burned the town of Providence to the ground. 

The Puritan culture encouraged community and charity, but the people in the frontier towns considered idleness a sin and would accept aid only as a last resort.  Even so, as the spring wore on, the situation in Rehoboth was desperate.  

On May 5, 1676, an elderly resident of Rehoboth wrote to a friend in Connecticut in secret, saying that “famine was staring them in the face.”  In response to the letter, churches in the town of Hartford raised money to buy 600 bushels of wheat that were distributed to the people of Rehoboth so they would not starve.

But their misery was not over.

Five months after Rehoboth was burned, Metacom and his men circled back to the Rehoboth area.  On August 12, 1676, Metacom was shot by an Indian allied with the English.  He was beheaded and his body quartered.  But Annawan, one of his chief captains remained at large until he was captured near Rehoboth on August 28.  

This was the most deadly time for my ancestors because desperate warriors roamed the area.   First Samuel Fuller was killed by Indians on August 15, then his brother John on August 23, and their mother, Sarah in October.  

John Fuller left behind a pregnant wife and a 2-year-old, from whom I am descended.  It is believed that John was collecting cedar wood when he was ambushed and killed.  John Fuller’s young widow remarried and moved away to Plymouth, but when his young son came of age he returned to Rehoboth, rebuilt, and raised his family there.  

But for the Wampanoags from neighboring Mount Hope, rebuilding their village was impossible.  The land was sold to investors from Boston.  

But what does any of this have to do with Morocco?  My research uncovered an incredible story involving Native Americans who were captured or surrendered during the early stages of the war.

On September 28, 1675, a group of Native Americans was shipped to the West Indies.  The ship was turned away from Barbados and went on to Cadiz, Spain.  In a letter to the English Board of Admiralty, in December of 1675, Captain Thomas Hamilton stated that a group of Indians from America had been sent to him in Tangier, Morocco, to become slaves on the English galley, the Margaret.  

The galley’s mission was to scour the Mediterranean to protect English shipping from Barbary corsairs.  Hamilton had received thirty Native Americans, although nine had died.  He was elated that the Indians were such good rowers, better than the “Moors,” and requested that more Indians be sent his way.    

We have a list of names of some of those Indians.  At one point, they were transferred to work on “the mole,” a breakwater the English were building to improve the harbor at Tangier.  During the hasty evacuation of Tangier in 1684, the English blew up the mole and the harbor defenses, leaving the city to Sultan Moulay Ismail’s forces.

What became of the Native Americans sent to Tangier?  In November of 1683, John Eliot, missionary to the Indians in New England, wrote a letter to Robert Boyle, the famous chemist in England, concerning the Indian captives in Tangier.  They had sent a message to Eliot, asking him to find a way to return them home.  Eliot asked Boyle for help. So we know they were still living in Tangier in1683. 

Tangier Harbour (present day)

Did they escape on the high seas or during the confusion of the English retreat from Tangier in 1684?  Were they brought back to England as slaves or captured by Moulay Ismail’s Moroccan troops who took over Tangier?  Or did Robert Boyle somehow rescue them?

We may never know, but it is the perfect backdrop for my historical fiction novel, The Sultan’s Court.

R. A. Denny

# # #

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

13 October 2021

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Hunter & Prey: The Complete Thomas the Falconer Mysteries, by John Pilkington

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

'The story moves at a great pace ... it made a welcome change to discover Elizabethan England through the eyes of a lesser mortal.' The Historical Novels Review

The Ruffler's Child - Book 1

Thomas Finbow is more than just a humble falconer, in the service of Sir Robert Vicary and Lady Margaret. He is a widowed father, a skilled ex-soldier and tenacious hunter.

Far from the court and corruption of London, Thomas resides in the picturesque Berkshire Downs.

All is as it should be until Lady Margaret’s loathsome brother is found murdered.

Once Thomas starts to put the pieces together, he realises that he, and his Mistress, are in grave danger.

A Ruinous Wind - Book 2

When invited to attend the Barrowhill Pleasures at the seat of the extravagant and pompous Earl of Reigate, Sir Robert brings Thomas along with him to enjoy the festivities.

No-one expected three of the Earl’s guests to be murdered, or for their deaths to be quickly covered up by the Earl himself.

But things begin to unravel when the Earl himself becomes the next target of the murderer.

The Ramage Hawk - Book 3

Thomas the Falconer confronts the most terrible foe he has ever faced.

On remote Salisbury Plain villagers toil to get the harvest in, unaware that a murderer has come amongst them.

Thomas is called in to help find a missing girl.

But the search soon turns into a dangerous game, involving hidden gold – and as the body count rises and fear grips the land, Thomas has no choice but to follow the trail to its bitter end.

The Mapmaker's Daughter - Book 4

A tragic fire at one of his master’s tenant farms is just the start of a tortuous trail for Thomas Finbow – for when the body of Simon Haylock is dragged from the blazing barn, it becomes clear that he was dead before the fire started.

Soon a chilling series of murders, seemingly unrelated, is spreading fear across the Berkshire Downs, baffling the authorities. Plague is raging in London and suspicion falls on strangers in the area, like the dour mapmaker Christopher Mead and the outrageous travelling showman Paulo Schweiz, whom Thomas rescues from the stocks.

Thomas finds himself matching wits with a cunning and elusive adversary.

The Maiden Bell - Book 5

In the isolated village of Lambourn there is great excitement when a family of itinerant bell-founders arrives to forge a new church bell. But the peace of a summer’s night is shattered when churchwarden Will Stubbs – a saintly old man without enemies – is found dead in the woods. Thomas is charged by his master to find answers.

The Jingler's Luck - Book 6

In the depths of winter the body of a young woman, cruelly mutilated, is found washed up beside the Thames.

Meanwhile Thomas arrives in London on a sensitive mission: to persuade his master Sir Robert to give up his foolish infatuation with a notorious woman of the Court.

But the Lady Imogen’s intrigues are more serious than even Thomas realizes, until he’s caught up in a bizarre series of events including the theft of a corpse, and even his own imprisonment.

The Muscovy Chain - Book 7

Thomas’s master Sir Robert is charged by Queen Elizabeth’s Council to host an important guest to help valuable trade relations: Grigori Stanic, ambassador of distant Muscovy, in Russia.

Thomas must also guard a priceless gift for Boris Godunov. But no sooner has it arrived at Petbury than it is stolen, risking a disastrous diplomatic incident.

As the desperate hunt for the Muscovy Chain begins, a shadowy figure is seen on the Downs. Is he the thief – or worse, is he responsible for a murder, the victim having been brutally tortured?

# # #

About the Author

John Pilkington has written plays for radio and theatre, television scripts for the BBC and now concentrates on historical fiction, reflecting his passion for the Tudor and Stuart periods. A writer for over thirty years, he has published around twenty books including the Thomas the Falconer Mysteries (republished by Sharpe Books), the Marbeck spy series (Severn House) and two Restoration-era mysteries featuring actress-turned-sleuth Betsy Brand (to be republished by Joffe Books). He is also the author of a children’s series, the Elizabethan Mysteries (Usborne). Born in the north-west of England, he now lives in a quiet Devon village with his partner, and has a son who is a musician and composer. Find out more at his website,, and find John on Twitter @_JohnPilkington.

Historical Fiction Spotlight - The Lords of the Wind Series: The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, By C.J. Adrien

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. 

A ship arrived at his master's longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire.

A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normannorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that ex-plores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

"The Lords of the Wind" by C.J. Adrien is a gold medal winner in the 2020 Reader's Favorite annual international book award.contest.

# # #

About the Author

C.J. Adrien is a bestselling and award-winning author of Viking historical fic-tion novels with a passion for Viking history. His Saga of Hasting the Avenger series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell. He is also a published historian on the subject of Vikings, with articles featured in historical journals such as L’Association des Amis de Noirmoutier, in France. His novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), conferences on Viking history in France, among others. Find out more at his website and find him on Facebook and  Twitter @authorcjadrien

7 October 2021

Special Guest Post ~ The inspiration behind The Promise ~ A World War II Historical Romance, By Kathleen Harryman

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

How far would you go to keep a promise?
In the heat of battle, one man's promise to another will be tested.

The inspiration behind  The Promise 

My dad was the main inspiration behind The Promise. I have grown-up listening to him talk about his father Lance-Corporal James Chappell who died fighting in WWII.

My grandfather Lance - Corporal James Chappell
in his Seaforth Highlander 5th Battalion uniform.

Growing up without his dad had a huge impact on him. Though his mum remarried it was the never the same as having his dad at his side. The Promise was about working with Lucy’s outline to tell my grandfather’s story, with subtle changes so that it wasn’t a memoir, but a reflection on the person he was.

I have listened to so many relatives recount their tales about WW II that writing the book became more than just a story. It is a celebration of all those who fought, worked and died so that we could have the life and freedom we have today.

Like Will Aaron, sitting beside his grandma listening to her tell him stories of life during the Great War; I have grown up listening to my family tell theirs. They have not only shared their experiences, but the experiences of their friends.

As I have said my grandfather never made it home. He died en route to the rendezvous in Normandy. My great uncle found his body and carried it, placing it beneath a tree, so he knew when the fighting stopped where to find his brothers body. It is these memories that shall live on.

Notice of Death given to my Nana Elizabeth Nutman
informing her of her husband’s death)

As I wrote The Promise, I have shed more than my share of tears. The bravery and courage of all is profound. I haven’t needed to elaborate their stories. And while I have changed some of the circumstance, and locations, such as the tale of Arthur Shearsmith, they remain factually true.

When I told my dad about The Promise the smile on his face was and shall always be my biggest reward. My dad died on the 27th April 2018, he never got to see The Promise in print.

The Promise is very close to my heart. It is book written in memory and with love for everyone to remember those who gave their lives for freedom. It is also my gift to my dad Neville Chappell and my grandfather Lance-Corporal James Chappell.

Kathleen Harryman

“ Tenderest memories are all we have left. Of one we all loved
and will never forget.”

# # #

About the Author

Kathleen Harryman is a storyteller and poet in the historically rich city of York, North Yorkshire, England, with her husband, children and pet dog and cat. Kathleen was first published in 2015, a romantic suspense entitled The Other Side of the Looking Glass. Since then, Kathleen has developed a unique writing style which readers have enjoyed, and she became a multi-genre author of suspense, psychological thrillers, poetry and historical romance. Finf out more at Kathleen's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KathleenHarrym1

6 October 2021

Special Guest Interview With Author Samantha Wilcoxson about the new 'Hauntings' anthology, .

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Chilling Tales that will take you through 
a labyrinth of historical horror.
You will encounter a tormented Roman general.
A Norse woman who must confront her terrifying destiny.
Meet a troubled Saxon brother, searching for his twin's murderer.
A young nurse tries to solve the mysteries of an asylum for the insane.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn wander through a haunted garden
 and elsewhere, a lost slave girl is the soul survivor of a mass slaughter.

I'm pleased to welcome author Samantha Wilcoxson to talk about the new anthology, 'Hauntings'.

Tell us about your latest book

Hauntings is an anthology of ghost stories written by members of the Historical Writers Forum. With ten authors involved, the variety of stories is a journey through history and a sample of writing styles. Some ghosts are friendly, others look to share their place in the spirit world with their victims. Each contributing author brings something special to this short story collection.

What is the Historical Writers Forum?

The HWF began as a Facebook group, created to be a place where authors support each other. The membership includes well-known names and writers working on what they hope will be their first published work. 

The group has grown to include over 800 members and has added new ways to support writers, including a Twitter account and monthly Zoom talks which are available on our Youtube channel. Hauntings is HWF’s latest step in creating a supportive platform for historical writers. 

Stories from Kate Jewell and Danielle Apple are their first published works, and other contributors will already be quite familiar to readers through their library of previous works. HWF is a place where writers can receive feedback, ask questions, find help, and so much more.

Tell us about some of the stories

My story takes place at the Northern Michigan Asylum in the autumn of 1927. I have placed a young, new nurse into an Edith Wharton style story with mystery and peril that do not always come from the anticipated sources. Poor Lotte discovers that a ghost may not be the worst danger she encounters in the midst of Traverse City’s northern beauty.

I enjoyed reading the stories from the other nine authors as well, especially those that were new to me. These short stories are a wonderful way to be introduced to an author who might become a favorite! The settings range from an atmospheric story of a Roman general haunted by the English druids upon whom he ordered a brutal attack to a 1960s hotel with a full cast of ghostly occupants.
Tell us something unexpected you discovered during the process of publishing an anthology.

I had no idea what it would be like to write a ghost story or to work with a large group on a publishing project. I’ve met some new friends and added several books to my ‘to be read’ shelf! Everyone has been extraordinarily patient and supportive. 

We’ve had a few bumps along the way (we will make sure to have everyone use a template next time to simplify compilation), but the project came together in less than a year with wonderful results. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and look forward to the next HWF anthology. This process has helped me step outside my comfort zone and look at other opportunities that exist for me as a writer.

How can people join the Historical Writers Forum?

Our main focus is still the Facebook group, and this is where we track our membership. One need not be a member to follow us on Twitter or Youtube.

What is HWF planning to do next?

Group administrators are always coming up with new ideas! Besides our regular weekly activities that include days for feedback, Twitter sharing, and other daily themes, we have October’s Zoom talk coming up on the 23rd, which will have several of the Hauntings contributors discussing the project and our stories. We also have an upcoming talk planned on the topic of women in historical fiction.

Samantha Wilcoxson

# # #

Contributors: foreword by Sharon Bennett Connolly and stories by Simon Turney, Danielle Apple, Judith Arnopp, Kim Barton, Lynn Bryant, Stephanie Churchill, Kate Jewell, Paula Lofting, Jennifer C Wilson, and Samantha Wilcoxson

Universal link:

How to convert your eBook to paperback or hardback in six simple steps

Some people will never read an ebook, and I like to offer readers the choice of paperback, hardback or audio editions, all of which can be produced at no cost other than your time.  I know the advice is to use professional designers, both for the cover and the interior, but I wanted complete control over the process, and interested to see what you can do using Vellum, Photoshop, and the KDP cover design tools:

Step 1.  Make sure your manuscript is as good as it can possibly be before uploading to Vellum. Your starting point needs to be the edited version of your book, ideally in Word, with all the front matter, copyright wording, dedications, foreword etc. sorted. (I looked at a range of printed books by my favourite authors and copied the layout). It's easy to make any changes in Vellum - and the advantage of doing it yourself is you can make future changes in minutes (such as adding your new book at the back) at no cost. All you need to do then is produce the files from Vellum by clicking 'Generate':

Step 2. If you have an eBook in KDP, go to Bookshelf and click on Create Paperback or Create Hardcover (which is in Beta but works well and is easy to use). If not, you can set up a free publishing account on Amazon KDP.   The process is quick and easy, as the setup screen uses all the information from your eBook.  There is plenty of help and guidance if you need it, including links to articles on how to write an effective book description and some advice on titles and keywords.  KDP cal also assign a free ISBN for your book. 

Step 3. Upload the Interior content. I use the PDF created by Vellum (which is a single click process). Choose white or cream paper and matt or glossy cover, 

Step 4. Use the online cover creator, and upload a jpg if you already have a great cover,  or you can use an editing tool such as Photoshop to make any changes or fine adjustments. The ‘cover creator’ automatically formats the cover based on your book's size and page count. (You need to make sure nothing important touches the dotted guidelines, or your cover will be rejected.)

Step 5. Review the Proof of your book and update. (If you want any changes, you can go back to steps one or two before you invest in a published proof copy.) 

Step 6. Decide your pricing and distribution. There is plenty of advice on book pricing strategies, much of it contradictory. I decided to set my paperback price at the market average. Then click 'Publish your book'.

This is well within the skills of anyone who has already created an eBook, and doesn’t cost anything other than the cost of your one copy, unless you pay for graphics or design.  Happy publishing!

Tony Riches


See also: Using Vellum as a publishing tool