Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Redemption by Philip Yorke

Today, I’m excited to welcome Philip Yorke to the blog with an interesting post about his new Civil War novel, Redemption.

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life?

For many years, I was an investigative journalist, so digging into subjects and finding information (or being ‘nosey’ as my wife likes to call it) is something I have become quite adept at. 

In truth, once I got used to blending fact with fiction (and getting creative), researching events and people from a certain period in time was actually a lot easier than writing a news story about something that is occurring in the ‘here and now’.

Throughout the two years I researched and wrote the first two books of the Hacker Chronicles series (Redemption is the second book), I have found myself increasingly using the BCW project website (bcw-project.org) a lot when structuring chapters and linking individuals to particular events that took place on very specific dates. So this is truly a wonderful resource for anyone with an interest in the period, giving the reader/author an accessible and accurate historical account of real events.

The National Archives also contain lots of valuable documents, as do local museums and the history departments of universities. As far as my own work is concerned, I have found the people at the University of Leicester to have been particularly helpful and accommodating.

Books also continue to be an incredible source of inspiration, and I devour quite a few when I am researching the Seventeenth Century world Francis Hacker was born into. Most of those that I use are obscure, being either a niche publication or something that was last published 200 years ago! But others, likes those written by best-selling historical author, Charles Spencer, are also invaluable, digging into areas and events where I have a real interest and enabling me to benefit from an informed opinion far greater than my own.

And then there is the National Civil War Museum in Newark-Upon-Trent. This is a treasure trove and a must-visit place for anyone interested in the period and the personalities.

For me, it will always be a special place, for it is where I was first introduced to Francis Hacker. The museum regularly shows short films in its basement area, and when I visited was screening a vignette film about the life of Francis (a renowned Parliamentarian) and his two brothers (who were officers in the Royalist army). Up until this point, I had been looking for a central character; well, the museum provided him to me on a plate! So never dismiss a physical visit as a costly time investment. In actuality, it could lead to the most productive period of research you ever undertake. This is true in my case, as the curators at the museum have also allowed me to have private viewings of exhibits – and have allowed me to use research items not available to the general public.

One last ‘essential’ for me is having an accurate calendar of the time I am writing about, so, for example, I can quickly state 29 May 1643 was either a Friday (using the Julian calendar) or a Monday (using the Gregorian calendar). Such little things really boost the credibility of the research that underpins your book. For anyone who is interested, I use the website 5ko.free.fr; as its name implies, this is a free resource.

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

I have two treasure troves I couldn’t be without.

The little-known The Civil War in Leicestershire and Rutland – by Phillip Andrew Scaysbrook – is my go-to book. It is a wonderful source of accurate historical information and anecdotes that put the two counties under the microscope in a way no other research does.

Written in the late 1970s, the author paints a vivid picture of the May 1645 Siege of Leicester, much of which is not available from more traditional sources. A panel of experts, including Brigadier Peter Young whose ancestor was the Earl of Stamford, has verified all of the claims made in the book.

And, as I mentioned in the previous question, I also rely heavily on the BCW project website’s rich online material that is made freely available to civil war enthusiasts.

Thank you so much for sharing your research with me. I agree, seeing something in the flesh can make a huge difference, and inspiration can strike even when you’re not looking for it. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

Saturday, the second day of July, in the year of our Lord, 1644, will be a day long remembered by the men and women committed to ending the reign of a tyrannical King. For on this day, the forces of Charles the First were crushed on the bloody fields of Marston Moor.

The calamitous defeat forces the increasingly desperate Royalists to intensify their attempts to bring about the immediate demise of their Parliamentarian enemies. This includes devising an audacious plan to assassinate the man they believe is key to the war’s outcome.

With the plotters ready to strike, Francis Hacker, one of Parliament’s most loyal soldiers, becomes aware of the conspiracy. With little time to act, he does everything in his power to frustrate their plans. But, alas, things start to unravel when brave Hacker finds himself pitted against a ruthless and cunning mercenary, a man who will resort to anything to achieve a ‘kill’.  

This novel is available with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

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Philip Yorke

Meet the author

Philip Yorke is an award-winning former Fleet Street journalist who has a special interest in history. His Hacker Chronicles series, to be told in five fast-paced historical fiction novels, tells the story of Parliamentarian soldier, Francis Hacker.

Redemption, the second book in the series, is set during the period 1644-46 (during the first English Civil War), when events take a significant turn in favour of Parliament.

Philip is married, and he and his wife have five children. He enjoys relaxing to classical music, reading the works of Nigel Tranter, Bernard Cornwell, Robyn Young and CJ Sansom, and supporting Hull City FC and Leicester Tigers RFC. 

He lives in Leicestershire, England.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Redemption Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m delighted to host Liz Harris’ Darjeeling Inheritance Blog Tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Liz Harris to the blog with a fascinating post about her new book, Darjeeling Inheritance.

Your book, the Darjeeling Inheritance, which sounds fantastic, is set during the 1930s in India. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories.

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring the historical landscape to life?

I’ve always believed that if a novel is set in the past, and in a foreign location, the events in the past, and the nature of that location, should be organic in the novel. To ignore the history and nature of an area would result in the setting being no more than a mere backdrop to a story that could have been located anywhere and at any time.

So before I start writing, and before I’ve determined all of the characters who’ll be in my novel, I find out everything I can about my chosen area – its past and its present, every aspect of its geography, the lives of those who live there, their mores and how they’d view the world, and also any difficulties with which they’d have to contend.

My focus in Darjeeling Inheritance was on tea production, and on the plantation owners who lived in India during the British Raj, the period between 1858 and 1947, and also on the people who worked for them, and on those whose job it was to go out on the terraces between March and November and pluck two leaves and a terminal bud.

Books are always my first port of call – bookshops and libraries are an invaluable source of information and help – and as always, the local library was an excellent source of material when writing Darjeeling Inheritance. I’m very lucky in that I live in Oxfordshire, where the libraries are excellent, and also that I can get easily to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

The resource to which I go after books is the internet. And I also try to make contact with people in the area, such as librarians or curators, if there’s anything I need to know but am struggling to find out. 

There’s no greater inspiration, or resource, than going to the location in which one is setting a novel, and if I can go there, I do. Just over two years ago, I booked to go to Darjeeling in October, after the monsoon. Unfortunately, that trip was to prove impossible. Two months before I was due to leave for Darjeeling, the Foreign Office advised against travelling there owing to trouble between the Nepali and Bengali. The issues are now resolved, but at that time, all the tea gardens and most of the hotels were closed.

Forced to rethink my plans, I decided to go instead to the famous tea plantations in Munnar, Kerala, and to the tea factory there, and I booked a flight for the following February. October would have been a good month for a trip to Darjeeling, but it would have been too rainy a month for Kerala. My visit was wonderful, and it gave me the first-hand experience I wanted.   

A tea plantation near Munnar, India

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it?

The following are my ‘go’ to books/resources. I’m making them plural as I have three staples without which I wouldn’t be comfortable writing, and I have these on the piano behind me, no matter the period or location of the work in progress.

Firstly, The Chambers Dictionary. I’m a keen Scrabble player and this is the Scrabble dictionary, so it’s the one I’ve used for years. I infinitely prefer looking up a word in a dictionary than seeking it on the internet.

The second is Roget’s Thesaurus. Repetition is the enemy of writers, and with Roget’s Thesaurus to hand, in which just about every word has a synonym for each of its meanings, an author always has a range of alternative words and phrases from which to choose. 

Finally, I have Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, compiled by Jonathon Green. I’d hate my characters to speak in anachronistic terms, and I don’t want to jar my readers out of the text by using an idiom in my narrative that’s more appropriate for the twenty-first century than the nineteenth or twentieth. By checking the origin and first use of the vocabulary I choose, I do my best to avoid that happening. 

The three books upon which I rely

Those are my staples, but then there are the books for each specific novel. I was lucky with Darjeeling Inheritance in that much has been written by those who lived in India in the 1920s and 1930s, and especially by those who grew up there, and I was spoilt for choice. I drew on information from a very large number of books, including several novels by M.M. Kaye and her biography, and Women of the Raj, by Margaret MacMillan.

There is one other book that I must mention that’s specific to Darjeeling Inheritance. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Darjeeling: A History of the World’s Greatest Tea, by Jeff Koehler. This was the first of the books that I bought, and it was at my side throughout my writing of the novel.

Finally, and it’s not exactly a resource, I don’t think I could write if I didn’t have a cup of coffee beside me. Yes, coffee, not tea! I’m saying this very quietly, but I don’t actually like tea!!

Jeff Koehler’s book, flanked by a cup of, dare I say it – coffee!

Many thanks, MJ, for inviting me to talk to you about my research process. I’ve very much enjoyed doing so.

Thank you for such a fascinating post. Good luck with the new book, and enjoy your cup of coffee!

Here’s the blurb:

Darjeeling, 1930

After eleven years in school in England, Charlotte Lawrence returns to Sundar, the tea plantation owned by her family, and finds an empty house. She learns that her beloved father died a couple of days earlier and that he left her his estate. She learns also that it was his wish that she marry Andrew McAllister, the good-looking younger son from a neighbouring plantation. 

Unwilling to commit to a wedding for which she doesn’t feel ready, Charlotte pleads with Dan Fitzgerald, the assistant manager of Sundar, to teach her how to run the plantation while she gets to know Andrew. Although reluctant as he knew that a woman would never be accepted as manager by the local merchants and workers, Dan agrees.

Charlotte’s chaperone on the journey from England, Ada Eastman, who during the long voyage, has become a friend, has journeyed to Darjeeling to marry Harry Banning, the owner of a neighbouring tea garden.

When Ada marries Harry, she’s determined to be a loyal and faithful wife. And to be a good friend to Charlotte. And nothing, but nothing, was going to stand in the way of that.

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Meet the Author

Born in London, Liz Harris graduated from university with a Law degree, and then moved to California, where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.

Six years later, she returned to London and completed a degree in English, after which she taught secondary school pupils, first in Berkshire, and then in Cheshire.

In addition to the ten novels she’s had published, she’s had several short stories in anthologies and magazines. 

Liz now lives in Oxfordshire. An active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society, her interests are travel, the theatre, reading and cryptic crosswords. To find out more about Liz, visit her website at: www.lizharrisauthor.com

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Welcome to today’s stop on The Amber Crane by Malve Von Hassell blog tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Malve von Hassell to the blog with a post about her new book The Amber Crane.

I appreciate M J Porter’s question about the process that I use when researching and writing my historical fiction works. 

At risk of being laughed out of court, I admit that my process is a jumble – almost a scattershot approach with frequent journeys down endless tunnels in search of an answer for a particular detail and not by any means a cohesive, thorough, or systematic process. In all my books to date, my initial inspiration involved a particular image or a character that excited my interest, and I ended up building a story around that.  

For instance, in The Falconers Apprentice, my original hook for further research was De Arte Venandi cum Avibus, a remarkable compendium about falconry penned by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, Holy Roman Emperor, in the 13thcentury. Alina: A Song for the Telling began to take shape in my mind thanks to an accidental discovery of a historical character, Stephen de Sancerre, whose life trajectory intrigued me.  The Amber Crane had its origins in my recollection of legends about amber that I had heard in my childhood.

I am not a historian. However, my background and work experiences have provided me with some tools that come in handy when writing historical fiction.  I have worked as a translator for many years, and I have also worked as an anthropologist. 

As a translator one learns to dissect words and to be appreciative of the cultural context of expressions and phrases where a mere literal translation utterly fails to convey the meaning. As a writer of historical fiction one needs to be wary of using terms that are not appropriate to the time one is writing about and has to take care not to inject too much of one’s own language usage and thought processes into a context where such would have been unlikely. Meanwhile, don’t get me wrong—it is one thing to know and understand this challenge and another entirely to work accordingly. I have failed repeatedly at sticking to this goal.

I have also studied anthropology and completed research projects in that field. The best anthropologists are by definition historians, willing to keep digging, to consider innumerable details, and to look at the entirety of a situation from as many angles as possible before writing up a description or study of a particular society or community. Anthropologists when doing fieldwork try to cover as much ground as possible and to talk to as many people as possible in order to get all sides of a story.

The processes of writing an anthropological study, a historical study, or a work of fiction involve a similar element. All three attempt to arrive at the portrayal of a truth as much as that is possible while telling a compelling story. In order to convey that truth as the author sees it, the author must select and perhaps also discard elements in order to assemble the work. That process of selection is, of course, subjective, and the final product is by definition only a partial truth. Therein lies the dilemma of authors and at the same time a tremendous wealth of opportunity in that there is always yet another story to be told or another way to tell a story and to get at a truth.

In writing historical fiction, I try to apply some of the same principles of research as I used as an anthropologist. That means paying attention to the context as a multilayered set of dynamics, reading as much as possible, ideally in the language of the place and the era, and drawing on original sources.

When I began to work on The Amber Crane, I had some of this covered in that German is my native language and my original sources included personal accounts by various relatives. 

Meanwhile, I have two main “go to” resources. 

One resource in my opinion classifies as a national treasure, that is, the spectacular public library system in the US. The research library in New York City is publically available, and one can find everything, and if one can’t find it, one can order it from another library somewhere in the United States. You can draw on this resource anywhere. I can go to my local library and obtain materials from thousands of miles away from home. This is a luxury I cannot emphasize enough, and it is all available without any sort of special admission or qualification or association with a university.

I am somewhat old-fashioned and averse to many advances in technology. Thus, it pains me to admit this, but I would not want to miss the Internet for any present or future writing project. Not only does it offer starting points when researching any given subject and excellent opportunities for armchair traveling and exploration, but more importantly it is a vehicle for connecting with other writers and researchers all over the world. Such contacts, interactions, feedback, and support are critical for writers.

Thank you so much for sharing such a fascinating post with me. Good luck with your new book.

Here’s the blurb:

Chafing at the rules of the amber guild, Peter, an apprentice during the waning years of the Thirty Years’ War, finds and keeps a forbidden piece of amber, despite the risk of severe penalties should his secret be discovered.

Little does he know that this amber has hidden powers, transporting him into a future far beyond anything he could imagine. In dreamlike encounters, Peter witnesses the ravages of the final months of World War II in and around his home. He becomes embroiled in the troubles faced by Lioba, a girl he meets who seeks to escape from the oncoming Russian army.

Peter struggles with the consequences of his actions, endangering his family, his amber master’s reputation, and his own future. How much is Peter prepared to sacrifice to right his wrongs?

Trigger Warnings:

References to rape, Holocaust, World War II, violence

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Meet the Author

Malve von Hassell is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Working as an independent scholar, she published The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell’s memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich – Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. She has self-published two children’s picture books, Letters from the Tooth Fairy (2012/2020) and Turtle Crossing (2021), and her translation and annotation of a German children’s classic by Tamara Ramsay, Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures (Two Harbors Press, 2012). The Falconer’s Apprentice (namelos, 2015) was her first historical fiction novel for young adults. She has published Alina: A Song for the Telling (BHC Press, 2020), set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades, and The Amber Crane (Odyssey Books, 2021), set in Germany in 1645 and 1945. She has completed a biographical work about a woman coming of age in Nazi Germany and is working on a historical fiction trilogy featuring Adela of Normandy.

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Over The Hedge by Paulette Mahurin

Here’s the blurb

During one of the darkest times in history, at the height of the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1943, members of the Dutch resistance began a mission to rescue Jewish children from the deportation center in Amsterdam. Heading the mission were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, principal of a Christian college. As Nazis rounded up Jewish families at gunpoint, the three discreetly moved children from the deportation center to the daycare across the street and over the backyard hedge to the college next door. From the college, the children were transported to live with Dutch families. Working against irate orders from Hitler to rid the Netherlands of all Jews and increasing Nazi hostilities on the Resistance, the trio worked tirelessly to overcome barriers. Ingenious plans were implemented to remove children’s names from the registry of captured Jews. To sneak them out of the college undetected past guards patrolling the deportation center. To meld them in with their new families to avoid detection. Based on actual events, Over the Hedge is the story of how against escalating Nazi brutality when millions of Jews were disposed of in camps, Walter Süskind, Henriëtte Pimentel, and Johan van Hulst worked heroically with the Dutch resistance to save Jewish children. But it is not just a story of their courageous endeavors. It is a story of the resilience of the human spirit. Of friendship and selfless love. The love that continues on in the hearts of over six hundred Dutch Jewish children.

This novel is available to read on #KindleUnlimited

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Meet the Author

Paulette Mahurin is an international bestselling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science. 

Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the bestseller lists for literary fiction and historical fiction on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K. and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, was released in 2017 to rave reviews. Her sixth book, A Different Kind of Angel, was released in the summer of 2018 also to rave reviews. Her last four books: Irma’s Endgame, The Old Gilt Clock, Where Irises Never Grow, and Over the Hedge all made it to bestselling lists on Amazon. Her new release, Over the Hedge, was #1 in Hot New Release Amazon U.K. it’s second day out. 

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Bloody Dominions by Nick Macklin

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Nick Macklin to the blog to talk about the research he undertook to write his new book, Bloody Dominions.

Your book, Bloody Dominions sounds fascinating. I’ve recently been enjoying a great deal of Roman era historical fiction. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories.

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life? 

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

I have always had an interest in the ancient world and especially the Roman empire. I studied history at college, which in addition to satisfying my thirst for knowledge of the past, helped stand me in good stead during the extensive research I conducted whilst writing Bloody Dominions.

I knew when I set out that I wanted to set the story against the backdrop of a significant period in Roman history. I spent some considerable time immersed in the central and university libraries in Exeter, looking to narrow that down to something offering the potential for meaningful character and plot development, that hadn’t already received exhaustive coverage. I eventually settled on Caesar’s tumultuous occupation of Gaul, in part because I was struck by just how heavily the Roman psyche was influenced during this period by the scare they’d received 50 years earlier, when Germanic tribes invaded their territories and defeated their legions. Seeing references to the veterans of that war watching their sons and grandsons enlist for a similar campaign, I started to think about developing that link on both sides of the conflict. The prolonged clash of cultures that spanned 8 years, offered ample opportunity for the kind of dual perspective from which I was hoping to tell the story. Whilst the violent conflict provided a wealth of material to explore the changing fortunes of war and its impact at a personal level. The switching of allegiances; nations fighting for and against Rome, also provided the potential for intriguing plot lines. And so, the idea for the Conquest Trilogy was born.

Fortunately, Caesar was an almost unique example of a great general who was also a prolific writer. His ‘Commentarii de Bello Gallico, ‘Commentary on the Gallic War’ is a first-hand account of his invasion. I was grateful for the many translated versions now available as I have yet to perfect my Latin. One of the things on my to do list. It was important to recognise that this autobiographical account had a political purpose, Caesar’s audience was the Senate and the people of Rome and he wanted to justify his actions, reinforce his reputation and portray himself as a commander of courage, flair and success. As a consequence, I took some of the estimates of enemy warrior and casualty numbers with a pinch of salt but at its heart the Commentary is a straightforward narrative of the campaign Caesar fought in Gaul. As such it was an invaluable resource, providing key details in respect of the order and timing of events, the legions involved, battle plans etc. as well as some of the incredibly useful but more mundane detail that helped me to gain a sense of just how far the legions marched during a campaign season!

Whilst my three protagonists are entirely fictitious, I wanted the framework against which their stories unfold to be entirely accurate from a historical perspective, to feature actual participants in Caesar’s campaign and draw on real events as they occurred. In that respect the Commentaries also offered some intriguing opportunities to weave fact and fiction. For example, Caesar describes an ultimately unsuccessful peace conference between himself and the Germanic King Ariovistus prior to the battle of Vosges in 58 BC. He outlines how Ariovistus insisted that each side should be accompanied by mounted troops. He probably made this a condition because he knew that Caesar’s cavalry was composed mainly of Aeduian horsemen, whose loyalty to Caesar was questionable. Indeed, Caesar may not have trusted them himself. As a ruse Caesar ordered a group of his Gallic auxiliaries to dismount and had legionnaires from the Xth Legion ride in their place and accompany him to the peace conference. The incident earned the Legion its nickname ‘Equestrius’. In Bloody Dominions I took the liberty of having Caesar call for experienced riders to join his guard, hence Atticus’s involvement, a pivotal moment in the novel as this is when he and Allerix meet for the first time. 

Thereafter, as I plotted the journeys of Atticus, Allerix and Epona I consulted a variety of additional book and web-based resources to supplement my knowledge and research particular points of interest. Old enough to remember researching before the web, I never cease to be amazed at the wealth of information available at our fingertips, although I still prefer to do the bulk of my research using physical resources and pen and paper! I did however find the excellent web based military history encyclopaedia, www.HistoryofWar.org particularly helpful when looking to visualise how the battles in which my characters feature played out.

Finally, one of the earliest pieces of research I did when Bloody Dominions was still very much in its infancy, was to complete a ‘field trip’ to Europe. I can’t pretend that this visit was entirely conducted for research purposes, I had always wanted to travel around Europe by train. A nod I suspect to the inter-railing visit I never made as a teenager! However, I did make a number of detours along the way to visit museums, monuments and battlefield sites (wherever possible) in Italy, France, Germany and Belgium. I never get over the sense of standing where so many have gone before, never more so than when standing on the Ponte Pietre Bridge in Verona, recognising that it had been ‘crossed by Caesar and all of the legions travelling to Gaul. Including of course those in the XIIth on their way into the pages of Bloody Dominions. 

This is me, quite literally at the start of the Bloody Dominions Journey as I prepare to leave Exeter at the start of that European ‘research’ trip: 

Thank you so much for sharing your research journey with me. It sounds fascinating, and I wish you luck with your new book, and the rest of the books in the trilogy.

Intrigued?

Here’s the blurb:

Journey with those at the heart of the conflict as Caesar embarks on the tumultuous conquest of Gaul 58-51 BC. Book One 58-56 BC.

As Caesar’s campaign begins, tests of courage and belief will confront the three protagonists, shaping them as individuals and challenging their views of the world and each other:

Atticus – an impetuous but naturally gifted soldier, whose grandfather served with distinction in the legions;

Allerix – a Chieftain of the Aduatuci, who finds himself fighting both for and against Caesar; and

Epona – a fierce warrior and Allerixs’ adopted sister.

Experiencing the brutalities of conflict and the repercussions of both victory and defeat, Atticus, Allerix and Epona will cross paths repeatedly, their destinies bound together across time, the vast and hostile territories of Gaul and the barriers of fate that have defined them as enemies. In a twist of fate, Atticus and Allerix discover that they share a bond, a secret that nobody could ever foresee…

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, attempted rape.

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Meet the Author

A history graduate, Nick enjoyed developing the skills that would stand him in good stead during the extensive research he conducted prior to writing his novel. Whilst the ancient world unfortunately didn’t feature to any extent in his history degree, (the result of failing miserably to secure the A level grades that would have permitted greater choice) he maintained a lifelong and profound interest in ancient history and especially the Roman Empire, continuing to read avidly as he embarked on a career in HR. Over the next 30 years or so Nick occupied a variety of Senior/Director roles, most recently in the NHS. Unsurprisingly, writing in these roles was largely confined to the prosaic demands of Board papers but Nick never lost the long-harboured belief, motivated by the works of writers such as Robert Fabbri, Robyn Young, Anthony Riches, Simon Scarrow, Matthew Harffy and Giles Kristian, that he too had a story to tell. When he was presented with a window of opportunity c3 years ago he took the decision to place his career on hold and see if he could convert that belief into reality. 

Nick always knew that he wanted to set the novel against the backdrop of a significant event/period in Roman history. Looking to narrow that down to something offering the potential for meaningful character and plot development, but that hadn’t already received exhaustive coverage, he settled on Caesars tumultuous occupation of Gaul. Spanning 8 years, the prolonged clash of cultures offered ample opportunity for the kind of dual perspective from which he was hoping to tell the story, whilst the violent conflict provided a wealth of exciting material to explore the changing fortunes of war and its impact at a personal level. The switching of allegiances, nations fighting for and against Rome also provided the potential for some intriguing plot lines. As his research unfolded, he was also struck by just how heavily the Roman psyche during this period was influenced by the scare they had received 50 years earlier when Germanic tribes invaded their territories and defeated their legions. Seeing references to the veterans of that war watching their sons and grandsons enlist for a similar campaign, he started to think about developing that link on both sides of the conflict. And so, the idea for the Conquest Trilogy was born.

In Bloody Dominions Nick has sought to produce a novel in which unfolding events are experienced and described from the perspective of protagonists on both sides of Caesar’s incursion into Gaul.  Conscious that the role of women in Roman fiction, Boudica aside, is largely confined to spouse, prostitute or slave, Nick wanted to ensure that one of his lead characters was female and a prominent member of the warrior clan of her tribe. The novel is driven by these characters but the framework against which their stories unfold is historically accurate, featuring actual participants in Caesar’s campaign and drawing on real events as they occurred. As such Nick is genuinely excited about his characters and the story they have to tell.

Nick lives in Exeter with his two daughters and is currently juggling work as an Independent HR Consultant with writing the second novel in the Conquest Trilogy, Battle Scars. 

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Welcome to today’s stop on the Island of Gold by Amy Maroney blog tour

Today, I’m excited to share a post from Amy Maroney who’s going to tell me all about the research she undertook for her new book, Island of Gold.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, MJ! I love research and you’ve asked some excellent questions.

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life? 

AM: Island of Gold, the first book in my Sea and Stone Chronicles series, was inspired by a three-week stint on the island of Rhodes back in 2012. I was struck by the layers of history on the island stretching back thousands of years. All of that history is still visible today. Ancient temples and crumbling statues of Greek goddesses exist alongside the walls and forts built by the medieval Knights Hospitaller. When I explored Rhodes, I knew that one day, I would write about the island and its history.

photo of Knights Hospitaller palace, Rhodes Town, Unsplash photo

My first research always come informally, mostly through travel and reading. It’s when I’m traveling that I have the best, most creative ideas for fiction. Reading is like traveling in that it takes me to different worlds, so ideas are often sparked that way, too. With that initial idea or inspiration percolating, I start to dig into the historical record. I rely heavily on Academia.edu, Interlibrary Loan, and the kindness of researchers all over the world. As I explore history, I begin to imagine characters inhabiting the distant past. 

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

AM: I have many go-to books that I’m leaning on heavily while writing the Sea and Stone Chronicles. A few in particular were invaluable during the research and writing process for Island of Gold. I own a copy of The Book of Michael of Rhodes, an illustrated journal of sorts written by a Rhodian-born seaman who made a living working on various Venetian ships during the early 1400s. Island of Gold is set on Rhodes, and the maritime dramas of the era figure large in the Sea and Stone Chronicles, so this book has been a treasure trove of information about sailing, merchant ships, Venetian influence in the Mediterranean, and other topics crucial to my research. 

photo of illustration from Michael of Rhodes’ book, taken by Author

Since Island of Gold is a story about ordinary people living in the shadow of the Knights Hospitaller when that organization was headquarters in Rhodes during the 1400s, I relied on several key books about the knights during my research. My favorite go-to books on that topic are The Knights Hospitaller by Helen Nicholson and The Knights of Rhodes by Elias Kollias.

My hero and heroine are Cédric and Sophie, a noble French falconer and a spirited merchant’s daughter, who marry in France and go on to seek their fortunes in Rhodes. 

To create Cédric de Montavon, I studied The Hound and The Hawk by John Cummins and H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I also valued Fighting Words: A Glossary of Swords and Combat by David Blixt, Dale Girard, Jared Kirby, and Tom Leoni.

To create Sophie Portier, I began with research I had already done on fifteenth century France for the Miramonde Series (the story of a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern day scholar on her trail). I then added some new go-to resources. A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman gave me essential background about the fourteenth century and how the plague and other major events set the European stage for the fifteenth century. Two books about medieval life helped me create realistic domestic scenes and deepen Sophie’s character: Living and Dining in Medieval Paris by Nicole Crossley-Hollard and A Small Sound of the Trumpet: Women in Medieval Life by Margaret Wade Labarge. 

One of the resources that helped me with world-building for Island of Gold was Reflections on a Marine Venus: A Companion to the Landscape of Rhodes by Lawrence Durrell. And I relied heavily on numerous academic papers written by researchers dedicated to studying the medieval Mediterranean.

Photo of medieval hospital in Rhodes Town, Unsplash photo

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today, MJ! I enjoyed my visit with you.

Good luck with the new book. The cover is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your research with me.

Here’s the blurb

1454. A noble French falconer. A spirited merchants daughter. And a fateful decision that changes their destiny forever.

When Cédric is recruited by the Knights Hospitaller to the Greek island of Rhodes, his wife Sophie jumps at the chance to improve their fortunes. After a harrowing journey to Rhodes, Cédric plunges into the world of the knights—while Sophie is tempted by the endless riches that flow into the bustling harbor. But their dazzling new home has a dark side. 

Slaves toil endlessly to fortify the city walls, and rumors of a coming attack by the Ottoman Turks swirl in the streets. Desperate to gain favor with the knights and secure his position, Cédric navigates a treacherous world of shadowy alliances. Meanwhile, Sophie secretly engineers a bold plan to keep their children safe. As the trust between them frays, enemies close in—and when disaster strikes the island, the dangers of their new world become terrifyingly real. 

With this richly-told story of adventure, treachery, and the redeeming power of love, Amy Maroney brings a mesmerizing and forgotten world to vivid life.

This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited

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Meet the author 

Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, and spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of the Miramonde Series, a trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. To receive a free prequel novella to the Miramonde Series, join Amy’s readers’ group at http://www.amymaroney.com. (Just copy and paste into your browser.)

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for In a Grove of Maples by Jenny Knipfer

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jenny Knipfer to the blog with a fabulous post about the research she undertook for her new audio book, In a Grove of Maples.

My research process is different for each project. Some of my books involved more intensive research, like my WWI novel, Silver Moon, set from Canada’s perspective, which I knew little to nothing about. I relied heavily on an online Canadian encyclopedia, various books, and wartime archives to graft history with my story. 

I research mainly online, pulling from reputable sources from university and government supported historical websites. On my projects I also supplement with books on the topic I am researching. When I can’t find what I need there, I dig a little deeper and search for books in the Wiscat or Worldcat library consortiums.

For In a Grove of Maples  I already knew much of how farming, good preservation, and household practices were back then from knowledge I’d built up over the years, stories my dad told me, and insight into machinery at the time from my brothers, who are farmers and have a knowledge base of older implements. 

I did rely on a history book of the local town to help give me a better feel for a few details, and my brother, who was the county clerk of courts for many years, checked on burial regulations for me.

Though the story is inspired by my grandparents and their lives as Wisconsin farmers in the 1890’s, I mixed in only a few personal details, mostly because that’s all I have. I know very little about them. Their purchase of the property, my grandfather lumbering up north, the death of their first son, and some physical and personality traits are based on fact. 

Never having been blessed to meet my grandparents—they died years before I was born—I used creative leeway in bringing how their story may have started to life. I remembered some things my dad told me about them and my older siblings shared a few things they knew that I didn’t, and the story of Edward and Beryl Massart took shape. I did not use my grandparents’ real names.

I am very familiar with the setting of the area, as it is the farm that I grew up on. Although looking very different today, the basic layout of the farm remains the same. Old pictures helped me some. However, the first photo my siblings and I have is from 1924, nothing earlier than that. When they bought the place, it only had a log cabin and a log barn. The log cabin logs can still be seen upon entering the farmhouse. The smaller cabin was expanded into a larger house, rather than being torn down. My nephew and his family now live on and own the farm.

Thank you so much for sharing your research process with me. It’s fascinating that the story is set in a place you know so well. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb;

… a heartfelt tale of the struggles of married life on a nineteenth-century farm. Edward and Beryl are both relatable and sympathetic. Knipfer expertly captures the emotion and stress of their lives and relationship. It’s a touching and realistic portrayal of love, loss, and friendship.” Heather Stockard for Readers’ Favorite five-star review

A HISTORICAL NOVEL OF THE PERILS OF NEWLYWED LIFE AND ALL THAT COMES TO DIVIDE LOVERS

In 1897 newly married Beryl and Edward Massart travel more than one thousand miles from Quebec to farm a plot of land in Wisconsin that they bought sight-unseen. An almost magical grove of maples on their property inspires them to dream of a real home built within the grove, not the tiny log cabin they’ve come to live in. 

Misunderstandings and tempers get the better of them when difficulties and troubles arise. Just months after they wed, Edward leaves pregnant Beryl in the midst of the coming winter to tend the farm and animals while he goes to be a teamster at a northern Wisconsin logging camp. 

Will Beryl and Edward walk into the future together to build their house of dreams in the grove of maples, or will their plans topple like a house of sticks when the winds of misunderstanding and disaster strike?

Readers of Christian historical fiction, Historical fiction, Women’s fiction, and Christian historical romance will be endeared to this slice of late 19th century farm life.

Available on Kindle Unlimited

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Meet the author

Jenny lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken, and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits but finds writing the most fulfilling.

Spending many years as a librarian in a local public library, Jenny recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability. Her education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions.

She holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Wisconsin Writers Association, Christian Indie Publishing Association, and Independent Book Publishers Association.

Jenny’s favorite place to relax is by the western shore of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By The Light of the Moon, is set. A new historical fiction, four-part series entitled, Sheltering Trees, will be released in 2021 and 2022. Jenny is currently writing a novella series entitled, Botanical Seasons

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the In A Grove of Maples blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Where Your Treasure Is by M C Bunn

Today, I’m delighted to welcome M C Bunn to the blog. She’s going to share the secrets of her research with us all.

I’m a story teller first and foremost, not a historian or a trained researcher. While I have a love for history, my college major and master’s degrees are in English. It was a great excuse to read the sorts of books I love. Recently I attended the Historical Novel Society’s North American conference. The conversation rooms on various historical eras and related topics were some of the event’s most exciting offerings because of the participants’ passion for their subjects and their wealth of knowledge. I’d love to contact some of them for more information, especially as I work on my next book, which is set at the end of the Edwardian period and during World War I. 

For advice about how to investigate a historical detail, I turn to knowledgeable friends for help, and librarians are goldmines for resource suggestions. I also do a lot of digging through bibliographies and end notes, and rely on contemporary texts. If they’re nonfiction, as opposed to literary, they’re mostly digital. Annotated books and older dictionaries are quite helpful. I try to avoid slang. It’s interesting how many expressions we use that Victorians didn’t, and vice versa.

My late father’s Clarkson N. Potter Annotated Sherlock Holmes and its notes never fail to lift my spirits when I think about the pitfalls awaiting writers. While Conan Doyle’s plots and dialogue are amazing, he made up London streets and includes all sorts of details in his stories that don’t hold up under the scholar’s close scrutiny. The Potter edition is full of references to research articles by other famous authors and fans that prove how some sort of chemical or cigar ash Holmes describes couldn’t have been used in such and such a way. But those intricacies aren’t the point of what Conan Doyle was doing. At least Dorothy L. Sayers won’t be looking over my shoulder. She minutely read Conan Doyle’s work! In the later drafts of Treasure, I tried to avoid glaring errors and anachronisms, but perhaps the ones that remain will amuse some reader or inspire another writer’s research. 

I didn’t set out to write Where Your Treasure Is. It wasn’t inspired by researching the late-Victorian era, though that’s a time period that has exerted its fascination over me since childhood. Writing the story felt—not exactly like automatic writing, but there was definitely an element of feeling propelled along. There was no outline or notes. It was only after I’d written the entire plot from beginning to end that I added more historical details and checked those that had emerged organically. 

I’d spent some time in London and Norfolk, and studied old and new maps of Treasure’s settings. What surprised me were details that, during the checking process, I thought I’d made up but hadn’t. I attribute some of that to the passage of time and forgetfulness. When you’ve read about a time period for as long as I have, you internalize a great deal. As for other details, I’ve no explanation. 

For instance, Mena House was a name that wouldn’t leave me alone when I wrote about the heroine’s uncle traveling to Egypt. I looked it up and was surprised to find the hotel is famous though it wasn’t mentioned in any of the reading I’d recently completed on Egypt. I ordered several 19th century travel guides to confirm a few more details about the hotel’s history and its golf course. Another eerie instance was the way I imagined the façade of the character George’s Norfolk home, Hereford Hall. In my early twenties I stayed with a family in Norfolk, but we fell out of touch. Several years after I wrote Treasure’s first draft, I learned that one of my host’s sisters had died. Her obituary includes a picture taken in front of a structure that looks almost identical to George’s house. I’d never seen that picture before or visited the place. Believe me or not, but that’s the truth. 

Thank you so much for sharing your research with me today. Good luck with your new book.

Here’s the blurb;

Feisty, independent heiress Winifred de la Coeur has never wanted to live according to someone else’s rules—but even she didn’t plan on falling in love with a bank robber.

Winifred is a wealthy, nontraditional beauty who bridles against the strict rules and conventions of Victorian London society. When she gets caught up in the chaos of a bungled bank robbery, she is thrust unwillingly into an encounter with Court Furor, a reluctant getaway driver and prizefighter.  In the bitter cold of a bleak London winter, sparks fly.

Winifred and Court are two misfits in their own circumscribed worlds—the fashionable beau monde with its rigorously upheld rules, and the gritty demimonde, where survival often means life-or-death choices.

Despite their conflicting backgrounds, they fall desperately in love while acknowledging the impossibility of remaining together. Returning to their own worlds, they try to make peace with their lives until a moment of unrestrained honesty and defiance threatens to topple the deceptions that they have carefully constructed to protect each other.

A story of the overlapping entanglements of Victorian London’s social classes, the strength of family bonds and true friendship, and the power of love to heal a broken spirit.

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Meet the author

M. C. Bunn grew up in a house full of books, history, and music. “Daddy was a master storyteller. The past was another world, but one that seemed familiar because of him. He read aloud at the table, classics or whatever historical subject interested him. His idea of bedtime stories were passages from Dickens, Twain, and Stevenson. Mama told me I could write whatever I wanted. She put a dictionary in my hands and let me use her typewriter, or watch I, Claudius and Shoulder to Shoulder when they first aired on Masterpiece Theatre. She was the realist. He was the romantic. They were a great team.”

Where Your Treasure Is, a novel set in late-Victorian London and Norfolk, came together after the sudden death of the author’s father. “I’d been teaching high school English for over a decade and had spent the summer cleaning my parents’ house and their offices. It was August, time for classes to begin. The characters emerged out of nowhere, sort of like they knew I needed them. They took over.” 

She had worked on a novella as part of her master’s degree in English years before but set it aside, along with many other stories. “I was also writing songs for the band I’m in and had done a libretto for a sacred piece. All of that was completely different from Where Your Treasure Is. Before her health declined, my mother heard Treasure’s first draft and encouraged me to return to prose. The novel is a nod to all the wonderful books my father read to us, the old movies we stayed up to watch, a thank you to my parents, especially Mama for reminding me that nothing is wasted. Dreams don’t have to die. Neither does love.”  

When M. C. Bunn is not writing, she’s researching or reading. Her idea of a well-appointed room includes multiple bookshelves, a full pot of coffee, and a place to lie down with a big, old book. To further feed her soul, she and her husband take long walks with their dog, Emeril in North Carolina’s woods, or she makes music with friends. 

“I try to remember to look up at the sky and take some time each day to be thankful.” 

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Welcome to today’s stop on The Wisdom of the Flock by Steve M Gnatz blog tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Steve M Gnatz to the blog with a post about the research he undertook for his new book, The Wisdom of the Flock.

My research process was truly a “labour of love”. It began in 2005 when I read an article about the interaction between Franklin and Mesmer in the late 1700’s. Specifically, the article mentioned Franklin being asked to head the French commission investigating Mesmerism – a quasi-medical process that we would now probably identify as hypnotism. That was fascinating to me because I knew nothing about how Franklin might approach such an endeavour. I knew that Franklin was an inventor (lightening rod, bifocal glasses, etc.) but I had never really thought of him as a scientist. He was, of course, and a good one.  Franklin, and the other French scientists involved, applied what we would now call the scientific method to his investigation of Mesmerism – some have even called his experiments the first “blinded study” partly because they used a real blindfold on their subjects.

However, I next learned that Franklin had invented a musical instrument called a glass armonica for a beautiful young musician (Marianne Davies) in England prior to his time in France. 

A Glass Armonica

Of particular interest to me was that I learned that Doctor Franz Mesmer was subsequently using a copy of Marianne’s glass armonica in France in his seances. That got me thinking that perhaps there was some sort of a love triangle going on. This is where the fiction enters into historical fiction. There are copious books that one can read about Ben Franklin, and a few about Mesmer, but none about Marianne Davies – so I was free to make up her character more than the others.

The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris is based on real people and events. If there is a specific date given in the book, the event happened on that date – perhaps not exactly as described – but it happened. I just filled in the blanks in the historical record.

Whatever the resources studied, my foremost objective as a historical fiction author is to try to bring the characters to life. The readers will have to decide if I am successful or not. However, I find that the easiest way to do this is by telling the story through conversations between the characters. Since we rarely know from the historical record what was actually said – especially in the 1700’s, well before the advent of audio recording equipment – this gives me some freedom and also allows me to flesh out my characters “personalities”. I envision and portray Ben Franklin as a virile, confident, occasionally pedantic, hedonistic socialite in Paris at the age of 70 plus. That image has gotten me into a little trouble with some critics who have found it hard to believe that he was not the corpulent, gouty, elder statesman they imagine – but I believe that the historical record bears me out on this. One need only read DuPont’s inscription to the 1779 painting by Duplessis (included here* and as a frontispiece in the book) as evidence. Or consider that he really did propose marriage to a French woman (and a major character in the book) Madame Helvetius near the end of his time in France.

I believe that the filter of time tends to oversimplify historical figures. I wrote about this on my own blog back in January and you can find that post here: https://stevegnatz.com/2021/01/why-do-we-stereotype-historical-characters/

We come to think of historical figures as good or bad, triumphant or tragic, famous or infamous – not the complex people that they most likely were. My book attempts to breathe a little life into these people who lived nearly 300 years ago.

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

I included a bibliography at the end of The Wisdom of the Flock and would refer the interested reader to that resource as it represents my “go to” list for writing this book. It includes many published books but also journal articles and even a PhD dissertation. Because Franklin’s letters are all digitized and available for viewing on the web, it was easy to get access to his main form of communication – letter writing. 

The internet is a wonderful tool for researching a historical fiction novel. Just remember not to believe everything that you read!

As I’m sure is a fairly common practice for historical fiction writers, I create a spreadsheet as a resource with a timeline of important historical dates and events across the top and the characters names down the side. I can then make notes at the intersection of the two. For example, when were Marianne, Franklin, and Mesmer all known to be in Paris so that they could interact? When did Mesmer leave Paris, and did Marianne go with him?

I will also specifically recommend the books on Benjamin Franklin by Claude-Anne Lopez for anyone that really wants to get a feeling of what he was like. I believe that she developed a better understanding of his personality than anyone of our time. Unfortunately, Ms. Lopez passed away in 2012 and I never got to meet her. In her lifetime, she not only translated all of Franklin’s papers from French to English, but also wrote several key books that helped me understand Franklin as a man. I thank her for that.

In addition to reading any books that I could find on my main characters, I also found that books on “ancillary” characters were helpful. There are many famous characters portrayed in The Wisdom of the Flock – Marie Antoinette was the queen of France at the time, Pierre Beaumarchais (playwright), John Paul Jones (navy captain), even Casanova was circulating around. Books on these historical figures helped me flesh out their characters and hopefully avoid stereotyping them.

Getting to know as much as I can about the historical characters is fun and helps me form my own opinions about who they were. While we can, of course, never really know them, historical fiction allows the writer and the reader to almost feel that they do.

Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you really enjoyed the research process of writing the book (yay), and I wish you luck with it.

Book Trailer:

Here’s the blurb:

A WORLD OF ENLIGHTENMENT, REVOLUTION, AND INTRIGUE  

1776: Benjamin Franklin sails to Paris, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, freshly signed. His charge: gain the support of France for the unfolding American Revolution. Yet Paris is a city of distractions. Ben’s lover, Marianne Davies, will soon arrive, and he yearns to rekindle his affair with the beautiful musician. 

Dr. Franz Mesmer has plans for Marianne too. He has taken Parisian nobility by storm with his discovery of magnétisme animale, a mysterious force claimed to heal the sick. Marianne’s ability to channel Mesmer’s phenomena is key to his success.

A skeptical King Louis XVI appoints Ben to head a commission investigating the astonishing magnétisme animale. By nature, Ben requires proof. Can he scientifically prove that it does not exist? Mesmer will stop at nothing to protect his profitable claim. 

The Wisdom of The Flock explores the conflict between science and mysticism in a time rife with revolution, love, spies, and passion.

Trigger Warnings:

Mild sexual content

Available on Kindle Unlimited.

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Meet the Author

Steve Gnatz is a writer, physician, bicyclist, photographer, traveler, and aspiring ukulele player. The son of a history professor and a nurse, it seems that both medicine and history are in his blood. Writing historical fiction came naturally. An undergraduate degree in biology was complemented by a minor in classics. After completing medical school, he embarked on an academic medical career specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There was little time for writing during those years, other than research papers and a technical primer on electromyography. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he devotes himself to the craft of fiction. The history of science is of particular interest, but also the dynamics of human relationships. People want to be good scientists, but sometimes human nature gets in the way. That makes for interesting stories. When not writing or traveling, he enjoys restoring Italian racing bicycles at home in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

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Welcome to today’s stop on the Wall of Stone by Heather Robinson blog tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Heather Robinson to the blog with a post about her book, Wall of Stone and the historical research she undertook to write it.

The internet features widely in my initial research and I always start by scouring it to create a timeline of major events leading up to the start of the period I am writing in. For Wall of Stone I went back to the first invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar in 54BC despite it being 175 years earlier as it’s useful to have a grasp of the political influences that lead to the chosen period. Even a one line spoken reference to an historic event by a character can add a wonderful authenticity to a story I think. 

From the timeline, I’ll expand my notes around the main time focus of the book, in this case the year AD121 and see if I can find any mention of meteorological or geological events: a solar eclipse, volcanic eruption, flood, drought, plague…anything dramatic that can’t be ignored. If something particular is thrown up in the initial searches, more detailed research is undertaken across many different web pages and a specialised book purchased if necessary.

The same process is applied to any real historical characters that must be included for the story to work. Emperor Hadrian doesn’t feature anywhere near as much in Wall of Stone as my fictional characters, but my notes contain far more information on him, and far more than made it in to the book too, as I needed to learn about his life to understand the man. I always give a backstory to my fictional characters that doesn’t necessarily make it in to the book, but that’s all made up so doesn’t involve any research.

Once a framework of sorts is in place, I like to get writing and return to research as I go. For me, this is important as there is always more to learn and if I didn’t get writing I would continue researching forever! The research could overwhelm me too, it can be daunting, so I just get on with weaving the fiction around the framework of facts so far acquired, keeping in mind the end result is to produce an entertaining story and not give an historical lecture. My aim is to keep the facts accurate but hide them seamlessly within the fiction.

Not wishing to continually disrupt my writing flow, I will often highlight my working manuscript in red capital letters RESEARCH with a note of the topic, such as native flora, Roman gods, Brigante customs, and return to sort the facts out later. One such note was ‘RESEARCH –  how does a decayed head look after a year or so’!! Well, I needed to describe it and had no idea. My internet search history might raise some eyebrows!

Conversely, I turn to research to solve problems that occur in my plot, or to kick-start the story when the plot stalls. It’s a way of gleaning snippets of information to add to the framework. It can throw up some wonderful ideas. 

As well as the internet, another resource I could not do without is my trusty Ordnance Survey Map of Roman Britain. I have travelled from Northumberland to Wiltshire through the lands of the native tribes: Iceni, Trinovantes and Atrebates to name three, discovering forts, potteries, lead mines, salt mines, temple sites, aqueducts and villas. I love a good OS map at the best of times, this ancient one is just gold dust to me.

It’s packed with information and gives me a wonderful perspective on the land in Roman times, a cross between a picture, a text book and a place name translator all in one resource. I highly recommend it.

Thank you so much for sharing your research with me. It sounds fascinating (maps are an amazing resource). Good luck with the book.

Here’s the blurb:

In AD121 the Twentieth Legion of Rome stands at the northern frontier of Britannia. Forgotten, neglected and dour in spirit, they must still do their duty for an Empire whose meaning is becoming lost to them.

As the lives of the local Teviot family intertwine with the legion, relationships of love and bitter anguish unfurl. Will the invading army push north? Will the disputing native tribes unite in an uprising? Can Marcus be with Jolinda?

When peace is fragile, friendships count for everything…

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This book is available on #KindleUnlimited.

Meet the Author

Heather Robinson is a novelist and short story award winner from Wiltshire, UK.  Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Science degree with most of her working life spent as an Administration Manager locally.  She is also a qualified and experienced radio presenter, hosting a weekly show for Warminster Community Radio.  Proud parents of two boys, Heather and her husband Graham share a passion for live music, hiking and motorcycling. 

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