I’m delighted to welcome Micheál Cladáin to the blog, to share his historical research with us, no matter how strange.
I wouldn’t consider my research processes particularly strange. I have a mountain of reference books (see the picture for a small sample), which I read from cover to cover and refer to continually.
Of course, there are many more – including those in my Kindle library. I took classical studies at UNI, so it is understandable. After editing, I find research to be the most time-consuming aspect of writing, however enjoyable. I would say that three-fifths of my time spent producing a novel is on research, two-fifths on writing, and half on editing. I am not sure if this division is typical of other writers.
An aspect of my research that does not involve reading is visiting sites of ancient monuments or reconstructions thereof. Something that might be considered strange is I take loads of photos that I use to sketch mood boards. It might be classed as quirky behaviour, but it helps me set the scene when I write. Often I will create a sketch for a particular piece I am about to write.
Let me throw out some examples. I took the following photo at the Irish Heritage Centre in Wexford. It shows the interior of an Ancient Irish roundhouse.
I used the photo to create the following sketch.
That was a general mood graphic on my mood board, whereas the following two pictures represent a specific event. Genonn and Oengus at the hostel. Again, the photo was taken at the Wexford Heritage Centre.
I used the photo to sketch the following.
For something more relevant, I took the following photo in Drombeg, West Cork.
I used the photo to create a sketch of Genonn at the sacred circle outside Caer Leb on the Isle of Anglesey. Some might say it is not an authentic mood setter because I would need to have taken a photo of a stone circle on Anglesey, preferably near Afon Briant, where Caer Leb is located. However, one stone circle is much like another.
The picture gives me a sense of place and time.
Some might ask why I create sketches. Why not just use the photos as a mood board? Aside from my general quirkiness, adding characters to the pictures gives them context. I sketch them in black and white because it creates a sense of distance in time. I don’t know why, because it is nonsense, but I feel that the ancient world was much less colourful than our world today.
And finally, I took the following photo from inside a stone fort near Waterville in Kerry, which was ideal for creating an image of Luchar. Again, Luchar’s stone fortress was in Wales, but I currently have no access. Perhaps next year, I will make a point of visiting Tre’r Cieri to take some photos.
The next book in the series, Iron, has quite a few scenes in Rome, so needless to say, I will be in the Eternal City next week snapping pickies of the Forum and the Colosseum.
Thank you so much for sharing. Enjoy your trip to Rome.
Here’s the blurb
Genonn’s tired and dreams of a remote roundhouse in the Cuala Mountains.
However, sudden rebellion in Roman Britain destroys that dream because the Elder Council task him with delivering Lorg Mór, the hammer of the Gods, to the tribes across the straits of Pwll Ceris. Despite being torn between a waning sense of duty and his desire to become a hermit, Genonn finally agrees to help.
When his daughter follows him into danger, it tests his resolve. He wants to do everything he can to see her back to Druid Island and her mother. This new test of will means he is once again conflicted between duty and desire. Ultimately, his sense of duty wins; is it the right decision? Has he done the right thing by relegating his daughter’s safety below his commitment to the clans?
Micheál has been an author for many years. He studied Classics and developed a love of Greek and Roman culture through those studies. In particular, he loved their mythologies. As well as a classical education, bedtime stories consisted of tales read from a great tome of Greek Mythology, and Micheál was destined to become a storyteller from those times.
I can never miss an opportunity to ask a fellow Saxon author questions about why they write about the same period as me. My thanks to Mercedes for answering them.
What drew you to the character of Godwine and his wife and children?
While I was writing my first book, Heir To A Prophecy, I introduced my protagonist Walter into London on the day Godwine came back from exile. It was a plot device to introduce him to Harold Godwineson (Walter took out one of the Normans fleeing through the crowd). I didn’t know who Godwine was, but I couldn’t shake him loose! I went back fifty years and discovered a great story.
Naturally, very little is known about these historical characters, and I had two challenges that dovetailed nicely. Both had to do with not wanting to fall into that old predictable trap concerning characters. First of all, the love interest. There are so many love stories that seem formulaic. I didn’t want that same old theme: disliking each other first, then falling in love (and all the variations thereof). On the other hand, I understand that there needs to be some kind of stress in the romance to make a good story. It was obvious that Godwine had a happy marriage (or at least a productive one) since they had so many children. I was really intrigued by the discrepancy of their social status. Godwine was a commoner, and Gytha was a noble (or the Danish equivalent). At the same time, I had a hard time figuring out why Swegn, the firstborn, turned into such a bad egg. I don’t believe a character should be all good or all bad. People just aren’t like that. Even wicked characters act that way for a reason; sometimes they have good qualities that get buried under their more powerful bad qualities. Finally I had an inspiration: if Godwine’s marriage started out in anger, or stress (Gytha was given to him in marriage, but she didn’t have to go willingly), perhaps the firstborn would be neglected and unloved. That would explain his subsequent behaviour. It took some doing to make that work, but I’m happy with the result.
What part of your research did you enjoy the most?
I love research; I actually prefer the research to the writing. I knew I was going to like Godwine. What surprised me was how fascinated I was with Canute. He was an incredibly complicated character. From the angry king-to-be that cut the noses off his 200 hostages after England rejected him in favour of Aethelred the Unready, he eventually became a very successful monarch. Most of all, I loved the single combat between him and Edmund Ironside, where he cleverly talked himself out of getting flattened by convincing Edmund to split the kingdom between them. This may well be apocryphal, but that’s the challenge of writing about events 1000 years ago. We have more legends than “history” to work with, and the legends are so good they stick.
Was there a resource that was invaluable?
I hate to admit this because it makes me sound so old, but when I was writing Godwine Kingmaker there was no internet. Back then, I was living in St. Louis, MO—a very nice town but far from the libraries I needed. If the book wasn’t in the card catalogue, it might as well not even exist. So, like any warm-blooded researcher who didn’t have a family to take care of, I pulled up stakes and moved to New York. The day I discovered the New York Public Library my life changed forever. I found authors I never knew about, and finally got my hands on my first copy of Edward A. Freeman’s “History of the Norman Conquest of England”. I thought I had gone to heaven! In six volumes he wrote about every aspect of Anglo-Saxon England I could possibly think of. (These days Freeman is somewhat out of fashion, but he’s still my go-to when I need to look something up; he has never failed me yet.) Copy machines were available for ten cents a page, but as much as I needed to copy, I’d be better off buying the books—if I could find them. No such luck until a couple of years later, when I went on a book-buying trip to England and discovered Hay-on-Wye. A breakthrough! Those were the days (the late ’80s) when old used hardbacks were still easy to find, and I discovered my very own set of Freeman which I gleefully brought home. That was the original basis of all my research. Those books are still my most precious possession, though now you can find them online (scanned, of course).
Did you learn anything that surprised you while writing the trilogy?
Back to Canute again. While delving into Harold’s relationship with Edith Swan-neck in THE SONS OF GODWINE, again I wanted to avoid the usual romantic formulas. First of all, I had to decide whether Edith was a luscious young thing or an attractive widow; both possibilities were referred to in the histories. By lucky chance, I stumbled across Canute’s Law Code of 1020, designed to smooth relations between the Danes and the Saxons. One section dealt with heriot (essentially an inheritance tax), not a new concept. But I found a reference to protecting widows. Canute gave a widow twelve months to pay her husband’s heriot. But she had to remain unmarried or she would lose both her morning-gift and all possessions from her former husband. If some unscrupulous man coveted her inheritance and forced her to marry him, all the possessions would pass on to the nearest kinsman. The king would lose the heriot tax if this were to happen, so it was also written into Canute’s law that a widow should never be forced to marry a man she dislikes. After all, the Crown had much to lose. So I decided to make Edith a recent widow trying to evade the attentions of an unwelcome suitor, while she and Harold conducted their relationship.
What is your personal opinion? Do you believe that William the Conqueror was justified in claiming England? Do you believe he had been promised it?
Apparently the whole justification came down to King Edward the Confessor’s promise to William when the duke visited England during Godwine’s exile. I think we can negate the assertion that Edward felt some sort of gratitude for having been sheltered there during his exile. When Edward left Normandy in 1041, William was only 13 years old and Edward was 38. With that age gap, it seems unlikely that the two of them would have developed a close relationship, so any alleged gratitude Edward might have owed probably belonged to William’s father Robert, dead by 1035.
Now, during Godwine’s exile in 1051, it’s far from certain that William even visited England. Some historians thought he would have been too busy putting down rebellions to leave his country even for a short time. If William did visit England and if Edward offered him the crown at this point, it’s curious why he would have done so. The king knew that it was up to the Witan to decide the succession. However, considering his antagonism toward the Godwines (he even put the queen in a nunnery while Godwine was in exile), perhaps he made this alleged promise out of spite.
However, it’s my belief that the blame can be placed upon Robert of Jumièges, former Archbishop of Canterbury and arch-enemy of Earl Godwine. Robert is one of the Normans who fled from London once it was clear that Godwine was back in control. He’s almost certainly the one who kidnapped the hostages, Godwine’s son Wulfnoth and grandson Hakon, and brought them to Normandy. In my interpretation, Jumièges acted on his own when he told William that Edward declared him heir to the English throne, and here are the hostages to guarantee his promise. What a great revenge on Godwine and all of England for kicking him out! Why wouldn’t William believe such an opportune offer?
Who is your personal favourite member of the House of Godwine?
When all is said and done, Earl Godwine still holds his place as my favourite. If it weren’t for him, there would be no Harold Godwineson Last Anglo-Saxon King. I think he helped smooth the relations between the conquering Danish king and his unhappy countrymen, then moved on to staunchly defend the Saxons against the hated Normans. His rise to power was unprecedented, and I think his fall was tragic, though not in the way we usually think of as a tragedy. Having sacrificed so much for the wrong son, he had nothing left to live for as he watched Harold take his place in the hearts of his people.
As you know, I write about the Earls of Mercia. What opinion did you form of the rivals to the House of Godwine while researching and writing your books?
I wondered if you’d ask that question! Of course, by the late Anglo-Saxon period, I think the Mercian earls had lost much of their lustre. Old Earl Leofric certainly held his own against Earl Godwine (with the help of Earl Siward of Northumbria). It seems the odds were against Leofric as Godwine’s sons were granted their own earldoms, shifting the balance of power in Godwine’s favour. At this stage, I always thought of them as bitter, unhappy competitors who could never regain their former glory. After King Edward died, Harold tried to join forces with the grandsons of Leofric, Edwin and Morcar, but I don’t think their association was ever successful. William the Conqueror certainly put an end to that.
Thank you for answering my questions with such insight. I hope you enjoy the blog tour.
Here’s the blurb:
They showed so much promise. What happened to the Godwines? How did they lose their grip? Who was this Godwine anyway, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask.
He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine’s best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn.
Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.
Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. She believes that good Historical Fiction, or Faction as it’s coming to be known, is an excellent way to introduce the subject to curious readers. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story.
Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended!
Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from The Black Madonna, an English Civil War, historical romance.
Kate and Eden visit Luciano del Santi … trailed by their younger brother who makes an unexpected discovery
Giacomo beamed. ‘I tell Signor Luciano you are ’ere. ’E is in ’is workshop but for you ’e will come out. Scusi – momento!’
‘Workshop?’ said Toby, on just the right note of appeal.
Giacomo stopped and regarded the boy with benevolence.
‘Si. You ’ave interest? You like to see?’
‘Well,’ said Toby in the tone of one reluctant to give trouble but willing to be persuaded, ‘it’s just that I’ve never – ow!’
Having discreetly trodden on his brother’s foot, Eden smiled at Giacomo and said, ‘Another time, if Signor del Santi permits. We’ve no wish to inconvenience him.’
‘Is not inconvenience – is pleasure!’ cried Giacomo, expansively. ‘Please – you come. The signor will be so ’appy. You come.’
There was no help for it. They went, Toby clattering on in front at Giacomo’s heels.
‘Damn,’ said Eden softly to Kate. ‘Why didn’t I drop him overboard while I had the chance?’
‘No resolution,’ she replied. ‘But don’t worry. You heard what the man said. The signor will be so ’appy.’
She rolled expressive eyes and said nothing.
Ahead of them, Giacomo opened a door and embarked on a vivacious flow of Italian which was immediately stemmed by a brief, pungently delivered sentence in the same language. Kate and Eden exchanged glances and then, arriving in the doorway, looked past Giacomo to the scene within.
His face still marked by fading bruises, Luciano del Santi was in his shirt-sleeves, sitting at a large trestle on which reposed an impressive array of small tools. His concentrated gaze was wholly taken up with the gleaming object held in one long-fingered hand. In shape and size it resembled a chalice, being set upon a delicately slender stem; but the bowl was composed of intricately pierced lattice-work … a spider’s web spun in gold.
The clever hands stilled and, without haste, the Italian looked up at his visitors. The impassive eyes held Kate’s gaze for a couple of seconds and then he said, ‘In a few minutes you will be welcome … but, until then, I would appreciate silence.’ And he turned coolly back to his work.
Somewhere at the back of her mind, Kate discovered the first twinges of respect. If the lovely thing in his hands was of his own creating, then there was more to this man than malicious wit. It did not, she told herself firmly, make him any easier to like; and, with equal firmness, squashed the sneaking suspicion that it added another dimension to the signor’s inexplicable fascination.
Toby, meanwhile, had approached the table so stealthily that no one had noticed him doing it. And when Luciano del Santi finally set the piece down, it was Toby said, ‘Did you make all of that? Yourself, I mean?’
The Italian looked at him thoughtfully. ‘Yes.’
‘How long did it take?’
‘In hours of work? I don’t know. It isn’t important. These things are finished in their own time.’
Toby nodded, apparently understanding this.
‘And is it finished now?’
‘Not quite. There are still some slightly roughened edges here – and here.’ He lifted the goblet for the boy’s inspection and pointed to it in various places. ‘You see? These must be smoothed and polished. And then I shall engrave the base along this curvature here.’
‘And then?’ asked Toby. ‘What is it?’
‘What does it look like?’
‘A wine-cup. But you couldn’t drink out of it. It’s got holes in it.’
Luciano del Santi reached to his left and picked up an object wrapped in a soft cloth. Then, opening it, he placed its contents gently inside the golden web of the chalice.
‘So,’ he said, apparently unaware of the faint breathiness that had suddenly afflicted Kate. ‘The finest amber … I carved it myself. And the gold, you see, is no more than a shell.’
For probably the first time in his life, Toby took at least two minutes to decide what to say. The amber was beautiful and so thin that the light shone through it; and, set in its fragile tracery of gold, it glowed with almost uncanny life. And Toby, looking at it, was consumed by a sudden thirst for knowledge. Drawing a long breath, he stared the Italian straight in the eye and said, ‘Can … can anyone learn to do that?’
‘No.’ The word was bland and unequivocal.
There was a long pause. Then, ‘If you mean, could you learn to work gold – yes. Perhaps. It is a skill and can therefore be taught. If, however, you are asking if you can become a master … then the answer is no. Master-goldsmiths are born, not made. And if you don’t already have the ingredients within you, no one can put them there.’
Again and much to the surprise of Kate and Eden, Toby seemed to accept this without question. He just nodded slowly and said, ‘Will you teach me?’
Luciano del Santi leaned his elbows on the trestle and regarded Toby steadily over his hands. ‘No.’
‘That’s enough, Toby.’ Eden stepped forward and dropped a hand on his young brother’s shoulder. ‘Signor del Santi has been more than patient – so just take no for an answer and stop haranguing him.’
Toby shook off Eden’s hand and stood his ground.
‘Why not?’ he said again.
For the first time since they had come in, a vagrant smile touched the sculpted face.
‘Because I don’t know anything about you. In the last five minutes, you’ve decided you want to be a goldsmith. For all I know to the contrary, yesterday you may have yearned to be a blacksmith and tomorrow, a pastry-cook. I’m not inclined to waste my time.’
‘All right.’ The boy shoved back an unruly lock of dark brown hair from his face and thought about it. ‘I suppose that’s fair. But if I prove I really mean it – then will you teach me?’
‘Toby.’ Eden was beginning to see a chasm yawning ahead. The Italian had been amazingly tolerant so far but it couldn’t last. ‘Toby … for God’s sake, stop arguing.’
‘I’m not arguing,’ said Toby. ‘I’m enquiring.’
Kate stared hard at the floor and tried to straighten out her face.
Luciano del Santi startled them all by laughing.
‘I don’t see what’s so funny,’ Toby objected. ‘I just want to know whether you’ll ever agree to teach me – or whether you’re just making excuses. Because if you won’t teach me, I’ll just have to find someone who will.’
Something in his voice broke through Kate’s amusement and caused her to unlock her tongue. She said, ‘Stop and think what you’re saying, Toby. If you’re serious about this, you’ll need Father’s permission and a formal apprenticeship. You’d have to live away from home and sign away your life for years to – to someone like Signor del Santi. It’s not something to be decided on a moment’s impulse.’
‘I don’t care,’ came the stubborn reply. ‘I want to know how to make things like that … and I shan’t change my mind, no matter what you think.’
Giacomo chuckled and said something in his own language. His master replied with what appeared to be dry humour and then relapsed into silence. Kate decided that a basic grasp of Italian might come in useful.
‘Very well,’ said Luciano del Santi crisply. ‘I’ll make you no promises. Perhaps I’ll teach you – perhaps not. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll allow you the freedom of my workshop. You may come here when you wish and pick up what knowledge you can by watching. I am not always here; but my assistant, Gino, will answer your questions. If you wait for half an hour or so, you can meet him. But what you will not do is to touch anything at all without either his permission or mine. Break that rule even once and there will be no second chance. And if, in the end, I refuse to take you as a pupil, you must accept that I mean it and will not change my mind. Do I make myself quite clear?’
‘Yes.’ Toby flushed and grinned widely. ‘Yes. Thank you.’
Laying his fingers on the table-edge, the Italian rose from his stool and replaced his coat with a caution which reminded Kate that the attack had done more than mark his face. Strangely, she was conscious of a twinge of sympathy that hadn’t been there when Eden had first told her of it.
‘Don’t thank me. Just remember that I’ve promised you nothing. Yet. And now, Giacomo will introduce you to Gino when he comes, while I take your brother and sister upstairs for some refreshment.’ And without waiting for a reply, he crossed a little stiffly to Kate’s side and offered his arm.
She took it, felt herself colouring and was annoyed. It was this, more than anything, that made her say abruptly, ‘Why are you doing this for Toby?’
‘Because he reminds Giacomo of someone.’
Kate shot him a suspicious glance. ‘Who?’
He sighed and, for a moment, she thought he wasn’t going to answer.
Then, ‘Me,’ he said.
Here’s the blurb
As England slides into Civil War, master-goldsmith and money-lender, Luciano Falcieri del Santi embarks on his own hidden agenda. A chance meeting one dark night results in an unlikely friendship with Member of Parliament, Richard Maxwell. Richard’s daughter, Kate – a spirited girl who vows to hold their home against both Cavalier and Roundhead – soon finds herself fighting an involuntary attraction to the clever, magnetic and diabolically beautiful Italian.
Hampered by the warring English, his quest growing daily more dangerous, Luciano begins to realise that his own life and that of everyone close to him rests on the knife-edge of success … for only success will permit him to reclaim the Black Madonna and offer his heart to the girl he loves.
From the machinations within Parliament to the last days of the King’s cause, The Black Madonna is an epic saga of passion and intrigue at a time when England was lost in a dark and bloody conflict.
*Only £1.95 / $1.95 for the duration of the Blog Tour*
Winner of three gold medals for historical romance (Readers’ Favourite in 2019, Book Excellence Awards in 2020, Global Book Awards in 2022) and fourteen B.R.A.G. Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent.
She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the seven-book Rockliffe series (recommended in The Times newspaper!) and the Brandon Brothers trilogy, are all available in audio, narrated by Alex Wyndham.
Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord. She also has a fondness for men with long hair – hence her 17th and 18th century heroes.
I’m sharing a fabulous post by Glen Craney below regarding the mistakes historical novelists must be wary of making.
Exposing History’s Cracks of Logic
Historical novelists are always prospecting for untapped veins in the strata of the past. Some of the richest lodes can be found in the lapses of logic and analysis that even the most astute of historians are at times prone to commit. Perhaps the best compilation of such errors in judgment and interpretation is Historians’ Fallacies, a treatise published in 1970 by Brandeis University professor David Hackett Fischer.
Readers of history will remember Fischer from Albion’s Seed, his exploration of the impact British folkways had on American society, and Washington’s Crossing, a study of George Washington’s leadership of the Continental Army.
Fischer’s impressive overview of historiography should be kept close at hand on the bookshelf of every historical novelist. Most of the miscalculations he skewers—exemplified by excerpts from the writings of his colleagues, many of whom no doubt chafed at being called to task—apply with equal force to the writing of historical fiction.
The best known of these gaffes gave its name to Fischer’s book: the historian’s fallacy. This refers to the error of assuming that the great leaders and decision-makers of the past possessed the same facts and perspective as we do in hindsight.
Fischer offered as an exhibit the popular claim that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor should have been foreseen from the numerous warning signs. He cautions historians against the tendency of sifting away evidence that, at the time, might have clouded one’s judgment or even supported a contrary opinion.
Likewise, historical novelists must be on their guard against attributing to their characters more knowledge of events than is warranted. It is easy enough for us to chastise Robert E. Lee for ordering Pickett’s charge. The task of both the historian and novelist is to recreate the fog of war at Gettysburg with such verisimilitude that the reader will come to understand why such a decision was rational on July 3, 1863.
The American Civil War seems to have served as the subject for every fallacy condemned by Fischer. Another infamous example castigated by Fischer is the discovery by Union scouts of the cigar-wrapped copies of Lee’s orders for the Antietam campaign. Every war buff has encountered the contention that this fortuitous (for the Union) incident set into motion a series of cascading events that eventually turned the tide of the war. Fischer dismisses this as a product of the reductive fallacy, which boils a complex soup of causal ingredients down into a single, simplified explanation.
In discussing another error, the fallacy of division (arguing that a quality shared by some in a group is shared by all), Fischer offers a faulty syllogism for our dissection:
Most Calvinists were theological determinists Most New England Puritans were Calvinists. Therefore, most New England Puritans were theological determinists.
Fischer observed that then-recent scholarship suggested the Puritans were not determinists, at least not as was commonly assumed. Here one finds a gold nugget, one of many available for the taking by the writer who will persist in combing these fallacies: A novel set in Puritan New England with a main character who believes in free will.
In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown made great use of yet another error that comes under special opprobrium from Fischer: the furtive fallacy. This is the assumption that certain events and facts of “special significance” are “dark and dirty things and that history itself is a story of causes mostly insidious and results mostly invidious.”
Of course, some of the best historical fiction would have to be tossed onto Savonarola’s bonfire if a ban on this fallacy were strictly enforced. Fischer doesn’t argue that conspiracies have never taken place. His criticism goes to a more fundamental paranoia that, if left unchallenged, can metastasize into a societal epidemic that weakens the very foundations of institutions.
It begins with the premise that reality is a sordid, secret thing; and that history happens on the back stairs a little after midnight, or else in a smoke-filled room, or a perfumed boudoir, or an executive penthouse or somewhere in the inner sanctum of the Vatican or the Kremlin, or the Reich Chancellery, or the Pentagon. It is something more, and something other than merely a conspiracy theory, though that form of causal reduction is a common component.
The furtive fallacy is a more profound error, which combines a naïve epistemological assumption that things are never what they seem to be, with a firm attachment to the doctrine of original sin.
Still, Professor Robert Langdon might remind his colleague Dr. Fischer that just because one is paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.
The historical novelist is not only free but compelled to adopt and exploit these rich fallacies to spin out a good story—so long as he does so consciously.
Thank you for sharing:)
Here’s the blurb
Two armies. One flag. No honor.
The most shocking day in American history.
Former political journalist Glen Craney brings to life the little-known story of the Bonus March of 1932, which culminates in a bloody clash between homeless World War I veterans and U.S. Army regulars on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Mired in the Great Depression and on the brink of revolution, the nation holds its collective breath as a rail-riding hobo named Walter Waters leads 40,000 destitute men and their families to the steps of the U.S. Capitol on a desperate quest for economic justice.
This timely epic evokes the historical novels of Jeff Sharra as it sweeps across three decades following eight Americans who survive the fighting in France and come together fourteen years later to determine the fate of a country threatened by communism and fascism.
From the Boxer Rebellion in China to the Plain of West Point, from the persecution of conscientious objectors to the horrors of the Marne, from the Hoovervilles of the heartland to the pitiful Anacostia encampment, here is an unforgettable portrayal of the political intrigue and government betrayal that ignited the only violent conflict between two American armies.
“[A] wonderful source of historical fact wrapped in a compelling novel.” — Historical Novel Society Reviews
“[A] vivid picture of not only men being deprived of their veterans’ rights, but of their human rights as well.…Craney performs a valuable service by chronicling it in this admirable book.” — Military Writers Society of America
Glen Craney is an author, screenwriter, journalist, and lawyer. A graduate of Indiana University Law School and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he is the recipient of the Nicholl Fellowship Prize from the Academy of Motion Pictures and the Chaucer and Laramie First-Place Awards for historical fiction. He is also a four-time indieBRAG Medallion winner, a Military Writers Society of America Gold Medalist, a four-time Foreword Magazine Book-of-the-Year Award Finalist, and an Historical Novel Society Reviews Editor’s Choice honoree. He lives in Malibu and has served as the president of the Southern California Chapter of the HNS.
A Conspiracy of Kings was the book I wrote immediately before starting the stories of King Coelwulf, Mercia’s last king. If not for these two books, I’d never have wanted to write about Coelwulf, so I feel I owe this book a lot, and indeed, having just reread it, I can see a lot of details that resonate with me.
If you’ve not thought of reading these two books, then please do. I can assure you, my incarnation of Lady Ælfwynn is a bit bad ass. The new covers are also available in paperback.
These two books are part of my Tales of Mercia series of standalone stories charting the rise and fall of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia.
Check out my post on visiting Gloucester, where Lady Ælfwynn’s mother, Lady Æthelflæd, the lady of Mercia, was buried.
And if it’s before 24th February 2023, check out my other book birthday for this week, Son of Mercia, and enter the competition to win a signed set of the first three books in the series.
I’m so excited about the release today of King of Kings. This story, the first part in the retelling of the greatest battle on British soil that many have never heard of, Brunanburh, has been long in the making. Building on the original series, begun in 2014, King of Kings is entirely reworked, and it’s so much better:) (I honestly can’t believe how much better it is.)
Here’s the blurb
‘An epic tale of the birth of a nation. Truly mesmerising. Game of Thrones meets The Last Kingdom’ – Gordon Doherty
In the battle for power, there can be only one ruler.
Athelstan is the king of the English, uniting the petty kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, the Danish-held Five Boroughs and York following the sudden death of his father, King Edward.
His vision is to unite the realms of the Scots and the Welsh in a peace accord that will protect their borders from the marauding threat of the Norse Vikings.
Whilst seemingly craving peace and demanding loyalty with an imperium over every kingdom, Athelstan could dream of a much bigger prize.
But danger and betrayal surround his best intentions, namely from his overlooked stepbrother, Edwin, who conspires and vies for what he deems is his rightful place as England’s king.
As ever, powerful men who wish to rule do not wish to be ruled, and Constantin of the Scots, Owain of Strathclyde, and Ealdred of Bamburgh plot their revenge against the upstart English king, using any means necessary.
An epic story of kingsmanship that will set in motion the pivotal, bloody Battle of Brunanburh where allies have to be chosen wisely…
(available in ebook, paperback, hardback and audio, narrated by the wonderful Matt Coles).
King of Kings. with its five kingdoms, and one alliance, might need some explanation. To help my readers understand who everyone is, and importantly, where everyone is, King of Kings has a map and a genealogical table, as well as a cast of characters.
And because the family of King Alfred is so important to the story, I also have a genealogical table to share with my readers.
I’ve written some brief introductions for the main cast of characters.
And for those who are falling in love with the period as much as I am, I wanted to share some non-fiction recommendations, and cautions.
There is no one book that will adequately cover this period (that was one of the reasons that I fictionalised it) but these books (see photos below), along with Dr. Kari Maund’s The Welsh Kings, which I have in ebook, will give you a good grounding of events in Britain and Ireland. So, these are
Alfred’s Britain by Max Adams
Athelstan by Sarah Foot
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles ed and trans. Michael Swanton (other versions available – I like the formatting of this one -with the different recensions)
The Welsh Kings by Kari Maund
An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England by David Hill (don’t be put off by the fact this book is from the 1970s – it is invaluable)
From Pictland to Alba 789-1070 by Alex Woolf
Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland by Claire Downham
English Historical Documents ed and trans by Dorothy Whitelock
The Frankish Kingdom under the Carolingians by R McKitterick
Edward the Elder ed. Higham and Hill (not a narrative account, but historians writing papers about their area of interest and expertise).
There are also two very important online resources.
Today, I’m absolutely delighted to share a fabulous post from Anna Belfrage about dressing in the seventeenth century. It will make you giggle, I promise.
Dressing for success in the seventeenth century
In a A Rip in the Veil—the first book in The Graham Saga—the unfortunate (or not, depending how one sees it) Alex Lind has the misfortune of falling three centuries backwards in time to land at the feet of Matthew Graham. Matthew Graham is a devout Presbyterian who has fought in the Commonwealth armies in the Civil War. To Alex, he is initially very strange. Heck, the entire situation is strange: no, wait—it’s impossible!
Matthew is as taken aback as Alex is—perhaps even more, as the only explanation to her sudden appearance in his life must be magic. Or? Besides, what is the woman wearing? Those tight, tight breeches she calls ‘djeens” showcase her every curve, as do her other garments. No, had she been his woman, he’d never have allowed her to set a foot outside dressed like that, all of her exposed, like.
Alex quickly realises that in this new time she has to adapt. ASAP. And one of the first things she must embrace is an entire new wardrobe. “Yay me,” she mutters as she shakes out shift and petticoats and heavy skirts and bodice and. . .
I must admit that I wasn’t entirely thrilled when Alex landed in 1658. The seventeenth century is not my sartorial favourite – especially when it comes to male fashion.
This period dress thing is difficult.
First of all, as the writer of historical fiction it is important to understand what people wore, who wore what and how it was worn. In some cases it’s straightforward: stockings cover your feet and the nether part of your legs no matter if you live in the twentieth century or the fifteenth. But take that rather ugly male adornment that Henry VIII was so proud of flaunting – the codpiece – and I am somewhat stumped. How did it work? ( Okay, so I’ve looked this up; strings, buttons or hooks kept this decorative little (hmm) flap of fabric in place.)
Secondly, it helps if the writer in question finds the period attire alluring in some way or other. It’s difficult to write convincingly about handsome men in codpieces and padded breeches when all you see in your head is something resembling a man in a huge diaper.
Finally, there must be a familiarity with how people dress and undress. “He told her to turn around and zipped up her gown,” is not a good description of the intimacy between man and wife in the fourteenth century. (BTW, the modern zipper owes a lot to Swedish inventor Gideon Sundback. It’s nice to know us Swedes have contributed to human development: dynamite, zippers, gauge blocks, the AGA cooker.) Having exploring male fingers encountering panties in the sixteenth century is also something of an anachronism, and should the dashing regency rake pulls down his boxers you’re not reading historical fiction, you’re reading about a masquerade.
To avoid such gaffes, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the period and have accordingly done my fair share of staring at what few clothes survive from the seventeenth century—like James II’s elegant attire exhibited in the Victoria & Albert museum. Okay, so that is later in the century, but all that lace, all those embroideries, and that gigantic wig! Plus, the high heels on the shoes. . . Nope, not at all my cup of tea.
Earlier in the 1600s, men wore wide breeches, sashes, lace, ribbons—like these young and elegant Stuart brothers in Van Dyke’s portrait.
To the seventeenth century young girl, they were likely delectable. To Alex, not so much. She’d be hard put not to laugh her head off. So it is fortunate that when she first meets Matthew, he is in a ragged shirt and equally ragged breeches, fleeing from pursuing soldiers. It is also fortunate that Matthew would no more adorn himself with ribbons than he would dance attendance on the king—he is a man of Parliamentarian convictions. No, Matthew wears plain and well-made clothes, now and then adorned with a ruffled cuff or an elegant collar.
Obviously, Matthew expects this new female companion of his to dress sedately, which is how Alex finds herself obliged to re-learn just how to dress.
In the seventeenth century, there were no bras, no panties. Instead, the undergarment is a shapeless elongated linen shirt that comes to just below the knees. This shift is worn over stockings that come to just above the knee and are fastened by garters. “I can help you with those,” Matthew suggests, and there is a twinkle in his eyes as he helps Alex fasten the stockings with pink ribbons. Just because he doesn’t wear ribbons, it doesn’t mean she can’t, he says. In fact, he rather likes the fact that she is wearing them—and that he tied them into place. Over the shift—which also doubles as nightgown—Alex now dons a corset. “Ugh!” she groans as she tightens into place. The corset she has ties in front—only people who can afford a ladies maid have corsets that tie in the back. She has to struggle a bit to get it to sit right, and then there are the petticoats, tied into place at her waist and falling to mid-calf. Only the very, very rich have garments that fall all the way to the floor. Most women have skirts high enough to allow them to work and walk without dragging the hem in the dirt.
“Here.” Matthew hands her the heavy skirts. And yes, they are heavy, making it hard to, for example, run. Or jump a fence. Once Alex has stepped into them, he helps her tighten them into place. A bodice, a shawl to cover what may remain exposed of her chest and then Matthew holds out a cap. “No way!” She backs away, staring at the embroidered linen coif. “You must cover your hair,” he says. She refuses. There is a slight. . . er . . . argument. Things end in a compromise: she will not cover her hair indoors, but otherwise she will either wear a coif or a hat. Matthew would prefer both, but he is pragmatic enough to realise this isn’t a battle he will win. Besides, Alex is having to handle a lot of change as it is. “Tell me about it,” she mutters. She isn’t overly impressed with the food. Or the lack of chocolate. Or of tea. “I thought they had tea in the seventeenth century,” she groans. “They do,” I tell her, “but it is very, very expensive.” “Oh.” She gnaws her lip, her shoulders slumping. Which is probably why Matthew expends a ridiculous amount on a ridiculous small quantity of tea next time he goes to Edinburgh, pleased by the way she lights up from within when he hands the precious package over.
Over time, Alex will become accustomed to her new clothes, even if she will quite often think longingly of jeans and sweatshirts, of Converse and shop-bought socks. (She hates to knit)
But while she adapts to her new life on the outside, she remains a woman of modern conviction and outlook, which will now and then cause her quite some problems in her new time. It is fortunate that she has Matthew to guide her. On the other hand, there will be countless of occasions when Matthew will owe his life and sanity to her, the strange lass he found concussed and burned on an empty Scottish moor. Two halves made whole are my Alex and Matthew, no matter such details as sartorial arguments!
Thank you so much for such a fabulous post. I just can’t imagine all the lace:)
Here’s the blurb
On a muggy August day in 2002 Alex Lind disappears. On an equally stifling August day in 1658, Matthew Graham finds her on a Scottish moor. Life will never be the same for Alex – or for Matthew.
Alexandra Lind is thrown three centuries backwards in time to land at the feet of escaped convict Matthew Graham.
Matthew doesn’t know what to make of this strange woman who has seemingly fallen from the skies—what is she, a witch?
Alex is convinced the tall, gaunt man is some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises the odd one out is she, not he.
Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her new existence, further complicated by the dawning realization that someone from her time has followed her here—and not exactly to extend a helping hand.
Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew, a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own and on occasion his past threatens them both. At times Alex finds it all excessively exciting, longing for the structured life she used to have.
How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she really want to?
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.
Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.
Her Castilian Heart is the third in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain. This latest release finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain!
All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.
Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com
Freckles, well-earned from working long days in the sun, sprinkled the bridge of the nose and spilled over onto the cheeks of the face of the farm girl, Yan Li.
A badge of honor in her home region, the freckles were looked on as a relic of the agrarian past in certain sectors of modern China. The New China. Industrial China.
“Don’t do this!” whispered Ming Jun, seated beside her. “The bridge bombing has everyone on edge. What if they –”
“Someone has to say something.”
Yan Li’s eyes were clear, her jaw firm, her expression determined. She straightened the barrette holding her hair back.
Yan Li stood up.
“Sit down!” hissed Ming Jun,
“These mathematics are wrong! All wrong!”
Yan Li announced this to the room full of working clerks and book-keeps on the expansive counting floor of Building Two.
Her voice was too loud to be ignored.
Faces turned towards her.
“It’s all bad,” she continued. “Completely phony. The assumptions are fabricated. You know this!”
The calm murmur of adding and multiplying, of calculations and quiet consultations, of pens scratching on paper, the soft clanking of typewriters in the half-walled stations which ringed the floor of low desks offices – all sounds on the counting floor subsided.
“A thousand times ridiculous is still ridiculous. I can’t be the only one who thinks so.”
Two of the red-kerchiefed floor proctors hustled towards Ya Li. After all, she was disrupting the entire society’s forward progress.
“Sit back down, farm girl,” commented one of her tallying peers. But the lone jibe froze in the air. None others joined.
“Look,” said Yan Li evenly. “If anyone believes these so-called forecasts we are producing … well then, their deaths will be on our heads, comrades. It will be our fault if we do not speak up”
By now, even the soft plucking of stringed instruments in the background had fallen silent.
“We-cannot-possibly-endorse-this-charade!” concluded Yan Li.
“It’s the millet,” called out a second fellow scribe, a boy near the middle. “The winter wheat numbers are higher –”
“A FACTOR of FOUR higher?” demanded Yan Li. “The families who sit and wait for those phantom grains will be sorely disappointed, my friend. Empty bowls! They will starve and it will be horrible — ”
“Her work has been strenuous, Shi’lang,” implored Ming Jun to the first proctor, “the hours long. Just let her sit back down.”
“All right,” said the proctor Shi’lang, a handsome older boy dressed in white with a red kerchief around his neck. “That’s quite enough!”
“Who will join me in a new and honest set of calculations?” demanded Yan Li.
A loud knock on the glass walls.
A trio of the skinny soldiers, buck-toothed boys in green suits, rifles slung over shoulders, had paused in their campus patrol. Were they needed, to restore order?
Shi’lang waved them away.
Shi’lang draped an arm around Yan Li’s shoulder and laughed in a most friendly fashion.
“Ah! Yes! Now I see the error you mention, Yan Li. I had noticed it, too. You are a prankster! Charming.” He chuckled.
A little bell was ringing. It emanated from the corner office, raised above the counting floor. The Supervisor’s office.
A second floor-proctor joined Shi’lang and together they ushered Yan Li off the floor.
“‘Charade,’” laughed handsome Shi’lang, shaking his head wryly.
The members of the counting floor disliked this show of force.
Rumblings started up in the back rows …
Across the big open room, another red-bandana youth clapped his hands.
“Back to work, please.”
The morning fruit and cheese platters were quickly circulated, an hour earlier than usual.
The soft plucking of lutes rose once again.
Gradually, unevenly, the Chairman’s work continued.
2. IN THE OFFICE OF THE SUPERVISOR
By the end of the first millennium A.D., China
possessed a sophistication in the technology
of traditional agriculture that has never been surpassed …
the basic contours of this spectacular agricultural system
were laid during the Classical period.
– Agriculture in Ancient China
The Chairman’s summer villa compound in Mei Ling is most pleasant.
Dappled sunlight graces the secluded retreat, a well-manicured place most conducive to quiet contemplation and deep thoughts. Burbling streams and winding paths run through the sylvan grounds of the lakeshore campus. Mountain goats roam the cliffs and munch on grass at the forested margins. Staircases and antique cable cars bring visitors down the sharp inclines leading to Lake Wuhan at the compound’s western edge. Deer stoop to drink from still ponds by Building Four.
Red drapes frame tableaus of blond furniture and upholstered chairs of the lobbies within the glass walls of Building Three. An assembly hall could be glimpsed beyond the plum carpeting.
Among the tall pine and bamboo trees, the young soldiers with their guard dogs walked the paths winding up to bulky Building One. A swimming pool was hidden behind its tinted windows. Building Two, where the agricultural forecasts in support of the coming Great Leap Forward – the bold initiative which would establish and a new China — were taking place, where Yan Li had created such a commotion, was lower and sleeker.
* * *
The star-splashed freckles sprinkled across Yan Li’s nose and cheeks stood out now. Her blood was rising, and the skin of her face was flushed with anger.
The Supervisor, Miss Wang Na, paced the striped rug of the corner office. She paused to look out over the clerks working on their calculations o forecast the coming harvests.
Yan Li stood, defiant. Her hands had been tied.
Cushions in primary colors decorated the white sofas in the glass-walled office. Ivory rugs offset a row of wood-paneled bookshelves behind the large desk.
“We have summoned the Director,” said Miss Wang Na.
“He left for Xinhua an hour ago, but we can get him back.”
She paced behind metal standing lamps.
“Summon Empress Lu Zhi and the Seven Hoardes of Han for all I care,” commented Yan Li.
“This is most serious,” said Shi’lang
Miss Wang Na paused to consider the lake.
The glass corner office was perched on and above sparkling blue Lake Wuhan’s shoreline. Splashing paddle-boats and brightly colored lanterns strung along the lakeside walkways gave no hint as to what might lay beneath the deep waters’ surface.
Miss Wang Na turned, cursing bitterly.
“First the bombing! Then the Yunhe rebels attack our supply lines. Now this! Treason from within!”
“You’re the traitor!” spat Yan Li. “You are complicit in what will be a famine of colossal proportions! Death by starvation. In the millions — ”
“Why are you trying to make me look bad, farm girl?” demanded Miss Wang Na.
“To save tens of thousands of lives,” answered Yan Li.
“The Director will be presenting our tables to the Bureau, in Beijing, in less than a week. If the net present values do not align — ”
“Oh, that part is easy enough,” refuted the girl. “The net present value of next year’s famine is ‘Famine.’ Also known as ‘Zero.’”
“Yes, well, your barn-yard stubbornness, your backward ways, your slavery to tradition, your LACK of VISION are exactly what the Chairman fears most. I was present during his address at the Beijing Palace, and he predicted that these epochal events woul — ”
“Setting bad mathematics in historical context doesn’t change anything,” said Yan Li.
“Reactionary.” Shi’lang shook his head. “Confucian.”
“’Confucian’? It’s not Confucian. The calculations need to be exact. Based on reality. It all must beintentional. Not some empty exercise. If the numbers are compromised even slightly, it’s all worthless. No forecast. How can you not see that?”
“Oh, I see,” said the Supervisor, Miss Wang Na.
“I see, all right.”
“What’s this? Eh?” asked the Supervisor sharply.
She pointed to the equation at the top of one of Yan Li’s pages.
“What is the meaning of this formula?”
Yield in t/ha = (220 × 24 × 3.4) / 10,000 = 1.79
“It’s not a formula,” answered Yan Li, shaking her head. “It’s an equation.
“It shows the crop yield in any given harvest. Every forecaster follows this same model.”
“And why is it incomplete?” demanded the Supervisor.
“It’s waiting for a proper numerator. What you gave me is garbage. Worse than garbage.”
Shi’lang moved as if to strike her. Miss Wang Na stepped between them.
“Let X equal X,” challenged Yan Li, stepping forward —
Here’s the blurb
Young adult fiction featuring gambling, bandits, swordplay, probability and Bayes’ Theorem. An English teacher hopes to engage students with colorful STEM adventures.
“In this outstanding collection, Tom addresses the chronic problem of our young women dropping out of STEM studies. His stories lend adventure to scientific thinking.”
Tom Durwoodis a teacher, writer and editor with an interest in history. Tom most recently taught English Composition and Empire and Literature at Valley Forge Military College, where he won the Teacher of the Year Award five times. Tom has taught Public Speaking and Basic Communications as guest lecturer for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group at the Dam’s Neck Annex of the Naval War College.
Tom’s ebook Empire and Literature matches global works of film and fiction to specific quadrants of empire, finding surprising parallels. Literature, film, art and architecture are viewed against the rise and fall of empire. In a foreword to Empire and Literature, postcolonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty of the University of Chicago calls it “imaginative and innovative.” Prof. Chakrabarty writes that “Durwood has given us a thought-provoking introduction to the humanities.” His subsequent book “Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism” has been well-reviewed. “My favorite nonfiction book of the year,” writes The Literary Apothecary (Goodreads).
Early reader response to Tom’s historical fiction adventures has been promising. “A true pleasure … the richness of the layers of Tom’s novel is compelling,” writes Fatima Sharrafedine in her foreword to “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter.” The Midwest Book Review calls that same adventure “uniformly gripping and educational … pairing action and adventure with social issues.” Adds Prairie Review, “A deeply intriguing, ambitious historical fiction series.”
Tom briefly ran his own children’s book imprint, Calico Books (Contemporary Books, Chicago). Tom’s newspaper column “Shelter” appeared in the North County Times for seven years. Tom earned a Masters in English Literature in San Diego, where he also served as Executive Director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity.
Two of Tom’s books, “Kid Lit” and “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter,” were selected “Best of the New” by Julie Sara Porter’s Bookworm Book Alert
I’m delighted to welcome Jessie Mills to the blog, with an extract from her novel, Rosalind: DNA’s Invisible Woman
Extract from ROSALIND: DNA’s INVISIBLE WOMAN, Part I, chapter 1 (Exodus | Shemot)
Norway, August 1939
As I stand in line with the other passengers, a dour-faced policeman snatches my passport from my hands. He looks up to examine me from beneath a deeply etched brow.
‘English?’ he asks.
His menacing eyes follow me as I walk past him and up the steps to board the ocean liner. The port town of Bergen is dotted with wooden houses in vivid hues of red and yellow. It is a different sight from the sleepy fishing village on our inbound journey when the Sheriff’s office was closed. I wished then that we could have flown from Gressholmen Airport, in one of the new metallic Imperial Airways planes. They were as big and shiny as the Zeppelins on the banners in Paris. But Father insisted that we couldn’t get the family Austin on one.
On our return, queues into the port stretch for several miles. The jetty is crawling with uniformed police in visor caps, which shield their faces from the stark Norwegian sun. The police are checking passengers’ papers before boarding the boat.
The ship has cast a deep and foreboding shadow over the steps.
As my feet navigate each rung, the iron staircase creaks and yawns. The structure is gnawing at the bolts on the side of the ship.
The staircase sways in unison with the waves as they lap with force against the steel stern. My feet move in time with the structure, back and forth like a pendulum. I vault two steps at a time, levering my body from every other step until the sun’s rays warm the cloth on my back.
Standing on the ship’s bow, I long to stay there forever. The last of August’s sun is twinkling softly on the water’s peaks. The waves are undulating gently against the hull as the boat crosses the water.
The journey out of the port is smooth. With each ripple and swell of the water, my mind drifts, first to home and then to college. I am due to return to Cambridge in less than a month. Suddenly, a thought grips me. At first, it is fleeting, but the more I try to suppress it, the harder it resurfaces, with agonising intensity. I may never return.
Seconds later, a pummelling sensation rams my stomach. The ship swings to one side, and the rail jolts against my ribs.
‘Navy ships?’ my mother asks.
A Cimmerian mist quickly settles on the water’s surface. Through the haze, a large vessel is visible.
My father’s response is inaudible.
As we descend the poorly lit stairwell at the side of the ship, a tide of panic sweeps over me. My parents and brothers spend the rest of the journey in silence.
Perhaps it is selfish to want the bourgeois life of a scientist, a gentleman’s profession. I like Maths too, as well as Chemistry. Yet while the rest of the world is upended by ideology, science is the last bastion deserving of my faith. From the tiniest molecule to the whole of the universe, science pervades every inch. It is the only language we have to make sense of it.
When you lose everything you ever knew to be true, all you can do is drive forwards to keep the ghosts at bay. Our family holiday to Norway began much like our trip two years before. There were few signs of what would transpire, or how it would change the course of our lives. Sometimes it only takes one event, one meeting, one person, or one kiss, for a life to change forever. That August was to be one of those events.
Here’s the blurb
‘A luminous, pin-sharp portrait of a true trailblazer. Mills’s writing simply glows.’ Zoë Howe, Author, Artist and RLF Writing Fellow at Newnham College, University of Cambridge
Rosalind: DNA’s Invisible Woman tells the true story of the woman who discovered the structure of DNA, whose work was co-opted by three men who won a Nobel prize for the discovery.
Her story is one of hope, perseverance, love and betrayal.
Driven by her faith in science, Rosalind Franklin persisted with her education in the face of formidable obstacles, including the de-reservation of women from war science.
In Norway at the start of World War II, her place at Cambridge’s first women’s college was thrown into jeopardy.
A decade later, she fled Paris upon the news that the research director at the State Chemicals Lab was having an affair. They continued to write to each other in secret.
Rosalind knew when embarking on science, a gentleman’s profession, that the odds would be stacked against a woman’s success. But she did not foresee that her pay would later be cut on account of her age and gender, that she would be burned by the plagiarism rife among her male contemporaries or face her own battle with cancer.
When she took a research post at King’s College London, the head of the physics department switched her subject to DNA at the last minute.
She was tasked with discovering its structure using X-ray crystallography. Could she become the first scientist to map the DNA molecule and would the discovery ultimately be worth it?
When two researchers at Cambridge University, her alma mater, built a three-chain model of DNA weeks after seeing her lecture, she knew that it was wrong.
Scientists at each of the three labs competing in the race to find DNA’s structure had guessed that the molecule had three chains. Her evidence proved them wrong. But would anybody listen?
This is the story of DNA that you won’t find in the history books…
The woman behind science’s greatest discovery has been variously referred to as ‘an obsessive woman’, ‘difficult’, and ‘the dark lady of DNA’. Why was she called these names, and were they justified?
Written by journalist and former Wall Street Journal (PRO) editor Jessica Mills Davies, following nearly three years of intensive archival research, the novel aims to give Rosalind Franklin a voice for the first time in history. Her story is the most well-documented account of ‘the Matilda effect’ and its corollary ‘the Matthew Effect’, whereby women’s contributions to science and other professions are often ignored or misappropriated.
The Exeter Novel Prize-longlisted novel is peppered with copies of original correspondence between her and her contemporaries, illustrating how three men got away with the biggest heist in scientific history.
Jessica is a journalist and author. She has written for publications such as The Independent, The Wall Street Journal and Business Insider, where she investigated the use of flammable cladding in hospital intensive care units in 2020.
Before that she was a member of the steering committee for Women at Dow Jones, where she spent several years as an editor and led the team that uncovered the misuse of funds at Abraaj.
Her debut novel tells the true story of Rosalind Franklin, the invisible woman behind the discovery of DNA’s double helix. It was longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize 2020.
Award-winner, The White Sails Series, where icy winter storms, opportunistic mercenaries, uncharted lands, and a colourful crew of sailors are all lashed together by an epic love story.
This collector’s edition includes all four books in the series.
The White Sails Series: Special Hardback Omnibus
If Bridgerton and Pirates of the Caribbean had a love child.
Are you a fan of sweeping romantic adventures?
Do you fall for tall, brooding Naval Officers?
Love a feisty female lead who makes you yell aloud?
Then hop aboard Emma Lombard’s hardback Collector’s Edition of The White Sails Series, and batten down the hatches!
Well, firstly, let me tell you what my Kickstarter campaign isn’t. It isn’t a plea for donations, it’s not a beg for money, and it’s not just another retailer.
Okay, so what is it then?
Kickstarter is a wonderful way for me to give more to my fans.
It allows fans access to a special collector’s edition that is not (and will never be) available from online retailers.
It allows fans to have each and every copy personalised, which is just not doable on retailers.
It also allows fans a more intimate view of the story behind my series.
And best of all, it allows fans to get involved in my next series, whether through an exclusive sneak peek of the first draft or even having a character named after them.
Oh, and did I mention there’s an opportunity to win the original oil painting of the cover?
Where else in the world do you get all this extra cool stuff thrown in just because you bought a book?
What’s in it for you, Emma?
Without wanting to sound too cheesy, I’m beside myself to put such a pretty book out in the world. I’m mean, just look at that dreamy sunset! I’m not going to lie, I love a chunky book.
This collector’s edition fulfils my ultimate author dream—to be able to hold (and smell) a weighty tome. I’m not the only one—I’ve had folks walk up to my books at the market and pick them up just to smell them! My kind of peeps!
I know it’s taboo to talk about money, but the pledges received for this campaign will help me recoup some of the upfront expenses that I have already laid out, like editing, book cover design, audiobook narration, and it will give me the momentum I need to invest in those same services for my next series, The Gold Hills Series.
You’ll be helping keep the indie publishing ecosphere turning, which in turn lets me keep creating more stories.
So, what’s The White Sails Series about?
One of my readers described it best: If Bridgerton and Pirates of the Caribbean had a love child.
The idea for this series was born from a tiny nugget of family gossip that my grandmother shared with me. She told me how my 3x great grandmother left her well-to-do family in England to elope with an English sea captain, and live aboard his ship with him.
I took the basic concept of this story and had a blast creating an entirely fictitious imagining of what it might have been like for a woman to live aboard a ship in those days. Quite ironic considering that I get terribly sea-sick myself.
Curious? Never seen what a Kickstarter campaign looks like?
Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick.