Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cover Reveal for The Fury of Dragons

The new cover for my 2nd ancient historical, The Fury of Dragons, being published soon. Designed by the amazing Diane Turpin.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I Found My Book Cover Photo! Wayne Brittle Photography

I've decided to go ahead and self-publish my 2nd ancient historical novel, the Fury of Dragons!

It continues the story of Eleri from A Secret Hope, who was abducted by British pirates on the day of her baptism and taken from Ireland to Britannia.

Some of the story takes place in Luguvalium, now modern-day Carlisle in Cumbria, England. Luguvalium was a British fort on Hadrian's' Wall.

The wall was built by Emperor Hadrian (naturally) about 122 AD, across the "waist" of what is now Scotland and England, to mark the northernmost border of the Roman Empire.

Almost 2000 years later, much of the wall still stands. I visited it a few years ago doing research for the book, and for an ancient history buff like me, it was a fascinating trip.

So I searched through hundreds of photos of the wall for my book cover. I was ready to give up until I stumbled across this amazing photo above, named Hadrian's Wall at sunset. I corresponded with the photographer, Wayne Brittle, who has kindly agreed to allow me to use the photo for a small fee.

Wayne roams all over England, Scotland, Italy and other places doing his thing, with almost other-worldly results. His photos have been featured in magazines, calendars, brochures, and books. He has had articles published in the most highly respected photography magazine in the UK. He teaches classes for aspiring photographers and sometimes even takes them out before the crack of dawn to get those great photos! So I'm humbled and thankful to be able to use this image from a world famous photographer like Wayne.

Please check out his Facebook page: Wayne Brittle Photography and his website: Wayne Brittle for some awe inspiring photos.

Wayne, I can't thank you enough for this awesome photo. It perfectly captures the mystery and drama of this ancient place. I love it so much I decided to put it at the top of my blog.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Incubator Babies of Coney Island

All the World Loves a Baby!

That was one of the signs that hung above the Baby Incubator attraction at Coney Island. In my pandemic flu novel I have several scenes that take place at that fabled amusement park.

Coney Island specialized in the bizarre and unusual, with sideshows and attractions that today would be considered racist, barbaric, humiliating, and unacceptable to many people. But one of the most unusual and well-loved attractions, little known today, was the Incubator Babies.

In the early part of the 20th Century, babies born at home too early, what we now call preemies, almost always died. The medical specialty of Neonatology was nonexistent then. A French obstetrician, observing the "poultry warmers' used for baby chicks, theorized that the same thing could be done for preemies. But in America, there were no hospitals yet willing to undertake this venture.

Dr. Martin Couney

Until Martin Couney came along. Couney, a protege of another French doctor who perfected the use of the glass and steel boxes, asked Couney to accompany him to the Berlin's World Fair in 1896 to oversee a small group of incubator babies. It was overwhelmingly successful and from there, Couney traveled around the world with the babies to Expositions and World Fairs. At the end of the tour, he decided to settle at Coney Island.

The Baby Incubator acted as a small hospital. It was kept scrupulously clean. The nurses, always dressed in starched white uniforms and caps, came from accredited schools all over the country, and received specialized training to care for the infants. The parents of these preemies were never charged a penny. The admission fee to enter covered all the costs of care, equipment, and staff. The spectators were kept behind an iron guardrail, which you can see in the photo above.

For 40 years, his life's work, Dr. Couney ran the baby incubators. It's estimated, that out of approximately 8,000 preemies who were rushed to his facility, about 6,500 were saved. Some of the incubator babies returned to visit Dr. Couney with their own children.

By 1939, American medicine finally caught up, and preemies began to be treated in hospital settings. In 1943, Dr. Couney closed his little hospital at Coney Island. 

Dr. Couney singlehandedly changed the face of preemie care in America. In 1983, 40 years after he closed the show at Coney Island, I gave birth to twin boys at 33 weeks, and they, too, spent time in those "incubators." Thank you, Dr. Couney, for all your hard work!

Dr. Martin Couney

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Win A Copy of The Battlefield Bride!

My character, Kate Wilkes, in my Civil War novella, The Battlefield Bride, isn't quite as sedate as the nurse in the photo above. And she sure didn't sit much, either. She was definitely a fun character to research and write. Most of those Civil War nurses were no-nonsense ladies! I guarantee you will love Kate if you like feisty characters.

To win a copy of The Battlefield Bride, along with stories from eight other talented authors, subscribe to my blog and leave a comment. Share the blog post with another friend who loves to read for additional points.

Winner to be drawn next Thursday. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 11, 2016

One Word For The 1918 Pandemic Flu - Horrifying

I've been immersed in 1918 for about a year now, working on a novel about the Pandemic Flu.

The pandemic flu of 1918-1919 killed more people worldwide than the Great War, WWI. Estimates vary, but it's believed about 100 million people died of this virulent plague, and very possibly even more than that because many deaths went unreported.

An influenza epidemic usually results in higher mortality at the beginning and end of the age spectrum: infants and small children, and the elderly. This flu was different and completely unexpected as most of the fatalities were in the 20 to 40 years of age group.

People in their prime of life.

If you go back into your own family history it's quite possible you have an ancestor who died in this pandemic. Or if you happen to be in an old cemetery and see many deaths in the same family in 1918, again, it's quite likely the flu killed them.

The scary thing about the Pandemic Flu is that it will happen again.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Courageous Brides Collection Releasing July 1!

The nine authors of The Courageous Brides Collection are hosting a giveaway to celebrate the release of their new novella collection. The contest will offer several ways to enter the contest. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 21, 2016


Isn't she gorgeous?

I was searching for some 19th century photographs today, to use as a model for my character Gracie Grantham, lost love of Henry Lindenmayer. Here is a little blurb, from my work in progress:

Henry Lindenmayer was always something of a flirt, but Gracie Grantham loved that about him.

Until the evening of their engagement party.

Wallace Granville, who wanted Gracie for himself, secretly arranged for her to see Henry with another woman, which confirmed the vicious rumor he had already circulated about Henry.  Gracie broke her engagement with Henry without telling him why, and sailed out of his life for a Grand Tour of Europe with her parents. Confused and heartbroken, Henry retreated to his estate at Wasahana and never married. 

That could be the face that launched a thousand ships. I love the mysterious depths of her eyes. Doing things like this today is the fun part!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Giveaway! The Seafaring Women of the Vera B.

The Seafaring Women of the Vera B. is a novel just released by my good writing pal and mentor Susan Page Davis, and her son, James S. Davis.

Susan is a multi-published author whose historical novels have won the Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction.

First, what’s this book all about?

Susan: It’s set in 1854. Here’s our back cover blurb:

With the captain dead in Melbourne, Australia, Alice Packard thinks the worst has happened, until she learns the crew has deserted her husband’s ship in favor of the goldfields. Only one old man, Gypsy Deak, sticks by her, but Gypsy alone can’t raise a crew from the depleted population. In desperation, Alice turns to the only source of plentiful workers: the women of Melbourne. In a bold move, she and Gypsy empty a brothel, promising the escaped women a new life. Her all-woman (save one) crew put their backs and hearts into the voyage, but Alice finds training her sailors much harder than she expected. Her faith is tested to the limit. With a cargo to sell, angry brothel and tavern owners in pursuit, pirates to evade, and a mysterious stowaway, will the seafaring women of the Vera B. survive to tell the tale of this daring adventure?

What inspired the idea for The Seafaring Women of the Vera B.?

Susan: I had read about Abby Pennell, whose husband was a ship captain and died in Rio de Janeiro. She took the ship home. Of course, she had the original crew to do most of the work, but I wondered, what if the crew had deserted her? I found the perfect situation: During the Australia gold rush, dozens of ships sat idle in their harbors while the crews flocked to the goldfields. What better place to strand a decent women with few resources? Since my son had spent time in Australia, he seemed like the ideal writing partner for this book.

Jim: One major crisis that our characters faced was the specter of teaching an entire crew of women how to sail the Vera B in just a few short days. Only four of the crew of twenty or so people really had any inkling what to do, and the others had to come up to speed very rapidly. Some may well question whether a crew of women would have the physical strength and agility to "man" a sailing vessel, but in modern times women do participate in sailing ship operation.

Susan: With enough women assigned to each task, they could do this work, especially if they knew their lives depended on it. The first obstacle was getting them away from their employers, who treated them more like slaves than free women. The first part of the story involves the decision to do this, and then the harrowing process of freeing the women who had been living in a bordello.

Jim: In 1854, there was a large stigma attached to women doing men's work. Once aboard the Vera B., our characters had to overcome not only their inexperience and physical weakness, but also their preconceived ideas of what was possible or acceptable for women to do.

They had a few days inside Port Phillip Bay to "learn the ropes" and gain the skills necessary to bear the toil of the ship. Some of the girls struggle with a fear of heights, some with weakness, and some with the concepts of authority, subordination, and tolerance for people they dislike or disagree with. Practically everyone on board struggles with internal wounds from their past, and uncertainty of their future. Can Captain Alice hold everything together?

Susan: Writing this book was a challenge. We decided that Alice needed one loyal man to help her train the women, since she had not actively taken part in operating the sails before. She does know how to navigate, however—something her husband had taught her on their voyages. With Gypsy’s help, along with that of a couple of women who have sailing skills, they are able to teach the new crew the rudiments of sailing before the man who owned the brothel discovers their plans.

Jim: An elderly sailor with a chronic limp, Gypsy is catapulted out of his comfort zone into what seems like a dangerous and humiliating circus act. Only his fierce devotion to Alice and her late husband keeps him from jumping ship himself.

Susan: Another problem the women encounter is wardrobe. Before they can practice sailing around the large harbor, Alice realizes they will have to dress like men to avoid being noticed by sailors on the many ships lying at anchor. Long hair must either be cut or hidden beneath caps. Some of her deserting male crew left clothing behind, and these are quickly altered for the women.

The rest must make over their skirts into loose trousers or stitch new clothes from the fabric in the cargo hold. Several of the women have sewing skills. This takes time that could have been spent in training, but when the moment comes when they must flee the harbor or be captured and forced to resume their old lives, the women are ready to risk everything.

Jim: This book is a story of people who learn that "you can do anything you must do." The incredible challenges they face will make them or break them. Humanly speaking, the odds are impossible. It's just a good thing Alice knows where to find the true source of strength.
How many novels are you planning for this series?

Susan: Right now we are working on Book 2 of the Hearts of Oak series. We plan to do at least three. We would like to do several more, and we’ll see how that goes.

Giveaway: We’re offering either an e-book or a paperback copy of The Seafaring Women of the Vera B!

Sign up for the blog or leave a comment and next week one fortunate reader will be receive a free copy of The Seafaring Women of the Vera. B!

Susan Page Davis
Jim Davis

 To find this book as a paperback: The Seafaring Women of the Vera B.
For Kindle

For Nook

Visit Susan and Jim:
Website: www.susanpagedavis.com
Twitter: @SusanPageDavis
Susan’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susanpagedavisauthor
Jim’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorJamesSDavis/?fref=ts

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fascinating Gravestones

It's been a while since I've posted any unusual gravestones, but as some you know, exploring old cemeteries is one of my favorite things to do. I grew up in Buffalo, NY, where there is a famous cemetery called Forest Lawn. My sister Bernadine and I spent afternoons exploring it, especially the section we dubbed "Mausoleum Row."

Enjoy the following photographs.

Bellefontaine Cemetery and the spooky figure that overlooks the tomb and family plot of the David R. Francis family.

Can't remember where this gravestone is but it is so unique, with the child "penetrating the thin veil" between this life and the next.

The statue of C.S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in East Belfast, Northern Ireland

A small primer on decoding symbols in old cemeteries.

In Pere Le Chaise cemetery, France.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fascinating Ancient Textiles

I came upon this amazing article while doing research for my pandemic flu novel. As you will see, ancient textiles are few and far between and here are the top ten finds.

All are fascinating, but I think Egtved girl, shown above in her hollowed log coffin, and the pleated Egyptian tunic are my favorites. About as close as you can come to time travel!