Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Brandon - Tudor Knight

Those of you who admire Charles Brandon will love this new release from Tony Riches! Learn more about the courageous knight who was the best friend of King Henry VIII and dared to marry his sister, Princess Mary.

~ Samantha


New Release announcement from Tony Riches

From the author of the international bestselling Tudor Trilogy comes a true story of adventure, courtly love and chivalric loyalty.

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

Available now on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony was a finalist in the 2017 Amazon Storyteller Awards and is listed 130th in the 2018 Top 200 list of the Most Influential Authors. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

Monday, December 10, 2018

Tudor Reformation

When Henry VIII wrote his Defense of the Seven Sacraments in opposition to Martin Luther, he probably would have balked at the idea that the reformation would take root in England through his own actions. While Luther was a voice calling for an end of corruption in the Catholic Church, Henry split with Rome for reasons that were much more personal but no less far reaching. One wonders if Henry could possibly envision his quarrel with the pope resulting in England becoming a Protestant nation under his children.

Henry VIII took his place on both sides of Reformation history. His essay disputing Martin Luther earned him the title Defender of the Faith. However, his 1534 Act of Supremacy made the king's word the highest in the land on matters of religion, cutting the pope out of the picture. Henry's Church of England was Catholicism without the pope. It was his insatiable need for authority that drove Henry's move toward Protestantism. Little did he know that the movement would carry on further than he ever intended after his death.

Edward VI became king at the age of nine and became a staunch Protestant. During his reign, Catholic mass was banned and a new Book of Common Prayer was written for Church of England worship. Priests were allowed to marry, while their vestments and churches were stripped of their elaborate splendor. Masses for the dead were no longer said, and veneration of saints was discouraged. Although these were significant changes, some reformers said Edward did not take them far enough. They wanted to see full Lutheranism or Calvinism adopted, while others held tight to their ancestral Catholicism. Edward did not live long enough to see an end to these issues. When he died at age fifteen, his older - and very Catholic - sister became queen.

Queen Mary I quickly and decisively thwarted plans to make her Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, queen in her place. Mary had the support of the people and immediately began reverting the country to Catholic worship. Relations with Rome were reinstated, and Edward's reforms were reversed. While some of Mary's subjects welcomed this counter-reformation, others pushed back. In the 16th century, monarchs were still determining how to cope with competing religions, and the idea that Protestantism and Catholicism could reside side-by-side was unthinkable, so Mary pressed on with her 'true faith' through sermons designed to teach about Catholicism, a return to traditional mass, and, eventually, the burning of Protestant leaders for heresy. In 1558, Mary died, leaving her work undone and her crown to her Protestant sister.

Elizabeth I proved a better politician than either of her siblings. She returned the country to Protestantism while claiming that she would not make religious decisions for her subjects. Instead of burning for heresy, Catholic priests were hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason. Since Elizabeth's reign was much longer than Edward's or Mary's, she is better remembered for other historical events and aspects of her reign. The focus on religion that Edward and Mary are known for was purposely downplayed by Elizabeth. Although she is the one less identified by her religious beliefs, Queen Elizabeth secured England's place in history as a Protestant country.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Shakespeare: Playwright or Plagiarist?

My guest today has written a novel about some intriguing and controversial questions. Was the famous Bard nothing but an ambitious actor and plagiarist? Is Christopher Marlowe the writer who deserves to be a household name centuries later? Novelist DK Marley provides one possible answer to these questions in her new book, Blood and Ink. Learn more about it in the interview below.

~ Samantha


So much has been written about Shakespeare. How is your novel different?

Yes, there are many novels on Shakespeare, expounding the continued belief that he wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to him, but this novel gives wing to the possibility of someone else being the writer.

Would you say this novel is of historical importance?

I would rather say it is of historical interest. I am not a historian. Even though I love doing research for my novels, my passion is fiction and a story like this that is rich with intrigue and theories, well, it is the stuff historical fiction writers dream about. Both characters, William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, have a world full of questions surrounding them. There are endless avenues any writer can traverse when it comes to these two men.

What made you want to write about Marlowe and Shakespeare?

The first time I visited England in 1997, I took a tour of the Globe Theater and there in the museum was a wall dedicated to the five other men who may have written the plays, a thought I had never imagined before. To this day, I truly don't know why Marlowe stood out to me, but I took out my notebook and began writing notes about him, knowing a story was there.

When I came back home and started researching on the Internet about the possibility, I came across some amazing discoveries. The more and more I delved, the more the theory sounded plausible. Given the fact that Marlowe was already a playwright and had access to far greater resources than Shakespeare ever did, the idea had merit, but the problem was the issue with his death at the age of twenty-nine in Deptford.

William Shakespeare
When I came across Peter Farey's discussion, the problem resolved and all of my questions melded together into one solution: he never died, but was exiled. This was truly a sixteenth century case of conspiracy and identity theft. The idea of a crime novel or suspense was quite interesting to me, even something on the line of Dan Brown's books, but in finding my own voice, historical fiction felt more like home, especially the time period of the Tudors. The Elizabethan era has always been my favorite period and I love tackling the job of weaving a bit of the old language with our modern tongue. While I tried to stay true to history, I did use artistic license, such as the additions of the subplot of Marlowe's imaginary friend, to round out a writer's torture who is plagued with a “muse,” as was Marlowe who was referred to as the “muse's darling.”

My grandmother gave me my first book of the complete works of Shakespeare when I was eleven years old. The language, the history, and the style of writing has intrigued me ever since. During my school years, I immersed myself into English Literature, even acting the part of Calpurnia in Julius Caesar when we studied that play.

Many will scoff at the idea that Shakespeare was merely an ambitious actor who stole the works of Marlowe. How do you approach this?

Of course, there will, and I expect that, but again, I do not claim to be a Shakespearean scholar or historian. Yet, sometimes the simplest of explanations lean more toward truth than elaboration. That is why I used the quote from Francis Bacon, who himself is another candidate for writing the plays - “The forbidden idea contains a spark of truth that flies up in the face of he who seeks to stamp it out.”

There may be a spark of truth to the idea that Shakespeare did not write the plays and there always will be those who wish to stamp out debate.

This is the same kind of wall the writers and men of ambition and progress, those of the “School of Night” faced during the Elizabethan era. I have been to some delightful debates over the years discussing the question of Shakespeare's authorship, the first and foremost being the lectures held at the Globe Theater in 2007.

There is even a petition people can sign on the internet called the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate, although the site supports Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as being the writer, which is fine with me, for any support for anyone other than the man Shakespeare shows I am not alone in believing that this actor from Stratford was not the man who wrote such eloquent and astounding verses; and yet, I am not against those who do believe.

The question reminds me of a small episode where this very thing took place. I was standing in a group at the first debate held at the Globe and a gentleman looked at me when he discovered I was a Marlowan, and said, “O, you are one of those. I suppose you believe he was exiled.” Very calmly, I replied, “Well, you have to admit that the idea makes for a great story, and that is what I am, a story teller.”

Christopher Marlowe
What kind of evidence is there that Marlowe survived the tavern brawl in Deptford? And what evidence is there against William Shakespeare being the writer?

To me, Marlowe was as a brilliant writer as he was a spy. A man who could create such astounding characters, even if you only attribute those we know about – Faustus, Tamburlaine, Edward – shows he had the ability to form well-rounded characters. Walsingham was known for recruiting boys of genius at a young age for the underground spy ring, so a boy of Marlowe's caliber, a boy and man who could morph characters, would have fit into Walsingham's plans. It would not have been a difficult thing for Marlowe to do as a writer, for oftentimes writers use this technique for getting into the minds of their characters.

What kind of questions should a person ask who is looking to do some research on this topic?

1. Do we know Marlowe survived the death in Deptford without a doubt? No, but tell me this:

2. Why was one of the most beloved playwrights of his day, before Shakespeare, buried in a common churchyard?

3. Why did the Queen provide her own coroner for the inquest when she herself was not within the verge of the murder, and then give instructions that no one delve further into questionings about Marlowe's death?

4. Why was Marlowe with three other well-known spies instead of presenting himself before the Privy Council at eleven o'clock, which was his punishment for the supposed seditious writings found in Kyd's apartments?

5. Who is the mysterious man known simply as Monsieur Le Doux during those years Marlowe would have been dead?

6. Why do we not hear anything about Shakespeare's writings until after Marlowe dies?

7. Who is the Mr. W. H. to whom the sonnets are dedicated?

8. Who is the “dark lady” of the sonnets?

9. What kind of education did the two men have?

10. What is the secret riddle of the epitaph above Shakespeare's tomb?

11. Why was his grave dug twelve feet deep instead of the normal six foot?

12. Why did Shakespeare's son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, leave off any mention of the day Shakespeare died in his journal?

There are so many questions, I could go on and on. If a person holds up all of these in relation to Shakespeare, the questions loom; and yet, when I held up each of these questions to Marlowe, all the answers, for me, fell into place.

Shakespeare did not have the education for such lofty writing, he did not have the background and there is no evidence of his having traveled. Even his friend, Ben Jonson, railed him on his lack of languages. Also, maybe just to me, but I thought it odd, there is no mention of his writings, or any books he may have had in his possession for his own research, in his will. For those in favor of Shakespeare, I am sure they will say it is because the plays belonged to the playhouse and the actors, but still, to me, there is a question.

There is no doubt Shakespeare was an ambitious man and a brilliant actor, and considering the time period he lived with poverty and sickness so rampant, a man might do anything to make sure of the survival of his family, the legacy of his name and his own ambition.

When you read some of the sonnets, many of the ones I have quoted in the novel, the desperation of a man writing the words resounds. Clearly, the sonnets show a man desperate for someone to recognize the hidden clues, clues that smack of the life of Marlowe, not Shakespeare. It was a common practice in those days to hide clues or riddles within writings, so this style of writing would not have been unusual for Marlowe. Also, he had all the means available to him to undertake a masque to save his own life – the money, the backing, the patrons, and a favor from the Queen herself, who was known to take great pains to protect those who protected her.

Any final thoughts on the Shakespeare authorship question?

Yea, simply this – an early American author, Napolean Hill, said, “All great truths are simple in final analysis, and easily understood; if they are not, they are not great truths.”

Are you saying after all of this that you are a strict Marlowan and not a Stratfordian?

Well, no. I am saying that there are reasonable questions to the debate, and I am saying that the premise makes for a great story; but in truth, we will never know unless someone stumbles upon some profound letter one day revealing to the world the true author. Until then, I will remain an avid Shakespeare-lover. There are questions I have, but I have no questions about the beauty and genius behind the works themselves.


If you loved Ken Follett's A Column of Fire, take another journey into 17th-century England with the 5-star reviewed historical fiction novel, Blood and Ink. History shows Kit Marlowe died in a tavern brawl in Deptford in 1593, but did he? England is torn apart by religious metamorphosis and espionage. The stages of England and bright intellectual boys are used to bolster Queen Elizabeth I's reign and propagate the rising Protestant faith. At the age of eight, Christopher Marlowe, the muse's darling, is sucked into the labyrinth of secret spy rings, blood, murder, and betrayal, while his own ambition to become England's favorite playwright drifts further from his grasp. As Christopher grows to manhood, he sinks further into the darkness, and a chance meeting with an unknown actor from Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare, sets him on a path of destiny - a fate of forced exile and the revelation that the real enemy is not an assassin of Rome, but a man who stared into his eyes and smiled. One he did not expect...
Read the editorial review by the Historical Novel Society here.

Blood and Ink is available in ebook, audio, & paperback on Amazon or in hardcover at Barnes and Noble.

Connect with DK Marley

DK Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an

English professor, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel Blood and Ink, an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio. She is a true Stratfordian (despite the topic of her novel Blood and Ink), a Marlowe fan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. Her new series titled The Fractured Shakespeare Series will tackle adapting each play into a historical fiction novel. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes. She is also a blogger for The Jabberwocky Blog. She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terrier named Maggie.


Prince of Sorrows - A Fractured Shakespeare Series, Book One – Hamlet – Now Available in Paperback, Ebook and Audible

Child of Love & Water - available in paperback and ebook

Connect with DK Marley on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Medieval Monastic Orders

St Peter's Basilica, Rome
When reading about the Plantagenet era, one inevitably comes across mention of monks, friars, and various clergymen that boggle the modern mind. Different religious houses formed around beliefs of what type of life brought one closer to Christ. In the early centuries of Christiandom, being willing to die for your faith made one a saint. However, as Christianity became the accepted religion of Europe and fewer were martyred, the life of a monk was designed to mimic that sacrifice. One might not die for their faith, but they gave up earthly things, such as property, ambition, and sexuality. How this should best be done was a matter of dispute, and, therefore we see the emergence of many different types of monasteries.


Those living according to the Rule of Saint Benedict trace their roots back to the early Catholic Church. In the 6th century, Saint Benedict began his religious life as a hermit, which allowed him to experience and understand the spiritual temptations and hardships involved in the solitary lifestyle. He formed his organization of monasticism around community and established liturgical prayer hours. Property ownership was forbidden, and a strict, ascetic lifestyle divided the day into times of prayer, labor, and study. The Rule of Saint Benedict was promoted by Charlemagne and his son, Louis, causing it to become the most populous form of monastery in the 9th century.

The habit worn by a Benedictine could vary based on season and geography. Clothes were required to be no more or less than was necessary based on climate. Therefore, a Benedictine living in England might wear a brown wool robe, while one living in Italy wore a lighter one (in color and texture).


Bernard of Clairvaux
The order of Cistercians began with a group of Benedictine monks who founded a new monastery in Citeaux, France. As feudalism became the norm, monasteries had more monks who were younger sons of noblemen, bringing with them ambition rather than piety. The Cistercians wished to rededicate themselves more fully to the Rule of Benedict, emphasizing a faithful community, separated from earthly concerns and independent through days divided between prayer, worship, and laywork such as farming, carpentry, and other community needs. Cistercians wear black and white robes and are often noted for their work ethic.

Bernard of Clairvaux is a famous Cistercian known for his eloquent writing and ascetic discipline. He was an adviser to five 12th century popes and wrote the founding Rule of the Knights Templar.

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were formed as an order of warrior monks in response to the 2nd Crusade. Supported by Bernard of Clairvaux and Pope Innocent II, they were charged with defending the Holy Land and Christians on pilgrimage. Originally called the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, the Knights Templar were headquartered on Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Knights Templar
Templars were not only highly-skilled warriors. They led ascetic lives of prayer, obedience, and chastity. Drinking, gambling, and coarse language, the norm of most soldiers' lives, were forbidden for the Templars. Muslims retook Jerusalem in the 12th century, and the Templars were devoted to retaking it until their fall in the early 14th century, when they were persecuted by King Phillip of France. Templar Knights were recognized by their white habits emblazoned with a red cross.


Near the beginning of the 12th century, the Carthusians were founded as a group dedicated entirely to an isolated life of prayer. These monks spend the majority of their time in their own cell, and the communities are self-sufficient. Work areas are kept far from the cloisters that those at prayer not be disturbed by noise. Solitude and liturgy are at the center of this strict way of life.

Carthusians wear white robes and spend much of their time in silence. During Henry VIII's reformation of the church in England, Carthusians were infamously tortured and executed for refusing to sign the Oath of Supremacy.


The order of Augustinians has its root in 12th century religious hermits. Looking to live a life that mirrored that of Christ, these hermits had no property or home. They spent much of their time alone, but were not completely isolated. By 1244, enough of these hermits existed to form communities that looked to Pope Innocent IV to give their group greater order. The Rule of Saint Augustine, brought them together into an organization dedicated to harmony, chastity, poverty, and worship.

Martin Luther
Augustinians lived as a community dedicated to Christian community, working together, sharing the fruit of their work, and praying together. Sharing the love of God with each other and those they encountered was at the center of their lives. Augustinians are often noted for their black robes. Dominicans also follow the Rule of Augustine.

One famous Augustinian was Martin Luther. He was so disappointed at his inability to live in a way that he thought pleased God, that it led him to study scripture and realize the corruption that had entered the Catholic Church. His sola fide, sola scriptura has it's roots in Augustinian teaching.



Founded by Francis of Asisi at the beginning of the 13th century, the Franciscans include Friars Minor,  the Poor Clare Nuns, and Brothers & Sisters of Penance (also known as the Third Order of Saint Francis). The Rule of Saint Francis comes to us in various forms, but they are consistent in their call for poverty, chastity, and obedience. In contrast to other orders, Franciscans were travelling preachers based on the example of Jesus Christ. They were not to own property but to receive food and housing as a form of charity wherever they went.

Since their formation, the Franciscans have split into a variety of organizations. They were appointed as leaders of the 13th century papal inquisition and have encountered scandal due to their pledge of enforced poverty. Franciscans are itinerant friars, as opposed to monks and are known for their close attachment to nature and brown or grey robes.

Additional Reading: The Catholic Church: A History by William Cook

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Origin of the Richmond Earldom

The title of Earl of Richmond is now extinct and has been since the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. Henry Tudor held this title before he became king of England by conquest in 1485. The roots of this title go all the way back to the 11th and 12th  centuries when the Normans and Angevins made England part of a vast cross-channel empire.

Richmond Castle
The Norman Conquest of England was a bloody, brutal affair. One way of establishing control was creating a loyal cross-channel aristocracy. Normans were given lands in England, replacing those who continued to rebel against the conqueror. (Eventually, Englishmen would also hold lands to the south, but that would come later.) The earldom of Richmond began this way.

Brittany lay to the west of Normandy, but the Norman dukes did not act as overlords of Bretons until Henry II attempted to do so. During the reigns of William I and II, Breton aristocrats who participated in the conquest and taming of English lands were rewarded with holdings there. After the Conquest, Alan Rufus, who came from a junior branch of the Breton ducal family, was awarded with extensive lands where it is believed that he ordered the construction of the stone castle of Richmond. This was originally termed the Honour of Richmond, but in 1136, a descendant of Alan Rufus, a great-nephew also named Alan, was named the first Earl of Richmond.

This Alan was an ally of King Stephen during the civil war known as the Anarchy. His granddaughter was Constance of Brittany. Through her, the earldom of Richmond passed to her husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet, son of Henry II. When he died, the earldom went to their son, Arthur, whom many believed was Richard I's rightful heir when that king died in 1199.

However, Arthur did not have enough support to defeat Prince John, and was in fact murdered by him. At that point, the earldom reverted to the crown, though it was nominally held by Arthur's sister Eleanor, who was held in captivity for the entirety of her life. A half-sister, Alix, used the title Countess of Richmond, and Henry III eventually made her husband officially earl in 1218.

Edmund Tudor's Coat of Arms
Through various forfeitures and reinstatements, the earldom continued to often be held by Breton aristocracy until the Breton War of Succession. It was then held by John of Gaunt, son of Edward III for three decades before being restored to Breton dukes in 1372. It had reverted back to the crown by the time it was awarded to John, Duke of Bedford in 1414. Finally, in 1435, it was awarded by Henry VI to his half-brother, Edmund Tudor. When he died, the title went to his only son, Henry Tudor.

During the Wars of the Roses, Henry's title was sometimes denied to him by the Yorkist regime, but the earldom was brought under the crown when Henry became king. The title became extinct, though a dukedom of Richmond was created in 1675.

Additional Reading:
England under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 by Robert Bartlett

Image Credit: Wikicommons

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

King David's Rise to Power

I'm trying out something a little bit different on my blog today. Author Uvi Poznansky has joined me for an interview about her Biblical era David Chronicles. Welcome, Uvi!

~ Samantha


Tell us about The David Chronicles? 

My books are about the story of David in a way you have never heard it before: from the king himself, telling the unofficial version, the one he never allowed his court scribes to recount. In his mind, history is written to praise the victorious—but at the last stretch of his illustrious life, he feels an irresistible urge to tell the truth. 

The series includes three novels about the youth, prime of life, and old age of the king. Rise to Power is an account of David’s early years, leading up to his first coronation. How does he see himself, during this first phase of his life? With his hands stained with blood, can he find an inner balance between conflicting drives? This is followed by A Peek at Bathsheba, the most torrid tale of passion ever told: David's forbidden love for Bathsheba, and his attempt to cover up the scandal. Finally, The Edge of Revolt tells the story of a father’s love for the son who betrays him. The last thing he expects is that he will topple him from the throne. Who among them will remain by his side? Who will be not only loyal, but also eager to continue his legacy?

In addition, the series includes six collections of art by the masters around the story of David. 

What inspired you to write about David? 

I am fascinated by the complexity of this character. At many points along the way he finds himself at a crossroad, torn between his political ambitions and the divine call of his inspired work, as a poet and musician. 
At the same time, I found myself intrigued by the role of history in this story. David sees the struggle between himself and the king he succeeded as a struggle between two contending versions of history. An excerpt demonstrates this struggle:

What is at stake here is the virtue of the office, the sanctity of the crown, which I tried to preserve most of the time—but certainly not always… My appetite for sin would get out of control, and threaten to undermine my best efforts to establish myself, establish my glory for all to cherish. Even so, future generations must revere my name. 

Hell, I made sure of that. 

At the time I gave orders to imprison quite a few of my court historians, for no better reason than a misspelling, or a chance error in judgement, for which they tried to apologize profusely. Of course, to no avail. They never saw the light of day again. I knew I was right, because who are they to strive for something as misleading as reporting the bare facts? 

Both Saul and I were anointed to rule the nation, which without fail caused a civil war. We fought over something larger than the crown. Ours was a battle between two contending versions of history. The outcome would decide who would be called a hero and who—a villain. 

And having won that struggle, I was not about to allow the scribes in my court to report any faults in me, any wrongdoings. My record would be clean. There was, I decided, no truth other than mine.

How has art inspired your work? 

The story of David has inspired artists throughout the history of art, and my writing has a lot of highly visual references to many of these art pieces. Here, for example, is a reference to Michelangelo’s David:

“I catch sight of the reflection, my reflection in his eyes. In a flash I know Saul sees me as a danger to him. He fears me, he prays for my demise, and at the same time he adores me, too. In me he hopes to capture the fading image of that which is lost to him. His youth. 

I ask myself, what makes him so jealous of me? What is he thinking? 

Perhaps this: there is David, a young boy with a glint in his eyes. Morning breeze plays with his curls. It breathes words of hope and promise in his ear. 

Yet unscarred by battle, his skin is smooth. His muscles are flexible, his hands strong. They are large, larger than you would expect for such a slender body. They are the hands of a killer.

There is David. Narrowing his eyes to focus them at the enemy, the boy is searching for a way to change, to become that which is not: larger than life. There he stands, ready for the kill. 

I smile at Saul. He is slow to smile back.”

And here, a reference to Bernini’s David:

I must have lost my mind, because I leap over the brook and run quickly towards him. And I put my hand in my bag and take out one of my pebbles and sling it. 

It is now that time starts slowing down. With sharp, heightened senses I feel the morning breeze playing with my curls, brushing them this way and that, down to the nape of my neck. Here I am, twisting over my legs, wringing my body in a tortuous effort to gather momentum, to let a pebble fly. This, I tell myself, is no dream. This is for real. I am aiming to slay a giant. 

If I live, someone should sculpt me in this pose, just so.

I am often inspired by the art when writing a specific scene. For example, the execution of Amnon, as orchestrated by his brother, Absalom, is imagined here by his father, David: 

This was no murder. There is no other name for it but execution.

I stare at the darkness of the palms of my hands and at once, images of that feast—for lack of a better term—light up in my mind. I hear every sound in that place, and take in every smell, as if I have witnessed the entire affair myself, as if I own the senses of the killer and of the victim at once, as if I am possessed by them, because they are, both of them, my own flesh and blood. 

I shudder to see so many daggers drawn out of metal holsters. Their harsh grating noise penetrates me. A gasp, a last gurgle of surprise escapes from Amnon’s throat, as many hands grip him, and twist his arms forcefully behind his back. 

The bleating of sheep is heard faintly in the background as blades rise, flashing in the air. Then they plunge upon his throat, clinking against each other, and the first of them slashes the vein. 

His bloodied corpse is thrown, like leftover meat, by the side of the bench where he has sat. Overhead, birds of prey start hovering. Flies are buzzing, buzzing all around, sensing the sweet taste of blood, which is spurting from his neck. 

His eyes turn. They go on turning in their sockets, nearly flipping over in an unnatural way, as if to see the man standing directly behind him. Absalom. There, there he is, striking a victorious pose: legs wide apart, arms crossed, giving him what he has wanted: a nod, a final nod of recognition.

Oh, my son, Absalom.

How much of your writing would be considered history versus fiction? How heavily did you rely upon Biblical accounts? 

Studying the biblical story in the original language, rather than in translation, made the story very direct for me. In Hebrew there are no ‘versions’ of the bible--there is the one and only text where every sentence, every word is the same across all illuminated manuscripts and printed books. Translations are interpretations, but growing up in Israel, what I studied is the original.

Connect with Uvi

Read The David Chronicles

The complete series:

Volume I: Rise to Power
AudiobookAmazon US ★ Amazon UKiTunes
PaperbackAmazon ★ Barnes&Noble

AudiobookAmazon US Amazon UK iTunes 
PaperbackAmazon ★ Barnes&Noble

Volume III: The Edge of Revolt
AudiobookAmazon US ★ Amazon UK ★ iTunes
Paperback: Amazon ★ Barnes&Noble

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It's Who You Know

Cardinal Reginald Pole
While researching Reginald Pole in order to write his story in Prince of York, I was astonished by the number of famous friends he had. Lacking the ambition so prominent in most men of the sixteenth century, Reginald did not take advantage of the fact that he was well-known and respected by cardinals, kings (well, not THAT one of course), and men of all stations.

He had the perfect opportunity to do so when Pope Paul III died in 1549. Pole was expected to become the next pope. Vestments were tailor made for him and those who gambled found the odds heavily favored him. However, Reginald Pole refused to press his advantage. As others bribed, schemed, and negotiated, Reginald prayed that God would guide the outcome of the conclave. He fell short by one vote.

The throne of England was another possibility for Reginald Pole. His mother, Margaret Countess of Salisbury, was a friend and confidant of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Both women liked the idea of their children wed to one another. Later, after both women were dead, the idea was considered again by those who looked to the Tudor succession and found only women available. Reginald could be the perfect spouse for Mary, uniting York and Tudor blood and giving Mary an acceptable husband to rule the kingdom.

As far as we know, Reginald never seriously considered this possibility. He considered himself a man of God above all else, and never would marry. Instead, he returned to England when Mary became queen and was invested as her Archbishop of Canterbury.

Cardinal Pietro Bembo
Throughout his life, Reginald built fortuitous relationships but did not use them for his own advancement. Besides his royal Tudor cousins and fellow churchmen who wished to raise him to the highest earthly office, Reginald was a close enough companion to the artist Michelangelo that he had at least one portrait from him that he made a gift to the Bishop of Fano.

Reginald also had a close relationship with Vittoria Colonna who is not as famous as she should be. A devout Catholic who, like Pole, was not afraid to consider the worth of the tenets of faith brought forward by reformers, Vittoria was also a published poet. A feat in itself for her time, she was talented enough to be admired and consulted by the likes of Cardinal Pietro Bembo.

The fact that Pole spent his life surrounded by amazing historical figures is one of the many aspects of his character that made him a joy to write about. In the following excerpt, he shares a quiet evening with a man who was a scholar, Templar knight, poet, and cardinal: Pietro Bembo.

Excerpt from Prince of York

June 1543 - Rome

He realized the extent of the stress his brother’s presence placed upon him when he finally had the opportunity to relax for an evening with Cardinal Bembo. It was a beautiful summer evening, so they were seated on a rooftop veranda with a decanter of wine between them.

Reginald released a sigh as tension left his shoulders and the sun cast a riot of color into the sky.

“You have not been reading your Cicero,” Pietro observed.

Reginald had closed his eyes to soak up the peaceful feeling, but he opened them to peer at his friend. “How can you tell?”

“Ha! It is easy to see that you are far too filled with anxiety to have been studying the ancients. You are stuck firmly in the present with all its worries,” Bembo waved his hands as though this was all as clear to see as if Michelangelo had painted it on the wall.

With a grin, Reginald admitted, “As usual, you are correct, Pietro.” He took a deep draught from his glass and refilled it before speaking again. “It is my brother.”

Bembo nodded solemnly. “It can be a heavy burden to be our brothers’ keeper as is commanded by our Lord. Geoffrey has many demons.”

“He does,” Reginald agreed. “I must have greater patience with him.”

“Ah, Reynaldo,” Bembo said affectionately, leaning over to pat Reginald’s knee. “You would take on the world believing it was your duty.” Shaking his head, he continued, “The Bishop of Liege is in need of a man to see to duties of which I believe your brother would be capable.”

“Send him to Flanders?” Reginald asked, sitting upright, his muscles tightening with the discussion of his brother.

Before he could disagree, Bembo cut him off. “Yes, Flanders would be ideal. You may send him an allowance if it eases your conscience, but you are not obligated to keep him at your own table.”

“What if he….” Reginald realized he did not know what he was afraid of Geoffrey doing. Saying the wrong thing? Ending up in prison?

“Reynaldo, your brother is his own man, not your child. You will arrange this agreeable position for him and consider your obligation fulfilled.”

He nodded and lifted his glass to his lips, the matter closed.

Prince of York is available on Kindle for only 99c. It is also available in paperback as part of a combined Plantagenet Embers Novellas volume.