Thursday, December 23, 2021

Women of the American Revolution: Cover Reveal

 I am thrilled to reveal the cover for my first nonfiction book, Women of the American Revolution!

Women of the American Revolution will explore the trials of war and daily life for women in the United States during the War for Independence. What challenges were caused by the division within communities as some stayed loyal to the king and others became patriots? How much choice did women have as their loyalties were assumed to be that of their husbands or fathers? The lives of women of the American Revolution will be examined through an intimate look at some significant women of the era. Some names will be familiar, such as Martha Washington who travelled to winter camps to care for her husband and rally the troops or Abigail Adams who ran the family’s farms and raised children during John’s long absences. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton is popular for her role in Hamilton the musical, but did you know she was also an early activist working tirelessly for multiple social causes? Decide for yourself if the espionage of Agent 355 or the ride of Sybil Ludington are history or myth. Not all American women served the side of the revolutionaries. Peggy Shippen gambled on the loyalist side and paid severe consequences. From early historian Mercy Otis Warren to Dolley Madison, who defined what it means to be an American First Lady, women of the American Revolution strived to do more than they had previously thought possible during a time of hardship and civil war.

Coming from Pen & Sword History in 2022.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A Luminous Christmas

A blessed Christmas to all my dear readers! As part of Historical Writers Forum's holiday blog hop, I have decided to share an excerpt from Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl. Happy reading!

Christmas Eve 1937

On Christmas Eve, the Donohue family gathered around Catherine’s wrought iron bed with a little radio on the bedside table.

“We are going to listen to the President!” Tommy told his sister, always happy to impart his greater knowledge for the benefit of little Mary Jane. She simply grinned and nodded in response.

“It’s mighty fine to be able to hear Mr Roosevelt all the way from Washington DC,” Catherine said, sounding wistful as she imagined how many miles separated them from the event they were about to listen to and how many other Americans joined them.

Blankets hung over the room’s windows to keep out the cold, and a fire burned cheerily in the hearth. Tom was careful to ensure that Catherine did not catch a chill. Each holding a cup of hot tea, they waited for the program to begin. When the static of the channel changed to the sound of an adjusting microphone, the family exchanged happy grins.

Their smiles remained in place as the announcer thanked Hobby Lobby, the popular radio show, for forgoing its regularly scheduled broadcast so that listeners could enjoy the lighting of the Christmas tree in Washington DC. Catherine closed her eyes to envision the scene in her head. Tom was prepared to light their little tree at the same time the chimes rang out in the capital city.

First came a prayer, shared by the entire nation, and the children folded their hands and bowed their heads as the pastor read John 3:16. It gave Catherine such comfort to imagine her savior’s coming on this holy night.

She couldn’t help a small frown when the prayer included a supplication for the end of war. Surely, after the war that had only ended nineteen years ago men were not so eager to take up arms again. Catherine added her fervent prayer to that of the President that the Japanese invasion of China and Spanish Civil War would be swiftly brought to an end. The moment quickly passed, however, as the prayer ended and the family crossed themselves in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The next speaker talked about the peace of the first Christmas, and Catherine could feel that quiet peace settle over the room and chase away her fears. For just a moment, her great anxiety caused by pain, immobility, and medical bills faded away.

“Let us in America dedicate ourselves to the preservation of the ideal of the first Christmas: peace on earth.”

The words reverberated in Catherine’s heart as the tinny voice traveled to them through hundreds of miles. New hope swelled in her heart. She felt excitement build as President Roosevelt was addressed by several speakers wishing him a merry Christmas. Enthusiastic applause welcomed President Roosevelt, the bells indicating the lighting of the tree rang out, and Tom switched on their own short string of lights. Then Roosevelt spoke.

When he mentioned “man’s inhumanity to man,” Catherine knew that he was referring to war, but she thought of Radium Dial. How could they have stood by and watched the dial painters poison themselves? The feeling of peace began to evaporate, and Catherine wished she could physically grasp it and not let go.

“This night is a night of hope, joy, and happiness,” the President continued, and Catherine’s tranquility was restored. She hoped that he would not mention war again, though she knew that not speaking of it would not make it go away any more than she could wish her illness away.

Were there really “better things to come,” as President Roosevelt promised? He shared a story that he had read in the newspaper. Catherine found herself a bit disappointed, because she didn’t want to listen to the President read another person’s message. She wanted to hear his, but she listened closely, wondering how honored the columnist must feel as the President’s voice sent his words across the nation.

“It is the habit of my friend when he is troubled by doubt to reach for The Book,” the President read. Catherine nodded her head slowly. It was wisdom applicable to the greatest man in their nation and the poor, bed-ridden woman listening.

“He took the cup and gave it to them all,” he continued, noting that not even Judas the Betrayer was left out.

Roosevelt finished his message emphasizing man’s duty to show good will to all men, not just those we feel are worthy of it. Catherine couldn’t help but hope that Mr Reed and the Radium Dial executives were listening.

As the President recited from the gospels, Catherine’s darker thoughts were swept away by the beautiful image of forgiveness and love. She was greatly comforted by hearing the leader of the nation witness his faith in their shared savior.

The President’s speech was brief, and when a choir began singing Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him, the Donohue family, in their own little living room, added their voices to the mix. As they moved on to Silent Night, Mary Jane wriggled in next to her mother with drooping, sleepy eyes. Catherine ignored the flash of fear that it was not safe for her daughter to be so near. On this night, she would set her worries aside and snuggle Mary Jane close.

By the time the benediction was given, Catherine was also drowsy. She did not notice when Tom gently lifted Mary Jane to carry her to her own bed as Hail to the Chief played for the President’s departure.


Read more of Catherine's story in Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl, available in paperback, hardcover, audiobook, and Kindle formats.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Marriage of Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton

Elizabeth Schuyler married Alexander Hamilton in the midst of the Revolutionary War on 14 December 1780. Despite Hamilton’s obscure heritage and lack of wealth, General Philip Schuyler had welcomed him to court his daughter. Though he lacked many things, Hamilton was a close aide to General Washington and had already begun making a name for himself with his fiery combination of courage, intellect, and patriotism for his adopted country. General Schuyler’s acceptance of Hamilton is clear in a letter written upon the couple’s engagement. ‘You cannot, my dear sir, be more happy at the connexion you have made with my family than I am. Until the child of a parent has made a judicious choice, his heart is in continual anxiety; but this anxiety was removed the moment I discovered on whom she had placed her affections.’

Elizabeth, called Eliza or Betsy by friends and family, was enraptured as well. Being married to Alexander Hamilton would bring challenges and heartbreak into her life, but she never wavered in her loyalty to him, even when she outlived him by a half century. 

As Hamilton's wife, Eliza attended America's first Inaugural Ball and danced with George Washington. She also endured public scandal with Alexander's publication of the Reynold's Pamphlet. They had eight children together, the eldest of whom died in a duel less than three years before his father did in eerily similar circumstances.

After Alexander's death, Eliza became one of America's early female activists. She was deeply devoted to her work for New York City's first orphanage, and she also began a free school and was involved in other charitable works. 

She passionately defended her husband's name until her death on 9 November 1854.

Learn more about Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton in Women of the American Revolution!  It is available at Pen & SwordAmazonBook DepositoryBarnes & Noble, or your favorite book retailer. 

Also available now at Audible and!

You can also find more articles here.

Join me on your preferred social media for daily fun facts, on this day in history posts, and lots of pictures!




Friday, October 29, 2021

Among the Lost

Hauntings is the first anthology by the Historical Writers Forum. It was a fun challenge to write a ghost story! I decided to place mine at the Northern Michigan Asylum - now The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

One of the buildings awaiting renovation
at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

By chance, I had visited this historic site shortly before the inquiry for Hauntings, so it was a ripe idea fresh in my mind. Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors, and her gothic ghost stories, such as Afterward, were my inspiration for Among the Lost

Steam tunnels at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

I placed a young nurse at the center of a mystery. She fears that a ghost might haunt the asylum grounds, but that is not the greatest danger she faces.

Hallway in an unrenovated building at
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

You can tour the abandoned asylum buildings if you happen to be in Traverse City. This is, of course, the best time of year to go 'Up North' as we say here in Michigan. The autumn colors are beautiful.

But, beware, you just might encounter a restless soul in need of your assistance.


Excerpt from Among the Lost:

A harsh northern Michigan breeze blew off the dark waters of the bay and turned autumn leaves into missiles as I raced across the frozen lawn. Nancy seemed to have waited for me but didn’t quite allow me to catch up. I didn’t pause until I reached the entrance to the shed. She had entered it, as I knew she would, but I began to consider what was inside and why I never saw her come back out.

Freezing and irritated by leaves smacking me in the face, I took a deep breath and pulled the door open.

She wasn’t there.

I found myself at the top of a steep stairway that led underground into an indiscernible dark gloom.

I gulped and closed the door behind me. At least the wind stopped. I peered down the steps, trying to decide if I should descend them. I heard my Dante’s voice in my head.

“Abandon hope all who enter here.”

Knowing I would be angry with myself in the morning if I stopped now, I forced my feet forward.....

KEEP READING Among the Lost by Samantha Wilcoxson in Hauntings

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

America in the 1910s


My readers will know that I have recently immersed myself in American history, so I am excited to welcome Tammy Pasterick to the blog today with some insight into America in the 1910s. 

Welcome, Tammy!

~ Samantha


America in the 1910s

Guest Post by Tammy Pasterick

When I decided to write a novel set in 1910s Pittsburgh, I knew a little about the time period, largely due to a genealogy project I had been working on for months. My research into the lives of my Eastern European great-grandparents had uncovered many fascinating details about immigrants coming to the United States in the early twentieth century. I had a solid understanding of their living and working conditions as well as the societal challenges they faced. However, I needed to learn so much more about the world outside my great-grandparents’ close-knit ethnic community in order to create an authentic story world for my novel. Below are some of the interesting facts my research revealed. 

During the 1910s, America evolved into an urban nation. Young people left rural areas and farms to settle in the cities to work in the steel, textile, railroad, and food production industries. Cities also expanded due to the ease of travel provided by automobiles, buses, and streetcars while American factories grew larger and more capable of producing a variety of goods. As a result, people stopped making their own clothes, food, and household goods and began shopping at local retailers and in the catalogs of Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and L.L. Bean.

As people moved closer to one another in urban and suburban neighborhoods, they became more fashion and lifestyle conscious. Fashion became more functional, and people avoided clothing that restricted movement. Magazines like
Vogue and McCall’s featured the latest in women’s clothing, hairstyles, and makeup. And as jobs outside the home became more available to women, they became enthusiastic consumers and spent their hard-earned wages. Manufacturers started producing products specifically designed for them.Automobiles such as the Ford Model T and the Cadillac Touring Edition began to take on a stylish look as did buildings. Architects experimented with new modern designs, and an increasing number of skyscrapers were built. The Woolworth Building was completed in New York City in 1913, which was the tallest building in the world until 1930 when the Chrysler building was erected. Pennsylvania Station opened in New York City in 1910, and the Hallidie Building was completed in San Francisco in 1918. It was the first glass curtain wall building in the country.

Throughout the decade, several segments of society continued to be outsiders. By 1914, every southern state and many northern cities had Jim Crow laws that discriminated against Black Americans. But despite their mistreatment, most African Americans approached World War I with courage and patriotism. Approximately 370,000 Black soldiers served during the war, including about 1,400 officers. 

Certain immigrant groups, such as those from Southern and Eastern Europe, were also isolated and viewed negatively by the mainstream. By 1910, they made up 70 percent of the immigrants entering the country. That same year, an estimated three-quarters of New York City’s population consisted of new immigrants and first-generation Americans. But sadly, their presence was not always welcome. The rapidly changing demographics of the country frightened and angered some native-born Americans>—many of Northern and Western European descent—and they deeply resented these impoverished newcomers. As a result, there was intense pressure on immigrants to assimilate and speak English in public. Many even felt compelled to change their last names to hide their ethnic origins. As America was about to enter World War I, anti-immigration sentiment peaked, and the Immigration Act of 1917 was passed. It established a literacy requirement for immigrants entering the country and stopped immigration from most Asian countries.

The reasons these new immigrant groups poured into the country were essentially the same as their predecessors. They wanted to escape religious, racial, and political persecution in their homelands or seek better economic opportunities. Italian and Greek laborers were often enticed to come with the promise of contract labor agreements known as padrones, while Hungarians, Poles, Slovaks, and Bohemians went to work in the coal mines and steel mills. They were hoping for a better life, but working conditions in the steel and coal industries were brutal. Accidents in the mills and mines were common, and injured workers were often let go and forced to pay their own medical bills. The dead were easily replaced by the countless immigrants arriving at Ellis Island every day. But the onset of World War I did provide some temporary victories for the labor movement as worker shortages gave unions leverage in bargaining with companies for higher wages and safer working conditions.

The 1910s were a period of transition in America. The rapid urbanization of the country and new technological developments rearranged people’s priorities and drastically changed the way they lived, shopped, and commuted to work. Changing demographics and the great war in Europe led to increased societal conflict, a rise in xenophobia, and modest advances in the labor movement. It was a decade of transformation—a decade that would spark the imagination of any author. When I completed my research, I had a wealth of ideas for bringing the world of my great-grandparents to life in
Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash. 


It’s Pittsburgh, 1910—the golden age of steel in the land of opportunity. Eastern European immigrants Janos and Karina Kovac should be prospering, but their American dream is fading faster than the colors on the sun-drenched flag of their adopted country. Janos is exhausted from a decade of twelve-hour shifts, seven days per week, at the local mill. Karina, meanwhile, thinks she has found an escape from their run-down ethnic neighborhood in the modern home of a mill manager—until she discovers she is expected to perform the duties of both housekeeper and mistress. Though she resents her employer’s advances, they are more tolerable than being groped by drunks at the town’s boarding house.

When Janos witnesses a gruesome accident at his furnace on the same day Karina learns she will lose her job, the Kovac family begins to unravel. Janos learns there are people at the mill who pose a greater risk to his life than the work itself, while Karina—panicked by the thought of returning to work at the boarding house—becomes unhinged and wreaks a path of destruction so wide that her children are swept up in the storm. In the aftermath, Janos must rebuild his shattered family—with the help of an unlikely ally.

Impeccably researched and deeply human, Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash delivers a timeless message about mental illness while paying tribute to the sacrifices America's immigrant ancestors made.

Available now wherever you buy books! 
Amazon UK   AmazonUS   Amazon CA   AmazonAU   Barnesand Noble   iBooks   Books-A-Million 


Connect with Tammy:

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Tammy Pasterick grew up in a family of steelworkers, coal miners, and Eastern European immigrants. She began her career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board and later worked as a paralegal and German teacher. She holds degrees in labor and industrial relations from Penn State University and German language and literature from the University of Delaware. She currently lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore with her husband, two children, and chocolate Labrador retriever.

Connect with Tammy 

on her website


AmazonAuthor Page, and Goodreads

Monday, October 25, 2021

Edenton Ladies' Patriotic Guild

On 25 October 1774, a group of fifty-one ladies of Edenton, North Carolina, met to add their support to the patriotic movement taking place in the American colonies. The gathering was held at the home of Elizabeth King and included women from well-known families eager to do their part. Their first action was to serve an American herbal concoction rather than tea imported from Great Britain.

Penelope Barker, Edenton Historical Commission

Penelope Barker called the meeting to order and encouraged the women to share the patriotism of their menfolk and help them bear the burden in any way they could. Women would, in the years to come, endure much through the years of the Revolutionary War. Some would farm and perform physical labor of which they had not believed themselves capable. Others would run businesses while husbands and fathers joined the fighting. All women had to rearrange their lives around the fact that they lived and raised families in a country at war with dangers and threats sometimes just outside their door.

On this autumn day in 1774, however, the war had not yet started and many believed that the colonists were simply demanding their rights as British citizens who should not be treated as second-class simply because they resided in the American colonies. In addition to drinking tea made from raspberry leaves and other clever ingredients, the ladies agreed to boycott all imported British goods. They were bold in their intentions, proclaiming them in print and encouraging women of other areas to join them, even including their names.

3 November 1774 Virginia Gazette

Some men ridiculed the women's efforts and the women themselves. The political cartoon 'A Society of Ladies' is meant to portray the Edenton women as immoral and unattractive for their stance. Men might think this way because they supported King George III or because they didn't think women should be proclaiming any political opinions at all.  British artist, Philip Dawe, shows the women neglecting their children and carousing with men of questionable character. Of course, in his cartoon, the women are also all hopelessly ugly.

Others applauded the women for their patriotic efforts, though the women's "tea party" hasn't shared the fame of the men's tea party in Boston. Throughout the war, women would be less recognized for their efforts, regardless of what was accomplished or suffered. However, one can't help but wonder how successful the men would have been in their fighting and politicking without the support of women who kept home fires burning, maintained farms that fed troops, and sewed the uniforms that clothed them.

Boycotting British imports was a huge commitment for women who had to find a way to replace those items in a country that did not produce all of the items they were used to ordering from abroad. Homespun became a patriotic fashion to replace finer fabrics that were not produced in the Americas and women found ways of making many things that they had previously purchased in addition to other wartime obligations. 

Many women followed the Edenton ladies' example. Abigail Adams ran her family's farms during John's long absences, Esther Reed led the collection of $300,000 for women to provide soldiers with shirts during the war, and Martha Washington wore homespun as George's first lady. 


Read more in Women of the American Revolution, coming soon from Pen & Sword.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Here There Were Dragons . . . and a ghost story challenge!


Being involved in the publishing of Hauntings has been a great experience. It is the first Historical Writers Forum anthology, and I hope there will be many more! At first, I wasn't quite sure what I thought of the idea of writing a ghost story. It was not something I had ever considered, but it turned out to be such fun. 

My guest today, Kate Jewell, also wrote a short story for Hauntings - her first published book - congratulations, Kate! Her story has already been mentioned as a favorite by one reviewer, and I think my readers will love it too. I am happy to welcome Kate to the blog today to talk more about her story, Here There Were Dragons.

~ Samantha


Here There Were Dragons 

Rising to the Hauntings challenge, becoming immersed in the mythical culture of Somerset, and going in search of a ghost.

Guest Post by Kate Jewell

Last November, (goodness, was it eleven months ago?), apart from getting panicky about packing up for my move from Leicestershire down to temporary accommodation with my daughter in Somerset, I was participating in a small critique group of writers. One evening I settled down to respond to various Messenger posts, one from Paula Lofting. Expecting to continue our previous day’s discussion on authorial voice, imagine my surprise when the conversation went like this:

Paula: I have something to ask you.
Me: Yes?
Paula: How would you like to join a bunch of us in writing an anthology of ghost stories for next year’s Halloween and have it published in a compilation?
Me: Sounds good. Tell me more.
Paula: Well, it’s me, Sharon Bennett Connolly, Samantha Wilcoxson, Lynn Dawson and Stephanie Churchill and we hope to enlist a few others. 10,000 story to be published for Halloween.
Me: 10,000 stories or 10,000 words? (grinning emoticon)
Paula: words lol
Me: Anything goes? Historical though, I presume.
Paula: Yes, but anything goes. I think probably we write in the period we usually would write, but also you might have an idea that’s local to you.
Me: Something West Country, then. My new area.

Longish pause while I digested this unexpected offer. Why on earth would these successful published authors want inexperienced newbie on their project? Well, it couldn’t be any more stressful than moving house? Could it?

Me, diving into unknown territory: Count me in!

A few days later, it finally sank in. A story up to 10,000 words – they wanted me…ME…to write 10,000 words – two chapters worth – in under twelve months – with a proper beginning, middle and end. The only other short story I had ever written had been 3,500 words and had taken me ages. And what on earth was I going to write about? Historical fiction, yes. But ghost stories? Definitely not my thing.

Inspiration finally struck on a miserable, wet, end-of-December day. Desperate to get out after months of lock down, we took a family excursion to Castle Neroche Forest on the edge of the Blackdown Hills. As we walked through this Forestry Commission mixed woodland, I was mesmerised by the lichen and moss-covered trees swathed in dripping ivy. Even in winter the terrain was stunning; high banks and deep valleys, steep tracks meandering into the distance, the sound of trickling water and two dragon heads carved into the remains of a fallen tree.

Carved wooden dragons face it out across the path

An information board told of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle built on the remnants of an old Iron Age Hill Fort, the motte tower overlooking the vast Taunton Vale, and I began to imagine a ghostly encounter under the trees beneath castle ramparts. Only what I scribbled down wasn’t making sense. I couldn’t work out what the ghost’s history was and who the apparition would choose to haunt. And what were those dragons doing in the forest? I needed research; that addiction that sends me chasing after ever-expanding threads that are crying out to be followed into a tangle of facts, dead ends and improbabilities. Surpassing himself, the lovely Mr Google took me by the hand and directed me towards a wealth of information, mostly in academic papers and land surveys.

The original Iron Age hill fort was constructed around 700BCE on a promontory at the northern edge of the Blackdown Hills. The natural defences of the 150ft escarpment were augmented by earth banks creating a secure enclosure. During the Roman occupation, the site was enlarged as a military camp in the campaign against rebel tribes but fell out of use after the Romans left Britain. In 1067 William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Robert, Count of Mortain, took advantage of the ancient earth works and built a motte-and-bailey castle. Preferring his castle at Montacute, he abandoned Castle Neroche 20 years later.

Castle Neroche: plan of site from Rev Warre’s paper, 1854
Image from the Biodiversity Heritage Library

It wasn’t until around 1138, during the civil war, known as the Anarchy, between King Steven and his cousin, the empress Matilda, that Castle Neroche was briefly refortified. The motte ditch was enlarged, and the wooden keep was replaced by a small stone tower, surrounded by a defensive wall. By 1147, the conflict was petering out and the need for a fortress guarding against incursions by Matilda’s supporters from the west diminished. By the mid 13th century, the castle was in a ruinous state, the stone no doubt plundered for local building. The surrounding land was a royal forest until 1633.

Acquired by the Forestry Commission in 1947, the immediate area to the north and east of the castle is now managed commercial mixed woodland as part of long-term proposals to restrict conifers to the poorer soils and expand broadleaf trees with dedicated woodland pasture and permanent open spaces.

Mysterious paths and steep steps in Castle Neroche Forest

Beyond the carpark and hidden behind the tree-clad southern ramparts, is Castle Neroche Farm. One of the forest paths, leading to the viewpoint on the motte, skirts a rough hedge and a fence. Through the bushes you can glimpse farm buildings and the gable end of a modest farmhouse, built in the outer bailey enclosure in the early 1830s. Could this be the venue for my story? What would an early Victorian farmstead be like? What about the family that lived there? Why would the place be ‘haunted’? Something to do with the 12th century castle perhaps.

Searching for images of old farming practices, I stumbled across a series of detailed papers about farming in the 19th century presented to the Devonshire Association at the begin of the 1920s. There were meticulous descriptions of the Victorian farmhouse exterior arrangement and internal organisation, based on studies of several old Devon ‘bartons’, or larger farms. Being in south west Somerset, my farmhouse couldn’t have differed greatly from those in the adjacent county of east Devon. I had struck gold; I could now visualise the farming family living amongst the remnants of this old castle, though my imaginary farmhouse bore little resemblance to the real one. I visualised my farmer, his wife, two older sons, a 15-year-old daughter and two much younger boys; toyed with names. Little Tommy for the youngest and, for the daughter, Annie, my main character.

The farmhouse at Castle Neroche Farm built c.1833 © Roger Cornfoot 2009

One research paper, presented to the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1854, was a detailed survey of the Castle Neroche site by the Rev F Warre. His enthusiasm for his subject is clear, and he ends with an anecdotal twist; a tale of treasure seekers digging for money in the escarpment and meeting a gruesome end. This sent me down another rabbit hole of research, but the Reverend Warre proved elusive. I found little about him apart from Census records and the odd mention in the journals of the aforementioned society, of which he was a founding member in1849, being their General Secretary until 1867. He was the vicar of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in Bishops Lydeard, Somerset from 1836. He obviously had a great interest in the area’s history, and I could imagine him being splendid company with many tales to tell. Here was someone I might be able to use in my story.

None of this research explained why there were those two opposing dragon heads in the forest.

Dragon on the west side of the main path

Following up on the story at the end of Rev Warre’s paper, and knowing there are many mythical tales of buried treasure in the West Country, I went in search of Somerset legends. To my delight I found numerous mentions of dragons. I came across a fantastic book by Brian Wright specifically on Somerset Dragons, not only retelling mythical tales but presenting a factual record of dragon ‘portraits’ decorating churches in stained glass and carvings, public house signs, decorating old and modern buildings, in street art and as the centre piece of the Somerset county coat of arms. Somerset is awash with dragons; Brian Wright tells us. “Among the counties of England, Scotland and Wales, Somerset seems to have more dragon legends and various items of ‘evidence’ than most other counties…. Only Yorkshire exceeds its stories by two, but with a lot less ‘evidence’.” (Somerset Dragons, Tempus Publishing 2002). And in this book is an account of the drowning of the Castle Neroche dragon. There were more tales lurking on the World Wide Web, but to combine the Rev Warre’s anecdote with Brian Wright’s story would give me a foundation on which to build.

At last I had found a historical setting: the motte-and-bailey castle in 1148 and Castle Neroche Farm 700years later, a protagonist: the farmer’s teenage daughter, and a supporting character: the Reverend Francis Warre. I also had a kind of antagonist: a dragon.

All I needed now was the ‘ghost’ and a narrative to weave it all together.

Further reading and essential if you want to go dragon spotting in Somerset:

Somerset Dragons, Brian Wright, Tempus Publishing, Stroud UK, 2002


Find out how Kate brought this fascinating history together into a thrilling ghost story in Hauntings - available now on Amazon!


Chilling Tales that will take you through a labyrinth of historical horror.

You will encounter a tormented Roman general.

A Norse woman who must confront her terrifying destiny.

Meet a troubled Saxon brother, searching for his twin's murderer.

A young nurse tries to solve the mysteries of an asylum for the insane.

Down the passages of time, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn wander through a haunted garden and elsewhere, a lost slave girl is the soul survivor of a mass slaughter.

These are just a few of the eerie tales which ensure that Hauntings is not for the faint-hearted.

Hauntings is available in paperback and for Kindle
worldwide on Amazon.

Connect with Kate

Kate Jewell was brought up in Portsmouth and educated at boarding school in Bournemouth, both on the English south coast. An avid reader, Kate was grabbed by historical fiction at an early age, devouring Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth late into the night, with the aid of a torch under the bedcovers in the school dorm. A lifelong passion for the 15th and 16th century was ignited by a history teacher who, on hearing complaints about having to do more ‘boring Napoleonic battles’, suggested Kate joined an archaeology summer camp in Southampton, run by medievalist and university professor Colin Platt. Fascinating stuff for a 16-year-old.

Unsuccessfully applying to Brighton Art School, she ended up miles from the sea in Coventry, her pin-in-the-list second choice, where she graduated in Graphic Design. She has worked in advertising, as a book designer for a children’s book publisher, in a busy Local Government graphic design studio, and as a Creative Arts lecturer in Further Education. After retiring from her proper jobs, she worked part time in a Register Office doing weddings and registering births and deaths. After over thirty years in the East Midlands, she has finally escaped from landlocked Leicestershire to pastures new in West Dorset; a welcome return to the south with the Jurassic Coast only 12 miles away. Her elder daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons live nearby in Somerset. Her younger daughter and her partner are renovating a Provençal farmhouse, so keeping up with her two young “French” granddaughters has forced Kate to become expert in Zooming! When not writing, she can be found pottering in the garden, painting and drawing in her studio, or exploring the countryside with her camera.

Kate’s short story, The Daisy Fisher, set in 18th century Cornwall, won the 2019 Historic Writers Association/Dorothy Dunnett Society Short Story Competition, and her long-running series of articles on the Dorothy Dunnett book cover art is published in Whispering Gallery, the society’s journal. She has been working on a fiction project, following a group of adventurers through the turbulent transition from the Plantagenets to the Tudors. This has been going on for so many years Kate is amazed her characters haven’t used her procrastination an excuse to abandon their weapons and go in search of a quite retirement.

Here there were Dragons, Kate’s first foray into spooky fiction, is a ghost story with a difference, a dual era tale with a 700-year time gap. It seems as if the short story format is king at the moment!

Connect with Kate on Facebook and Twitter.

Interested in the Historical Writers Forum? Find them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Tragedy of Angelica Hamilton

On 25 September 1784, Alexander and Eliza Hamilton welcomed into the world their first daughter, Angelica, named for Eliza's closest sister. Little Angelica was baptized four years later at Trinity Church alongside her older brother, Philip, and younger brother, Alexander Jr, on 12 October 1788. Her affection for her brothers was undoubtedly encouraged in the growing, close-knit Hamilton family, but it would lead to Angelica's tragic downfall.

Trinity Church, New York City

Trinity Church was a familiar place to Angelica. Her mother, Eliza (Schuyler) Hamilton, made a priority of bringing her children to services, where they rented pew 92, even if her husband was often too busy to join them. Her father might not have always been at her side in church, but Angelica still had fond memories of singing and playing piano with him at home. As the first United States secretary of the treasury, Alexander was always busy, but he strived to make time for his growing family.

Alexander Hamilton

As familiar to Angelica as the bustling city of New York were the rolling fields of her grandfather's Albany farms. Philip and Catherine Schuyler often hosted Eliza and her children when they escaped the heat of the city, leaving Alexander behind to work. Angelica was too young to be aware of her father's more nefarious escapades. During one of her trips away from her father, Alexander wrote to Angelica to encourage her in her studies.

I was very glad to learn, my dear daughter, that you were going to begin the study of the French language. We hope you will in every respect behave in such a manner as will secure to you the good-will and regard of all those with whom you are. If you happen to displease any of them, be always ready to make a frank apology. But the best way is to act with so much politeness, good manners, and circumspection, as never to have occasion to make any apology. Your mother joins in best love to you. Adieu, my very dear daughter.

Angelica loved her family and had every reason to anticipate a bright future as the eldest daughter of the famous Alexander Hamilton. She was closest to her older brother, Philip, and her life unraveled when he participated in a duel with George Eacker on 23 November 1801. Philip was shot and died the next day.

His parents were grief-stricken by the loss of their 19-year-old son. Robert Troup, who was present at Philip's deathbed, reflected, 'Never did I see a man so completely overwhelmed with grief as Hamilton had been.' Eliza, pregnant with their eighth child, was so delirious with grief that it was feared she might suffer a miscarriage. The son she gave birth to on 2 June 1802 was named Philip after his deceased older brother.

Angelica was 17-years-old when Philip was killed, and she never recovered from the shock and grief of the event. Her parents tried every treatment available at the time, but early nineteenth-century mental healthcare left much to be desired. Angelica lived until 1857 speaking of her brother as if he had never died.

Hamilton Grange, New York City

The Hamiltons were in the process of building The Grange when Philip died, and they moved to the home that they had planned with such optimistic future hopes shortly after his death. Visitors can still see the piano that Angelica played with her father there. Although Angelica was courting age, she did not receive suitors and never left the care of her mother as her mental health steadily declined. Her conditioned worsened when Alexander was also killed in a duel not three years after his son on 12 July 1804.

Angelica took refuge in playing her piano and speaking to her dead brother as if he were still there, while often failing to recognize other family members. She eventually required the continuous care of a doctor and was placed in the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum directed by Dr James Macdonald sometime after 1825 but before Eliza's sale of The Grange in 1833.

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

In 1837, Eliza traveled to western territory in order to visit her son, William. She wrote to her youngest son, Philip, asking him to 'write to me and let me know how Angelica is.' Philip had either agreed to visit his sister at the asylum during their mother's absence or Angelica was being cared for in Philip's home. Angelica died on 6 February 1857, but her life had truly ended with her brother's long before. Her sister, Eliza, said of Angelica's eminent death, 'Poor sister, what a happy release will be hers. Lost to herself a half century!!'


Additional reading:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Reminiscences of James A Hamilton by James Hamilton
The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton by Allan McLane Hamilton

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Benjamin Franklin Goes to France


Join me in welcoming a new guest to the blog today! Steve Gnatz has written about Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and I can't wait to pick this one up. Why did Franklin go to France in 1776? Gnatz shares some insight below.

Welcome, Steve!

~ Samantha


Benjamin Franklin Goes to France

Guest Post by Steve Gnatz

On October 26th, 1776, Benjamin Franklin, along with his grandsons Temple (age 16) and Benny (age 7), boarded the American naval vessel USS Reprisal to be transported to France. This is where the story begins in my historical fiction novel The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris

Once in France, Ben would assume the position of the unofficial American ambassador to the French court of Louis XVI. 

Obtaining the support of the French against the British would be key to the success of the American Revolution. France and England were enemies at the time – and as it is said “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. France had lost face in the Seven Years War and was looking to recover some stature on the world stage, if nothing else. 

Still Franklin found that the French king could not be openly supportive to the American war effort. The support had to come via a very circuitous route involving a Spanish shell company and also needed to evade the watchful eye of British spies. One of Franklin’s own confidants, Edward Bancroft, was later revealed to be a “double agent” working for both the British and American causes. It is possible that Franklin knew of this duplicity as no information ever passed by Bancroft significantly changed the outcome of the war.

Despite all of the challenges he faced in France, Franklin’s efforts led to increasingly open support by the French – particularly after the first few hard fought American battles resulting in some victories against the British. 

By 1784, it was clear that America had won the conflict with French assistance, and the British capitulated. Ben was present at the signing of the Treating on Paris. An interesting historical note is that the British envoy to the signing failed to sit for his portrait – and it remains unfinished until this day.

Treaty of Paris

Of course, The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris isn’t only about the American revolution – even though these historical events play a major part in the background. 

 The book is really about the conflict between science and mysticism in late 18th century France. While in Paris, Franklin was invited to head a commission charged with investigating the quasimedical practice promulgated by Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer. 

Mesmer mesmerizing

Mesmer claimed that he could channel a mysterious fluid (force) that was capable of healing people. Today, we could probably consider his “discovery” to be hypnotism. But in the day, it was considered heretical to the medical community. They wanted him exposed as a fraud. 

Franklin, the pragmatic scientist, very carefully documented blinded experiments showing that no force existed. His commission is credited with the first well-documented scientific “blinded” experiments. They even used a real blindfold! 

The commission’s work complete and the American revolutionary war won, Franklin returned from France to America in July 1785. 

Franklin Returns to Philadelphia

He received a hero’s welcome when he disembarked in Philadelphia harbor.

The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris


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

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

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

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

Get your copy of The Wisdom of the Flock today! 

Amazon UK - Amazon US - Amazon CA - Amazon AU -  Barnes and Noble - Waterstones

Also Available on Kindle Unlimited

Connect with Steve

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