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 Proven├žal 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.

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