Ani’s Advent Calendar 2019 ~ An Indie-Ani Christmas?


I am re-blogging this from Sue Vincent’s blog, Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo:

Sue has a really charming dog named Ani, with whom hundreds if not thousands are in love. Ani writes books and posts, so check her out!


Dear Santa, here’s my Christmas list,
It’s just about that time,
And as an Indie writer
Thought I’d submit mine in rhyme.
I know you’re overworking
And your mailbox must be full,
So maybe a poetic list
Might have that extra ‘pull’?

….You can read the rest at:

Ani’s Advent Calendar 2019 ~ An Indie-Ani Christmas?

Available from Amazon UK , Amazon US and worldwide for Kindle and in Paperback.

Happy Thanksgiving to All


Happy Thanksgiving, all y’all. I am here in Utah where the snow is coming down heavily, a snow bomb, apparently. We made it here on Tuesday when it was just spitting a few flakes, and my daughter and son-in-law came in at midnight last night, via Denver!, just before the dump started. We are visiting my son who is posted to the university here.

The snow is lovely and we rented a four wheel drive vehicle, so getting around is easy.

Growing up in Plymouth, I have always felt this particular holiday is special. During the writing of my new novel, The Last Pilgrim – the story of the longest living passenger on the Mayflower – I got to read a lot about how the native populations were treated by the settlers from England, the Netherlands and other European nations. At that time and with their customs, these immigrants did not see how devastating their settlement would become to the tribes of New England.

John Carver, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony, made a treaty with the sachem of the Wampanoags, Massasoit, of mutual defense for both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags – which last fifty years. But during that time, many offenses against the natives occurred both in the expanding Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Eventually, this resulted in King Philip’s War, begun by Metacomet, Massasoit’s younger son. So writing this book gave me a somewhat different view of the time – through my modern eyes.

History is what it is – you cannot change it, only understand it. The Pilgrims were helped in many ways by the Wampanoags during their first year on the New England coast, and a feast of thanksgiving was celebrated by both groups. Governor William Bradford gave thanks to God for their survival and for the many gifts the Pilgrims were given by the Wampanoags.

So that is how I see Thanksgiving today. A time to celebrate, give thanks to whatever Supreme Being a person worships for the life and gifts they have been given. Being an American, I realize those gifts are many, deriving from the doughty group of men and women who came here on the Mayflower but also from those people who already lived here.

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’s 1912 illustration, The First Thanksgiving, 1621

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


The month of November is a time for remembrance with Veteran’s Day, but there is another early November date that resonates with me, thanks to Gordon Lightfoot.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the “Gales of November” came early

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a freighter on the Great Lakes, which sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, taking with her the entire crow of 29. She was the largest ship on the Great Lakes at the time, and she remains the largest to have sunk there.

The Edmund Fitzgerald carried set records for seasonal hauls of taconite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota to iron works in Great Lakes ports, often breaking her own previous record. Her Captain, Peter Pulcer, was known for piping music day or night over the ship’s intercom while passing through the St. Clair and Detroit between Lakes Huron and Erie and entertaining spectators at the Soo Locks between Lakes Superior and Huron with a running commentary about the ship.

 Carrying a full cargo of ore pellets, she embarked on her ill-fated voyage from Superior, Wisconsin, on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. En route to Detroit, the Edmund Fitzgerald was caught in a mighty storm on Lake Superior, with near hurricane force winds and waves up to 35 feet high. Shortly after 7:10 p.m., she suddenly sank in Canadian waters 530 feet deep, about 17 miles from Whitefish Bay, a distance Edmund Fitzgerald could have covered in just over an hour at her top speed.

No distress signals were sent before she sank; her Captain’s last was, “We are holding our own.” Her crew of 29 perished, and no bodies were recovered. The exact cause of the sinking remains unknown, although it has been conjectured that the Edmund Fitzgerald may have been swamped, suffered structural failure or topside damage, run onto a shoal or suffered from a combination of these. Underwater exploration of the ship found no bodies, but the pellets of taconite ore are still visible in the hold.

The sinking led to changes in Great Lakes shipping regulations and practices that included mandatory survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, increased freeboard (the distance from the water line to the upper deck), and more frequent inspection of vessels.

Gordon Lightfoot’s song contains a few artistic omissions, errors and paraphrases, which Lightfoot has changed over the years. The words and the music convey the deep sense of tragedy.

Here is the song:



Out now! Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog… posted by Sue Vincent


I dream of literary heights,
Of poetry and fancy’s flights…
Of philosophical debates
And tales the inner heart relates.

She dreams of tennis balls in flight,
Of sneaking cuddles in the night,
Of muddy walks and open gates
And chicken filling all her plates.

You can read the rest at:

Out now! Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog…

Can’t wait to read this!


Book Review: Robin Hood, English Outlaw by Richard Denham (@britanniaseries) #RBRT #Historical research

Robin Hood: English Outlaw (the origins of the legend and the search for a historical Robin Hood) by [Denham, Richard]

Richard Denham’s latest book, Robin Hood, English Outlaw, follows the investigative procedures he laid down in his previous publication, Arthur: Shadow of a God. Robin Hood is a later, but equally shadowy historical figure, based on medieval rhymes and gests (tales of adventures). Robin Hood’s existence was common knowledge by the 14th century, figuring in The Vision of Piers Plowman, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and The Gest of Robyn Hode, lengthy at 14,000 words, all from around the same time.

I grew up with Robin Hood on TV and in the movies and love this character, so reading this historical research book was fun! The author begins with placing Robin in England in ‘the greenwood.’ Where was this greenwood? In the late 11th century, about fifteen percent of the country was covered in dense forest – so where did Robin live? The author gives us a romp through the various places he might have existed.

When did he live? Based on historical texts, it might have been twelfth, thirteenth or fourteenth centuries! One thought is that Robin Hood lived in the late 1100’s, during the rule of Richard the Lionheart. Sir Walter Scott and his famous book Ivanhoe has Robin of Loxley fighting against the injustices of Prince John’s government in the 1260s. But perhaps he lived later, in the 1330s, when highway robberies were common, during the reign of Edward II.

Who was Robin? A yeoman, at the top of the working class? Or was he of the noble class, as Robin of Locksley? Was he a derivative of the Green Man, who figured in the May Day celebrations? Set against the society of the time and England’s internecine warfare between noble families, the author explores all these possibilities in each of the above time frames, along with the possible sources for the other Merry Men: Alan a Dale, Little John, Will Scarlett and of course, the plump Friar Tuck.

I particularly liked the discussion of Friar Tuck as a church militant and the various layers of church hierarchy. Tuck would appear to be a curtal or crutched (wearing a cross on his habit), traveling friar.  Then there is Maid Marian. The author considers her almost an afterthought in the tales of Robin, and she may have derived from the May Queen to Robin’s King in the Tudor May festivities. His discussion of women’s’ role in the Middle Ages is enlightening.

This book is nothing if not thorough – from a consideration of archers and their bows to Robin’s rivals, nothing is overlooked. I was hit by nostalgia in the chapter on Robin and the silver screen, recalling the early Errol Flynn movie and those who portrayed Robin in later moves: Kevin Costner, Cary Elweys, and Russel Crowe. Some might even remember the TV series of the 1950s with Richard Green in the title role.

All in all, this was a satisfying, thorough discussion of the possible existence of someone named Robin Hood in English history. As with Arthur, Robin Hood is character blurred by the mists of history, with no definitive information to prove he existed except for our own delight and belief in his adventures.

 About the author (from Amazon)

Richard Denham was born in the military town of Aldershot, the son of a sergeant in the British Army. He is a self-taught Roman historian with an exhaustive knowledge of this period.

Ever since studying the Romans at school, he has taken a keen interest in them, specifically Romans in Britain. As a boy growing up with swords, knights, tanks and all things military he also developed an interest in the legends of King Arthur. He then discovered that Roman Britain was much more interesting. The inspiration for the Britannia series was the cold, impassive footnote Richard would constantly come across “Romans leave Britain”. This would have been, for those who lived it, an apocalyptic time never known before; with the Romans having lived, fought, laughed, married and raised children on our island, “leaving” could never be as simple as that.

Richard is the co-author of the popular ‘Britannia’ series with M. J. Trow. These books follow a group of soldiers and their descendants through the madness of a chain of events which will eventually lead to the fall of Roman Britain and the descent into the Dark Ages.

His exhaustive research of this period eventually led him to Arthur and then onward to Robin Hood.

You can find the author on

Twitter: @britanniaseries

On Goodreads:

And his book, Robin Hood, English Outlaw, on Amazon:

A Forward: SOS (Save Our Small-dog) ~ Ani’s Advent 2019 #midnighthaiku


It’s getting closer.

Save a small dog’s dignity…

Fill my calendar!

Look, you know what she does to me at Christmas. The one day when two-legses go around talking about peace and love… and what does mine do?

Every year?

Ruddy antlers.

If Dog had meant us to have antlers, we’d grow them ourselves.


If this doesn’t make you laugh, I don’t know what will. Read the rest of this hilarious post on Sue Vincent’s blog site:

SOS (Save Our Small-dog) ~ Ani’s Advent 2019 #midnighthaiku


King Philip’s War and My Upcoming Book, The Last Pilgrim


King Philip’s War is one few people know about – even in New England – but is considered by many to be the deadliest war in Colonial American history.  It took place in the 17th century and involved the existing colonies: New York, Connecticut, Providence (Rhode Island), Plymouth, Massachusetts and the Maine territory. These colonies had each developed separate relations with the Wampanoags, Nipmuks, Narragansetts, Mohegans, Pequots and Massachusetts tribes, whose territories historically had differing boundaries. Many of the neighboring tribes had been traditional competitors and enemies.

At this time, the population of New England colonists totaled about 80,000 people. They lived in 110 towns, of which 64 were in the Massachusetts Bay colony, which then included the southwestern portion of Maine. The towns had about 16,000 men of military age who were almost all part of town militias.

Sometimes called Metacom’s War, King Philip’s War raged from 1675 to 1678 and consumed the Native Americans of New England, the colonists and their Indian allies. Metacom was the son of the great Wampanoag sachem, Massasoit, who together with Plymouth governor John Carver, forged a mutually beneficial agreement by which the Wampanoags would defend any attacks on the Plymouth colonists and the Plymouth militia would defend against any attacks on the Wampanoags. At the time (1621), the Wampanoags had been greatly reduced in number by disease, and Massasoit believed they could be attacked by other tribes. This agreement lasted for fifty years, until Massasoit’s death.

Metacom, who took the English name Philip Pokanoket, signed another agreement with the Plymouth colony but did not hold to its terms, selling land to raise money to buy arms. The war’s proximate cause was Plymouth Colony’s execution in June 1675 of three of Philip’s warriors. They had been tried and found guilty of murdering John Sassamon, a Harvard-educated convert to Puritanism, who had served as an interpreter and advisor to Philip but whom Philip had accused of spying for the colonists. His murder ignited a tinderbox of tensions between Indians and whites that had been smoldering for 55 years over competing land claims (including disputes over the grazing of colonial livestock on hunting and fishing grounds), interracial insensitivities, and English cultural encroachment on Native America.

The war began on June 20, 1675, when a band of Pokanokets attacked several isolated homesteads in the small Plymouth colony settlement of Swansea, then laid siege to the town and destroyed it five days later, killing some of the colonists.  The war raged on, with more than half of all New England towns attacked by Indian warriors, and many were completely destroyed.

In the end, Plymouth Colony lost in the war close to eight percent of its adult male population and a smaller percentage of women and children. Its economy was all but ruined. Indian losses were much greater, with about 2,000 men killed or who died of injuries in the war, more than 3,000 dying of sickness or starvation. Many were sold into slavery and transported to other areas, such as the British-controlled islands in the Caribbean. It has been estimates that the war reduced the Indian population of southern New England by about 40 to 80 percent.

Some of the orphaned Wampanoag children were taken into Pilgrim households as servants. I incorporated this fact into my book, The Last Pilgrim, the story of Mary Allerton Cushman, who came on the Mayflower. Here is an excerpt:


Governor Josiah Winslow and the Plymouth Council of War had a problem: what to do with 112 Natives, at least eight of whom were women and children left behind by Philip’s retreating army. They decided to sell them to other countries as slaves. Thomas, as a member of the Council, and an Elder of the church, did not concur, but the losses from the war had generated so much anger and pain, there was little the governor could do. The next month, Thomas brought news that the Plymouth Court planned to arrange for many of the Wampanoag children, orphaned in the war, to be placed as servants in the colony’s families, until they reached twenty-four or twenty five years of age.

In our bed that evening, with the curtains opened to let in some air, Thomas whispered to me, “I should set a good example for our congregation and take one of these Indian children.”

I had been thinking much the same. “So we shall, husband, but not to be our servant. We can raise him or her in righteousness and make him a part of our family. I refuse to use a child as a servant.”

The firmness of my words must have resonated in my husband’s thinking, for after a long moment, he let out a great sigh and replied, “I agree. It is the same as slavery, to which I do not subscribe.”

Samuel came to us in August, brought by Thomas, and my first memories of him are of a small, stick thin, long-haired waif, hiding behind my husband’s legs. I had anticipated he would be unbearably dirty, but he was in fact quite clean, and as I later learned, the members of his tribe bathed nearly every day.

I walked over to Thomas, leaned around him and offered my hand. “Welcome.”

To which he replied, “Welcome,” without taking my hand.

Thomas then said, “He knows very little English, so for the nonce we will have to use our hands to communicate. I have given him the name we decided on – Samuel – and he knows that is what we will call him.”

 “What is his Wampanoag name? Do you know it?” I withdrew my hand.

“Yes, it is Sokanon.”

“Does it have a meaning?”

Thomas smiled. “It pours, it rains.”

While we were having this conversation, Samuel’s dark eyes followed our faces, back and forth, his face lighting when he heard ‘Sokanon.’

“Then his name will be Samuel Sokanon,” I decided.

Thomas turned and taking the boy by the shoulder in one hand, gestured to his stomach and mouth with the other, something Samuel understood and nodded immediately. Gestures for hunger are never misunderstood.


Samuel will grow up in the Cushman household, coming to regard Thomas and Mary as his mother and father. He will eventually leave them to live in a settlement of ‘praying Indians’ – Native Americans who had accepted Christianity as their religion – on Cape Cod.

Book Review: The Braided Stream by Harper Swan (@HarperSwan1) #historical fiction #Neanderthal #early man


The Braided Stream follows on The Replacement Chronicles, and as with the previous tale of an early Homo sapiens woman named Raven, it is a meticulously researched story. Raven, known as a healer, had mated with a Neanderthal man she calls a Longhead, who was captured by her clan.  The Longhead was released and returned to his family.

Now Raven has taken a young brave of her tribe called Leaf as her mate, and when her half-Neanderthal, half-Home Sapiens daughter, whom she names Wren, is born, Leaf agrees to be her father. She has two children with Leaf, Sky age six, and Windy, three, and they live with the Wind Tribe in what was Ice Age Eurasia. Raven is now considered the healer for her tribe, and on a day while she treats a young woman covered with bruises for tension and headache, she is confronted by a large raven. Raven considers the bird a harbinger of some event, which she feels is not good, and she wonders where Leaf and Wren have gone to hunt. Neither has returned, and when they are still missing the next day, Raven persuades the chief to give her some men – only two trackers as it turns out – to try to find where they’ve gone.

Raven and the trackers discover Leaf and Wren have been taken by several men with large footprints that Raven believes are those of Longheads. When they follow the tracks, they are swept away by a flash flood and Raven is severely injured. A man from Raven’s distant past – Chukar, the Longhead father of Wren — appears to take care of her.

Leaf and Wren have been taken by Chukar’s mother, Elder Woman, a wily and devious old woman who is a healer and leader of her clan. She has devised nefarious plans to use both Leaf and Wren to rescue her tribe from extinction. When Raven returns with Chukar to Elder Woman’s clan, the reader becomes immersed in Neanderthal culture and custom.

The story is told from shifting points of view, so you can see the panorama of the story through the eyes of Raven, Leaf and Elder Woman. Their stories blend effortlessly, a somewhat easier transition than that of the previous book, which wove back and forth from the present to the past.

Will Raven and Leaf escape with Wren to return to the Wind River tribe? Can they outwit Elder Woman? Is Raven Chukar’s mate or Leaf’s or both?

The details of the landscape, food, herbal remedies, animals, hunting, and clothing are both fascinating and rich. The concern for tribal survival is a constant undercurrent, which comes to the forefront with the after-effects of a nearby asteroid strike that devastates the land. The characters are so well-described you can easily see them and the historical detail is on par with Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series, enhancing the strong story line.

With all of the recent research into Neanderthals, this book hits the mark – they coexisted with modern humans for over 5000 years and were not the ape-like creatures they were originally thought to be: Neanderthals had very complex social structures and used languages to communicate. Some evidence reveals they were able to play musical instruments too. The author has used all this new information to create a great book.

I strongly recommend The Braided Stream to anyone who has ever wondered about our prehistoric ancestors, and to readers who like tales of strong women!

PS I think the cover is fabulous!

About the author

Harper Swan lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and two sweet but very spoiled cats. She is the author of has Gas Heat, a story of family angst taking place in the Deep South, and found the inspiration in the books by Jean Auel. She has drawn on her interests in archaeology, genetics, ancient history and archaeological finds from Paleolithic sites to create the world of The Braided Stream.

You can find Harper Swan

On Goodreads –

Twitter: @HarperSwan1


The Braided Stream is available on Amazon

Stay tuned for my next review: the origins of Robin Hood!