May 29, 2015

Caddy Rowland - Making History, Bohemian Style (Part 15)

Please welcome back historical fiction author and artist, Caddy Rowland, our (now) quarterly contributor here at Historical Fiction Connection.

Cabaret de l'Enfer

Entrance to Cabaret de l'Enfer

I posted last time about a cabaret in Montmartre where death was the theme. Well, this cabaret took it a step further. It was named Cabaret de l’Enfer (The Cabaret of the Inferno) and was satanically themed. Cabaret de l’Enfer was in the red light district of Montmartre (Pigalle), not far from Moulin Rouge. From the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth, patrons could come and drink in hell. This cabaret is very hard to gather much information about, unfortunately. I will tell you what I know. It seemed to have operated for over fifty years, and was located on the Boulevard de Clichy.

The entrance was a large, horrible, fanged open mouth in a gigantic face with eyes blazing crimson. “Enter and be damned. The Evil One awaits you!” was the warning people heard as they entered the hellish nightclub. The chorus of rough voices was enough to make even the bravest man reconsider.

Once inside there were crevices in the walls with molten silver and gold, flames would shoot out of rock clefts, and thick smoke came from smoldering fires in various caverns, smelling of sulfur. Thunder rumbled throughout.

One cauldron over a “fire” had musicians playing various instruments, and if they didn’t play correctly they were prodded by imps holding “red hot” irons. In fact, all servers were red imps. Many carried boiling and smoking beverages to the thirsty, damned patrons.

Most patrons sat at red tables which glowed, then dimmed, only to glow again and again. All orders were screamed out, changing them to frightening ingredients and side-effects. More imps sat on fires or turned somersaults across the floor.

One could even witness a snake transforming into a devil. Of course, Satan was there, heckling all who dared to stay once they had entered. He walked the club in a scarlet robe, adorned with glowing jewels. His sword blazed with fire. He had a black mustache that curled up into sharp points and a sneering grin. His shrieking laugh bounced off the walls, making the place even more leery. He’d accuse women of sending men to hell with their “ways” and condemn others to eternal damnation.

Next door was another cabaret with the theme of Heaven, complete with angels, harps, and clouds. It wasn’t nearly as popular as hell. I wish I had more information to share with you about these two places, as they sound like fun places to visit. Even though the information is sparse, I hope you enjoyed what I was able to share. 

If anyone has more information about either of these two places, I would love to hear from you at

Historical Fiction by Caddy Rowland: 

Contact and Social Media Info. For Caddy Rowland:

Author Email:
Twitter: @caddyorpims

May 26, 2015

Spotlight on Emma Maxwell McCone's The Wishing Boy

Dublin, 1930s - political unrest between Republicans and the De Valera Government. An art exhibition takes place and contains an unusual painting entitled "The Wishing Boy". Catrin Kilpatrick, the daughter of a well-known business man, admires the unique painting and wants to buy it, but Devlin O'Farell the artist refuses to sell it. Determined to have her way, she travels to Galway where he lives, and plans to make the purchase. Little does she know, Devlin worked for Flan Maguire, the most powerful man in Galway, and Commander of the Galway IRA Brigade. She has walked into the Lion's Den, and will find herself in great danger.

“The Wishing Boy” ISBN 9781784550653 by Emma Maxwell McCone was released on 3/31/2015 and is is available to buy from Amazon and all good booksellers.

Publisher’s Website:

About the author
Ken Scott, who writes under his mother’s name, was born Glasgow, Scotland in 1929.

He married in 1954 to Rhona after decades of service to the Woollen Industry, and they have raised one son and two daughters who have long since flown the nest. For the past 22 years they have resided in Swansea where they enjoy an active life covering sporting and musical activities. Ken started his first published work at the age of 14, supplying the local newspaper with reports on soccer activities, and during his adult career in textiles had over 50 articles published in textile magazines with international circulation.

May 25, 2015

Spotlight on John A. Connell's Ruins of War

Title: “Ruins of War”
Author: John A. Connell
Release date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0425278956

Winter 1945. Seven months after the Nazi defeat, Munich is in ruins. Mason Collins—a former Chicago homicide detective, U.S. soldier, and prisoner of war—is now a U.S. Army criminal investigator in the American Zone of Occupation. It’s his job to enforce the law in a place where order has been obliterated. And his job just became much more dangerous.

A killer is stalking the devastated city—one who has knowledge of human anatomy, enacts mysterious rituals with his prey, and seems to pick victims at random. Relying on his wits and instincts, Mason must venture places where his own life is put at risk: from interrogation rooms with unrepentant Nazi war criminals to penetrating the U.S. Army’s own black market.

What Mason doesn’t know is that the killer he’s chasing is stalking him, too.

Praise for the book
“Compelling debut.”
Publishers Weekly

“A thrilling hunt...gripping and gruesome.”
—James Becker, bestselling author of The Lost Testament

“John Connell's RUINS OF WAR is the best historical crime novel I've read all year. As vivid a sense of time and place as anything by Alan Furst, a killer as horrifying as any in Thomas Harris, and a central character I'm sure we'll be reading about for years to come.”
—Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest and Hop Alley

“RUINS OF WAR is a well-crafted, classic police tale set in postwar 1945 Munich, a city that could double as the living room of hell. Mason Collins, a military cop, actually asked to be transferred there, and immediately has to find a killer who is preying on the citizens, adding terror to abject misery. Mason's pursuit of the madman takes him though a ruined landscape, filled with inhabitants as shattered as the city they live in."
—Larry Bond, author of Red Phoenix and Shattered Trident

Buy the book

About the author
John was born in Atlanta, Ga., then spent his childhood in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, NYC, and D.C. before moving back to Atlanta at the age of 13. While at Georgia State University his fascination with human thought drove him to study Psychology, and when that didn’t satisfy his curiosity about the human spirit, he turned to Anthropology, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a minor in Psychology. During that time and after graduation he was a keyboardist and singer in rock and jazz bands, while simultaneously dabbling in writing short stories. To work his way through college and beyond, he stumbled upon some rather unique jobs: stock boy in a brassiere factory, courier for the Georgia State Health Department delivering gonorrhea and syphilis cultures from OB-GYN offices, a repairer of newspaper vending machines, a stint as an apprentice machinist, and a printing press operator.

John’s love of storytelling is what compelled him to switch to a career in film, even though he knew nothing about film and no one in the business. He “logically” chose camera work (not knowing anything about film cameras either) as a way into the business. He started in the film business in Atlanta and then moved to Los Angeles and worked his way up the ranks in the camera department to become a camera operator for both movies and TV. He also worked as an assistant aerial cinematographer using helicopters that took him all over the world. He kept at the writing, frequently expressing his deep desire to fulfill that dream. And then someone finally said, “shut-up, sit down and write.” And so he did. Between film projects or during lighting setups, he studied the craft of writing and produced mostly action/adventure screenplays. He then toyed with the idea of making two of his screenplays into YA novels. That’s when he discovered the rich potential for storytelling that novels provide, and with it his true passion.

During this time he met and married a French woman in Los Angeles. While he was working on a hit TV show as a camera operator, his wife was offered an excellent opportunity in Paris, France. They jumped at the chance, though they’d just bought their dream house two months earlier, and John had the French language proficiency of a two-year-old! He’d always wanted to live in Europe, particularly Paris, and it provided him the opportunity to devote full time to writing. He still takes occasional film jobs in the US. He now speaks French moderately well, though hardly a day goes by when his wife doesn’t roll on the floor with laughter at his attempts.

Currently, his wife and he live in Versailles, France, trying suburban living for a while, but they miss the energy of Paris and plan to move back there next year.

Visit the author

May 20, 2015

Spotlight on Jennifer Bort Yacovissi's Up the Hill to Home {Giveaway}

Giveaway winner - Deanne

Genre & Subject:                                                     Historical Fiction                                                                       
Demographic:                                                          Adults, Women, Catholics
Release Date:                                                           April 28, 2015
Publisher:                                                                  Apprentice House Press / Loyola University Maryland
Publisher Phone:                                                      410-617-5265                                                                                 
Distributor:                                                                Ingram                                                                                        
Hardcover ISBN:                                                    9781627200394
Paperback ISBN:                                                    9781627200561
Ebook ISBN:                                                            9781627200400

Prices:                                                                        $35.99 (h), $19.99 (p), $5.99 (e)

Author URL:                                                  

Publicist:                                                                    Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist -
Pages:                                                                        477

Images:                                                                     None

Index:                                                                        No

Bibliography:                                                           No

Bindery:                                                                    Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook

Family. Home. Memories. Lillie Voith holds these values most dear.

When the cherished daughter, wife, and mother of nine is bedridden after a fall, her memories tug at threads woven through a century, as the fabric of her family frays around her.

“A living portrait of a loving family”, Up The Hill sketches four generations of the Miller/Beck/Voith clan from pre-Civil War to Depression era Washington DC.

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About the author
Jenny Yacovissi grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, just a bit farther up the hill from Washington, D.C. Her debut novel, Up the Hill to Home, is a fictionalized account of her mother's family in the same region. 

In addition to writing historical and contemporary literary fiction, Jenny is a reviewer for Washington Independent Review of Books and Historical Novel Society. She owns a small project management and engineering consulting firm, and enjoys gardening and being on the water. Jenny lives with her husband Jim in Crownsville, Maryland. 

To learn more about the families in Up the Hill to Home and see photos and artifacts from their lives, visit 

Please leave a comment below with your email address to enter to win an eBook copy of this book -- open internationally! Giveaway ends on Wednesday, May 27 at 11:59pm CST.

May 18, 2015

Stephen Clegg's The Fire of Mars - Guest Post

My name is Stephen F Clegg, I am retired, and I have never been busier!

I have always had an active and fertile imagination, and I have told my children and grandchildren stories all of their lives; indeed, to this day I have never been allowed to read anything to them, I’ve always had to make up stories on the spot. And it was this situation that prompted me to leave adult tales for them to read when I am no longer here, allied to a hope that they will recall those endless, happy days with my loving wife Jay, and me.

My first published novel was named Maria’s Papers, and it was based upon true events that happened to my great great Aunt Maria Clegg in the 1800’s.

She had been a diminutive, single, lady with limited means, tasked by her father to reclaim what they believed was a family-owned estate at the end of a long tenure, from a wealthy and ruthless family who insisted that they’d purchased it, and not leased it. But her tiny stature utterly belied her grit and steely determination. She fought a battle of attrition with them for seventeen years, until in 1870; she was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum for having ‘Delusions of Exaltation’.

I have never seen anything as ambiguous and open for translation as that outrageous charge, and after obtaining her pitiful and scandalous medical records in 2010, I, like others in my family, believe that somebody had paid to have her locked-up.

In recording these events in a fictional tale, I had to have an authentic feel of the 1800’s. It was necessary to carry out abundant amounts of historical research, and I grew to love it. It was fascinating, instructive, and I soon realised that it was rich in all sorts of story-telling possibilities.

My enjoyment in penning the first, led me to writing subsequent novels, all containing the same central protagonists in a series of stand-alone thrillers. My second outing was named The Matthew Chance Legacy; that was followed by The Emergence of Malaterre, and then my latest, The Fire of Mars. It was released in January 2015, and is a split-storyline historical fiction set in Charleston, South Carolina. It is centred on the real-life events of the SS Georgiana which sank off The Bay of Palms near Charleston Harbour, containing confederate gold, during the American Civil War.

I have been lucky enough to have three prize nominations for my work, and I’m proud to say that I was a finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014.

I am now at the editing and proof-reading stage of my fifth novel, The Hallenbeck Echo, and I’m sixty-thousand words into writing my sixth, The Monkshead Conspiracy. They are all split-storylines, and all involving historical fact, and/or, fiction.

It is a genre I find irresistible. Not only does it afford me the opportunity to let my mind run riot with events of the past, it also gives me a real insight into how life was back then, and it makes me realise how lucky and privileged I am to be living in these times.

If you’d like to learn more about me or my novels, or if I can, in any small way, help anybody else interested in historical fiction, please feel free to contact me via my website and I’ll do whatever I can.

Thank you for reading my post. 

About the book
At the latter end of 2006, a well-respected, married, church Deacon discovers the possible hiding place of a huge and valuable ruby named ‘The Fire of Mars'. He becomes obsessed by it, and dreams about finding it to be able to fund a new and exciting life with his secret lover. But when he becomes involved in a hit and run scam, everything changes - he needs it to escape his dilemma. Thereafter his life and his actions begin to spiral down to depths he never thought possible.

In November of the same year, historic researcher Naomi Wilkes and her husband Carlton, arrive at St Andrew's church in Charleston, South Carolina, in pursuit of the same stone. And none of them have any idea of the scale of horrors they will unearth...

“The Fire of Mars” ISBN 9781784551889 by Stephen F. Clegg is available to buy from Amazon and all good booksellers from 30/01/2015.

About the author
Stephen Clegg was born in Stockport in 1947. He is retired and happily living on the south coast of England with his wife, children and grandchildren. In 2012 his first novel ‘Maria's Papers' was released. His second, ‘The Matthew Chance Legacy' became a finalist in ‘The People's Book Prize 2013/14', and his third ‘The Emergence of Malaterre' was released in April 2014. This is his fourth outing, with more to follow.

May 13, 2015

Alison McMahan's The Saffron Crocus - Guest Post and {Giveaway}

Guest blog by Alison McMahan

The paintings of Bernardo Strozzi greatly inspired me when it came to creating the characters in my book, The Saffron Crocus. Strozzi was a painter who fled Genoa because he no longer wanted to live as a Capuchin monk. He ended up in Venice where he produced many portraits, including one of Claudio Monteverdi, until his death in 1644.

In addition to his portraits he painted many allegorical paintings, images of saints, and scenes of daily life. He painted pictures of St. Cecilia several times, images such as this one:

St. Cecilia's had several traditional features: the transported expression, the musical instrument, the modest dress among them. 

Then Strozzi painted the image of "Woman with a Viola da Gamba." 

The painting has some of the elements that match it to a St. Cecilia: the musical instrument, the pose of a young woman visible to the waist. But there all resemblance to a picture of saint ends. This young woman is not transported, she looks at the viewer directly, with a worldly and somewhat bored gaze. She is not modest at all; in fact, her cleavage is so low that one breast is completely bared. 

The bared breast and the fact that there is a violin in the image, along with her viola da gamba, and the music is for a duet suggests that she is waiting for a partner to come and "make music" with her. In other words, that she is a courtesan. 

I referred to this image in The Saffron Crocus, and the heroine's discovery of it marks a key turning point in her understanding of the world. At the time I wrote the book I accepted the traditional interpretation of the painting, that the pose and the décolletage indicated that the sitter was a courtesan. Since then I've learned a few things which are much more interesting than the traditional interpretation.

For example, some have argued that the portrait is an allegorical image, of Flora, similar to Titian's:

Courtesans in Venice did bare their breasts, as a way of marketing their goods, and tinted their nipples red. Or they stood on their roofs, bleaching their hair to achieve a blond color, wearing nothing but a shimmery shift that also revealed their breasts to any passerby. 

But it's hard to say that the bare breast in this image indicates the woman is a courtesan. Strozzi used bare-breasted women in many images, usually allegorical ones, such as his allegory of the arts:

Scholars David Rosand and Ellen Rosand have argued that the picture of the viola da gamba player picture is actually a portrait of Barbara Strozzi (no relation to Bernardo). They have various reasons for this attribution, mainly, that events we know about her life match the depiction in the image. Specifically, they refer to the fact that Barbara Strozzi was the "mistress of ceremonies" of the Accademia degli Unisoni, a salon for philosophical and artistic discussion organized by her adoptive (her perhaps natural) father, Giulio Strozzi. The Rosands mention a particular event that might have led to the pose and costume in the portrait in which Barbara sang and handed out flowers as prizes to the one who wrote the most impressive argument on whether tears or song was the most potent weapon in love. 

As I read about this attribution I became eager to know more about Barbara Strozzi. Not whether she was a courtesan (there is evidence that she partnered with one man most of her life, as she had three children with him) but as a musician. 

She wasn't the first musician to have her music published. That honor goes to Maddalena Cassulana whose first work, a collection of four madrigals, was published in Florence in 1566. But Strozzi published voluminously, more than any other composer of her time. She is credited with creating the cantata. And she did all this without the patronage of a noble or the church. She spent her life trying to find such patronage and did not succeed. 

She did have her father's support, though. At least one scholar claims Giulio Strozzi created the Accademia degli Unisoni to encourage her work. Though her association with the Unisoni is also what led to outsiders claiming she had sold her virtue. 

It seems sad to me that what most people might know about Strozzi is these allegations that she was a courtesan. That bared breast is all we see when we look at that image. I encourage my readers to listen to her music instead. Here's a lovely performance of her aria "Che si può fare":

About the book
Publication Date: December 13, 2014
Black Opal Books
eBook; 306p
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Mystery/Romance

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Winner of the 2014 Rosemary Award for Best Historical for Young Adults.
Venice, 1643. Isabella, fifteen, longs to sing in Monteverdi’s Choir, but only boys (and castrati) can do that. Her singing teacher, Margherita, introduces her to a new wonder: opera! Then Isabella finds Margherita murdered. Now people keep trying to kill Margherita’s handsome rogue of a son, Rafaele.

Was Margherita killed so someone could steal her saffron business? Or was it a disgruntled lover, as Margherita—unbeknownst to Isabella—was one of Venice’s wealthiest courtesans?

Or will Isabella and Rafaele find the answer deep in Margherita’s past, buried in the Jewish Ghetto?

Isabella has to solve the mystery of the Saffron Crocus before Rafaele hangs for a murder he didn’t commit, though she fears the truth will drive her and the man she loves irrevocably apart.


Who knew a singing career would be this much trouble?

“Rafaele!” She flew into the garret. “Piero, it was so wonderful, wait until I tell you!”

The stool next to the bed was knocked over. The tray with the genepy bottle was on the floor, one of the cups broken. The fat candle that had been burning next to Rafaele’s bed had been flung to the other side of the room.. Canvases were strewn all over the floor, some of them slashed, and many of Master Strozzi’s jars of paint elements were broken.

Did Piero and Rafaele have a fight? She quickly suppressed the thought. Who would get into a fight with a man who was already injured?

Something else must have happened.

She walked across the garret. “Piero? Rafaele, are you here?”

Rafaele was not in the bed. The sheets and blankets she had piled on top of him were strewn everywher. Blood-stained sheets spilled over the edge of the pallet. There was a pile of clothes on the floor.

She walked around to get a closer look.

Not clothes. It was Piero. Face down, one arm stretched out before him, as if in supplication.

A puddle of blood under him.


Praise for The Saffron Crocus
“I adored this beautifully written, passionate book. The Saffron Crocus is a glittering, thrilling opera of a novel that plucked my heartstrings and kept me reading at fever pitch. Brava, Alison McMahan! Encore!” -Nancy Holder, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Wicked Saga

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About the Author
Alison McMahan chased footage for her documentaries through jungles in Honduras and Cambodia, favelas in Brazil and racetracks in the U.S. She brings the same sense of adventure to her award-winning books of historical mystery and romantic adventure for teens and adults. Her latest publication is The Saffron Crocus, a historical mystery for young. Murder, Mystery & Music in 17th Century Venice.

She loves hearing from readers!

Author Links

Tour Schedule:
Hashtags: #TheSaffronCrocusBookBlast #TheSaffronCrocusBlogTour #YA #Historical #Venice
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @AlisonMcMahan

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The Saffron Crocus Giveaway

May 11, 2015

Spotlight on Christian Kachel's Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword

322 BC. What happens when the most powerful man in the world unexpectedly dies without naming a successor? Many great HF novels have been written about ancient Greece and, in particular, Alexander the Great, yet few works are set in the little known age following his demise and preceding the eventual Roman dominance of his empire. My historical novel blends epic military engagements, involving historical figures, with a unique intrigue involving fictitious secret societies and human intelligence tradecraft, to tell a powerful story of loyalty and bloodshed during this uncharted literary era.

As a boy, Andrikos watched as Alexander's army marched through his homeland of Greek Ionia after defeating King Darius III at the Granicus River on their way to the total conquest of the Persian Empire. Soon he will be embroiled in their world, forced to flee his old life due to an unintentional crime. Thrust into the royal army, Andrikos struggles to cope with brutal training that prepares him for the coming wars of succession as Alexander's surviving generals seek to divide and conquer the spoils of Olympus.

But Andrikos is not destined to be a nameless soldier; by chance he is chosen for a clandestine mission - and is immersed in a world of intrigue, violence and brotherhood. The path that lies ahead requires Andrikos to shed his immaturity and take on the responsibilities and emotions of a man beyond his years as he struggles to save Alexander's legacy from those who wish to usurp it.

Received three 5 star reviews from the Reader's Favorite Book Review and Award Contest:

"Christian Kachel has done his homework, researching the facts, details, and time lines for his historical fiction novel, The Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword. The character development and scenes are skillfully well written and amazingly intriguing. A reader will find themselves enthralled with each scene, page, and word of this epic tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As an avid historical fiction reader, I am anxiously awaiting news of a second book release, and recommend this book to any reader interested in historical fiction, or just history and fiction in general." 
--Michelle Robertson from Reader's Favorite

"Mr. Kachel has woven together an expertly researched tale. Although lengthy, I was held riveted to every page, wondering what would become of Andrikos. This is truly a tale of rags to riches. Andrikos never expects to be given certain opportunities, but he does redeem himself from the shame he left behind in Ilandra. I could tell that, despite his harsh methods, Vettias thought of Andrikos as a sort of surrogate son and perhaps someone to continue his legacy in the King’s Hand. Add in the spunky prostitute Mara as a recruited spy and Kachel gives us a cast of characters that will not soon be forgotten. I look forward to reading other books by this author and avidly await the sequel of By the Sword." 
--Heather Osborne from Reader's Favorite

"Apart from revealing parts of history, the book also offers readers good suspense and intrigue. The character development of Andrikos from that of a boy to a man is done effortlessly. The author has researched well and has shared with readers that time in history which many of us are not so aware of. The author has given a lot of attention to detail and any student of history will enjoy this. The story and its setting have a good pace and will keep readers glued to the book. I liked the author's style of writing which is descriptive and detailed and makes the plot and the scenes very clear. Historical stories always catch my interest and this one with history, intrigue anthe journey of Andrikos is highly entertaining." 
--Mamta Madhaven from Reader's Favorite

About the author
Christian is a Long Island, NY native and current resident of Northern Virginia. While attending the University of Maryland- College Park, the events of September 11, 2001 inspired him to join the U.S. Army ROTC program and volunteer for three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan upon commissioning into the Army Reserves in 2003. He holds three Master's degrees and works in the defense industry.

May 08, 2015

Pamela Schoenewaldt's Under the Same Blue Sky - Guest Post

Making Research Serve the Story 

Being boundlessly fascinated by history is essential to—but sometimes the curse of—historical novelists. In research for Under the Same Blue Sky, set during and after World War I, what I found out about the 1919 Influenza Pandemic floored me. Sure, I know it happened. Here’s what I didn’t know:

This was the most devastating medical holocaust in the history of the world, killing 30-50 million people, an estimated 3-6% of the globe, from remote Pacific Islands to the Arctic Circle. In the U.S., 675, 000 died. Ten times as many soldiers died of influenza as were killed in battle. Average U.S. lifespan was depressed by 10 years. Death was horrific and could come within 24 hours of the first symptoms. Treatment was palliative at best. While most epidemics select for the young, the elderly, or the weak, this influenza, turning the body’s immune system against itself, targeted healthy young adults in their 20’s-30’s: young parents and the working powerhouses of their communities.

I read heart-breaking stories, worthy of many novels. Disaster brings out the best and worst in human nature: selfless heroics and ugly profiteering. Cemetery workers priced-gouged or simply left grieving families to dig their loved ones’ graves. There weren’t enough coffins. A survivor shared a searing memory of parents in Philadelphia’s hard-hit Italian community screaming after the death cart bearing their baby away: “Put him in a macaroni box, at least a macaroni box.” He was dumped in a common grave. There were weird civic alliances. When Pennsylvania’s governor closed all public gathering places—schools, theaters, churches, taverns—Pittsuburgh’s churches and taverns lobbied together to rescind the order, both groups claiming that the solace they offered overruled the risk of infection.

To gather this information I drew on many sources, starting of course with internet materials. But these needed to be vetted and expanded. I want readers to trust me. I don’t want to tangle with HarperCollins fact-checkers: a tough breed. A public library and interlibrary loans helped. I interviewed an epidemiologist in public health and a physician on pediatric complications since one of the“victims” in Under the Same Blue Sky was a three-year old boy.

I had to do this research very quickly. The pandemic was only one of many topics to research in the year that my contract specified for a 100,000 word final draft. And here’s the catch. In the end, I cut pages and pages of influenza material. Fascinating as it was, accurate as it was, some details and scenes just didn’t in the end pull their weight to serve the story. I’m no historian. I’m a particular breed of storyteller, a historical novelist. That means being ruthless, tireless in gathering and checking and cross-checking material—and then being ready to listen to your inner (or outer) editor and let it go. Or . . . keep it for the next book.

About the book
As World War 1 engulfs Europe, Hazel Renner’s German-American community is increasingly isolated and suspect. Hazel’s mother is convinced that Hazel’s mysterious healing talents point to a career in medicine, but Hazel’s dreams lie elsewhere. As the war escalates, Hazel escapes to teach in a one-room country schoolhouse, desperate for peace. But peace is impossible when her healing powers bring shattering consequences, beginning a journey that takes her to an exiled baron’s looming castle in New Jersey and into the ruins of post-war Germany to solve the mystery of her past, ultimately of herself, as she fashions a new kind of healing for a shell-shocked hero and one small boy.

Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.
--Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

“The past returns in this story of the Great War, to tell of some who survived and some who didn’t. Hazel Renner is a hesitant healer, a young woman afraid of her gift. When the power to cure physical ailments deserts her, she tries instead to mend the human spirit. Rich in historical detail, this novel describes what it is to be gentle in a world gone terribly mad.” 
--Rita Leganski, author of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

"From the smoke-filled streets of Pittsburgh to the war-ravaged landscape of Europe, UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY is the story of one woman’s wonderfully determined journey through a world at the edge of war to seek her family’s past and her own future. 
--Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye 

Image Credit: Kelly Norrell

About the author
Pamela Schoenewaldt is the USA Today bestselling author of the novels WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, which was translated into three languages and selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover selection, and SWIMMING IN THE MOON, which appears in German this year and which was short-listed for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. Her prize-winning short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy, and the United States. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee. You can find her online at

May 06, 2015

Spotlight on Jeanne Moran's Risking Exposure with Excerpt

Publication Date: September 2013
Formats: eBook, Paperback
186 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Young Adult

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Munich, 1938, Nazi Germany. War is on the horizon. A timid Hitler Youth member contracts polio. Photographs she takes of fellow polio patients are turned into propaganda, mocking people with disabilities. She is now an outsider, a target of Nazi scorn and possible persecution. Her only weapon is her camera.
This well-researched historical fiction novel unveils a seldom-seen side of the Nazi agenda. A sequel is in the works.

Praise for Risking Exposure
“…an engaging, well written, thought provoking book. It reminds us of the responsibility we have to one another.”

“The story is true to history and would be ideal for a classroom studying this time period.”

“…you find yourself think thinking of the young character, Sophie, long after the last page.”

“… lets us see a world in which we know what happened, but Sophie does not yet. Our knowledge makes us want to read to the very last word–and wish the story would continue.”

“This book felt like I was reading a biography, the characters and story were all very real. Risking Exposure was certainly geared towards young adults, but this story captivated me from the beginning til the end – so it most certainly can hold the attention of an adult audience.”

“Ms. Moran is opening the door to this thought: if more (maybe only a handful more) people stood up and did small things too, could some of the awful suffering of this era been averted or lessened? And more poignantly, how about today? The book ratifies the importance of small actions done with love, bravery, and purpose.”

“Sophie is still on my mind days after finishing this book.”

”…the book was a beautiful collection of thoughts, historically accurate bits of data, and a easy read in terms of the flowing writing style, but deals with a lot of heavy topics in a censored way. This is definitely a great book to study, for school students, as it’s written in a simplistic yet effective writing style, and provides a brilliant coming-of-age story for all types of audiences.”

“There is so much to talk about in Sophie’s story – – what we accept as normal, what society thinks of its less able-bodied citizens, whether one person can really make a difference… we read it for our own book club discussion next month — and we’re all well past our teen-age years, so that shows the power of this small gem.”


Chapter One

Munich, Germany 
16 April 1938, Saturday

When Werner ordered me to grab my camera and follow him into the woods, I obeyed. He was the Scharführer, the Master Sergeant. What else could I do?

My best friend Rennie bolted to her feet alongside me. “You don’t need to go everywhere Sophie does, Renate,” Werner said to her in his usual high-pitched whine. But she ignored him and winked at me as we crashed through the underbrush. Rennie got away with a certain level of disobedience. Younger sisters can.

But I wasn’t Werner’s sister. I couldn’t risk it.

The three of us scared up rabbits and birds as we tromped along. We stopped at a small shed, and there in a hollow lay a large dog the color of a golden sunrise. Several clumps of fur wriggled against her belly.

“Puppies!” Rennie rushed over, dark curls bobbing, squatting so close that the mother lifted her head and growled. Rennie stood and stepped back, her smile undimmed.

Werner crossed his arms as if warding off disease. “The mother doesn’t have a tag. Probably a stray.”

I watched the tiny pups. Two were still, probably sleeping, one of them pale like its mother. Three others squirmed and nursed, their eyes still closed, their coats dappled in shades of brown and black. “How old do you think they are?” I asked.

Werner didn’t answer, just pointed at the ground a short distance from the mother’s muzzle. “Photograph that, Adler.”

A dark pup, its limp body camouflaged by dirt and decaying leaves. Rennie squatted beside it. “Poor little thing.”

I hurried my eyes away from the pitiful creature. “You want a photograph of a dead puppy?” I asked.

“It’s an example of nature’s way. The mother rejected that pup because he’s deformed,” he said, his tone matter-of-fact. “He’d do nothing but waste the milk meant for the able-bodied. A useless eater.”

A breathy objection came from Rennie. “That’s so cruel,” she whispered.

But I didn’t say anything. I just pulled out Papa’s camera and began to adjust my settings. I’d have to look at the poor thing through the camera lens. It might make me sick to my stomach.

Then Rennie’s voice brightened. “I think the pup’s alive,” she said. I lowered my camera.

She cooed at the creature as she made a small bed of leaves around it. Then she lifted and nestled the pup, leaves and all, at the mother’s teat, whispering soothing words the whole time. The tiny pup raised its wobbly head and searched until its mouth found nourishment. That’s when I saw the deformity – one of the pup’s hind legs was mangled, not bloody but sickeningly crooked. This puppy would never walk. I had to turn away.

Werner stepped back and stared at his sister, disgust clear in his squinted eyes and pursed lips. “You’re interfering with the natural order of things. Back to camp. And make sure you wash. Who knows what contamination…” He stalked off, shuddering.

As we followed, I stole a backward glance. The mother was using a forepaw to nudge the deformed pup away from her belly, away from her milk. I hurried to catch up with the others.

Rennie and I wove through clusters of boys working in their dirt-streaked uniforms, past rows of tents and campfires. One tent sat apart from the others. It was turned about-face so its back faced the campfires and its flaps faced the woods. Rennie gestured toward it with her thumb. “Werner’s,” she mouthed. I giggled.

Sure enough, a flap opened and he stepped out, straightened, and marched to the nearest fire. As usual, he was immaculate, his frame, short and wiry for an eighteen-year-old, neatly tucked into a crisp spotless uniform and gleaming shoes. I glanced down at my own scratched shins, the muddy streaks on my leather shoes and the burrs and twigs stuck to my blue uniform skirt. How did he freshen up so quickly? Did he have a clothesline full of pressed uniforms in that tent? I wanted to ask Rennie so we could share another giggle, but his march took him right past us.

He glanced down his long thin nose to his watch. “It’s twenty minutes before meal time,” he announced to no one in particular. “Are all the girls’ troops here?”

Anna, leader of our girl’s Jungmädel troop, rose and threw her shoulders back. In an identical announcement tone, she said, “The other troops and their leaders are late. My troop is the only one here on time.” She kept her gaze on Werner, no doubt waiting for a compliment about her efficiency. When a few heartbeats passed and the compliment didn’t come, she deflated onto a fireside rock.

Rennie whispered, “Anna should forget about nursing school and take up acting.”

“But not for an audience of children,” I added. In a few days, Anna was leaving her role as Jungmädel leader and none of us girls would be sad to see her go. With us, she’d always been quick with a harsh scolding and slow with a kind word. When adults commented how polite and disciplined we were, she’d smile and soften her voice and tell them how it was all because of her. She alone had sacrificed and slaved to mold us into the fine young girls we were. She alone had taught us to listen and be respectful and responsible. As if our parents hadn’t done that from the day we were born.

Rennie agreed. “She puts on a great show for adults.”

“Maybe her patients will appreciate her drama,” I said. But I doubted it.

Using a thick cake of brown soap, we washed at an old water pump near the campsite. Trudi, one of the youngest girls in our Jungmädel troop, ran up, out of breath. She worked the pump handle to splash the icy water into her filthy cupped hands, then slurped it eagerly.

“What are you doing?” I asked, a little disgusted.

She looked sheepish. “Getting a drink. Lost my canteen.”

I didn’t want to sound like Anna, so I spoke more gently. “You need to wash with soap and water before you drink from those hands.” I pulled my canteen from my rucksack and let her drink all she wanted, then refilled it from the pump. “We can share this,” I shook the full canteen, “until we get home.”

“You won’t tell Anna?”

“It will be our secret,” I told Trudi. No sense Trudi getting scolded for an honest mistake. In a few days time, neither of us would ever have to deal with Anna again.

The girls from my troop were scattered among a few different campfires. Trudi joined her little friends where they huddled together, giggling and pointing at the older boys. Rennie gestured toward an adjacent fire and we settled on a couple rocks. That’s when I noticed the person stirring the cook pot at our fire was Erich. Erich the Beautiful I called him, but he didn’t know that. I felt heat rise to my cheeks and groaned inwardly.

Erich looked up and swept his chocolate eyes between us, smiling. When he spoke, the small cleft in his chin danced. “Food’s almost ready.”

I was determined to act naturally, not to let on that my pulse was racing. “Smells good. Stew?”

He nodded. “Real campfire stew. Bits of potatoes and carrots, an onion or two, a little meat. Some wild mushrooms collected by that troop,” he poked his thumb toward a nearby cluster of boys.

My stepbrother Klaus folded his long frame onto a rock across from me. Rennie chattered to him, sharing details of the exhibit we’d seen earlier that day before we arrived for the cookout. When Rennie took a breath, Klaus turned to me. “You’re quiet today, little cat.”

Before I could answer, Erich spoke up. “I’ve always wondered, Klaus,” he said as he placidly stirred the stew, “why do you call Sophie ‘little cat’?”

One corner of Klaus’ mouth lifted and I turned my hot face to the ground. “Sophie used to have this little cat, Minka. When all was quiet, Minka roamed the house, catching mice downstairs in the bakery, sitting in sunbeams in plain sight. But the moment there was trouble, zoom!” he slid one palm forward over the other, “that cat ran and hid and couldn’t be found.” He smirked. “Sophie’s the same way.”

Erich stared at the pot, and thankfully the awkwardness ended when Marie and Uta greeted us and perched on nearby stumps. Marie was quite an athlete, keeping her dark hair cropped short in a no-fuss, always-ready-to-run style. If Uta weren’t my friend, I’d be jealous of her beauty and confidence. She filled out her white uniform blouse and blue skirt with womanly curves. She smiled flirtatiously as she chatted with the boys at our fire, tossing her nut brown hair and drawing their eyes to the places where its waterfall landed.

We were all fourteen, Uta and Marie and Rennie and me. The three of them had developed, blossomed as my mother would say. Not me. I still had a little girl’s contour, pencil straight from top to bottom. I lifted the stubby ends of my straw colored braids, flaring below their elastics like bristles of a paintbrush. I tossed them behind my shoulders.

“So, what will you boys compete in tonight?” Marie flashed her best smile at my stepbrother. She recently started talking about Klaus’ defined muscles, the wave of his sandy hair, and the sky blue of his eyes. She was getting as boy crazy as Uta. “Are you boxing, Klaus?”

He nodded and grinned. He’d won a dozen ribbons in Munich boxing competitions. “Boxing and throwing.”


Klaus peered at her. “We throw rocks for distance and accuracy. It’s training for the real thing.”

“The real thing,” Marie repeated, obviously not understanding.

“Grenades.” He grinned at Marie’s raised eyebrows. “Does that shock you?”

She nodded. It shocked me as well. I kept forgetting that in another year, Klaus would enter the Wehrmacht, the German Army.

Erich’s friendly tone broke the serious mood. “I’m in two races – a wheelbarrow race and a three-legged race.”

Klaus sniffed and steadied his gaze on Marie. “Who’s more prepared to restore Germany’s honor, someone who runs a three-legged race,” he glanced at Erich, “or someone who can throw a grenade to a target?”

Erich didn’t follow Klaus’ lead. “Half the fun of the three-legged race is messing up and falling,” he said smiling. “What happens if you mess up with explosives? Pshew!” He blew air past his teeth and threw his hands in the air. Rennie and I giggled, but Marie and Uta didn’t. Neither did Klaus.

Three more Jungmädel troops arrived at the campsite and Werner’s accusing whine echoed above the chaos. “You’re late.” He stood atop a rock, hands on hips, overseeing all. “Find a seat so we can eat.” The girls and their leaders hurried to obey.

As Scharführer, Werner was the leader of five troops of Hitlerjugend, Hitler Youth boys aged fourteen to eighteen. Even though each girl’s troop had its own female leader, he was also in charge of us somehow, all Youth from our Munich neighborhood, boys and girls ages ten to eighteen. That meant he’d still be in charge of us fourteen-year-old girls when we pledged to BDM, Bund Deutscher Mädel, the Hitler Youth branch for girls fourteen to eighteen, in a few days. Once I pledged, I’d be the official Youth photographer for all the troops in our region of Munich. I could hardly wait.

A few of the youngest girls from my troop wandered over looking for a place to eat, including Trudi. I gestured her to sit next to me, then slipped my canteen between us so we could share. She glanced around, looking for Anna no doubt. Once she saw that Anna’s attention was fixed on trying to catch Werner’s eye, she relaxed. She smiled at me a few times as she sipped from my canteen. We ate our stew in peace.

We were nearly done when the last group of girls finally showed up. Werner’s voice cut through the dinnertime chatter. “Falling behind may have cost you girls your dinner. When those who were here on time have finished, you latecomers can eat what’s left. If there is anything left.” He looked toward our campfire. “You, Lange!”

My stepbrother bolted to his feet, his mess kit clattering to the dirt. “Ja!”

“Oversee the clean-up of the meal. Activities begin in,” Werner glanced at his watch, “fifteen minutes.”

“Ja, mein Scharführer!” Klaus strode down the rows of tents, barking orders as mess kits, spoons, and pots clanked and banged.

“You, Adler.” Werner pointed at me. “Take photos of tonight’s activities for our newsletter.”

Quite an honor since I wouldn’t take my official position as Youth photographer until I pledged in a few days. I was thrilled, and Rennie squeezed my arm.

Werner’s voice whined again, and most of us turned to look at him. “I witnessed a lesson in nature today, a lesson our Fatherland has embraced.” He waited until clanking pots and background chatter halted before he continued. “A short time ago, off behind those trees, I found a mother dog and her pups.”

Several girls said “Aww.” When Werner scowled at them, they quieted and lowered their eyes.

“One of the pups was weak and deformed, a useless eater,” he continued. “Its own mother pushed it away so her good milk might be saved for pups which could grow up strong and capable.” He stared over his nose, turning slowly to face each cluster of Youth in turn. “Our Fatherland embraces this teaching from the natural world. Germany too is ridding itself of all who would pull strength,” he gestured around him, “from strong, capable young like you.”

Rennie mumbled something. Abruptly Werner said, “Did you have a something to add, Renate?”

She rose, face flushed. “I brought the deformed pup back to its mother. It was nursing when I left.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I’d seen.

Werner waved a hand dismissively. “Nature will take its course. By now, the mother has probably rid herself of that burden once and for all.”

Rennie drew a breath and Erich’s brow knit, but they stayed silent. When I rinsed my mess kit a short time later, Erich ducked into the trees.

The activities began on time of course, starting with a parade. We girls sat on the ground and watched as two rows of HJ marched onto the field. I handed Trudi my canteen and faced the oncoming columns of boys with my camera.

Action shots. I wasn’t very good at action shots. Adjust settings. Click.

As the Scharführer barked commands, the boys went through maneuvers turning this way and that, performing push-ups and calisthenics, counting their repetitions in unison. I hoped the photos would show activity, not just blurry movement. Adjust settings again. Click.

The boys broke formation and sat with their troops. The competition started with the wheelbarrow race followed by the three-legged race. Click. Click.

Those of us watching cheered and hollered, urging the pairs on, and behind the camera I cheered wildly for Erich. He and his teammate finished second in both races, laughing and clapping each other on the back. Most of the boys in their troop congratulated them, but I noticed Klaus was silent, his lips pressed shut, as if concentrating on something only he could see. A still shot. My favorite. Click.

The next event, the throwing contest, involved one boy from each troop throwing a potato-sized rock. Click. Klaus won by landing his within a meter of the target. I should have been proud but as each rock thudded to earth, I pressed my eyes closed, my mind’s lens picturing an explosion.

After some great fun in a baton relay and a piggy back race, two boys from each troop readied for boxing matches. Klaus faced a boy his size, their expressions serious and intimidating. Rennie tugged at my sleeve. “He looks like a regular Max Schmeling.”

I grinned at her. “He’d be glad to hear that.” Judging by the framed magazine cover on his bedroom wall, Schmeling, a former heavyweight world champion, was Klaus’ favorite.

When Werner blew the whistle, all started normally, pairs of boys circling each other, fists at the ready. But within a minute, the five fair contests had turned into brawls with boys shoving each other, staggering, throwing punches as well as kicks. Blood and spittle smeared faces, filth covered uniforms. I watched from my safe place behind the lens, sickened but somehow unable to turn away.

I focused on Klaus. His opponent kicked him square in the shins. Klaus pounced, knocking him onto his back. They grappled and rolled in the dirt, first one of them on top, then the other. In less than a minute, Klaus’ opponent was face down and he had sprawled on top, twisting the boy’s arm behind him. The boy struggled to free himself, to push up or roll away, but Klaus overpowered him. He yanked the boy’s hair, lifting his head to reveal a bloody nose.

Beside me, Rennie made little choking sounds. I knew her thoughts were the same as mine. This wasn’t boxing; it wasn’t sport. This was a fight.

I used my camera as a spyglass to view the reactions of the other spectators. Most continued to clap and holler their approval, including Marie and Uta and Anna. Little Trudi and her friends sat near the front of the pack, faces hidden behind their hands. Erich watched in stone-faced silence, fists clenched in front of his knees.

Werner stayed focused on the fights, grinning. Finally he blew the whistle and Klaus jumped to his feet and punched his fist in the air. The winner.

It was only then that I realized – I’d watched the whole match hidden behind my camera but hadn’t taken any pictures. I might be in trouble for that.

“Last event of the day,” Werner announced as the filthy, bloodied fighters staggered and swaggered to rejoin their troops. “The only event in which our guests, the Jungmädel troops, will participate. The human pyramid.” He turned to Anna. “Your troop was the first to arrive, so the honored place at the top of the pyramid is yours. To whom does it go?”

Anna rose and straightened. “Renate Müller, mein Scharführer.”

I grabbed Rennie’s arm as she drew in a breath. Werner’s eyebrows shot up. “My sister? Indeed.” Then back to business, he gestured to the boys. “One from each troop.”

The boys pushed their representative into the open. The three largest boys hunkered on all fours, and two others scrambled on their backs to create the second level.

Werner hooked his finger at Rennie. “Come, Renate.”

She rose and slid from my grasp. Everyone bolted to their feet. Voices cheered her on, clamoring for her to hurry up the boys’ posed frames to her perch at the top.

She stepped deftly onto one boy’s back while reaching to the second row. As she lifted herself and groped for a hand hold, she teetered, off-balance. I held my breath. Several seconds passed and the boys readjusted, steadying the shifting pyramid. One of Rennie’s knees reached the back of a boy on the second row. Then she gained purchase and pulled up the other knee to settle on all fours. Once there, she grinned in triumph. A huge cheer rose and I whooshed out my breath.

From the growing shadows behind the pyramid, two pairs of figures appeared, each duo lugging a cook pot. In the blink of an eye, two pots of icy water splashed onto the backsides of those in the pyramid, dousing them, shocking them. The pyramid toppled in a tangle of screams and limbs.

I ran into the wet slippery chaos. “Rennie!” I called. “Rennie, are you all right?”

Relief coursed through me when I found her lying on her back, laughing. She brushed a clump of muddy hair back from her face. “I wondered how I’d get down.” 

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About the Author
Jeanne Moran reads and writes stories in which unlikely heroes make a difference in their corner of the world. In her everyday life, she strives to be one of them.

For more information visit Jeanne Moran’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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May 05, 2015

Charles Gibson's Taking the Cross - Guest Post

The Roots of the Inquisition

When Pope Innocent III called for the Crusade against heresy in March, 1208, he could not have known the full force of what he was unleashing. Known as the Albigensian Crusade, this endeavor, proclaimed because of the death of a papal legate in the Languedoc region of France, led to the deaths of tens of thousands over the next twenty years, devastating one of the most wealthy and free regions of Europe in the early 13th century. 

It also led to the Inquisition. Contrary to what you might think, the Inquisition started in France in the 13th century, not centuries later in Spain.

My historical novel, Taking the Cross, is set during the opening summer of the Albigensian Crusade, in 1209. The main male character, Andreas, is lead knight to Raimon Roger Trencavel, the Viscount of Carcassonne, Albi, and Beziers. The Viscount, a historical figure, was the main target of the Crusade. Thus Andreas ends up fighting against a Crusade.

Charles Gibson in front of the Tower of the Heretics in Carcassonne, France.
Heretics were hanged inside from the crossbeams of the tower in the 13th century.

Yet the efforts of the Catholic Church to purge the Languedoc of heresy were not warlike at their inception. In the year 1203, Dominic of Osma appeared before Pope Innocent III asking to make pilgrimage to the Holy Land in order to proselytize Muslims. Innocent, more vexed over the spread of heresies throughout Christendom, and in the Languedoc in particular, had a different idea. His charge to the idealistic canon from Spain was that Dominic make journey to Southern France and preach to the Albigensian sect, known also as the Cathars.

The word Cathar comes from the Greek root word katharsos, which means “pure”. It is also the root of the English word catharsis, which means purification or cleansing. The Cathars believed in purifying themselves from this evil world. They took that quite literally and believed that all matter had been created by the devil and was therefore evil, including the wafers and wine of the Eucharist (or communion), and even one’s own body. They believed that Christ came in spirit form only and thus was neither born of a virgin nor executed upon a cross.

Such decidedly unorthodox views put them at odds with the Roman Catholic Church. Since it was believed in Medieval times that the survival of society depended on that society being likeminded, dissent could not be tolerated. This was true not only in religious belief but also in the practice of one’s beliefs.

This is seen very clearly in the case of the other group targeted by the Albigensian Crusade, the Waldensians. The followers of Peter Waldo from the city of Lyon, France, were targeted primarily because they wanted to practice their faith in a way deemed unacceptable by Rome. They wished to preach in public in the common tongue and also to translate the Bible into the common tongue so that all could have access to the Scriptures. What little preaching there was at this time was in Latin and nearly all Bibles were in Latin as well. The message from Rome was clear: You must not only believe as we do, but act as we do.

At first the beliefs of the Waldensians were little different than those of other Catholics, but over time they came to reject the use of relics, of infant baptism, of purgatory, and the supremacy of the pope. After repeated persecutions they eventually came to refer to the pope as “the whore of Babylon”.

Dominic was a countercultural figure in that he took a vow of poverty in contrast to the Catholic hierarchy of the day, who paraded around in opulence. Dominic traveled around the Languedoc barefoot and in the coarse tunic of a mendicant, humbly seeking alms wherever he went. In so doing he had more success than others, but that success was still limited. After five years journeying back and forth across the Languedoc, he had gleaned at most a few dozen converts.

Rome grew impatient with the lack of progress. The murder of papal legate Pierre de Castelnau in January, 1208, provided the perfect pretense to launch the Crusade that began in 1209. Dominic died in 1221, but the Crusade lasted until 1229. Dominic’s humble, peaceful means of proselytizing in the Languedoc died with him.

In 1231 the Inquisition began and was administered, ironically, by those in the Dominican order, the followers of the peaceful man who became known as St. Dominic. The tactics of the Inquisition became a basis for the modern police state. For example, those who concealed or gave aid to heretics in any way were forced to wear a yellow cross sewn into their garments. It gives reminder of the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced by the Nazis to wear during World War II.

Yet the Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition that followed became a motivating force for religious freedom that eventually led to the Reformation. The Waldensians persisted through decades and centuries of terrible persecution and voted to join the Reformation in the year 1532.

But in July, 1209, as Taking the Cross opens and Viscount Raimon Roger Trencavel rides to meet the leaders of the Crusade to seek peace, all of that is an unknown.

About the book
In the Middle Ages not all Crusades were fought in the Holy Land.

A two-pronged threat to the Catholic Church was growing within Christendom itself and Pope Innocent III called for the Crusade against heresy to eliminate both the Albigenses and Valdenses, two movements that did not adhere to Church orthodoxy.

Andreas, a knight who longs to go on Crusade to the Holy Land, finds himself fighting against one in his French homeland. While Andreas wages war for the lives and religious freedom of his people, a battle rages within his soul.

Eva, a young woman of a new religious order, the Beguines, discovers a secret message within a letter about the death of her father in the Holy Land. As she learns more of her father, she is forced to confront the profound and perilous spiritual inheritance he has bequeathed to her. A legacy for which she must fight.

Hearing of the feats of Andreas, Eva senses her inheritance may lead her to him.

They both face an evil that threatens to consume them.

Filled with battles of the flesh and the spirit, Taking the Cross reveals a passionate aspect of Medieval times where some fought ardently for the freedom of others.

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