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Monthly Archives: November 2014

New Book Release: The Cardinal

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Facebook Announcement with Website

Hi everyone!  I’m excited to announce the release of my latest books:  The Cardinal, Parts One and Two!  The Cardinal is an epic fantasy, spanning from the pre-Viking Age of Scotland and Norway to modern-day Scotland.

The Cardinal

790 A.D.

In the far northern reaches of the Highlands of Scotland a Pictish tribe, with their language of peat, stone and sea, ally together with a strange kingdom of mist, sky and whispers.  As a foe of axe, smoke and leather descend upon them in longships from the north and they are scattered in defeat, will those left behind ever find those wrenched from their arms?  Will those slaves taken by the Vikings ever find their way to freedom and home or not?  Either way life will never be the same again.


More than a thousand years later their lives, deaths and fates are brought to light by an archaeological team who uncovers the find of a lifetime… of a thousand lifetimes.  The more they discover the more perplexing it becomes; their finds challenge our very understanding of what it means to be human, and the assumption that myths are groundless and history is fact.  That we are not alone in the universe is one thing; that we are not alone on this earth is another thing entirely.

 “Legends come about when truth is considered too implausible.”—G.K. Chesterton

For further information, images and characters, please check out the page here.

If you enjoy the novels, please do leave feedback!  Both here and on Amazon would be excellent!  Every feedback is greatly appreciated, and the more the better!

The Varangian Guards

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Source:  Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

An elite unit of the Byzantine army from the 10th to 14th centuries, the Varangian guard was mostly comprised of Viking and Anglo-Saxon mercenaries whose job was to protect the Byzantine emperors as their personal bodyguards, and they were renowned for their loyalty, ferocity and honour; one of the greatest offences one could give a Viking or Varangian was to either question their honour or their courage – it usually ended in bloodshed.  So many Swedish left for this elite position that there was a law passed that no one could inherit land in Sweden while “in Greece” (the Swedish term for the Byzantine region).  These guards were prized, and hired not only in Byzantine, but also in London and in east Slavic tribes referred to as the Kievan Rus [Russia got its name from the Arabic term for the Vikings, perhaps related to the Old Norse word of Roþrslandi, “the land of rowing,” in turn related to Old Norse roðr “steering oar,” from which we get such words as “rudder” and “row”.]

My personal connection with this information is a story from the Skylitzes Chronicle:  In 1038 the Varangian were wintering in the Thracesian theme when one of them tried to rape a countrywoman; in the struggle she managed to take his sword, and killed him.  But instead of taking revenge, his comrades praised her and rewarded her with his possessions; they then exposed his body without burial as if he had committed suicide (an act of cowardice, and the highest of insults).  This story fit perfectly within a novel that I’m just finishing, and preparing for publication this month, called “The Cardinal“, an epic fantasy set in around A.D. 800 Scotland and Norway, and modern Scotland.  More news of that will be following!  In this particular case, the woman in the chronicle becomes the woman in my own tale, and she tells this very account as she tells of her life.  It’s these kinds of tales that I come across in research that add rich details of history to my characters!

Victorian Post-Mortem Photography

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Victorian Postmortem PhotoThe Victorian period of history had a few customs that today are considered, in most western cultures, to be downright creepy.  One of those practices had to do with remembering their dead through post-mortem photography, also known as memento mori or memorial portraiture.

Sometimes the photographer couldn’t arrive straight away, however.  Especially in the heat of summer, the body, which was laid out on a bed somewhere in the house (with flowers to mask the smell of decay), may have already started to decompose before the photograph could be taken.  Some of the photos I’ve found online are very disturbing.  Why  anyone would want to capture an image of a loved one who had already lost skin and eyelids is a mystery to me.  I cannot even begin to imagine the gruesome task it must have been for the photographer; rigor mortis sets in

Victorian Postmortem Photo 5

Photograph © Burns Archive, used with permission.

after 3-4 hours, and by 12 hours the body is officially a “stiff” though if it took the photographer longer than a day to arrive, the muscles had already begun to break down and soften, making the body more pliable for poses, but also more tricky to pose in a natural way; strings were used to keep hands or arms in more lively positions, or someone held the body either in-shot or hidden behind a drape near the chair.

For a 3-minute video on this topic, click here.



It is probable that both the mother and the child are deceased (her hands are in an unnatural pose).

It is probable that both the mother and the child are deceased (her hands are in an unnatural pose).

Victorian Postmortem Photo Stand


Update, January 2016:

There has been a lot of discussion in the comments about the photo below;  in doing the research for this article, I came across it in the context of post-mortem photography on several sites.  No matter how much I try to get it right, sometimes things do slip through; it’s one of the woes of cyberspace leisure piracy, a bit like buying a cheap knock-off watch in Asia – you might just get what you pay for, even though you’re trying to buy the real thing.   I try to give proper credit where I can locate original source material for images (and most of my articles have external links or state the source for the sake of information veracity), and so I gladly give the Burns Archive credit for two of their images used in this article.

The photo below is, in fact, not post-mortem.  The photo can be found in the Burns Archive’s Disease and Pathology collection, and their creative and operations director, Elizabeth Burns, has been kind enough to correspond with me on the matter. This woman’s story is worth telling, because it’s a thread in the tapestry of humanity, but unfortunately, not that much is known about her expect for the medical diagnosis:  She was a sufferer of Lupus with Corneal Leukoma.  The photo was taken by Alexandre Lacassagne, MD., circa 1895. It is included in their 4-volume publication Photographic History of Dermatology.

The image remains in this article as reference, because many of the comments below are related to it specifically.  Based on the updated information however, it is not related to the topic of post-mortem photography, nor should her photo be used in that context by anyone using this blog as a source.

Post-mortem; quite some time elapsed between her death and the arrival of the photographer.

Photograph © Burns Archive , used with permission.

For a further look at Victorian Photography, click here.

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