Popular Posts 2016

Continuing to bring together popular posts on A Writer of History. These are from 2016.

The Art of Esoterica or Historical Fiction Research Using Paris in Ruins as an example, this post illustrates the research required for historical fiction, showing books read and on order, historical timelines, topics explored, topics still to explore, other planned research activities.

Author tips on writing historical fiction from around the web 

A brief summary of books read during 2015

8 Steps for Outlining a Novel – the post uses Paris in Ruins as an example and includes comments on story concept, story outline, chapter outlines, themes, structure, character, time period, and conflicts.

The kind folks at Writer’s Digest selected AWOH to be on their 101 Best Websites for Writers

Historical fiction is time travel for readers. But what does this really entail? How do writers inhabit the mindsets of their characters to create that feeling of being there?

10 Thoughts on Favourite Historical Fiction the post looks at attributes of favourite historical fiction based on reader responses to the 2015 survey

10 Substitutes for an FMA in Writing or how I taught myself to write

Evolving world of book reviews – or where readers go for book recommendations

Derek Birks, author of a family saga set during the Wars of the Roses, discusses the unique challenges of writing family sagas

Beginning in December 2016, I published all the WWI letters of my husband’s great uncle. This post contains the first letter, which was written ‘Somewhere in France’ in October 1915

I hope you enjoy many of these.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

RMS Walmer Castle – 14th January 1917

I began this series as Somewhere in France – it looks like I’ll soon have to call it Somewhere in Africa.

This is our tenth day out and as I hear we are putting in at a place en route on the West Coast and I am taking this opportunity of writing. We eventually got away on the 5th inst., after many delays, a goodly fleet in all, comprising eight big ships with some well known liners amongst them, and a strong escort. We scattered during the first night out but reassembled on the third morning on the escorting cruiser, whose flashing signals we picked up in the haze.

We are in two columns with the cruiser ahead and a couple of destroyers in the offing. We occupy pride of place at the end of the starboard column, which honour I believe is due to the rank of our commander, who looks to be nothing less than an admiral with all his gold braid.

We have had very fair weather, although a bit blowy at first, and I had some anxious moments as to the fate of my first breakfast at sea – but all is well; and now in these warmer and calmer waters I feel a seasoned old mariner. There is a big muster of troops on board, drawn from every conceivable unit, and a sprinkling of passengers for South Africa. There is a regular program of sports, concerts and dances which helps to pass the day, but like all voyages it gets a little monotonous at times.

We are on full duty however and the K.A.R. officers [King’s African Rifles] have been attached to other units on board who are bound for other fields of service. Tonight for instance I am on guard duty from 12 to 4 a.m. and again for the same hours tomorrow afternoon.

It gets dark extraordinarily quickly and completely at night in these latitudes and one gets many a barked shin prowling round the ship, visiting the different guards, in the dead of night as of course all lights are forbidden. The men moreover are allowed to sleep on deck, which is an added snare to the unwary. We have not yet crossed the line, but do so soon after our port of call. Any smoke on the horizon is immediately hailed as a raider, but no luck so far! [Perhaps he’s jesting?] We had quite a good joke over the wireless yesterday, which was the British Admiralty repudiating a claim made by the Germans to have sunk in December the cruiser which is at present escorting us.

Letters addressed King’s African Rifles, Base Post Office, Mombasa will find me sooner or later. I will let you have a line from any port we touch at. I am feeling very fit and our physical jerks in the early morning is just what is wanted on board ship to counteract the tendency to eat your head off. You would be greatly entertained seeing a multi-coloured array of pyjama clad figures doing weird contortions by numbers and the final sprint on being dismissed to be first for the limited bath accommodation.

From what I can discover, it seems that many British officers were sent out to Africa in 1917 to augment the leadership of forces there. Henry Tod might have been in this category. We’ll see if subsequent letters support this assumption.

Mombasa is in present day Kenya. As you can see from the map, RMS Walmer Castle would have had to sail around the bottom of Africa to get to Mombasa and British East Africa. 

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Somewhere in France – not in France at all

Henry Tod’s letters home have an unexplained gap of more than six months and unfortunately, there is no one alive to ask for details. We’ll pick up the story in December 1916 and see what happens.

Union Castle Line – RMS Walmer Castle – Devonport, 22 Decr. 1916

My dear Father and Mother,

I received your letters of 2nd December just half an hour before leaving London. We embarked today but there is the possibility of our not sailing before Christmas. This is a splendid ship, almost the latest addition to the fleet, and there is a full complement on board. Further than that I suppose I must not say.

Came down from London last night and what a bustle it was getting on the train at Paddington. There were hundreds of us on this train alone for the same ship, which is taking troops to the various fronts in the east, via the Cape and India, and everybody had a goodly supply of kit. It was very much the same at this end and I have just been putting in a very strenuous time lumping my kit on board, as it was hopeless trying to get anyone to do it for you.

The same [I think he means his kit] comprises 2 cabin trunks, 2 wooden cases, 1 valise, 1 tin box containing pith helmet and my gun case. [I love finding details like this when I’m writing a story – adds such a ring of authenticity.] I bought a sporting rifle and shot gun, and this together with my service rifle and revolver, should surely account for something. I am thinking more of sport than Germans this trip, wherever that may be.

I am sharing my cabin with a man, also from a Scottish regiment, who has been serving in Egypt and also bound for East Africa. He seems to think the climate in E.A. will be more salubrious than Egypt, but I ha’e ma doots. It is possible that the destroyer on which young Noel Grabowsky is a lieutenant and presently in these waters, will form part of our escort.

I left them all well at Stirling. I think I told you that Chris has put herself on the active service list and expects to go overseas shortly. I took a run out last week-end to Norwich and saw cousin Lizzie, now Mrs Dr. Colonel Ogston, and they seem to be enjoying life pretty well. There was quite a dinner party followed by a visit to the theatre.

Wilson’s peace proposals arrive when I was in London, but no one seems to appreciate his interference and we all feel the same about it. It is time the Americans realised what we are fighting for but that seems to be beyond people of their kidney. [I didn’t make that up!!] Shall probably let you have another line before sailing.

Well, now we know … he’s on his way to East Africa. So that resolves the question of his wounds. But what will happen there?

I found this introductory comment about the East Africa campaign – a diversionary tactic by the Germans – on a site called The Centre for Hidden Histories.

“The Campaign in East Africa during the First World War was of a totally different kind to those on the Western Front, fought over immense distances without roads, over unexplored and unmapped areas, in deadly swamps and on remote mountains, in a tropical climate where malaria was rife. One of the more extraordinary aspects of this extraordinary campaign was the number of different ethnicities and cultures that were involved.  Sikhs, Punjabis, Arabs, West Indians, Nigerians, Rhodesians and South Africans (both black and white), Sudanese, and members of many East African tribes fought side by side in the Allies’ comparatively small army.”

Apparently, in 1916 the campaign required reinforcements.

And here’s a map from Wikipedia showing Africa at that time. Attribution: By Professor Delbruck, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=778443

And here’s an article offering a perspective on Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 peace proposal, which many referred to as ‘peace without victory’.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.