Thursday, November 19, 2015

I was a stranger and you took me in...

I am not a big Bible quoter these days, but I grew up in a family where studying and knowing the Bible was not only the norm but the requirement. I have read it once or twice or ten times and there is one particular passage from Matthew Chapter 25 that seems particularly salient to the present situation and judging whether what we do is a moral choice:

31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.32All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.34Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;36was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me;I was in prison and you came to Me.’37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’41“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:42for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;43I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’44“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’45Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you,inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’46And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”Emphasis my own, obviously. You will note that passage doesn't say 'I was a stranger and you took me in since I was the same religion as you and it was easy and comfortable.'Sorry for bringing up both politics and religion and I promise not to do it again. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Winter Kill - Chapter One

This is still in rough draft form but gives you an idea of what is happening to Sir Law since the end of The Templar's Cross. The first draft is completed and it's now being edited. It will be published in January.

Winter Kill

One day after it was ended and over, Sir Law realized that he and Jannet Neyn Patrik Ross had trudged through the snow on the same day and perhaps at the same hour so many miles apart.  Wind had whipped both of them raw on that harsh Scottish November. But on that day, he had never heard of her or of the modest tower near which she died.

By the time he contemplated this quirk of fate, in his mind he could see it happen. Like an unseen watcher on a nearby mountain, he saw her grasping her fur-lined cloak as she rushed out the narrow doorway. There was a dark shape behind her as she ran down the path. Her hair was honey gold and whipped in the wind, entangling snowflakes in its strands. Her fair, narrow face and long neck gave her a look of vulnerability. She bent forward as she ran into swirling gusts of white, her expression that of a woman escaping headlong from hell. 

From his vantage point, he saw her look over her shoulder and saw her mouth open to scream. She ran until she struggled through the deep snow. He saw how it was done to her. She had no chance at all. He watched her go still, unmarked , sprawled on her back, snow covering her face like a shroud. Then there was only the howl of the wind.

The job was a stringy young man from Lothian named Richerd Ancraft. He had found a good position with at the house of the bishop of Dunkeld, running errands for the stewart, Nicholl of Annand. Now Nicholl believed that the young man was stealing small items, gloves and items of that ilk, to sell. They’d even searched him for contraband but found nothing. The stewart wanted the matter resolved quietly with no embarrassment to himself in front of the bishop, Robert de Cardeny. The beefy stewart had paled at the thought, muttering that the bishop was distant cousin to the king. Hiring a thief would make him look like a fool, but Richerd had been cunning enough not to get caught.

The bishop’s man had hired him for this because, he realized with bitterness, he looked enough like the rough workers that he would not be noticed amongst them. His natural skin tone was light but tanned from years in the sun.  His light hair was a bit ragged. His limp might make him look helpless but a closer look at his deep chest and wide shoulders might disabuse of the notion. He’d left his sword in his room at the inn since no workman would carry such a weapon, but the long dirk at his belt would serve as well. He’d try not to be seen, but if he was the quarry would not take him for one of the bishop’s well-liveried servants. That was a certainty.

Law had been detailed to catch the man red-handed so the stewart could pry himself loose with the minimum of awkwardness with his employer. So Law slipped out of his own room above the inn well before dawn. He wrapped his feet in an extra layer of cloth before stomping on his boots for winter had well set in. With luck the buildings would cut off the worst of the weather. With his heavy wool doublet and thick, dark cloak, even the chill should not keep him from his task. Sunrise was turning louring clouds to waves of pewter and slate. In the pewter of early day, a light fall of snowflakes blew in the wind. The narrow Cutlog Vennel through the middle of Perth had a smell of the wood carried through it to be milled covering a stench of piss as he slogged through the murk of pre-dawn. Law reached South Street and followed it almost to Watergate, a block down from the bishop’s house. He pressed his back to the wall, clapped his hands and rubbed them together. Already his fingertips felt number, but he pulled his cloak close, his hood up, and hoped the quarry left soon on his errand to the market as he did every week in the bishop’s all-male household. Law had to detect how the man sneaked goods out of the house without being caught.

The man was so intent on watching over his shoulder as he slipped from the bishop’s house that he didn’t even notice Law watching. When the man snuck out of sight around the corner of the house into the tiny alleyway, Law straightened and strolled in that direction. He slumped a bit and dragged his feet, a workman on his reluctant way to a day’s labor. In the alley, Richerd pushed an empty barrel against the wall, hopped onto it and reached over head to untie a bag hanging from a window by a rope. He jumped down, staggered, fumbling to keep it from dropping the loot onto the wet ground.

Law ran towards the culprit, sliding his dirk sliding out of his belt. He rammed his shoulder into the man’s side and slammed him into the wall. 

The youth gave a yelp. “Let me go!”

Law leaned into him, holding him against the wall with his shoulder and put the dirk to his neck. “I’ll have that bag. Now.”

“I… I… I’m the bishop’s man.” He gulped. “He’ll have your head”

Law snorted as he loosened his weight against Richerd enough to grab the bag from his grip.
The youth whimpered. “Let me go. I’ll pay you… everything that I have. Just let me go.”

He trapped the young thief against the wall again with his weight in order to sheath his dirk.  Then he jerked the trembling youth around, twisting his arm up behind his back. “Back in you go. The steward can deal with you.”

Law shoved the scrawny lad before him to the bishop’s door and gave it a kick since his hands were occupied. A man-at-arms opened the door where the steward waited, and Law shoved the young miscreant at them. He tossed the little bag of booty to the beaming steward. “Hanging out the window from a cord high enough overhead that no one would notice, especially in the half-dark.”
The steward opened the bag and shook his head. “This is what I needed to take him before the lord sheriff."

By this time Richerd was sniveling, tears dripping down his face and his nose running with snot. “You dinnae pay me enough to take care of my mam and four my sisters. And if I’m in a dungeon they’ll starve.”

“You should have thought of their starving before you stole from your master,” the steward snapped.
He counted out coins from his purse, five merks, as though each came out of his hide and dropped them into Law’s outstretched hand. 

At the door, Law glanced once over his shoulder at the pathetic scene. To think he’d once thought himself a feared knight. Now he defeated bawling youths.

He walked through whirling gusts of snow to the inn and slammed the door closed. When Cormac looked up from where he sat plucking his harp, Law gave him a glower and sat, back against the wall, to give Wulle, the innkeeper from whom he rented a room above, a motion to bring him a cup of ale.

Wulle looked at him thoughtfully. “What is chewing your arse? Did they nae pay you?”

“I’ve had too much of this kind of thing, as much as I can stand. The lad was sleekit thief, but…” He shook his head. “He was a sniveling lad, nothing more. I dinnae ken if his story of a starving mam was true, but I’m fed up to my neck with it. Is this the only way for me to keep from starving? There must be something that is worth doing.” He wondered what it would take to wash away the stink of six months of living hand to mouth, bullying petty thieves for merchants.

“A man does what he must to keep food in his belly.”

“That cannae be right, Wulle. There is many a thing I’d starve before I did. Bad leg or no, I’m a good hand with a sword and still have a mind that works. I’d put them to good use, but this kind of work sickens me.”

Wulle sat the horn cup of ale down in front of Law. “Drink that down. It’ll cure what ails you. And go down the vennel to Mother Dickson’s--” He winked. “—for a bit of bobbing before the snow is too deep to open the doors.”

Law looked up from staring into the dark ale to see Cormac give a wry tilt to his mouth. He shrugged and upended up cup, slurping it down. “I have to find something that makes me feel like my life isn’t a waste.”

He leaned his elbows on the rough wood table and tasted the malty brew, caught in a torment he could not define. He knew from a burning in his gut that he would not survive much longer as the same man if he didn’t find some meaning in his life again.  He needed prideful work that used his skills and his abilities. Once he had that and people who meant something to him to go with it. It was a bitter draught that he had had the life most men dreamed of, the gold spurs of a knight, a friend to hold his back who was company for long, lonely nights in camp, and a strong lord to follow into battle against their enemies. But all that had drained into the dirt with their life’s blood.
Law sighed. Thinking Wulle’s advice might do some good, he ignored Cormac’s smirk and banged out into the windy night. Two doors down in Mother Dickson’s whorehouse, he pointed to one of the three girls waiting for a customer. She was tall and lithe, her red hair slicked back into a braid. Mother Dickson brought him a drink. She held out her hand for the price of both so he dropped coins into her hand.

“I’m Jonet, you bonnie lad,” the woman he’d chosen said as she wrapped an arm through his.

Law forced a smile. He had long since outgrown being a lad but would enjoy himself if it killed him. “I’m Law.” He shared his cup with her and kept telling himself he was having a good time as she giggled close to his ear. He followed her up the rickety stairs to her cubby of a room and as soon as they were inside, she turned hard into his arms. Canting her body into him, she dug her nails into his back. For a moment it was fine, until in the darkness he smelled the blood of the battlefield and his comrade bleeding out at his feet. Bile surged up into his throat. He pushed her away and clumped down the stairs. The cure for his ails was not here.

“I’m nae good enough for you?” she shouted after him.

He stomped home, sharp snow-laden wind scouring his face. When the door banged closed behind him, Cormac gave a wry twist of his mouth over his harp, but the tune he wove turned melancholy. Wulle opened his mouth to comment and then backed off at Law’s glare. Law lost count of the cups of ale he poured down his throat before he stumbled up the rickety stairs to his rented chamber.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell

I only now read this in spite of my admiration for Cornwell as a writer because I have absolutely no sympathy for the English during the Hundred Years War which this series depicts. After all, Scots fought on the other side with their allies the French, and frankly the English thirst for conquest does not appeal to me. However, I finally gave in and read this because Cornwell is such a good writer. I can't say I regret it. I do find it interesting and regrettable that Cornwell chose to make the main character, an archer, English instead of Welsh. 

The story follows the adventures of Thomas of Hookton, the illegitimate son of a priest, Father Ralph, who educates him beyond his normal station, teaching him Latin and French. However, a pirate who happens to be Father Ralph's nephew massacres the town, killing everyone except Thomas, seeking a relic the priest had hidden there. Thomas joins King Edward III's army hoping to find and take revenge on the man who slaughtered his father and the people of the poor fishing village of Hookton.

In France, Thomas becomes a noted archer at La Roche-Derrien which they take thanks to Thomas's wiles. We are introduced to the main characters, Thomas's enemy Sir Simon Jekyll, Blackbird who is later revealed to be someone else entirely, and Father Hobbe who is a rather 'Jiminy Cricket' character serving as Thomas's conscience, and Eleanor as well as other minor characters.

The novel moves pretty briskly from battle to battle and to Thomas saving 'Blackbird' as her actual identity is revealed. He eventually reaches Normandy, 'Blackbird' being lost in the course of the adventure, finds his father's murderer, and acquires a new quest: that of the Holy Grail. The novel ends with the English triumph over the French at the Battle of Crecy.

One of the things Cornwell does extremely well in this novel is show the dominance of the archer in European warfare of the period. He has obviously gone to the trouble to learn a great deal about it and uses his knowledge to excellent effect. As always, Cornwell depicts battles extraordinarily well, showing the merciless reality of medieval combat and its aftermath.

Cornwell never makes the mistake of making his hero a stereotype of the chivalrous gallant. I can definitely believe the character of Thomas who is given strong reasons for his actions, even those a lot less than admirable. However, it is weakened slightly by rather standard bumbling villains with weak reasons behind their enmity and the character of Hobbe which I found quite stereotypical.

Nonetheless, this is an engrossing novel well worth the read as one would expect from a master of the craft like Cornwell.
You'll find the novel on Amazon for Kindle here

Edited to add: The giveaway is complete and I will contact winners directly. Thanks for entering!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thomas Muir and the Struggle for Liberty

On the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Thomas Muir was a fighter for liberty in the bravest of ways, using only his brilliance and eloquence rather than sword or gun.

A founder of the Scottish Association of the Friends of the People, Thomas Muir and his fellow members, including not just fellow Advocates but also weavers, tailors, cobblers, brewers, bakers, tanners, butchers and hairdressers, began a struggle for Parliamentary reform because of oppressive laws such as  the Corn laws and the Enclosures. As the French Revolution raged, the people of Britain watched, desperate for relief from oppression, and the government watched with a growing conviction that all opposition, even the most peaceful, must be quashed by the harshest possible measures.

Spoken at the first convention of the Scottish Association of the Friends of the People, these are the words about Scotland that soon led to Muir's downfall:

We do not, we cannot, consider ourselves as mowed and melted down into another country. Have we not distinct Courts, Judges, Juries, Laws, etc.?

Even before the end of that convention, there were murmurs of sedition from certain Unionists. Worse, the convention had been penetrated by a government spy. Whilst Muir went about his business preparing his brief as defense counsel for James Tytler who had been arrested on a charge of sedition, the government was preparing to arrest Muir on the same charge. And he was indeed arrested on his way to Tytler's trial. Released on bail, he realized that desperate action was required and he made a last ditch effort to convince the French not to execute King Louis which would cause horror in England, and action against supporters of reform was sure to follow. It was too late in spite of his warm welcome in France. The king was executed.

War between Britain and France broke out. Seeing their chance, the government  advanced the date of Muir's trial from April to 11 February. With the new war, Muir knew it was impossible to reach Edinburgh in time so he wrote stating he would return as soon as the difficulties of travel permitted.

The British government did not care and immediately declared Muir an outlaw. When after some months of a roundabout route back to Scotland, he set foot on his homeland he was arrested and dragged to Edinburgh for a showcase trial before a handpicked jury of anti-reformers. The trial has come down in history as a classic example of judicial abuse--nothing but a kangaroo court. 

Muir's sentence of 14 years transportation to Botany Bay was unprecedented. However, his fiery rhetoric built his reputation as the preeminent of the Scottish Martyrs. 

I have devoted myself to the cause of The People. It is a good cause—it shall ultimately prevail—it shall finally triumph. 

Thomas Muir was transported with others of the Scottish Martyrs to horrendous conditions of Botany Bay. But that was only the beginning of his amazing adventure.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cute Puppy Picture

Just because he's so cute, my 3 month old Westie pup MacFluff who has fallen over from exhaustion after play time.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Templar's Cross now on Amazon!

Sir Law Kintour has returned from the war in France crippled, broke, and in need of a patron. In desperation, he reluctantly accepts a commission to find a nobleman's runaway wife. He enlists the help of a fellow Scot with whom he escaped after their defeat at the Battle of Verneuil. But his friend is murdered, and Law discovers he has been lied to. As the murders continue to mount, powerful interests come into play. When the Sheriff of Perth considers him a convenient scapegoat, it gives Law no choice but to untangle the lies and find the killer or hang for the murders. 

Only $3.99

Monday, July 27, 2015

'A King Uncaged, A Historical Novel of Scotland' is a Finalist for Best Indy Historical Fiction

If you would like to vote for my novel, here is how you can do so:

Only registered members the eFestival of Words forum can vote. Registration is quick and easy:

Go to the Welcome Center where you'll find Awards Hall Forum and the 2015 Finalists

under that.

Open the category you want to vote in. There are a wide range of categories in addition 

to Historical Fiction, and you can vote in as many as you like. (It is also a good place to find 
novels you may not have yet heard of)

Vote for the novels you have enjoyed. Remember that A King Uncaged is in the 

Historical Fiction category. 


At last after long years of English imprisonment, Scotland's King James I 
negotiates the terms of his release and of his marriage to his beloved Joan 
Beaufort. But he returns to a Scotland in chaos. Surrounded by plots, 
intrigues, and rebellions, James struggles to restore order and survive attempts 
by his family to overthrow him. Above all, James fears that his life and his 
own dream—of a Scotland at peace with a strong parliament—might be lost 
to his family's greed for power.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Templar's Cross Giveaway!

The Templar's Cross, currently on pre-order on Amazon, will be released for sale on August 7. As a Giveaway for the release I will gift a copy of the novel to any of my Twitter followers who tweets a link to it on that day either on Amazon US or Amazon UK. (It will later be available on Barnes & Noble and Apple)

Not currently following me on Twitter? I'm always pleased to have new followers and my handle is @JRTomlinAuthor.

Once you tweet the link on that day, please DM me with your email address so I can gift the novel to you. And I very much hope you enjoy this novel. It stretched my wings a bit writing it, but it won't be my last medieval mystery.

Sir Law Kintour has returned from the war in France crippled, broke, and in need of a patron. In desperation, he reluctantly accepts a commission to find a nobleman's runaway wife. He enlists the help of a fellow Scot with whom he escaped after their defeat at the Battle of Verneuil. But his friend is murdered, and Law discovers he has been lied to. As the murders continue to mount, powerful interests come into play. When the Sheriff of Perth considers him a convenient scapegoat, it gives Law no choice but to untangle the lies and find the killer or hang for the murders.

US link:
US link:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Templar's Cross

First I need to apologize to any followers. Because of a problem with depression, I took a lengthy break from blogging which I rather desperately needed. My writing schedule was also down. I am happy to say that I am now much better and have novels on the way.

The Templar's Cross will be out on August 6.

Sir Law Kintour has returned from the war in France crippled, broke, and in need of a patron. In desperation, he reluctantly accepts a commission to find a nobleman's runaway wife. He enlists the help of a fellow Scot with whom he escaped after their defeat at the Battle of Verneuil. But his friend is murdered, and Law discovers he has been lied to. As the murders continue to mount, powerful interests come into play. When the Sheriff of Perth considers him a convenient scapegoat, it gives Law no choice but to untangle the lies and find the killer or hang for the murders. 

And the cover reveal: