The Flight of the Sorceress

The Flight of the Sorceress
Front and Back Covers

Monday, December 26, 2011


Scrounging around some old archives, I recently uncovered a stack of long-forgotten stone tablets hoarded by a Roman news junkie more than fifteen hundred years ago. For those readers not up on their ancient history, "Around the Empire" was the premier news organ of its day, bringing all the latest stories to the cognoscenti in every province. The tablets were pretty dusty but I was able to make out the headlines. Here they are:

(April 410 A.D.)

(August 410 A.D.)

(June 411 A.D.)

(April 415 A.D.)

(April 415 A.D.)

Read all about these stories and more in The Flight of the Sorceress.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Two for One Holiday Offer!

What will it take to put YOU between the virtual covers of a brand new e-copy of my new mystery/thriller, Burning Questions? All you have to do is buy a copy of The Flight of the Sorceress!

There’s murder, Russian roulette, burning hotels, Mafia, a NAZI general’s overcoat, a ghost town, witches, wild doggies, some sex, surfing, cops and donuts, crooked politicians and lawyers, some religion, a little bit of marijuana and pizza. It’s just the right length to read on a single plane trip across the country. Why settle for a crappy airline movie when you can read about all this good stuff? Part Two of this trilogy, A Shot in the Arm is coming up in April . Why not read part one first? Do you really want to be Left Behind?

Buy an e-book copy of Flight of the Sorceress from Amazon before Jan. 1, 2012 and I’ll give you a copy of Burning Questions free. So when you give that certain somebody that new Kindle this holiday season, they can have something to read on it. (Here's Amazon's "buy" link, Buy Sorceress get Burning Questions free! ) When Amazon sends you an order confirmation, email a copy to me at with the email address of the person to whom you want me to send the gift copy. I will send them a copy. That's it: two books for $5.95.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interview with Barry Willdorf!

Inteview on Wild Child Publishing Blog

Today’s author interview spotlights Barry Willdorf.  Author of the Historical Novel, Flight of the Sorceress.
WCP: What was your inspiration for The Flight of the Sorceress?
I was visiting Bath, England a number of years ago and went to the ruined Roman baths where I picked up some literature that said that within three generations of the Romans leaving England the population didn’t even know what the baths were, much less how to run them. I was taken by how quickly a people could lose all science and history and basically return to virtual caveman status. How did that happen? I began to look into it and that gave me the history. But the trick was to personalize it --to relate the history through what I could imagine were similar to real lives. What were the forces that crushed knowledge? And how would a real person have experienced that?
WCP: Do you have any other genre you’d like to try your hand at?
I also write mystery/thrillers. I love noir. I was a trial lawyer for 40 years but I began my career as an investigator for the NYC Legal Aid Society. I was trained by a retired NYD police detective. We’d go out investigating criminal cases for the defense. We went to some really sketchy places, just the two of us, with his one .38 special. You would be crazy to do that today. A .38 isn’t enough firepower to go where we went. It was very noir. I got off on it. But over the years, I really got into forensic investigation ¾things like forged documents, different kinds of chemical tests, scientific evidence. Plus I got pretty good a cross-examination. Most of the stuff I write in that genre is inspired from cases I had over the years. I make a lot of it up but the nuggets are perfect background for mystery thrillers. 
WCP: Do you have any favorite authors? Or ones that have influenced you more than others?
I like Raymond Chandler for the ambiance. I like Dashiell Hammett for his spare stiletto-like writing. I have always been moved by Remarque’s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. I like Jack London, the way he hits nerves.
WCP: Is there anything you would like the readers to take away from the story?
Absolutely. When zealots get into power, whether they be motivated by religion or a political philosophy that is basically intolerant, such as Nazism or Communism, the outcome will always be that disagreement will be viewed as treason or heresy. Dissenters will invariably be terrorized and eliminated. Their ideas will be eradicated. Eventually we will be pushed into a dark age. The best idea is to keep power out of the hands of people who can’t live with different opinions or beliefs. 
WCP: Now for some fun questions: What about writing life/being an author took you by surprise?
How much like a business it is. I HATE promotion. I hate having to sell my writing as if it were a product. I like the writing part. I love doing the research and learning stuff. I love making up stuff. But selling it? UGH!
WCP: If you could be any one, living or dead, who would you want to be? Why?
That’s a hard question. When I think about it, I tend to go for anonymity. Right there, you can’t get much of an answer can you? All the famous people, the one’s most people pick when they answer this question, have baggage. You get famous, people tend to fantasize you, love you, admire you, hate you. Who wants any of that? Probably I’d want to be someone none of us ever heard of. Like I’d be living in a tropical paradise, kind of like a Garden of Eden shtick. (But close by a good ski slope and not far from some really nice mellow surf. A caterer at your beck and call. Etc. etc. You know what I’m driving at.) And the best part would be that no one would really know you were there, so they wouldn’t move in next door and screw up all the fun you were having, knocking on your door asking to borrow a cup of your “sugar” or just your “sugar” forget the cup.
WCP: Any last words? Um, for the interview, that is. (grin)
YEAH, I would like everyone who reads this to buy my books for themselves and everyone they know. If they want to sell them for me, I wouldn’t say ‘no.’ I’ll even cut them in on the action, such as it is. I can get them wholesale. I have an “in” with the publisher.
My website:   A Gauche Press
Blog: The Flight of the Sorceress
 Wild Child Books by Barry Willdorf:

       Purchase link

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



“Pogrom”: an organized massacre of helpless people; specifically: a massacre of Jews. Yiddish, from Russian, literally, devastation. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) “Pogrom” signifies “the destruction of Jewish life and property --through a thuggish or thug-like encounter of organized mob violence and vandalism-- against Jewish individuals, shops, homes or businesses that were directly or indirectly supported or organized by the government” according to K.K. Brattman of the Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project.

When we think of a pogrom, what springs to mind is a frenzied mob whipped up by religious fanatic descending upon a Jewish community as local government authorities stand by watching. Because the Jews have been dehumanized, the mob believe they are doing God’s work and the killing, maiming raping, looting, burning and destroying of Jews and their worldly goods is justifiable.

Although the term pogrom is generally associated with massacres in Russia and the Ukraine, such anti-Jewish violence was not invented in 19th Century Eastern Europe. Similar incidents were common during the Middle Ages and particularly during the Crusades.But just how far back in history did this go?

In the course of eight years of research for my historical novel, The Flight of the Sorceress, I was able to find a prototype for the stereotypical Eastern European pogrom, the expulsion of the Jews from Alexandria, Egypt in 414 or 415 A.D. under the leadership of Saint Cyril. Though history records a number of massacres of Jews before that time, they all had aspects similar to the traditional behavior of plundering conquerors -- armies engaged in warfare or in its retaliatory aftermath. The virulent anti-Semitic religious justifications were absent. It was not until the church and state combined to form a Roman Catholicism under the auspices Emperor Constantine that the violence took on a decidedly anti-Semitic context with calls for ethnic cleansing. Before that time, state/religious-sanctioned claims of a Jewish pariah were not common. (The reader should be aware that when discussing the Roman Catholic Church, I distinguish the institution from the flock.)

Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter 47, describes the Alexandria pogrom of 415 A.D. thusly:

"Without any legal sentence, without any royal mandate, the patriarch (Saint Cyril), at the dawn of day, led a seditious multitude to the attack of the synagogues. Unarmed and unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance; their houses of prayer were leveled with the ground, and the episcopal warrior, after rewarding his troops with the plunder of their goods, expelled from the city the remnant of the unbelieving nation."

The foundation for this new kind of ethnic oppression, based upon an inferior status before God, began a century earlier, with Roman Emperor Constantine’s dissembling Edict of Milan in 313. A.D. by which he freed Christians from the brutal repression they experienced under the preceding emperors. But with this edict, Constantine actually began empowering a Roman Catholic Church, giving it the green light to vilify and harass Jews. And soon this cacophony of hate, preached from the pulpit began to dominate the public forum, laying the groundwork for further oppression.

From then on, anything but toleration prevailed for Jews in the Roman Empire. Soon after, others of Constantine’s Imperial decrees isolated Jews by prohibiting conversions to Judaism and banning inter-faith marriage, which often entailed conversion. He changed the Sabbath to Sunday. Later emperors restricted visitation of Gentiles to synagogues, barred repair of Jewish places of worship and instituted restrictions on Jews holding public office. Thus encouraged, by the latter half of the fourth century, CE, Roman Catholic bishops, such as John Chrysostom were spewing libels and hate against Jews that would rival anything Joseph Goebbels could crank out of his Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, such as: 

“[The Jews] are inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil... debauchery and drunkenness have given them the manners of pigs and lusty goats. They know only one thing, to satisfy their gullets, get drunk, to kill and maim one another. They murder their offspring and immolate them to the devil ...The Jewish disease must be guarded against. The Christian's duty is to hate the Jews.”

For this hate mongering, John Chrysostom was canonized and is still revered to this day as a saint. 

Though not as vituperative as Chrysostom, even St. Augustine got into the act. "Let them live among us, but let them suffer and be continually humiliated," he counseled. 

Originally brought to Alexandria Egypt as soldiers seven hundred years earlier, just before the pogrom of 415. A.D. the Jewish population of Alexandria was said to have numbered between 40,000 and 75,000 --one quarter of the city’s inhabitants. Jews enjoyed the civil rights of citizens as decreed by Augustus and as a guarantee their rights were engraved upon a tablet of brass mounted in a public space for all to see. But as in Spain in 1492, once the Roman Catholicism became the state religion, such “guarantees” became meaningless.

Early Roman Catholic accounts of the Alexandria pogrom read like NAZI propaganda.  
Socrates Scholasticus, the fifth century Roman Catholic historian claims that the expulsion of the Jews from Alexandria was provoked after a priest named Hierax shouted down a dance performance claiming it was blasphemous. Socrates claims that when Jewish audience-members complained Orestes, the city’s prefect, arrested and tortured Hierax. He writes that Saint Cyril… 

on being informed of this, sent for the principal Jews, and threatened them with the utmost severities unless they desisted from their molestation of the Christians. These menaces, instead of suppressing their violence, only rendered the Jewish populace more furious, and led them to form conspiracies for the destruction of the Christians. Having agreed that each one of them should wear a ring on his finger, made of the bark of a palm branch, for the sake of mutual recognition, they determined to attack the Christians on a certain night; and sending persons into the streets to raise an outcry that Alexander's church was on fire, they thus drew the Christians out in great anxiety and slew them readily distinguishing each other by their rings. At daybreak the authors of this atrocity could not be concealed; and Cyril going to their synagogue attended by an immense body of people, took it away from them, and driving the Jews out of the city, permitted the multitude to plunder their goods. Thus were the Jews, who had inhabited the city from the time of Alexander the Macedonian, expelled from it, stripped of all they possessed, and dispersed, some in one direction and some in another.”

Bishop John of Nikiu, an eighth century Copt, with little to support his account but the account of Socrates, embellishes further:

“(The Jews) added outrage to outrage and plotted a massacre through a treacherous device. And they posted beside them at night in all the streets of the city certain men, while others cried out and said: ‘The church of the apostolic Athanasius is on fire: come to its succor, all ye Christians.’ And the Christians on hearing their cry came fourth quite ignorant of the treachery of the Jews. And when the Christians came forth, the Jews arose and wickedly massacred the Christians and shed the blood of many, guiltless though they were. And in the morning, when the surviving Christians heard of the wicked deed which the Jews had wrought, they betook themselves to the patriarch. And the Christians mustered all together and went and marched in wrath to the synagogues of the Jews and took possession of them, and purified them and converted them into churches. … And as for the Jewish assassins they expelled them from the city, and pillaged all their possessions and drove them forth wholly despoiled.”

Not being completely satiated by their violent expulsion of Alexandria’s Jewish population, Bishop John delights in recalling how the Christian mob then went on to murder the Neo-Platonist librarian-philosopher, Hypatia. “They tore off her clothing and dragged her through the streets of the city till she died. And they carried her to a place named Cinaron, and they burned her body with fire.” (Other, more graphic versions recount that this mob -- the same frothing band that were at the vanguard of the pogrom -- actuality ripped her skin from her bones using broken clamshells while she was alive. There is no reason to suspect that she was the first such victim.)

It should go without saying that each of these surviving accounts comes down to us because the historian/propagandists were apologists for the institution that was the Roman Catholic Church. No other account would have been permitted to see the light of day and would more likely have been relegated to the fires. Indeed, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius I, it became a crime, punishable by forfeiture of all property to even possess written materials offensive to Christians. Many literate Roman citizens burned their entire libraries out of fear that their lands would be confiscated by Church stool-pigeons eager to enrich themselves by informing.

That Jews dared to fight back against the “menaces” of Archbishop Cyril, would, of course, render them the aggressors in these propaganda pieces. We are asked to accept that this pogrom only occurred because a few Jewish theatergoers complained about the disruption of a performance. And further, those Jewish complainers instigated the punishment of the Christian disrupter by a non-Jewish prelate.  However, the historical evidence shows that Cyril, from the moment he ascended to head the Alexandrian archbishopric campaigned to rid the city not only of Jews, but also of pagans and non-Catholic Christian sects. The ethnic cleansing of Alexandria was on his plate all along.

We are then asked to believe that despite the fact that armed and allegedly well-organized Jewish “assassins” were in the field and had successfully massacred Christians all that previous night, this brave Archbishop rallied his allegedly unprepared believers and lead them to victory. How he was able to manage the defeat of these well-armed Jews (many of whom had military experience)  even as his followers were simultaneously being slaughtered by them is never explained by the Roman Catholic chroniclers. Both Socrates and Bishop John are equally silent on how Cyril was able to burn every synagogue in town within a few morning hours without encountering resistance.

Gibbon, again in Chapter 47 of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, dismisses this nonsense.

“Having purged the official Church of Alexandria of its dissenting minority, (Saint) Cyril next targeted the Jews. This numerous community, he decided, should be expelled from the city and the privileges, which they had enjoyed for seven hundred years, since the time of Alexander the Great, rescinded. Without any legal sentence, without any royal mandate, the patriarch, at the dawn of day, led a seditious multitude to the attack of the synagogues. Unarmed and unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance; their houses of prayer were leveled with the ground, and the episcopal warrior, after rewarding his troops with the plunder of their goods, expelled from the city the remnant of the unbelieving nation."

The evidence is overwhelming that what occurred in Alexandria in 415 A.D. was a quintessential pogrom instigated by a virulent anti-Semitic zealot who was canonized for his ethnic cleansing, just as John Chrystostom was canonized for his hate-mongering. Each of them remains sanctified despite the blood on their hands.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Egypt - The Vortex

As told in Sorceress, the Dark Ages begin when religious zealots murder of Hypatia in Alexandria in the year 415 A.D.  Their reasons? She was pagan and an independent woman. They were Christians then. Today, Alexandria is predominantly Muslim, and religious parties are set to take power. Do they have the same mindset as Hypatia's murderers? What can we expect from the new Egyptian paradigm? Read Arab Spring-Islamist Winter at A Gauche Press

Sunday, November 27, 2011

“Burning Questions.” Now only $3.99 at Amazon!

Give yourself or a friend my new mystery, “Burning Questions.” Get the special $3.00 holiday discount for the E-Book version. Now only $3.99 at Amazon.
For immediate download to a Kindle or other e-reading devices, use this Amazon Kindle Store link:BURNING QUESTIONS purchase

“A poor fisherman’s daughter must fight for her life when her wealthy boyfriend is found dead and she is blamed.”
•    A terrific crime mystery!   I can’t wait to read Parts II and III of the “1970′s Trilogy.” Steve Rohde, Los Angeles, CA
•    I was especially taken with the characters and atmosphere. Mark Curchack, Philadelphia, PA
•    Just the right amount of wide-eyed innocence/hard-boiled detective and sarcasm! Janie Tyre, Menlo Park, CA
•     I can’t put down Burning Questions. Maggie Livings, Fredericksburg, TX
•    Bravo!!  It kept me up long after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep. Todd Endelman, Ann Arbor, MI

Friday, November 11, 2011


This post is especially to the followers of this blog, but also to everyone who reads it. Please consider becoming a follower of my other blog for the 1970s Trilogy. 1970s Trilogy Blog

Activity on that blog is picking up. Part 2, A Shot in the Arm, is currently in editing. I will soon be looking for blurbs. If you are a regular reviewer of books, author, publisher, agent or have a book-related blog, you can get a free ARC if you agree to write a review of Burning Questions for Amazon and Goodreads and a free ARC of A Shot in the Arm (when I get it) if you agree to do a blurb for the cover. Such a deal!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bird & Beckett reading time is THREE P.M.

Well, if anything can go wrong.... Somehow I got the time wrong for my own reading, I've been saying 2:00 p.m. and it's should be 3:00 p.m. Now you can finish watching a football game and still make it to
653 Chenery Street, San Francisco, CA 94131-3033 (415) 586-3733
Sunday, November 13, 2011 @ 3:00 P.M.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Flight of the Sorceress is now at the Glen Park Branch of the SF Public library. It should show up on their online catalog.
"Sorceress is just the sort of book I never want to end."
Mark Curchack, Philadelphia, PA

Friday, October 21, 2011


Come hear a reading from my award-winning historical novel, The Flight of the Sorceress at Bird and Beckett Bookstore, 653 Chenery St., San Francisco, CA, on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.

As an extra zinger, you'll get to hear "One hundred years of Roman history in twenty-seven hundred words."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Maggie from Fredericksburg, Texas Loved Sorceress!

I have finished Sorceress and I am in awe.  Sorceress is a work of art and any award out there for such a book, you should have it!  The story telling, the historical research, the insight and the writing--I am completely blown away.  And the women are such powerful, expressive creatures.  You bring them to life in such a sensitive way.  You are a kind and observant fellow, Barry.

As I was reading yesterday morning, I didn't want to the story to come to an end.  I wouldn't let myself entertain the idea that there would be a completely disagreeable ending to such an incredible story.   I was boo-hooing and could barely read the words and came to the line:
"From that day until this, our people have been doomed to wander, just as we are doing now."

This line so typifies each one of us in some small way, doesn't it?  To be sure, most of us don't experience the horrendous persecution and forced wanderings of the Jews and the women of your story, but each of us wanders, weaving through our lives.  So, though Sorceress is a specific story of long ago, this thread, and others, makes it the universal story of mankind.  I think the ability of a writer to develop that kind of empathy in his/her readers  is one of the main characteristics that creates memorable literature.  

What a gift you have and what a talent you have for developing it.
Maggie Livings, Fredericksburg, TX

Sunday, September 25, 2011



Thursday, September 22, 2011


At the beginning of the fifth century, church and state united in a failed attempt to preserve the Roman Empire. Instead this union crushed all creativity and brought about the dark ages.  Winner of a Global E-book Award and critically acclaimed, The Flight of the Sorceress is the story of two women who fought valiantly against the oncoming darkness. 

Available from Wild Child Publishing:
and also from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or order from your local bookstore.

Readings currently scheduled:

  • Oct. 19, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at Aqus Café, 189 H. St. Petaluma, CA
  • Nov. 13, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. at Bird and Beckett Bookstore, 653 Chenery St. SF, CA

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I am delighted to report that Flight of the Sorceress has won a 2011 Global E-book Award for best historical fiction. It only took eight years of research, writing, learning to write better, great editing from my publisher and good luck. If you haven't read it yet, I hope you will soon and I look forward to your comments. Oh yes, Glenys and Hypatia thank the judges too.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I am pleased to announce that Flight of the Sorceress is now a finalist in the Global E-Book Awards competition. Final results are soon to come.

Monday, August 8, 2011


On Friday, August 5, 2011, in Missoula MT I interviewed Sarah Zbinden, AKA Crimson Scarlet Vermillion, the cover artist for the Flight Of The Sorceress cover you can see above.

Sarah and Barry with her cover art

Hi Sarah, thanks so much for giving me this interview. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I grew up in Great Falls MT. My family was very poor. When I was young, my father worked odd jobs but after a while he became a saddle-maker, which is what he does now. I went to Great Falls High School where I was an up and down student. I hung out with the kind of kids that today are called Goths but back then we were called “hoods” which meant we drank and smoked and stuff.

Did you go to college?

I went to the University of Great Falls for a while, then transferred to Montana State at Great Falls and then transferred again to the University of Montana where I graduated with a BA in English Lit. I put myself through school.

You did a great cover for The Flight of the Sorceress. Do you have any formal art training?

Not really. I took a course at U of MT but didn’t do very well in it.

So how did you get into your art?

Mostly, I was encouraged by my mother but along the way, I saw some work by a Montana artist named Jason Beam and he inspired me. I learned his technique because I liked what he did and got a lot of his work to study from.

What do you call the kind of art work you do?

It’s called digital art, photo manipulation. I use a photo I like and project it onto a white background. Then I manipulate the photo. I select a background and layer the photo over it. I layer colors, change textures and put in brush strokes and shadings. When I’m through it doesn’t look like a photo anymore.

Do you know the woman who is the sorceress on my cover?

Yes. Her name is Mari. She’s not Celtic. I believe she’s Ukrainian.

Have you done other book covers than Sorceress?

Yes, about fifteen, but mostly for people who have self-published. I’ve also done CD covers for local bands in Missoula and calendars.

So basically, someone either gives you a photo they want you to work with or you find one they like thematically and then you manipulate it until you get the image that works for t

That’s about right. Sometimes I provide the photo or they search out free for commercial use stock and we use that photo. So long as they have the copyright and/or permission to use it I then manipulate it to make it the look and feel they want. 

Where can people see your work?

I have some of it displayed in a site called . But you can also contact me

Thanks, Sarah, I hope you get a lot of work in the future. Your cover for Sorceress has gotten raves.

Thanks so much, Barry

Friday, July 29, 2011

Burning Questions is available

PART ONE of the 1970's Trilogy: BURNING QUESTIONS is now available from Whiskey Creek Press.

When the teenage heir to a Yankee fortune is found shot to death, the local authorities quickly declare it to be a suicide by Russian roulette. But just a week before, he witnessed the torching of a hotel. Was he murdered by the arsonists? The family's law firm puts bumbling summer intern Nate Lewis on the case and soon he and Christina Lima, the deceased’s beautiful girlfriend are running for their lives in this mystery-thriller set in Gloucester, MA.

Go to The 1970s Trilogy Blog to read an excerpt.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


And so it came to pass that Constantine became Emperor. 

The next thing he does is issue an Edict of Tolerance. All religions within the Empire were now supposed to be safe from state persecution. But that was a fig leaf. All along Constantine angled to give Christians the edge. He thought it might be a good idea dangle the prospect of Christianity becoming the state religion for Rome. After all, if he could get these “Christians” to believe that Rome was scheduled to become God’s Kingdom on earth, he’d have himself a bunch of zealots willing to die for Rome. And the name, Roman Catholic was born.

One of the things that Constantine wanted was a Church that he could work with. He wanted Christian soldiers. So he needed a church behind him that could take care of making sure those soldiers toed the line. So a few years later (325 A.D.) with Constantine’s approval, a bunch of newly legitimized Christian bishops held a meeting in the town of Nicea in Asia Minor. At this conclave, they endorsed a church structure that they knew would please their patron. The clerics cooked up a church hierarchy that looked a whole lot like a military institution. There’d be the Commander-in-Chief, the Pope. Then there’d be a “general staff” of cardinals. The archbishops would be like commanding generals out in the field and they’d exercise their power through a web of senior officers (bishops). Priests were their junior officers, but officers nonetheless. And the masses, well they were the grunts.

Since they were thinking army, it followed that there had to be both rules (lots of them) and discipline. That required offenses to be defined and proclaimed. The doctrine of the Trinity was proclaimed the only true dogma. So now you’d have your heresy. And since the church would mirror a military organization, you’d have a proscription against debating dogma as handed down through the chain of command. Whatever the turd was, once the pope and cardinals sent it down through the plumbing the junior officers and grunts would just have to eat it or taste fire. You’d have blasphemy and sins.

The Roman ruling class was a very male-dominant, military-cultish bunch. Whether they were military or religious, most Roman men don’t see much benefit in having women around with power over them. And so the Nicean bishops took the opportunity to declare war against women. They made it illegal for priests to have sexual relations with women out of marriage. They erected a whole bunch of barriers to priests getting married. The decreed that women couldn’t be priests. Only men could dispense the sacraments. They worked overtime to cut women out of any possible civil exchange where a female might give an order to a male. And they promoted this ethic to the grunts as gospel. And from that time forward Christianity adopted misogyny as integral to its dogma.

By the time Constantine passed away, Rome still wasn’t quite ready for the Full Monty when came to Christianity. There were just too many adherents of the old paganism. In some places like the Celtic lands, women had been healers, magistrates and soldiers since time immemorial. Eradicating these inter-gender customs and relationships that were offensive to the new Roman Christianity was going to take some time and dissembling. And so Constantine, consummate politician, never bothered to convert to Christianity (unless you believe convenient post facto accounts claiming that he, like the Bronx racketeer Dutch Schultz, accepted Jesus in a deathbed baptism.)

But even if he did undergo the deathbed conversion number, it is pretty clear that the Jesus Constantine would have “accepted” was not the turn-your-other-cheek guy. He wasn’t the same dude who drove money-lenders out of the temple. Constantine’s Jesus never would have cooked up an argument about rich men finding it more difficult to get into heaven than a camel passing through the eye of needle. No, Constantine wasn’t a tree-hugger Christian. He was a warrior-emperor who needed an army that would fight and he turned to the only people willing to fight and die for a cause. He cynically welded their cause to his, gave swords to the “Christian” adherents of the “Prince of Peace” and set them on their way to world-ruling. 

The Edict of Tolerance was supposed to apply to all religions, but it turned out that Christians, who most benefited from it, given that previously they were the plat du jour for the Imperial lions, quickly dumped the toleration ruse the moment they got the upper hand. (Much in the way Hitler dumped democratic elections once he got control of the government.) In 380 A.D., they got themselves a fairly unbalanced emperor, Theodosius.

And when the Pope asked, “Hey Empy, you wanna do me a favor? You wanna declare Roman Catholicism the state religion? I do you a favor. I say ‘render unto Ceasar’ all of the time, and before you know it Empy, you got yourself a bunch of fightin’ fools on your side.”

Theodosius responds, “Yeah, sure.”

They have a deal. Between 381and 391, Theodosius lets the dogs out. He passes decrees against pagan sacrifices. It becomes a capital offense for pagan priests to do their thing. He dismantles pagan congregations and destroys pagan temples. He confiscates pagan valuables. He cancels pagan holidays, prohibits pagan worship even in the privacy of one’s own home and institutes new decrees declaring pagan practices to be a form of witchcraft punishable by death.  

Now the good a peaceful Christians squander what Roman military resources remain to crush pagan worship, to watch their backs as they provoke and attack Jews and to enforce their decrees of heresy against dissenting Christian.  Not coincidentally, in the two decades that follow travel becomes less safe in the western half of the empire. Barbarian brigands flourish. Roman property in the provinces gets plucked like ripe fruit. Vaunted Roman law is ignored. Roman infrastructure, its roads, bridges and aqueducts start wearing out and not being replaced. Rome’s leaders —increasingly ineffectual, vapid, slothful, and venal —fight among themselves for power that grows weaker and more worthless year by year. No one dares speak out against the Roman Christianity without fear of persecution by the military power of the state.  (Is all this sounding eerily familiar?)

It’s now 410 A.D. There’s this Visigoth barbarian guy named Alaric, who notices all of these things. He’s a Christian, but not a Roman Catholic. He’s pretty pissed off and he’s got a slew of pissed off men with him. It seems that Emperor Honorius, one of Theodosius’s sons, had a panic attack and thought that some of his own legions were out to get him. Maybe he was right. We’ll never know because he managed to actually bump off 30,000 of his own army. But the rub is that these 30,000 dead soldiers had a lot of relatives and friends in other Roman legions. That, and the fact that soldiers don’t particularly like getting stabbed in the back by their own people, meant Honorius had a big problem. They come together under Alaric and are soon bearing down on Rome like a herd of Hannibal’s pachyderms, in full gallop.

Honorius, who it turns out enjoys playing with roosters (really) finally looks up, smells the elephant feces and pulls his last troops, bureaucrats and clerks out of Britannia. “Look to your own defenses,” he tells the Brits as his legions wave goodbye to the startled Britanno-Romans taking a lot of ships and military supplies with them. Four centuries of fucking with the local tribes are over. Adios.

So, a lot of underhanded things already had come to pass by the time Glenys begins reading that Draconian edict of the Vortigern — nailed to the portal of the decaying pagan Temple dedicated to Sulis Minerva —that deprived women human rights and a right to a livelihood much in the manner that Jews were similarly de-humanized under the Third Reich. And when Glenys, a woman in what now has been decreed a man’s profession, is made the scapegoat for a stillbirth, it is clear that she is going to be persecuted. There has been a tragedy. There must be a wrongdoer and it sure isn’t going to be the husband. In such cases, it is helpful to have a sacrifice— to make an example.  The priest will condemn Glenys as a witch, a sorceress.  He will assure the people that “God wants such people to be stoned to death.” And the fearful masses will light their torches, brandish their pitchforks and get set up for a good old fashion stone-the-witch festivity.  

Throughout the ragged empire, Glenys, and women like her will soon be on the run, underground, harassed, stoned, burned, cast out into the cold, shunned.
And their victimization will not cease for more than a millennium. Millions of women will be put to the fire, or stoned. It is the dawn of the Dark Ages.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nan Hawthorne's Booking History: Historical Fiction Roundup for July 2011

Nan Hawthorne's Booking History: Historical Fiction Roundup for July 2011

Prologue to the Flight of the Sorceress

Part 1

When I first wrote The Flight of the Sorceress, I included a prologue. I figured that most readers’ knowledge of the 5th Century was pretty thin and that a little background might help. Pre-publication opinion was loud. “Get to the story,” it shouted. So, despite my craving for context, I took it out, stuffed it in my files and waited for a day of reckoning. Now, here it is — the long suppressed, totally dehydrated, deconstructed, digested, “Prologue to The Flight of the Sorceress” — one hundred years of Roman history compressed into twenty-five hundred words (including snarky commentary.) That that Gibbon!

But first, here’s my point of view:

From time-to-time, down through the ages, men have plotted to rule the world in the name of God. These days, we tend to think of Muslim jihad when we ponder the goal of ruling the world. But if we look under the rocks, we will easily discover lots of historical precedent. Since the beginning, men have plotted to rule the world and were not above using religion as a tool to accomplishing their objective. There have been times when Christian zealots roamed the land with just such a mission in mind.

Many among us do not like to think of Christianity that way. They have a blind spot when it comes to introspection. For such people, Christianity is universally “good.” Rejection of their brand of Christianity is evil, sinful, heretical and blasphemous. They demand conformity to their version of the religion. Opposition to their agendas makes them enemies of God. Thus all opposition must be crushed. And because God seems to consistently ignore His own best interests by allowing subversion in His kingdom, it is pretty clear He needs help eradicating the infidels. Who better to serve God in this way, to institute a reign of terror against the unbelievers than the men tasked by the Almighty of founding God’s Kingdom on earth?  And so, since the dawn of religion, self-proclaimed righteous servants of the Lord have commissioned themselves executioners,  insisting that the mayhem they create is justified because they are merely attempting to rule the world in God’s name.

Well that’s what commenced to happen in the fourth century, about 100 years before the Romans quit Britannia, a century before Glenys of the Silures is declared a sorceress and Christian fanatics torched the great library in Alexandria, Egypt. As the Roman Empire rotted, Christians read their tea leaves and prophesized that a holy kingdom of God on Earth with its capital in Rome, loomed on the horizon — if only they followed God’s commandments.

Sometime between 305 and 310 A.D. Constantine, the Roman General in charge of all the legions in northern Britannia, saw the handwriting on Hadrian’s Wall. His legionnaires looked out across the moors from their parapets on the Wall and saw waves of angry, face-painted Pict warriors—a never-ending opposition. And they wondered whether there was any point in hanging around the grim north of Britannia, soaking wet and cold, when they could be sucking oranges on a Mediterranean beach. Everyone seemed to sense that the days of Pax Romana were numbered. Citizens and slaves alike we’re pretty sure the vaunted Roman Empire had seen better days and that pretty soon, their walls, like the walls of Jericho, could come a’tumbling down. Rome was falling apart. The Empire was on its last legs.

“What am I doing freezing my balls off in Eboracum?” Constantine asked himself. Then, one dark, dank, nearly-Nordic winter, a light came on. “I can be emperor. And this is how I’m going to do it….”

He calls a counsel of his officers. He leans in close to the fire. A dozen scarred, sun burnt, grizzled faces follow suit so that the glow is captured within the circle. It’s bright as day while he’s speaking.

“We all agree the empires going to shit. Our Roman citizens don’t want to fight for it anymore. So, if we want to keep our empire, we’ve got to hire the army. We’ve got to rely on mercenaries, or,” and he leans back now, far enough that his officers have to strain and tilt so that they can see around the flames, see the face of their general as he speaks to them, “we can recruit the most zealous folks who now live among us.”

His minions frown, grimace, scratch their noodles and wait for the punch line.

“There’s basically this one group of people out there with zeal, and a willingness to die for their beliefs,” he tells them. “Diocletian kicked the shit out of them for years – feeding them to his lions. But God bless’em they keep stickin’ to their catapults.”

He pauses; looks each one of them in the eye. “Don’t you wish we had more soldiers like that?”

They nod and make animal sounds of agreement with his every word.

“Well we can,” he assures them. “All we have to do is get the hell out of here and take control of that sorry imperial government.”

Leaving Britannia though is the easy part. Lots of Roman generals, like Julius Caesar have done that. They just pack up their kits; order their legions to march; rip off every ship they can find; cross over to Gaul and invade Rome. But there’s always competition for the top job. To become emperor, you’ve got to fight for it. You’ve got to cross your own Rubicon. And Constantine it is no exception.

It’s late October, 312 A.D. Constantine is about to engage Max, another wannabe emperor, at a place called the Milvian Bridge. Max has a lot of seasoned troops. He’s done pretty good so far, in defeating other challengers. Constantine knows he needs an edge.

The story gets a little confusing here. One Roman historian claims it was the dead of night and Constantine is taking a stroll. Another Roman historian pipes up thirty years later and says “No, it was daytime and Constantine saw it just right next to a brilliant sun.” Anyway, lo and behold, whether night or day, Constantine looks up into the sky and sees this giant cross with the words “In hoc signo victus,” (“By this sign conquer.”) kind of looping like an overly dramatic pole dancer around it.

“Eureka!” he exclaims. 

And so he gets all his army together and tells them, “I just had a vision.” Curiously, if it was the nighttime version, despite the fact that there are literally tens of thousands of soldiers lying there on their backs that night, looking skyward because they can’t sleep, because they’re scared shitless that they’ll end skewered the next day, or the day after that for no good reason, no one besides Constantine happened to witness this message from God. And if it was the daytime version, it’s just as strange that only the general saw it, and he failed to mention it right then and there. It’s not like he was travelling alone. It’s also a little curious that he is spending his time blinding himself by looking directly into the sun. No matter. According to myth, everyone believes him.

And so the next morning or that afternoon, or the next day, whatever, they get up, take paintbrushes in hand and upgrade their shields with crosses. Thus fortified with the patronage of the one true god, off they march, jazzed up with the promise of victory or eternal bliss. (No mention yet of 72 virgins. That’s the Muslim upgrade and not yet available on the market.) They’re building a fucking Kingdom of God on Earth after all!

Yup. You guessed it. The Christian soldiers win at the old Milvian Bridge.

 The Flight of the Sorceress is available as an E-book or in print from Wild Child Publishing: or from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

A limited number of signed copies are available from the author. Click on the "Buy Now" Paypal button below to make a secure purchase.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sorceress is now in print? You Betcha!

It is my pleasure to announce that my historical novel, The Flight of the Sorceress is now in print!

For a limited time only, I am selling a small quantity of signed copies of the novel, including tax, mailing and handling for $15.00. This is a savings over the list price of over $2.00.  Unfortunately, this offer is only good for purchases within the United States. Click on the "Buy Now" Paypal button below to make a secure purchase.

Or you can purchase from my publisher, or at Amazon

Two more authors give Flight of the Sorceress a thumbs up!

Barry Willdorf spent years studying this period and it shows. The world he presents is frighteningly real. His characters are vivid and true to their period and their backgrounds. The writing is crisp, with clear and distinct voices. There is some graphic violence that is integral to the plot. …This is an era that is seldom addressed in fiction, but endlessly fascinating, even more so because the bad guys won, plunging the world into the Dark Ages. You will root for Glenys, Hypatia and Aschi and hope throughout that they will survive because they are such compelling characters living in turbulent times. By all means, buy and read this book. It will change you. Alyssa Lyons author of Last Wishes: Jordan Davis Mysteries, Book 1; Clubbed to Death: Jordan Davis Mysteries, Book 2; Stabbed and Slabbed: Jordan Davis Mysteries, Book 3

Complex characters. Sophisticated dialogue. Understated action. A plot that's easy to follow. The conclusion is humbling yet effective. The impact stays with you long after the last page is turned: Mr. Willdorf has written a superb tale with thought-provoking dialogue and enough research to make it a compelling history lesson. Flight of the Sorceress is a rare book--it holds the reader captive via its intelligence alone. If you're looking for a great historical fiction book, you can't do much better than Flight of the Sorceress.  Jeff Gonsalves, Author of Fork in the Road to Apocalypse.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Importance of Verisimilitude in Fiction

The other day, my eye was caught by a book promo. I am on many lists and perhaps 500 email promos show up on my computer screen every week. It takes something special to get my attention. (The more promos I get the more I begin to understand how easy it is for agents, editors and publishers to miss good stuff because they are swamped.) Anyway, this one particular promo got my attention…because I knew the facts in the promo excerpt were patently wrong.

What this author did was move the homeland of a particular ethnic group from one place to another that was three to four thousand miles away, in a distinctly different environment. It would be like placing the Oglala Sioux (Indians of the Great Plains of North America) in Tierra del Fuego. I emailed the author, asking whether this was a mistake or intentional. The author replied that it was intentional, and that it was within bounds because it was fiction. This response gave me pause. Just cause you can, don’t mean you should. I don’t think what this author did was a wise choice.

That an author should make a conscious decision to take a group or character from one era or location and place them/it in another, just because you can, I find, rather strange. Obviously, my thinking doesn’t apply to a plot point. It’s fair game to imagine what would happen to a particular person or say, ethnic group if they were plunked down in another place or have travelled in time. But if you are just in need of a protagonist or perhaps a victim, you ought to have a good reason to drag a real group or person into a story.

I spent years doing research for The Flight of the Sorceress. Authors, reviewers and historians all have commented on the thoroughness of the work. I have earned the confidence of my customers so that I can better make my point and accomplish my goal of using fiction to expand the reader’s knowledge.

I have a new work of fiction, Burning Questions, about to be released. Even though I lived for many years on location so to speak, I spent a lot of my time doing research. I wanted as much verisimilitude as I can get. I wanted my settings to be accurate both in time and place. I wanted the ocean conditions to be right for the time of year. I wanted the flowers to be blooming or the leaves to be falling as one who knows the location might expect. I wanted the characters to be typical of the kind of people you’d expect to find in the locations I have selected for the story. I want my characters to eat for breakfast the same things that people who actually live on location would be eating. And if the location is fictitious, I still want it to have some of the same sort of features that give the place credibility, so that the reader can have a mooring. My made-up place ought to look like someplace familiar even if it is a spoof of that familiarity.

This is simply saying that even in my fictitious world —unless it is somehow part of a plot line —I would tend to make the leaves of trees green. My skies would be blue or gray and if I went with clouds, I’d be prone to putting them up there in the sky. Water would float boats, and people would drink it. And so, if I were to decide to populate my novel set in Tierra del Fuego with indigenous peoples, I wouldn’t import some random tribe from eight thousand miles away. If there once were actual indigenous peoples at my location I’d try to research legend and lore from the proximate neighborhood. I’d want to build that into my story, to give it a location-based verisimilitude that I would hope might interest a reader. If not, I’d go with my author’s license and make up some phony tribe. But I’d do it in a way that would allow my reader to continue to believe that skies were blue in this land, just as they are in his or her own land.

Fiction works best when the facts and premises are credible. Characters and props, talking points, descriptions, whatever, should all require a plausible explanation for being in a story.  I want my readers to be confident in my research. I want them to find my descriptions of time and place accurate. I want them to accept that people in these particular environs are realistic and capable of acting in the way I have them act in my novel.

And when, as a prominent part of my tale, I stick a naked Fiji Islander in the tundra of the Northwest Territory, I better have a damn good reason for freezing this poor guy’s balls off or having him die of excessive mosquito bites. I just can’t bring myself to stick the Fijian in a snow bank because I’m too lazy to find out what an ethnic Tierra del Fuegan really looked like and whether or not such indigenous folk were habitués of snow banks. And I’m too invested in creating a credible work to just shrug, palms up, and say when someone wonders why I did such a thing: “Hey, it’s fiction man, let it happen. Don’t be so fucking uptight.”

So my verdict is: do your homework. Build your novel with as much accurate content as you can and don’t leave yourself exposed to criticism by somebody who knows you could have done better, or worked harder, to make the story more real. For me, better fiction involves research to make a story credible to a person who grew up in the neighborhood you are trying to use as the setting for your story.

I buy books. I will pay my money for works where I have confidence that the foundations are solid. I won’t buy a work of fiction where an incorrect fact slaps me in the face. There is no “take” from such a work. For me with my consumer hat on,  your final product is sure to benefit from verisimilitude. So this author lost a sale and may find that savvy reviewers are happy to throw darts at the premise. There’s no upside in doing the hard work of writing a novel but passing on research that can make it the best you can possibly create.