Launch Day: The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar


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That moment when the author holds her breath and releases her book baby into the world. Actually, my publisher, Fireship Press, is releasing my book baby into the world. Still, with today’s launch of The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar and the virtual tour to promote it, now you, my readers, get to decide. Will you think it’s beautiful? A worthy companion to The Cross and the Dragon?

Prepublication reviews have called The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, a medieval story of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children, “transportive and triumphant,” “captivating,” and “refreshing.” Jessica Knauss, a good friend and talented author who helped me polish the manuscript, opens her review with “The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar brings Kim Rendfeld’s painstaking research and sensitive psychological drama to some people we never hear about in the history books.”

Still, I’ve been having jitters. After all, every reader sees the book through their own lens. What will readers think as Ashes makes its first stops? Well, here are excerpts:

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is a beautifully written, character-driven story. While the story revolves primarily around Leova and her two children, Rendfeld incorporated a rich cast, which combined with all the historical detail created a compelling and satisfying read.”- Bookworm Brandee

“There is no doubt that the author has a love of early history and uses her considerable knowledge and extensive research to shed light on stories which could all too easily be lost in the mist of time. The historical events sit comfortably alongside a story of loyalty and religious strife and by interweaving historical fact and fiction; a story emerges of a strong family changed by extraordinary historical events.” - Jo at Jaffa Reads Too

“I loved the story.  Ms. Rendfeld has done a lot of research and created  a wonderful story surrounding a Saxon family as they deal with slavery, heartache and betrayal” – Denise at So Many Books, So Little Time

Want to read it now? The novel is available at Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K., Amazon Canada, and other countries as well as Barnes & Noble. The print version like you see above will appear on these sites soon.

Still deciding? You can read an excerpt and the first chapter at

You’re invited to follow me on my tour, where more reviewers will offer their insights, I will answer great questions from interviewers and write guests posts, and some of my hosts will offer giveaways in addition to the one under way on Goodreads (click on the widget below to enter).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar by Kim Rendfeld

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar

by Kim Rendfeld

Giveaway ends September 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

If you’d like to celebrate the launch with me in person, come to my signing at Books & Brews in Indianapolis from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, August 30, with a sign copy of The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar as a door prize (must be present to win). Books & Brews is a fun place, a used book store for all ages in the front and brewpub that serves tasty beer in the back. I look forward to meeting readers and enjoying a glass of good stout.



Clues about Medieval Peasants’ Garb


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Re-creating what my early medieval peasant characters wore is the result of guesswork. Primary sources from this era were much more concerned with politics and religion than the daily life of their contemporaries.

We can make inferences such as peasants using wool and linen they helped produce, and we have a few clues such as a poem by Theodulf, the bishop of Orleans.

Visit Unusual Historicals for more about what commoners might have worn.

9th century Carolingian manuscript

Daily life as depicted in a 9th century Carolingian manuscript (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)


On the Medieval Road, a Saint’s Help Is Welcome


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Saint Christopher’s status within today’s Catholic Church doesn’t matter to me when I write historical fiction. I am much more interested in his status 1,200 years ago, the time my characters lived.

The questions for me are not whether he was universal or a local cult or whether there is evidence that he existed (by today’s standards). What I need to know is: Did Christians in eighth century Europe believe in him? What version of his story might they have heard? When they saw his image, what went through their minds? When they prayed to him, what did they ask for?

The fact that most early medieval people couldn’t write makes for a lot of guesswork. The folk likely did hear of the third century martyr, and in a culture that believed God’s favor ensured military victories, it is fitting to having a saint, especially a tough guy like Christopher, safeguard you on a dangerous, arduous journey.

So I used Saint Christopher in The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar because he is real to my characters. Visit English Historical Fiction Authors for more about Christopher’s legend and its power on the medieval imagination.

Hieronymus Bosch painting of St. Christopher

A scene with Saint Christopher by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Rivalry over the First Periodic Table


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In this installment on the history of atom theory, physics professor (and my dad) Dean Zollman discusses the origin of something we all remember from science class – a table listing elements by atomic weight. In the 1860s, two chemists whose work endures today created periodic tables – and they argued for years over who should get the credit. – Kim

By Dean Zollman

Dean ZollmanThe Karlsruhe Conference of 1860, which we discussed last time, ended by making some progress toward decreasing the chaos in chemistry but without reaching most of its organizer’s goals. By the end of the conference, Stanislao Cannizzaro provided the participants some structure and information on which they could build. That information was particularly valuable to two young chemists – Julius Lothar Meyer and Dmitri Mendeleev.

Prior to the Karlsruhe Conference, confusion existed over the atomic weights of some elements. Cannizzaro had helped clarify some issues by reminding the participants of Amedio Avogadro’s work that equal volumes of any gases contained equal numbers of particles. Cannizzaro had used his knowledge to sort out some of the issues related to whether they were studying molecules made of atoms or just a single atom. Thus, the chemistry community now had a much more accurate list of atomic weights for the elements. This list was still not entirely correct, but it enabled people like Meyer and Mendeleev to make some real progress in understanding the relations among the elements.

With a list of elements and their atomic weights, a chemist could organize the elements in order of increasing atomic weight and see if anything interesting popped out. Today, this seems rather trivial, but in the 1860s, it was not obvious to everyone, even many accomplished chemists, that such a list would have any interesting properties. In the historical literature today, six chemists are credited with pursuing this type of research. We will take a brief look at two of them who were at the Karlsruhe Conference and whose work still endures, although only one of them gets the lion’s share of the credit.

Julius Lothar Meyer

Julius Lothar Meyer c. 1890, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Julius Lothar Meyer and Dmitri Mendeleev were professors, and in the 1860s were writing chemistry textbooks. A question that faced any chemistry textbook author at that time was how to organize the presentation in the book. Because chemistry did not have an agreed upon foundation, they needed to invent organizational schemes for their writing. Thus, one of the issues was the order in which to present the elements.

Meyer was the first of the two to order the elements by atomic weight. He then noted that he could see regular changes in other properties of the elements. For example, potassium, rubidium, and cesium had particularly large volumes; they also tended to combine with only one hydrogen atom when making molecules. Elements with atomic weights between two of these elements had smaller volumes and would combine with larger number of hydrogen atoms. In his table, he made rows which increased in atomic weight with columns in which the elements in any one column had similar properties. By 1862, he developed the table shown below.


There is a lot of information in the table that I won’t discuss here. The most important features are the general order of the elements, the similar properties of the elements in the vertical columns, and that Meyer left blanks (dashed lines) where no known element fit the necessary properties.

Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendeleev, by Historical and Public Figures Collection (Texas Public Library Archives), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mendeleev was somewhat slower off the starting blocks. After the Karlsruhe Conference, he did not immediately begin using Cannizzaro’s ideas about atomic weights. His lecture notes from 1865 still show the old system. By 1868 when trying to organize the second volume of his textbook, he was using atomic weights. However he was apparently unaware of Meyer’s work even though it had been published several years earlier. And Mendeleev had studied in Germany, so he knew the language.

In addition to being a professor Mendeleev worked with the Free Economic Society of St. Petersburg. He had received a letter, dated February 17, 1869, which discussed arrangements for him to make an inspection of a cheese factory. Such a letter would be insignificant today except that Mendeleev used the back of the letter to sketch out his first ideas about a periodic table. Later that same day, he wrote out in some detail his idea for a periodic table. By 1871, his table was looking a lot like the ones we see in chemistry labs today.


As with Meyer, Mendeleev left blanks where no known element seemed to fit. He them made predictions about properties of elements to be discovered.

Volumes have been written about the history of the periodic table, so I won’t repeat that information here. If you are interested, a readable book is Eric Scerri’s The Periodic Table.

Meyer and Mendeleev argued for essentially the rest of their lives about who should receive credit for the periodic table. In fact, Mendeleev continued the argument after Meyer died in 1895. So why does Mendeleev get essentially all of the credit for discovery the periodic nature of the chemical elements? Some historians claim that Mendeleev’s predictions made his work more famous. However, Scerri notes that Mendeleev made as many wrong predictions as he did correct ones. An interesting view is that the credit had more to do with international politics than science. In the early 20th century, the Soviet Union was a rising economic power; Germany was disliked because of the World Wars. Thus, the Russian/Soviet scientist received the credit. See “An Element of Order” in Chemical Heritage Magazine for more on this idea.

Today, we use atoms and particularly the way electrons arrange themselves in the atoms to explain why the periodicity exists in the properties of atoms. However, neither Meyer nor Mendeleev needed atoms to create their tables. They worked with the physical and chemical properties of the elements. Meyer apparently occasionally mentioned atoms, but he died before the discovery of the electron. Mendeleev had no room in his system for electrons. He even did not like the discovery of the noble gasses. They did not fit in his system. (Today they are tacked on the far right side of the periodic table for good reason – their electronic structure.) So, even though we see atomic structure as the underlying principle that explains the periodic table, its discoverers had little or no reason to think about atoms.

Next month, we will step back in time to follow the beginnings of a thread that was running parallel to the developments in the properties of the elements. We will see how scientists starting looking at light being emitted by atoms, even though they did not yet know the origin of that light.


What Are Things Made of? Depends on When You Ask.

Ancient Greeks Were the First to Hypothesize Atoms

The Poetry of Atoms

Atom Theory in Ancient India

Religion, Science Clashed over Atoms

Medieval Arabic Scholarship Might Have Preserved Scientific Knowledge

Rediscovering a Roman Poet – and Atom Theory – Centuries Later

Reconciling Atom Theory with Religion

Did Atom Theory Play a Role in Galileo’s Trouble with the Inquisition?

Did Gifted Scientist’s Belief in Atoms Led to His Obscurity?

Does Atom Theory Apply to the Earthly and the Divine?

A Duchess Inspired by Atoms

Separating Atoms from Atheism

Isaac Newton: 300 Years Ahead of His Time

Issac Newton and the Philosopher’s Stone

When Chemistry and Physics Split

Redefining Elements

Mme Lavoisier: Partner in Science, Partner in Life

With Atoms, Proportionality and Simplicity Rule

Despite Evidence of Atoms, 19th Century Skeptics Didn’t Budge

Mission of the First International Scientific Conference: Clear up Confusion

Dean Zollman is university distinguished professor of physics at Kansas State University where he has been a faculty member for more than 40 years. During his career he has received four major awards — the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Oersted Medal (2014), the National Science Foundation Director’s Award for Distinguished Teacher Scholars (2004), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Doctoral University Professor of the Year (1996), and AAPT’s Robert A. Millikan Medal (1995). His present research concentrates on the teaching and learning of physics and on science teacher preparation.

Medieval Standards for Sainthood Not Like Today


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As I’ve researched how a virtuous person was named a saint in Christianity’s early centuries, I’m having “Oh so that’s why” moments.

As in oh so that’s why Boniface was considered a saint soon after his martyrdom in 754. Oh that explains the speculation that Frankish Queen Hildegard’s reason to summon Saint Lioba to court was an attempt to control the frail old nun’s relics. Hildegard could be reasonably certain her friend would be canonized soon after her passing.

Saint Christopher

Part of a 15th century triptych (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

What brought this on was my confusion over Saint Christopher’s status among the divine. He was revered in medieval times – who better to protect you on the road than a tough guy – but his status was reduced to a local cult in 1969, with the reform of the Roman Calendar. (Reports that the Church ruled he didn’t exist are greatly exaggerated.)

Martyred probably in the third century, Christopher was canonized long before today’s formal, meticulous process, complete with investigation and documentation.

The earliest form of canonization was a way honor martyrs and treat their sacrifices as cause for celebration. The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia cites second century martyr Saint Polycarp and how the faithful gathered his bones and planned to mark the anniversary of his death.

Later, the decision of sainthood went to a local bishop, who would send word to neighboring churches. In the fourth century, veneration also applied to confessors, people who lived in heroic virtue but died in peace. (For a modern example, think Mother Theresa of Calcutta.)

In the eighth century, it is easy to imagine a bishop saying a short time after the funerals for Boniface and Lioba that they were saints.

The pope always had the authority to decide whom the universal Church should honor as a saint. But by the 11th century, the standards for sainthood among bishops had gotten too lax, and popes decided that councils would examine the facts. Controversy over who qualified as a saint continued until 1634, when Pope Urban VIII published a bull that made canonization and beatification exclusive to the Holy See.

Fast forward to 1969 and the reform of the Roman Calendar. The concern: so many saints’ feast days on the calendar detracted from the more important Lent, Advent, and Sundays. The calendar was rearranged, feast days were categorized, and the saints it included were more diverse in geography and throughout the centuries.

Even with a reduced status, Christopher is still a saint, and you can celebrate his feast on July 25. Can you still pray to him for safe travel?

Here is how Father John Echert concludes an eloquent answer on EWTN about Christopher and his status, “I, however, continue to honor and seek the intercession of such saints, including Saint Christopher, trusting that no sincere prayer offered by one in grace goes unanswered. And I continue to give out Saint Christopher medals to others, for their protection.”


St. Christopher was demoted but remains a saint,” by Ellen Creager of Knight Ridder Newspapers, Abilene Reporter-News, June 6, 1998

St. Christopher” by Francis Mershman, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. 1908.

Beatification and Canonization” by Camillo Beccari, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. 1907. []

EWTN, Fr. John Echert answering a question about Saint Christopher

The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Fifth Edition Revised, by David Farmer

The Life of Christopher,” The Golden Legend, from the Medieval Sourcebook


The Wizard of Oz and Immigrants to America


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Today, I am happy to welcome author Cindy Thomson to Outtakes as she introduces her latest release, Annie’s Stories. Here, she draws parallels between L. Frank Baum’s beloved story and immigrants’ experience in America.

By Cindy Thomson

Cindy Thomson author photoDid you know it’s the 75th anniversary year of the movie The Wizard of Oz? Truthfully, I did not know Annie’s Stories would be published in 2014 when I came up with the idea of having a character read the book (which was first published in 1900) and compare her life with Dorothy Gale’s. I was just looking for what was invented or introduced during the time period I wanted to write about, which was the time of mass immigration through Ellis Island.

L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is often referred to as the first American fairytale. It truly revolutionized children’s literature. From its creative, and less scary, storyline to the colorful illustrations, nothing like it had been seen before. It appealed to both children and adults. (But note that today’s readers might not see the original story as “less scary.”)

Illustration from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

An illustration by W.W. Denslow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900 (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

Baum went on to write a series of Oz books, and the Wonderful Wizard appeared on stage just a few years after the book came out. The story was overwhelmingly popular and has resonated with the public for over a hundred years. We never tire of it, and that made me wonder why.

As I considered this, I realized that the story about Dorothy leaving the gray world of Kansas for the colorful, adventurous world of Oz speaks to the wandering nature of many immigrants. These people wanted more than what they had. Whether they left their homelands by choice or were forced out, for them America held the dream of improving their circumstances. Finally, after all the misery and disappointments in their lives, the brass ring was in sight.

Dorothy Gale wanted to go back home but only because she wanted things to be different than they were before the cyclone hit. And like the characters in Baum’s tale, the immigrants to America discovered things about themselves along their journey: they were survivors, they were inventive, they had more hope for the future than their circumstances seemed to warrant.

It was this underlying desire and drive that fascinated me and compelled me to write about these immigrants, the ancestors of many of us. In my Ellis Island series, the characters are escaping terrible circumstances only to discover that America presents its own challenges. It’s a message I believe all of us can embrace.

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” – L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

AnniesStoriesCoverCindy Thomson’s newest historical novel, Annie’s Stories, releases in July 2014. The series began with Grace’s Pictures, June 2013, published by Tyndale House. She is also the author Celtic Wisdom (Lion Hudson), Brigid of Ireland, A Historical Novel, (Monarch Books) and co-author of Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story, (University of Nebraska Press). She is also a mentor in the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. Her interests include genealogy, history, and baseball. Sharing the legacies of faith left by those who went before us is her passion. She has spoken to book clubs and other small groups and enjoys appearing at several large Irish festivals across the country. Visit her at

Extinction of a People


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Today, I am happy to welcome Anna Belfrage, author of The Graham Saga as she promotes her latest release and sixth book of the series, Revenge and Retribution. Anna’s post about the Susquehannock piqued my interest because I’ve also written about a culture that no longer exists. However, I had a few resources, and Anna’s challenge is even greater than mine. – Kim

By Anna Belfrage

A Belfrage alt 3The single biggest tragedy to befall the native people of the Americas was the arrival of Columbus upon their shores. Over the course of a couple of centuries, a deadly cocktail of slavery, disease, and warfare would shrink the native population by 40-80 percent (it varies substantially from area to area), and what had been thriving civilizations were reduced to memories and ruins.

In 1607, The Virginia Company of London established its first bridgehead into its charter territories. Jamestown was founded on a marshy island in present day Virginia, and a couple of boatloads of settlers were deposited in the wilds to make a new life for themselves. Things did not go as planned, and the first few years of its existence, the colony teetered on the brink of extinction more than once. Fortunately, the colony had a capable leader in John Smith, adventurer extraordinaire, and this gentleman spent quite some time exploring the Chesapeake area and making contacts with the local people.

Many of the tribes John Smith visited no longer exist. One such lost people is the Susquehannock. Disease and warfare – both with their fierce cousins the Iroquois and the white settlers – caused the extinction of a once flourishing nation. In fact, today we have no idea what these Indians may have called themselves, because there is no one around who speaks their language anymore. Once a language dies, the culture that flourished with it dies as well, and so we have no idea as to what beliefs, what myths the Susquehannock held dear. It’s almost as they never existed – well, apart from the odd artefacts that are presently displayed in one or other museum.

Susquehannock drawing

Susquehannock by Louis Nicolas, a Jesuit in New France from 1664 to 1675. From the Codex canadiensis. Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa. (Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.)

But the Susquehannock did exist, a power to be reckoned with, masters over a large swathe of land that stretched from Delaware, through parts of Pennsylvania and into Maryland. John Smith was very impressed by the Susquehannock, claiming they went around dressed in wolf and bear pelts and were all of them big and strong, fully capable of beating the brains out of a man. Despite these ferocious qualities, for the first few decades of their coexistence both the Susquehannock and the Maryland colonists prospered – a win-win situation for both.

Things were not quite as peachy-pie in Virginia. The colonists repeatedly broke the treaties they had signed with the Powhatan Confederacy, and when the angered natives retaliated, the colonists screamed murder and demanded that the natives be subdued once and for all.

In the 1670s, the constant skirmishes between the Powhatan and the Virginia colonists escalated into open warfare, and through a series of unfortunate events, the Susquehannock were dragged into the conflict. A decade later, the once so mighty Susquehannock had more or less disappeared. Their wooden forts had been razed, their men had been slain, their women enslaved, and what few remnants remained had fled due northwest, seeking the protection of the Iroquois, their former enemies.

Some Susquehannock made it over to Pennsylvania and founded a community there, Conestoga Town. There they eked out a living far removed from their former life, hiring themselves as labourers to adjoining farms. But in 1763, the last three dozen or so of true-blooded Susquehannock were massacred by the Paxton Boys, a militant group of white bad boys who killed whatever Native Americans they could get their hands on in retaliation for the recent French-Indian War. Less than two centuries after their first contact with the European settlers, the Susquehannock had ceased to exist.

The Susquehannock play an important part in my series, The Graham Saga. My male protagonist, Matthew Graham, is a devout Presbyterian, a veteran of the Commonwealth armies, and a man who initially at least tends to see the world as black or white. Which is why I gifted him with Alex Lind, an opinionated modern woman who had the misfortune (or not) of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, thereby being dragged three centuries back in time to land concussed and badly singed at an astounded Matthew’s feet.

R&R webstampDue to Matthew’s religious persuasions, the Graham family is forced to leave their homeland behind and immigrate to the Colony of Maryland, where they establish cordial relationships with the nearby Susquehannock tribe. But as the tension between colonists and Indians increase, the fragile friendship between Matthew and Qaachow, a Susquehannock chief, is put under severe pressure. In the recently released sixth book of the series, Revenge and Retribution, that friendship will shatter into razor-sharp shards.

The excerpt below is from A Newfound Land, the fourth book in The Graham Saga, which is when Qaachow first enters Matthew’s and Alex’s lives.

A Newfound Land FINAL webstampAlex didn’t see him until she had sat down on her normal perch, a fallen log just to the east of the clearing. Qaachow was sitting in absolute stillness a bit further on, his eyes locked on what Alex supposed had been the main house of the settlement but that now reminded her of an elongated tomb. She shivered at the thought; after all, to some extent it was.

“I’m sorry.” She stood up. “I didn’t mean to intrude…”

Qaachow tilted his head to show he’d heard her but otherwise remained where he was.

“You come to think of your daughter,” he said, gesturing at the ‘RACHEL’ she had carved on a nearby tree. “Those thoughts do not intrude on mine.”

Alex sat back down again. Not that there was any possibility of her thinking about Rachel now, with this slim, half-naked Indian some yards away, but it would be rude to walk away and disturb his meditation again. He was gaunter than last time she’d seen him, more careworn. He shifted on his perch and the breechcloth rustled, releasing a fragrance of crushed pine needles.

“I sit here at times and remember the life that was. Before…” His low voice cut through the silence.

“Before we came,” she filled in, following the dancing beams of afternoon sunlight that fell in from the west to pattern the ground with eerily lifelike shades of that long gone existence.

“Yes, before John Smith brought the white man over.” He looked away through the screen of trees towards the river, barely visible from here. “He came to our village once.”

“He did? What was he like?”

“I’m not that old.” He smiled. “I never met him in person, but my grandfather did. We should never have let you land,” he added in a darker voice. “We should have listened to our wary brethren of the north and pushed you back into the sea.”

Alex quietly agreed. Soon nothing would be left of the Indian way of life.

“We still could, we still might.”

“Too late,” Alex said. “We’ll never let this go. Not now.”

Qaachow gave her a look of grim amusement. “We could steal in like shadows in the night, and none of you would notice until you lay dying in your blood.”

Alex huddled together with physical pain at the thought. “But you won’t, will you? You won’t kill my babies.”

“No, my people will not. We owe you lives.”

“Your people? Are there any other Indians we need to worry about?”

Qaachow hitched his shoulders. “This is our land. They will not touch you. But, elsewhere, white women and children will be slain, and their men will be killed slowly and in agony. The coming years will be bad, Mrs Graham, very bad.”

Alex nodded and bent to pick up a pine cone from where it lay on the shimmering green of the moss.

“I know. That’s why Matthew’s been called down to Providence.”

Qaachow looked away, saying something in his own language that sounded very sad. For some time he sat sunk in thoughts, eyes lost in the dappled shadow of the surrounding woods.

“I’ve never thanked you or your husband for what you did for my people, in particular for my wife.” Qaachow stood up in one fluid movement. He was an attractive man, Alex reflected, his hairless torso outlined with muscles without becoming too excessive. Long, beautiful hands, and a mouth that, when relaxed, was soft and tender – kissable. Their eyes met. For a couple of heartbeats he held her eyes, the shadow of a smile playing round his mouth.

Alex cleared her throat. “Your wife?”

“Thistledown-in-the-wind; it was her sister that died.”

“She’s very pretty,” Alex said, thinking of the young Indian woman with the thick braids – young enough to be his daughter, but apparently his wife. He seemed to see what she was thinking and smiled crookedly.

“I loved my first wife very much, and it took many moons before I wanted to look at another woman.” He stared off into the distance. “Morning Dream – always first in my heart.”

“Morning Dream, what a beautiful name.”

“As was she.” With a courteous nod in her direction, Qaachow blended into the surrounding trees.

In addition to being a prolific writer, Anna juggles a challenging career, four kids, a husband, a dog, and a house. On her website (, she says “It is an obsession, this writing thing. It is a joy and a miracle, a constant itch and an inroad to new people, new places, new times.” You can connect with Anna via her author pages on Amazon U.S.  and Amazon U.K. For a somewhat more visual presentation of The Graham Saga, watch the book trailer.

A Newfound Land FINAL webstamp

Mission of the First International Scientific Conference: Clear up Confusion


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Karlsruhe, general view, Baden, Germany, between 1890 and 1900, Detroit Photographic Company, 1905. (Library of Congress image via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

In this installment on the history of atom theory, physics professor (and my dad) Dean Zollman discusses how the first international scientific conference was organized to discuss the various ideas about chemistry and resolve conflicting definitions. — Kim

By Dean Zollman

Dean ZollmanBy the middle of the 19th century, chemistry was in a state of disarray. Dalton, building on ideas developed by Lavoisier, seemed to have established that a model using atoms and molecules was the best way to understand chemical reactions. Avogadro and Ampere had added strength to these concepts with the conclusion that equal volumes of different gasses contained equal numbers of particles. Yet, well-respected researchers such as Dumas raised serious questions about the atomic hypothesis.

In addition, within the chemistry research and teaching community different definitions of fundamental terms such as “atom” and “molecule” created confusion. Likewise, no consensus had been reached on the makeup of many common substances.

Acetic acid formulas, 1861

Acetic acid formulas, 1861 (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

For example, J. Lothar Meyer (1830-1895) described the situation then as ” there was much confusion, every substance, even the simplest, had a series of formulas, e.g. water : H2O or HO or H2O2 … Even a simple compound such as vinegar could have enough proposed formulas to fill an entire page.” Meyer did not randomly select vinegar as one of his examples. In a textbook, Friedrich Kekulé (1829-1896) had included a table with 19 variations on the formula for acetic acid, the primary ingredient in vinegar.

This situation led Kekulé to propose that chemists needed to get together and work out some of these differences. He enlisted the aid of Carl Weltzien (1813-1870) and Charles Wurtz (1817-1884) to arrange the meeting. In 1859, Kekulé suggested that they organize an international conference of chemists in Karlsruhe, Germany, where Weltzien was a professor of chemistry. Karlsruhe was selected because it was considered a location that would be attractive to a large number of chemists and because the grand duke of the region, Frederick I (1826-1907) was a patron of the sciences. Thus, the location for the first international conference of scientists was chosen for the same reasons that many such conference locations have been chosen since then – an attractive location and someone who will help pay the bills.

In the spring 1860, Kekulé, Weltzien, and Wurtz composed an invitation which expressed the purpose of the conference. The purpose of the conference was stated as

Such an assembly cannot deliberate on behalf of everyone, nor can it pass resolutions by which everyone must abide, but by means of free and thorough discussion, certain misunderstandings could be eliminated, and common agreement facilitated on some of the following points: the definition of important chemical notions such as those expressed by the words atom, molecule, equivalent, atomic, basic: …

 The three organizers asked a large number of eminent chemists to sign the letter in hopes that their endorsement would encourage broad participation. Both Dumas and Liebig, whom we discussed last time, lent their names as did Louis Pasteur (as in pasteurization) and Robert Bunsen (known for the Bunsen burner). In total, 45 well-known chemists’ signatures were on the letter of invitation. (Things work somewhat similarly today. Instead of signatures on a letter of invitation, many international science conferences establish advisory committees which include people known in the field. This committee is publicized as helping organize the conference.)

A summary of the conference says that 140 chemists from throughout Europe attended. However, the list of participants contains only 126 names. (Wikipedia has a list of those attending.)

The conference was organized to assure that the important issues were discussed rather than individuals giving talks about their own research. (This factor is different than most international scientific conferences today.) A summary of the conference, written by Wurtz, indicates that the discussions were sometimes heated. However, after three days very little was resolved. The only direct vote was to allow continued use of a rather old set of formulas.

While the goals of the conference were not reached, several useful items did come out of the effort. A frequent contributor to the discussions was Stanislao Cannizzaro (1826-1910). In 1858, Cannizzaro had written a long letter which was later published as “A Sketch of a Course of Chemical Philosophy.” In this work he described his view on the importance of the hypotheses of Avogadro and Ampere. One of his concerns was that many mid-19th century chemists were not recognizing this importance. He also argued forcefully for making distinctions between atoms and molecules.

At the end of the conference Cannizzaro’s paper was distributed to all of the participants. Mary Jo Nye, a historian of science, states “[This paper] became central to chemistry in the late nineteenth century and especially to the revival of interest in Avogadro’s hypothesis of the relationship between gas volumes and numbers of gas molecules.” Thus, by providing a means to deliver Cannizzaro’s thoughts to a large number of chemists, the Karlsruhe conference helped provide progress in chemistry and the value of atomic models.

Among the Karlsruhe participants were Julius Lothar Meyer and Dmitri Mendeleev. Within a few years after the conference these chemists would create period tables which would bring much order to our understanding to the chemical elements and the atoms. Again the Karlsruhe gathering helped these people move forward on an important aspect of understanding elements, atoms, and molecules. We will look at that those developments next time.

A coincidence connects these events to my current status. Stanislao Cannizzaro was born in Palermo, Sicily in present-day Italy. From 1861 to 1871, he served as a professor of chemistry at the University of Palermo. Next week, the week of July 6, an international conference on the teaching of physics will occur at that university. By the time that this article is posted, I will be traveling to that conference.


What Are Things Made of? Depends on When You Ask.

Ancient Greeks Were the First to Hypothesize Atoms

The Poetry of Atoms

Atom Theory in Ancient India

Religion, Science Clashed over Atoms

Medieval Arabic Scholarship Might Have Preserved Scientific Knowledge

Rediscovering a Roman Poet – and Atom Theory – Centuries Later

Reconciling Atom Theory with Religion

Did Atom Theory Play a Role in Galileo’s Trouble with the Inquisition?

Did Gifted Scientist’s Belief in Atoms Led to His Obscurity?

Does Atom Theory Apply to the Earthly and the Divine?

A Duchess Inspired by Atoms

Separating Atoms from Atheism

Isaac Newton: 300 Years Ahead of His Time

Issac Newton and the Philosopher’s Stone

When Chemistry and Physics Split

Redefining Elements

Mme Lavoisier: Partner in Science, Partner in Life

With Atoms, Proportionality and Simplicity Rule

Despite Evidence of Atoms, 19th Century Skeptics Didn’t Budge

Dean Zollman is university distinguished professor of physics at Kansas State University where he has been a faculty member for more than 40 years. During his career he has received four major awards — the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Oersted Medal (2014), the National Science Foundation Director’s Award for Distinguished Teacher Scholars (2004), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Doctoral University Professor of the Year (1996), and AAPT’s Robert A. Millikan Medal (1995). His present research concentrates on the teaching and learning of physics and on science teacher preparation.

How Did Saint George Get to Europe in the Dark Ages?


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When you write historical novels set in eighth century Europe, you know saints are important. Christians often prayed to them for their intervention, and for a church, having a relic, even a scrap of cloth or a finger bone, raised its prestige.

Saint George painting

Saint George, by Carlo Crivelli, c. 1472

So as I wrote The Cross and the Dragon and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, I needed to know when certain saints lived. Or rather died. Or had their heavenly birthdays. Plus, I needed to know when their story reached the faithful and what version they would have likely heard. I say likely because most of the populace was illiterate and a legend could spread by word of mouth long before it was written down. Establishing when and how the story got to an area is a tricky, if not impossible, business.

Saint George came to mind after I read Helena P. Schrader’s informative post, “England and St. George” on English Historical Fiction Authors. Helena discussed how a soldier who lived and died in the Middle East around 303 became so closely associated with English identity.

But I knew Saint George – or rather his story – had a presence in Europe long before the Crusades, where Helena starts her post. During a visit to a museum in Schleswig, Germany, I saw a Dark Ages wooden statue of George slaying a dragon, and when I sat down to write my books, I knew he was safe to include.

Recently, I got to wondering just how the legend of Saint George reached Europe. When I turned to the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia, this sentence got my attention: “Apart from the ancient origin of St. George in Velabro at Rome, Clovis (c. 512) built a monastery at Baralle in his honour (Kurth, Clovis, II, 177). Arculphus and Adamnan probably made him well known in Britain early in the eighth century.”

Suddenly, I had tons of questions: When did Clovis convert to Christianity? Who were Arculphus and Adamnan? Read my post at EHFA about Saint George in Dark Ages Britain for the answers. Or my best guess of how the legend of a martyred soldier from the Middle East arrived on the British Isle and why Christians in early medieval times embraced him.

Louis XVI: Capet or Bourbon?


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Today, I’m happy to welcome historical novelist Ginger Myrick to Outtakes. Ginger’s latest release is Insatiable: A Macabre History of France ~ L’Amour: Marie Antoinette, an alternate history of the title character and the times in which she lived, with a touch of horror. Here Ginger discusses families that ruled France.

By Ginger Myrick

Ginger MyrickIn the introduction to my latest release, I give a brief rundown of the dynastic houses of France. Anyone who reads historically based literature pertaining to Europe is probably familiar with several French royal houses. The branches of Angoulême, Anjou, Artois, Burgundy, Orléans, Valois, etc. are prevalent throughout the Middle Ages, and when Marie Antoinette arrived at Versailles in 1770, the crown had been firmly in the possession of Bourbons for nearly 200 years. Her husband, Louis XVI, was the fifth king descended from this line, but upon his deposition, he became an ordinary citizen dubbed Louis Capet. Who were these Capets, and what impact did they have on France?

In ancient times, most of the area to the north and west of the Roman Empire was known as Gaul. Many a brave Roman had attempted to conquer the wild occupants of these lands, but it was Julius Caesar who was credited with the formidable accomplishment of subduing the barbarians and bringing order to their uncivilized way of life. Unfortunately, they were resentful of this presumption and recaptured their territories some 500 years later. At this time the largest portion of the natives had come to be known as Franks, the Salian branch of which was led by Childeric I, son of Merovech, the namesake of the first dynastic house of France, the Merovingians. Sometime after retaking their homeland from the Romans and defending it against the Visigoths, Childeric sired Clovis I, who eventually united all of the Frankish tribes as one people.


A 15th century depiction of Charlemagne

The next dynasty to rise to prominence was that of the Carolingians. The most recognizable name among them is Charlemagne, who turned the realm into a thriving center of culture and religion. He not only inherited the position of king but was later crowned Roman emperor by the pope in 800. He spent a good portion of his reign defending his birthright and expanding his empire, but upon his death, it was quarreled over, divided, and subdivided among his descendants, until it reached a similar state of separation as before the unification achieved by Clovis.

For over a century and a half this segregation persisted until Hugh Capet came along and made himself a force to be reckoned with. Born in Paris, he was from a powerful family descended from King Robert I with substantial landholdings in West Francia. Hugh spent the early years of his adulthood establishing a reputation for fairness and allying himself with the Holy Roman Empire. Well regarded by his peers for the “goodness of his soul,” he was eventually elected to the seat of king of the Franks, uniting the splintered factions and making the position a hereditary one, though only attainable by the senior male heirs as the Salic Law, as well as that of primogeniture, was implemented at the same time.

Hugh Capet

An 1837 painting of Hugh Capet by Charles de Steuben

Hugh centered his power base on his birthplace and duchy, Paris, restoring it as the capital and running the kingdom from there. He is held by most historians as the father of modern France, the founder of the Capetian Dynasty, and the common ancestor for many royal houses throughout Europe. The direct Capetian heirs ruled France until 1328 when a crisis of succession ensued, and the House of Valois, a cadet branch, came into ascendancy. From this point on, all of the successors to the throne, no matter which branch of the family they came from, were descended from the House of Capet.

But being from the same bloodline did little to curb the rivals’ desire to wear the crown or diminish their treacherous impulses to attain it. The House of Valois was plagued by internecine strife and commingling of tainted bloodlines for the whole of its tenure, even surrendering the crown to England on a couple of occasions and sparking the Hundred Years’ War. Eventually, Charles VII took charge and won the crown back for France and the Valois, who ruled until 1589. The last Valois, Henri III, was assassinated by a fanatic and was succeeded by Henri IV, the first Bourbon King and the ancestor of Louis XVI, who would be known as Louis Capet after being deposed, which brings us full circle.

Louis XVI

A 1776 portrait of Louis XVI by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis.

Although it was said that Louis disliked the new surname, he lived up to its reputation of grandness and showed great strength during his final tribulations. Many of his actions, or inaction, while he wore the crown would indicate that he was an indecisive and weak ruler, but in his personal life he showed remarkable resolve, his honorable conduct winning him a fair measure of respect and admiration from his detractors. This was how I chose to portray him in Insatiable: A Macabre History of France ~ L’Amour: Marie Antoinette, and he has become one of my favorite characters to date.

Public domain images via Wikimedia Commons.

Winner of the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012 and author of five historical novels, Ginger Myrick was born and raised in Southern California. She is a wife, mother, animal lover, and avid reader.  Along with promoting her current books, she is currently crafting novel No. 6. She is a Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a “clean” love story at the core. Connect with Ginger at:
Amazon’s Ginger Myrick page


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