Sunday 26 July 2020

Award winning Author Tosca Lee of Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Scribbler is pleased to do a series of guest appearances in conjunction with Creative Edge Publicity of Saskatchewan, Canada. (See below for more of Creative Edge)


This month our featured guest is Tosca Lee. When you visit her website, you are greeted by the following:

“ABSOLUTELY RIVETING! TOSCA LEE IS A BORN STORYTELLER.” – J.D. Barker, internationally bestselling author of The Fourth Monkey.


Author of eleven bestselling novels, Tosca Lee has garnered an amazing number of awards and accolades for her writing. Her first novels solidified her reputation for thorough research and biblical interpretation. Moving on to adult thrillers, her supernatural suspense novels again received many starred reviews and high acclaim.

“Reviewers praise her lyrical prose, emotive settings and historical detail. Her thrillers, which feature female leads, are consistently praised for their strong heroines and breakneck pacing.” – from Wikipedia.

The Scribbler is privileged to have Tosca as our guest. She has graciously agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from The Line Between.

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of eleven novels including A SINGLE LIGHT, THE LINE BETWEEN, THE PROGENY, THE LEGEND OF SHEBA, ISCARIOT, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages and been optioned for TV and film. A notorious night-owl, she loves movies, playing football with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband.

You can find Tosca on social media or hanging around the snack table. To learn more, please visit 


** Tosca has recently received news that The Line Between and A Single Light had both won International Book Awards—The Line Between in mystery/suspense and A Single Light in Science Fiction. The two books are also up (against one another!) for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion award in Science Fiction.

Congratulations Tosca!





4Q: Let’s dive right into your latest work, Tosca. I’m referring to A Single Light, which is a follow up to your bestselling novel, The Line Between. The novels consider your heroine’s survival in a post apocalyptical world after a worldwide pandemic. An interesting premise, considering the trying times we are experiencing now. Tell us about the story.


TL: It’s definitely been a little surreal living through a pandemic this year after writing these two books, for sure!

In The Line Between an extinct disease has reemerged from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. There is no cure, it is always fatal, and now it’s spreading. For 22 year-old cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s a terrible time to start over.

As Wynter struggles in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play and that these samples are key to understanding the disease.

As the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter herself.

A Single Light starts up right where The Line Between ends. Wynter and Chase have taken refuge in an underground silo with 60 others to whether the pandemic and wait for the vaccine Wynter had a hand in creating. But when they reemerge into the world, nothing is as they expected.




4Q: I’m interested in your first novels, Demon and Havah, both offering accounts of human creation and the beginning of mankind as seen through the eyes of Lucian – the fallen angel in Demon and Eve - the first woman, from Havah. Where did the inspiration for these stories come from?


TL: Demon was a story I wasn’t really expecting—it just sort of came along one day while I was driving. I was part of an online gaming community and was trying to come up with a fun new character. I considered writing an angel, but then thought that was kind of boring. Then I found myself wondering what it would be like to be angelic and fallen.  Would I go around trying to tempt people to do bad things? And why—just for kicks? That seemed too shallow for a truly complex, spiritual creature. There had to be more to it. Suddenly, I didn’t want to create a fallen angel role-playing character… I wanted to write the story of such a being.


I wrote that story very swiftly, over the course of about six weeks. But it took me many years to sell, even with the help of an agent. In between, I found myself wanting to take a stab at biblical fiction. I was very inspired by one of my favorite books, The Red Tent. I hadn’t ever seen a book written from Eve’s point of view and thought that she has been vilified for so long, it’d be really interesting to see what her life and motives might have been like. That’s how I approach any maligned character—thinking that there’s more to the story.



4Q: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.


TL: I was always making things up as a kid, telling stories, entertaining my little sister, mostly. One time, I convinced her that her Raggedy Ann doll was possessed by Satan. When she wasn’t looking, I got my dad’s dental floss and rigged it up in the crook of her door so that when she closed it and was alone and I pulled on the strings, it moved. This blood-curdling scream came from her room and I remember thinking that was the greatest gag ever. Except that I haven’t seen able to look at Raggedy Ann the same since.


A few years ago, when I was visiting her in Boston, where she’s a physician and med school professor, I went down to the guest room to go to bed. As I pulled back the covers, there was a Raggedy Ann doll tucked beneath the coverlet. I practically heard the Psycho sound track in my head at the sight of that ropey red hair. :D



4Q: The three novels in the Book of Mortals series was co—written with another bestselling author – Ted Dekker. When you write with another author, is there a fear of losing your own voice? Please tell us about this experience.


TL:  That’s a really interesting question. And for me the answer is that it was never about retaining or losing my voice, but finding a way to blend it with another author to create a new one. Before our collaboration, I had just come off of writing Havah, which has a very lyrical and literary sense to it. Ted was writing serial killer thrillers. So we were really on opposite ends of the spectrum, voice-wise. We worked very hard and went over our prose again and again to really get a good blend until the voice was natural, appropriate to the genre, and hopefully transparent enough to the reader that they could focus not so much on the language but the story itself.



4Q: Favorite authors? Novels?


TL: One of my all-time favorites is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s the novel that made me want to try my hand at writing; it gave me so much enjoyment and wonder every time I read it, I wondered if I could do the same for someone else.


These days I’m blessed to count so many gifted authors as friends, so it’s really hard to answer this question. But I can tell you what I’m reading and loving at the moment, and that is Opium and Absinthe by the brilliant Lydia Kang and A Good Family by amazing debut author A.H. Kim. I highly recommend them both.



4Q: Several of your novels are in development for TV and film. This must be exciting! What can you tell us about them?


TL: Unfortunately, this pandemic has kind of slowed everything in Hollywood down, so we’re a bit in stasis for the moment. We do have a new production partner for The Progeny series and we have an incredible showrunner for The Line Between that I’m really excited about. Hopefully we’ll have more news to share soon.




4Q: What’s next for Tosca Lee, the author?


TL: I’m between contracts at the moment, but wrapping up a quick rewrite on a co-authored WWII novel that we hope to find a home for soon. And I’m thinking of finally getting the writing book I’ve had on the back burner done, hopefully this year.







4Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?


TL: Some fun items: A Single Light releases in paperback August 18. But right now through the end of the month it’s actually on sale in eBook for $1.99. So is The Progeny. Also, The Legend of Sheba, my novel about the Queen of Sheba, is up for grabs right now in a Goodreads giveaway here until August 11:




An Excerpt from The Line Between.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)



The farmer moved into the woods looking for his pigs.
“Jilly! Jilly!” he called. He’d named the sow after his first wife, who’d grown about as fat as the woolly Hungarian blonde, if not quite as hairy. But unlike his ex-wife, Jilly usually came when called, which meant it must be time. The sow was expecting her third litter, and for some reason beyond his understanding, every pig in the sounder had to traipse off into the forest with her to make the farrowing a community event.

He stepped over fallen tree trunks and bent to duck several others. There wasn’t a single tree in this patch that was plumb. “Drunken forest,” the climate change people called it—a more subtle sign of melting permafrost than the sinkholes in town. Aside from the new buckles in his road, he didn’t mind much; warm weather meant more growing days for his new garden. Soon as the pigs got done rooting up this patch, he planned to clear the fallen trees and plant some vegetables. Just enough to beat back the high cost of fresh produce a little, maybe even sell some at the Tanana Valley farmers’ market. Who knew—maybe in a year or two he’d look into growing some midnight sun cannabis.

“Jilly girl!” he called, nearly tripping over what he thought was a root until he recognized it for what it was: a bone. He squatted down, tugged, and came away with half a shoulder blade. Caribou, by the size of it. Thing still had gristle on it, leathery and black except where a hunk had been freshly torn away. God only knew how long that thing had been buried in the mud.

He stood up and kicked around, unearthing what was left of the carcass, which wasn’t much. One thing he’d learned, the Mafia legend held true: a dead body wouldn’t stand a chance against pigs. Nor did living chickens that wandered too close to the pen. He’d learned that the hard way.

He wandered deeper, hacking at the fallen trees with the shoulder blade until he finally found Jilly—and Romeo and Petunia and Walter—nestled in the pine needles with a fresh litter of blond-haired piglets. Ten in all. Well above the European average and two more than her last litter.

He patted Walter when he pushed his snout into the farmer’s hand and let him have the shoulder blade, already doing the math in his head.

It was going to be a good year.


TWO DAYS LATER, the farmer found Petunia milling around the yard with a bloody stump for a tail. She ran when he tried to inspect the wound, and only Romeo came when called. The farmer’s first thought was that someone—or something—had terrorized the animals. A wolf, maybe, or even a bear.

After retrieving his shotgun from inside the house, he struck out for the wood.

He found Walter sprawled near the base of a leaning tree, snout bloody, corpse bloated. Just beyond him lay his prized sow Jilly, belly torn open, her piglets savaged around her.






Conventional wisdom dictates that there’s an insurmountable divide—an entire dimension of eternity and space—between Heaven and Hell. Lucifer managed to make the trip in nine days, at least according to Paradise Lost. That equates to a distance of about 25,920 miles, assuming standard rules of velocity.


But I can tell you it’s closer to a foot and a half. The distance of a step.


Give or take an inch.


Magnus stands near the gatehouse, shirtsleeves rolled up, collar unbuttoned beneath his brown vest. He nods to the Guardian in the booth and the industrial gate begins its mechanical slide. There’s a small door to the side of it just large enough to admit a single person, but I won’t be leaving by the Narrow Gate. My departure must be a spectacle, a warning to those assembled behind me.

I can feel their eyes against my back like hot iron. The glares mottled by anger and fear. Sadness, maybe, but above all gratitude that they are not me.

Two Guardians stand at my sides ready to forcibly walk me out in case I balk or my twenty-two-year-old legs give out beneath me. I glance at the one to my right and swear he looks impatient. Hungry, maybe; it’s just before lunchtime. I’m crossing into eternal damnation, and all he’s thinking about is an egg salad sandwich—and not even a good one. It’s Wednesday, Sabbath by the solar calendar. Rosella is managing the kitchen, and that pious sandwich is full of chickpeas without a single real egg in it.

The gate comes to a stop with an ominous clang. The road beyond is paved with gravel, a gray part in a sea of native grass strewn with gold and purple flowers in stark contrast to the carefully and beautifully manicured grounds behind me. A meadowlark sings somewhere nearby as a combine rumbles in the distance.

I grip the plastic bag of my sparse belongings: a change of underwear, my baby book stripped of its photos, a stone the color of sea glass. Sweat drips down the inside of my blouse as I stare out at that feral scape. At that barren drive through untouched prairie that leads to the road half a mile away.

A car idles at the corner, waiting for me.

Don’t look. Don’t glance back. That’s Pride talking, a voice so faint this last decade I wasn’t aware it was still in there. Still, I turn. Not because I need a parting glance at the compound I called home for the last fifteen years or even Jaclyn, my sister. But because I need to see her.

My niece, Truly.

I scan the nearly five hundred Select assembled across the broad drive until I find her small form near the front, her hand in Jaclyn’s, curls wafting around her head in the breeze.

I’d planned to mouth the words I love you. To tug my right earlobe in our secret sign so she’ll remember me long after she’s told she can never speak my name again. To fight back tears at the sight of hers, to combat her confusion with love.

Instead, my heart stops.

She’s glaring at me, her face pink, growing redder by the instant. I open my mouth—to say what, I don’t know—but before I can, she tears her hand from my sister’s and runs away, disappearing into the assembly.

“Truly!” I gasp, and stagger a step after her. The Guardians grab my arms.

“No. Wait—Truly!” I twist against them, plastic bag swinging against my thigh. I can’t leave her like this. Not like this. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

None of it was.

I shift my gaze to my sister, where she stands beside the six Elders. Her cheeks are hollow, features chiseled far beyond her twenty-seven years.

“What did you say to her?” I shout as I’m jerked back around and hauled toward Magnus, who stands before the open gate, this side of that invisible line.

“Wynter Roth,” Magnus says, loudly enough for those behind us to hear. Which means he’s basically shouting right at me. Gone, the brown-and-gray scruff that was on his chin yesterday. I can smell his aftershave from here.

“Please,” I whisper in the space between us, trying to snag his gaze. But he stares past me as though I were a stranger.

“Because of your deliberate, prolonged disobedience . . .” His words carry to those behind me even as the breeze whisks mine away.

“Just let me say good-bye!”

“. . . including the sins of idolatry, thievery, and the willful desire to harm the eternal future of those most vulnerable among us . . . because you will not hear the pleas of the brethren and refuse repentance, you are hereby delivered to Satan for the destruction of your flesh.”

I hear the words as though from a distance. I’ve seen and heard them spoken before—I just never thought they’d be aimed at me. So this is it. There will be no good-byes. And I realize I hate him.

Magnus lifts up his hands. “And so we renounce your fellowship and cast you out of our holy number even as we pray for the restoration of your salvation, which you forfeit this day. Now, as it is bound on Earth, so let it be bound in Heaven.” He lowers his arms as the assembly echoes his words and says, more quietly as he meets my eyes at last, “You have broken our hearts, Wynter.”

He moves away before I can respond and the Guardians walk me to the line as I glance back one last time.

But Truly is gone.
I face the gravel drive before me.
One step. That’s all it takes to span the distance of eternity. Welcome to Hell.






Thank you, Tosca, for being our special guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your writing.


Thank you!!



For all you wonderful readers that want to discover more about this talented author and her writing, please follow these links:

Creative Edge is a dynamic Publicity Company based in Saskatchewan. Founder and co-Owner Mickey Mikkelson made this statement:

Creative Edge specializes in elevating the public profile of authors and artists through such means as (but not limited to) book signings, presentations (libraries, schools, conferences, businesses, etc.), involvement in applicable events, media interviews (including podcasts and print media), and soliciting of reviews from influential reviewers and bloggers.  

Saturday 18 July 2020

Author Alan N. Kay of Tampa Bay Florida, US.

Alan is an award-winning teacher and author, His first adult historical fiction novel – Neither King Nor Country – takes place during the American Revolution. Alan and I met through a mutual friend, James Fisher – owner of the popular book review website, The Miramichi Reader. You can read TMR’s write-up HERE.

Alan has agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an Excerpt from his novel.

Alan N. Kay is an award-winning teacher and author with more than 25 years of experience bringing stories to life.  Known for creative teaching as well as creative writing, Kay has won multiple local, state and National awards.  (see below)
Ironically, his search for his own family roots eventually led him to Canada and one of the greatest secrets in American and Canadian history.  With a deep passion and curiosity to find out the truth, Kay began a personal journey that would lead to his publishing  a historical mystery/thriller novel set in both the present as well as the American Revolution. (go here)

Indeed Alan credits his passion for history that led to his many awards.  It was that passion that began his writing career over 20 years ago with his Young Heroes of History set of novels: a historical fiction series for children.  Based during the Civil War, this series tells the story of one entire family split into North and South and traces both sides through its eight volume journey. Alan likes to jokingly call it “John Jakes for kids.”  Complete with detailed lesson plans, this series is perfect for entertainment as well as learning. In addition he has also written a non-fiction book titled “I Love History but I Hated it in School” as well as numerous articles for various publications over the years.  He will always be the most proud however, of his three beautiful adult children who are all finding their own paths to success.
A transplanted Yankee, Kay completed his Master’s in Education at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and received his Bachelor’s in history Cum Laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.  He currently teaches History at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, Florida.


*The 2002 Daughters of the American Revolution Nation-wide Outstanding American History Teacher of the Year.

*The state of Florida 2002 Outstanding American History Teacher of the Year.

*The Gilder Lehrman 2006 American History Teacher for the state of Florida.

*The 2004 Outstanding Educator of the Year in Pinellas County (a county of over 8,000 teachers).

*The 2001 Florida History Fair Teacher of the Year, and a Finalist for the 2001 National History Day Teacher of the Year.

*2019 The lifetime achievement award on the 20th anniversary of Pinellas County History Day; a competition that he started in 1999 and ran for over a decade.

4Q: When we pick up a copy of Neither King or Country, what can we expect?

AK:  You can expect to be shocked and on the edge of your seat.
This is a story NO ONE knows about.  For example, when I told the story to a group of AP American History teachers, only one of them had even heard of the topic and he had no idea of its scope.  It is a secret I uncovered by accident and took over 10 years to piece together.   It goes back to the beginning of the United States of America, the reason for the founding of New Brunswick and involves three other major international players.  The scope of this secret is even bigger when you realize it’s not simply a secret:  it’s a story that has been purposely erased; But by who and why?  Well I can’t tell you everything 
 But it’s not simply a history book.  The story parallels the life of an average, everyday father and beer league hockey player who just wants to enjoy life and keep his fragile marriage together.  The story evolves as he evolves and I keep your attention by not only going from past to present and back again but also ending each chapter with cliff hanger like endings that keeps you turning the page…
Canadian readers will also get a chuckle at the ignorance that the average U.S. citizen (and not so average…) has for Canada.  The story takes place in both countries, in the oval office and in the waters of the Bay of Fundy.  Alan has already noticed some of his American readers talking about visiting once they finished the book!

4Q: Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

AK: Well as I said a little above, this story is a direct result of my own personal and professional interest in history.  It began with my grandmother telling me “You’re related to John Adams!” when I was a boy. 
Once I became an adult, I wanted to explore her story.  That began a 20 year journey going from the bowels of the National Archives in Washington D.C., to the waters of Fundy and even to the Emerald Isle itself!
Of course, I found out I was related to John Adams, but NOT THE FAMOUS ONE! 

Meanwhile, my experience and interests as a passionate and crazy history teacher led me deeper into the American Revolution.  I even won an award to spend an entire week on George Washington’s estate.  Over the years, with the reading and researching I was doing both for class and for genealogy, I kept coming across pieces of this story.  I jokingly tell of all the times I would run into my wife’s home office and scream out, “You won’t believe what I just found out.”
Well as the information grew and grew, I became so shocked at what I discovered and what nobody knew, that I knew I had to write a book about it.  I knew that if someone with my background in American History had never heard this story, then the public absolutely had not.  And boy has that turned out to be true!

4Q: All new guests to the Scribbler gets this question. Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.

AK:  You know it’s funny.  As a story teller and an author, you would think this would be an easy question.  However, memories are weird that way.  Is it a memory of the event, or of the home video?  Is it some dramatic life changing event or some life lesson you learned?  As I reach back into the recesses of my memories, I find every one of them foggy and more like snippets than stories.  Some are life changing:  recovering from surgery in the hospital or saving my brother from the cracked ice; some are sweet:  my mother holding me tight, my conversation with her in the hospital where she revealed childhood secrets for the first time;  some are even shorter snippets:  my sister screaming and running into the house when she heard she had yet another brother or floating down the river on a piece of broken ice;  and finally some are compilations:  exploring or hiking through the woods with my German Shepard collie and staying out all day playing ice hockey on the pond. 

Not a single one of these memories has me sitting down, placing a grandchild on my knee and telling them some long entertaining tale.  Maybe that comes when I am reminded by a smell or a look on someone’s face or a new situation like the old.  Memories are so fragile and sometimes even seem to have their own agenda.  Perhaps there is some prayer or secret word I need to conjure one up, but for now I have no idea what that is.  Thank you so much for that question!   

4Q: Favorite authors and/or novels?

AK:  Again it’s funny.  I seem to go in only two directions:  backwards and forwards.  I love historical fiction like the Lost Constitution, Jeff Shaara and even mixed with a little fantasy like the Historian written by Elizabeth Kostova.  Then I love to go forward and read science fiction like the Star Trek novels or Orson Scott Card or even Harry Turtledove.  I guess the present bores me.

4Q: Please tell us about your Young Heroes of History set of novels: a historical fiction series for children.

AK: Young Heroes of History is a series of books designed to tell the stories of our past to children in a way that is easily readable, fun and educational. The idea is to present children with stories about everyday kids like themselves who have to deal with the difficult situations of the past and somehow survive. We call our characters young heroes yet it is clear throughout all the books that these kids are just ordinary people in extraordinary situations. The characters in these books all have the same concerns that all children have: making friends, finding parental acceptance, being part of a family, and playing around. The reader therefore learns that they also have the qualities of a hero within themselves.

Young Heroes of History also does not try to teach any particular point of view. Characters are male, female, black, white, North, South, free and slave. While most viewpoints are represented, the judgement of who was right and who was wrong is left up to the reader. We simply try to tell the story as it happened. The stories are gripping, in many times based on actual diary entries, and are filled with enough action and adventure to make the reader turn page after page without even realizing how much he or she is learning.

Finally, since this is a series of books as opposed to a single book, Young Heroes of History allows for many themes over a long period to be discussed. The story begins with an Irish immigrant family in Boston but it quickly spreads south to Georgia, west to Kansas and all points in between. As the family becomes separated, the reader can see how the country became separated and follow each character as they go off on their own. Some members of the family become abolitionists, others become racist, some fight for the Union and others for the Confederacy. Also as a series, we have the time to explore the roles of other characters involved in the story. Book One, for example, focuses on the life of a runaway slave, Book Three on an orphan in Fredericksburg and Book five on a free black family which is introduced earlier in the series.

However, the final magic of the series is that the books still stand on their own. While it is better to read them in order, it is not necessary, and indeed a reader with a particular interest can skip to the book(s) that interest him or her. Overall, the thing to remember about Young Heroes in History is that it makes reading history fun!

4Q: Your career and dedication as a teacher has been awarded many times. Please share your feelings on this recognition.

AK: I am intensely honored and lucky to have won so many awards in my life. I truly believe that I am only one of many, many teachers who deserve awards like these and I am so often humbled when I learn what other teachers out there are doing. Many of them are doing far more than I would ever dream of.

At the same time, I believe passionately in what I do. I know how important history is to each of us personally and how we need it to avoid so many of the mistakes I see us making every day. It takes great strength of will for me not to scream at the heavens as I watch humankind repeat themselves time and time again. So I use these awards as much as I can to help me spread my message. I have written non-fiction books as well as fiction books, I have made speeches and set up websites and spent countless hours, days and even years on this mission of mine. I could never have done a fraction of any of it without those awards and so I will be eternally grateful to the many people who nominated me, sponsored me and recognized my hard work to make history approachable for everyone.

4Q: What’s next for Alan N Kay, the author?

AK Marketing, marketing and more marketing. Unfortunately, the book publishing industry has taken a “throw them to the wolves” response. They believe there are more authors out there than readers and so they sit back and see who survives in this Darwinian environment. So I will keep writing articles, educating the public, talking with reporters and bloggers (THANK YOU FOR THIS!), traveling, doing speaking engagements and anything else I can think of. In addition, I will release another children’s novel in my Young Heroes of History series. It is already written and ready to go and it’s called Gullahs and Ghosts! I will also turn all the Young Heroes into e-books and turn my Adult Novel, Neither King Nor Country into an audio book. It will be a busy 2020!

Will I write another novel? I hope so. I already have one in mind. But let’s see where this takes me next.

4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

AK: Yes! I need your help. While of course I expect that you will thoroughly enjoy my novel based on the reviews I have received, I did not write the story solely to entertain you. As you can tell by my earlier answers, I have a real passion for history. I KNOW that when we learn our history the right way by, as I say on my website, “never judging anyone till we walk a mile in their moccasins”, we become better people. That is why I write my novels the way I do: so we can see that people in the past are people, with the same emotions, jealousies, nobility and doubts that we all have. In seeing this, we see ourselves and we learn to not judge others, to look forward before we take a step and to analyze our actions in the ways we analyze those who came before.

So what I need from you, is help spreading that message. If you know of any journalists, bloggers, organizers or anyone who would like to hear my message, please pass it on. This interview is the perfect example of what I hope to achieve in spreading my message. Thank you so much for your time, thank you for your questions and thank you letting me discuss my passion on your forum!

*** It’s my pleasure to have you as a guest, Alan.

An Excerpt from Neither King or Country.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with Permission)

Quick note to the reader: Neither King Nor Country takes place in the past (18th century) and in the present; In Canada and the United States. Below is an excerpt from each time period. The two chapters following are also in the same order they appear in the book. Hope you enjoy!


Chapter Nine

(2020 Connecticut)

“This the one?” Rob asked as he slowed down and put on his blinker.

“Francois’ Antiques,” Lindsey read the sign. “That’s what she said.”

“He’s got to be better than the last two,” Rob steered the car into the parking lot. The popping and crunching of the tires on the dirt driveway forced him to slow down a little as he pulled in. This was their last chance. It was getting late in the day and the two of them were exhausted. Two other antiques stores had been a complete waste. The owners knew less than nothing about Canadian antiques or the Revolutionary time period. But Rob had thought it was a good idea to go to a few other dealers first before they hit the one recommended to them by the cafĂ© owner. They would have a better idea what to expect and how to bargain if they knew what their options were. Unfortunately all it had done was left them tired and desperate.

“Well she said he was an expert on New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,” Lindsey unstrapped her seatbelt and opened the car door. “And that is where the Loyalists ran away to during the war.”

“I know,” Rob locked the door. The “beep” and flash of the headlights replied as he turned towards the short brick path leading into the shop. “Let’s hope he knows more than furniture.”

Lindsey chuckled as she followed Rob into the store. She was still not sure how to handle all this. Her anger at Rob and the frustration at his desire to sell the letter were still there. But now her curiosity at how much money the letter might be worth combined with her exhaustion from this long day was giving her a little hope that this shop might be able to help them. Add to all that her mixed feelings for Rob and she was a total mess.

“Good afternoon,” a small, skinny man greeted them from behind a glass display counter. It was filled with various assortments of jewelry, toys, dolls and many more knick knacks neither of them recognized. He was dressed awkwardly, as if he could not decide what era he belonged in. His white fluffy shirt was clearly colonial in style but his blue Levi jeans and snake belt buckle not only seemed out of place, they did not even fit him well. He smiled warmly but the twitch over his right eye disturbed Lindsey enough to make her turn away. Only the gold trimmed wire glasses which sat precariously on the end of his nose seemed like they belonged in an antique shop.

“Are you Francois?” Rob asked as he looked around the store. It was by far the neatest antique shop he had ever been in. The living and dining room furniture was in one corner, bedroom and personal items in another and statues and artwork in another. The organization was both scientific and artistic at the same time. Rob was impressed.

“I am.”

“We were told you are an expert on British and Canadian Colonial antiques,” Rob said as he approached the glass counter. It too was organized perfectly with the small rings and other jewelry on the top shelves and larger figurines and busts below.

“I am that as well,” Francois held out his bony hand. His fingers were long and pale while his arm was strangely short and bulky. The man’s entire body seemed to be a mess of contradictions: long legs, short torso, firm chin, soft eyes, large ears, thin graying hair. He was the strangest looking man Rob had ever seen. Even his handshake somehow started strong and quick and ended with a limp.

“Rob Callahan. And this is my friend Lindsey.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Francois looked at Lindsey. Again, the twitch over his eye made her shiver.

“Hi,” Lindsey waved.

“What can I do for you? You obviously seem to know what you want.”

“It’s not what we want,” Rob hesitated. He looked at Lindsey. She blinked and waited. Rob turned back to Francois. “It’s what we have.”

“Oh?” Francois raised an eyebrow. The twitch stopped momentarily. “That is interesting. We do sometimes purchase certain items, if they are something we feel we can resell. What is it you have?” Francois looked beyond them as if the item might be behind them somewhere. He glanced out the window at the parking lot to see if something was in the car. Seeing nothing, he looked back at Rob.

“It’s not anything big, not furniture or anything.”

Francois frowned. He looked at the tan bag strapped over Rob’s shoulder. Rob was holding it with both hands.

“And I am not even sure you will understand it,” Rob fiddled with the bag some more. Just the feeling he got from Francois staring at the bag made him uncomfortable, as if some stranger was going through the family closet.

A wave of panic rushed over him. That is exactly what was happening. This man, this stranger was about to be shown the family secret. Rob was opening a Pandora’s Box he could never close. His heart began to race along with his mind. What should he do?

“What do you know of the Loyalists?” Lindsey blurted out. She could see the internal struggle going on and she knew that if they were going to show this man the letter, they better check his credentials.

“Quite a lot actually,” Francois smiled as the twitch returned. “I have several contacts in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia who specialize in that time period. It’s quite fascinating how they lived and survived in such brutal conditions. That is why their collections are so valuable to me. So much hard work and personal attention went into everything they did. You can see evidence of Colonial, French and English style in so many of the works.”

“Not the furniture. How much do you know about the people?”

“As much as anyone and quite a lot more. You cannot succeed in my line of work unless you know the history behind the pieces and the stories of the people who used them.”

Lindsey looked at Rob again. His arms were back at his sides and his calmness had returned.

“Now please, why are you here? It is getting late.”

“I found this letter,” Rob began as he reached into his bag and pulled it out, “In the belongings of my grandmother. It was written to one of my ancestors back in 1785.”

“1785? That was right after the war.”

Lindsey and Rob looked at each other and smiled. This guy did know his stuff.

“Unfortunately,” Francois continued as he reached across the glass counter to take the letter, “thousands of people wrote letters at this time. After all, it was a confusing, horrific time for so many families. The value of them therefore, is quite low.” He had the letter in his hand now and was gently unfolding it. “While I am sure that this letter holds a lot of sentimental value for you,” he continued as he pushed the reading glasses further up his nose (which to Lindsey’s relief, hid the eye twitch), “they very rarely are of any interest to anyone beyond immediate family.”

“It’s from William Franklin,” Lindsey interrupted. Francois’ eyes looked over his glasses and at Lindsey. The twitch returned.

“William Franklin?” Francois looked back at the letter, “The son of Ben Franklin?”

“The very same.”

“Well then, I stand corrected. You may indeed have something of value.”

Lindsey and Rob watched Francois read the letter. They could barely contain themselves. They both felt a mixture of pride and anxiety as they waited. Rob could feel sweat forming on his brow.

“What does this mean?” Francois pointed at the bottom part of the letter and held it out to them, “I have recently gathered in my possession various documents and letters,” Lindsey’s heart began to race as she heard those words again, “from my father concerning the most recent Treaty of Paris…”

Francois lowered the letter quickly and looked at them in amazement. “Do you know what the various documents and letters are?”


“Do you know anything at all about them?” Francois almost shouted. “Perhaps another letter that mentioned them?”

“No,” Rob shook his head. The question and Francois’ sudden change unnerved him.

“As I said before,” Francois tried to slow down a little. He could tell Rob and Lindsey were on edge. “I have several contacts in New Brunswick. Let me call one of them,” he took out his cell phone. It was a new one, perhaps the latest one and it seemed out of place, almost inappropriate surrounded by all these relics from the past. “Perhaps I can get an idea of the letter’s value.”

Francois held the phone out and waited for a reply. Rob and Lindsey were still confused but neither of them could see any reason to not keep going.

“Uh, Ok,” Rob shrugged.

“I’ll be right back,” Francois hurried to the back of the store. Lindsey and Rob could still see him in the darkened corner. His back was to them and he was standing next to what looked like his desk.

“Strange little man,” Rob said to Lindsey, still watching Francois’ conversation.

“Yeah, kind of gives me the creeps.”

“Me too.”

“Did you see his eye twitch?”


“It stops when he’s thinking,” Lindsey took another look at Francois. He was waving his arm in the air as he talked.

“Lots of people have twitches,” Rob replied. He was feeling a little guilty that they were judging the man so quickly. “I have a couple of students in my class with twitches. It’s no big deal.”

“I know. It still gives me the creeps.”

“Let’s give the guy a chance. Strange doesn’t mean evil.”

“That what you tell your students?” Lindsey laughed.

“Yeah,” Rob laughed too.

“Sounds like something right out of the manual,” Lindsey ribbed him.

“Probably is,” Rob kept smiling, as he glanced back at Francois. He was heading back to the front of the store. Rob turned and waited.

“Where did you say your grandmother’s family was from?” Francois asked. He held the phone away from him but it looked like it was still on.


“I know that,” Francois snapped. “What part of Canada?”

“Uh, I’m not sure, somewhere north of Maine.” Rob frowned. “What does this have to do with the letter?”

“How far north of Maine? New Brunswick; Nova Scotia, Newfoundland?”

“Uh,” Rob frowned some more.

“New Brunswick,” Lindsey interrupted. Rob looked at her.

“I saw it on one of the other letters,” Lindsey explained. She had a sheepish, apologetic look on her face.

“North or south of St. John’s?”

“Um,” now Lindsey was confused.

“Look,” Rob said firmly. “What does this have to do with the letter?”

“Never mind,” Francois turned away. “It doesn’t matter. Excuse me again.”

“Definitely New Brunswick,” Francois said into the phone as he returned to the back of the store. Rob and Lindsey watched him closely. He seemed even more agitated now.

“Never mind,” Rob turned to Lindsey again. “I don’t like him.”

“That was weird,” Lindsey agreed.

“Listen,” Rob lowered his voice. “Don’t tell him any more about my family.”


“No, it’s not your fault. Just don’t tell him anymore.”


“What did you say your name was?” Francois returned. He was still holding his phone.

“Rob Callahan.” He had already told Francois that.

“No, I mean your grandmother’s family.”

“Look, I am not trying to be rude here, but I don’t see what this has to do with the letter. Are you interested in it or not?”

“I have to determine its credibility. This item could be of tremendous value.”

“Tremendous,” Rob repeated. His eyes lit up and he glanced at Lindsey, “How tremendous?”

Francois frowned considerably. He was angry he had let that slip. “You said this was part of a larger collection of letters.”

“That’s right. How tremendous?”

“I can’t say yet. What was the family name?”

Rob and Lindsey looked at each other unsure.

“This is critical to determining its value,” Francois urged.

“I am not one hundred percent sure, but I think it was Appleby.”

“Appleby,” Francois immediately repeated into the phone. The person on the other line raised his voice in reply but they could not tell what he said.

“Can I see the letter again?”

Rob hesitated.

“Please,” Francois begged.

Rob slowly pulled the letter back out and unfolded it carefully on the counter in front of Francois. This time however he kept his right hand on the corner, just to be safe.

“Yes, yes,” Francois was saying into his phone. “It’s right here.” He leaned down and read the line aloud: “I have recently gathered in my possession various documents and letters from my father concerning the most recent Treaty of Paris…”

He paused and listened for a moment. He looked up at Rob over his glasses. Rob saw the eye twitch. It gave him a shiver.

“Are you sure you don’t have any idea where these various documents and letters might be?”

“I’m sure.”

“But you did say this was part of a larger collection.”

“Yes, but…”

Francois held the phone back up to his ear. The other person was shouting again. Rob looked at Lindsey.

“I don’t like this,” he mouthed to her.

“Me neither,” she whispered back.

“Hey!” Rob shouted as he ripped the paper out from Francois’ grip. The phone was turned sideways and aimed at the letter. “What are you doing?”

“I was just going to take a picture,” Francois backed up a little, trying to distance himself from Rob’s anger. “I meant no harm.”

“You’re not taking a picture. This is my personal property! C’mon Lindsey,” Rob waved as he turned away from Francois and headed towards the door.

“Wait,” Francois called out. The voice on the end of the phone was practically screaming now. “Wait!” He called again, giving chase and waving his arms.

There was no way Francois could keep up with Rob. In a matter of seconds, he had crossed the walkway and reached his car. A press on the remote, a beep from the horn and a flashing of lights and Rob was already inside and starting the car up.

“Do you believe that guy?” he turned to Lindsey.

“Unbelievable,” she agreed as the sound of the tires on gravel announced their departure. She turned her head and looked back at the shop. Francois had stopped waving his arms and was holding his phone in his hands.

“What’s he doing?”

“Nothing,” Lindsey lied as she watched Francois take a picture of their retreating car. “Just get us out of here.”


October 1783

British Occupied New York City

Thomas Appleby stood outside his home and stared at the closed wooden door. Memories of 1776 and leaving his son behind swirled in an unreal painful flow. For a moment he was not sure where he was or when. This was the second time in less than ten years that he left everything behind and abandoned his home. It was not a feeling he enjoyed.

“Do we have everything father?” Anne stood right behind. She was dressed with coat and hat, preparing for the cold sea journey ahead of them. She too remembered the day they left Connecticut. At the time, she always believed they would return. The move to New York, she told herself, was just temporary. Once the madness was passed, everything would return to normal.

But of course it hadn’t returned to normal. Nothing had. Anne was beginning to wonder if she would ever know what normal felt like. Each day of the war brought a new surprise, a new shock, and more bad news. The only good thing about leaving this New York house, she realized, was that there were not many good memories to leave behind.

“Everything we can carry,” her father replied. He too was frozen in the surrealism of the moment. For Thomas Appleby this wasn’t just abandoning a home, it was failing his family. It was his job as its leader to provide and protect, yet he not only had lost two homes, he had lost his wife, he had lost his son and he had lost his faith. What was left?

“Did we get much at the auction?” Isaac asked. As always, Isaac was the curious one. While Anne and Thomas were melancholy and brooding, Isaac was wondering what they got out of the deal. He had been questioning his father ever since the decision had been made to leave; what would they bring, where would they go, and what would they leave behind?

“Of course not stupid,” Anne hated Isaac’s obsession with material things. Couldn’t he just once, let them feel a moment? “How could we get any real value for anything when everyone knows we have to sell?”

“Vultures,” Thomas swore under his breath.

“What father?” Isaac leaned in.

“Nothing,” Thomas replied as he swung the burlap sack over his shoulder and turned away. “Let’s head to the wharf.”

The streets were more crowded than Thomas had ever seen. Many people, like his own family, were dressed in warm clothes and carrying their belongings. Others wore rags, moved quickly with heads down and empty hands. Some people were locked in final conversations, saying goodbyes, exchanging pleasantries and long held embraces. It was like nothing Thomas had ever seen.

Refugees from all over the continent had swarmed into New York City. Despite the fact that thousands of Loyalists had already left the city, thousands more were heading there for safety. It was not only the last place in all of America that British troops could be found, it was also the point of departure for every Loyalist leaving the country.

The King had promised to protect all of his loyal subjects, and that meant all of them. Sir Guy Carleton, the King’s man in charge of the city, had made it clear to General Washington that he would not leave until every last Loyalist and soldier had safely made it out of New York. With the Treaty of Paris being signed and the United States of America officially a recognized nation, Washington was getting impatient to end the war and get home to Mount Vernon before the end of the year. In a moment’s notice, the United States Army could be in the city.

“Watch yourselves children,” Thomas warned as he avoided a broken wheel cart in the middle of the crowded dirt street. Even though Anne was 23 and Isaac was 19, Thomas still called them children and watched out for their safety. He had to. New York had become a dangerous place.

It wasn’t just the return of the Patriots to the city and the threat of mobs that made it dangerous. The refugees coming into the city were desperate and poor. They had lost everything in this war, many of them coming with nothing more than the shirt on their backs. They slept in the churches and in the warehouses. They made space wherever they could and their mess spilled into the streets as well. It was chaotic. Filth was everywhere. Street lamps were broken. Trash littered the gutters and the wharves were in disrepair. Thieves stole from homes and shops and the overworked British Army was in no mood to protect every subject from all the treachery rampant in the city. The city was on the edge of anarchy. They would be lucky to get out intact.

“Thomas!” A voice called from somewhere behind him. Thomas turned in the direction of the sound. “Thomas Appleby!” the man called again.

“John?” Thomas thought he recognized the poorly dressed fellow. It was not so much that he was wearing rags, Thomas had seen much worse today. It was that he was wearing so little, and it was all so dirty. In this cool October air, everyone should be wearing a jacket. Perhaps he did not own one or maybe he was just so sweaty from carrying the burlap sack over his shoulder that he didn’t want one. “John Adams?” Thomas smiled as he saw through the dirt and dust on the man’s face. He was a handsome man. Soft cheeks, firm chin, broad shoulders, John Adams was a man that would have no difficulty with the ladies. He was still athletic, despite his years and he carried a friendliness and genuine warmth that made him easy to like. Only the sadness in his brown eyes gave away any of the complexity of the man.

“Ha-ha!” John began laughing as he jogged towards the family. He leaped over the broken wheel and dodged a young boy before reaching them. “Are you heading out as well?” he almost shouted.

“Yes,” Thomas looked at the group following behind Mr. Adams. There was another young man, probably his son Jonathan, a small boy and far behind was a very pregnant woman. They were all dressed poorly and mismatched, like so many of the other refugees in the streets. “We are,” Thomas returned his gaze to John. “Is this your family?”

“It is,” John said with a smile. He put his hand on the shoulders of the young man standing taller next to him. “You have not seen my son Jonathan in a few years.”

“This is Jonathan?” Thomas gasped. He was more handsome than his father, with none of the sadness in his eyes. Instead, those burning green eyes looked angry and passionate. “How old is he now?”

“Twenty One,” John said with a broad grin.

“That is almost the same age as my daughter,” Thomas realized as he looked over at Anne. She had lowered her burlap sack to let it rest on the dirt street. Isaac was still carrying his but he was smiling broadly. He had always liked the Adams’.

“Hello Jonathan,” Anne smiled at John’s older son. She did not know him well, but he was quite handsome. Maybe, she wondered, she would get to know him.

“Hello,” Jonathan replied. He turned away slightly. Anne did not know if it was shyness or something else.

“And this is my little boy Sturgis,” John continued with the introductions, “and my wife Sarah.”

“Oh my,” Anne gasped. It was strange enough that this woman shared the same name as her mother, but to see a woman as pregnant as her about to embark on a dangerous sea voyage gave her pause. “How far along are you?” she asked.

“Seven months,” Sarah answered softly. She was holding her belly for support with both hands and still trying to catch her breath. Her face was quite pale and her legs were shaky as if simply supporting the weight of the child inside had become unbearable. She looked exhausted.

“I was hoping we would see a friendly face,” John tried to change the subject. He was worried sick about his wife. It was difficult enough giving birth, especially in this dirty city, but to ask his wife to embark on this trip to Canada with winter around the corner was on the edge of madness. If the alternative had not been so much worse he would never even attempt it. But this was the last fleet out and if they did not leave now, who knows what would happen to them?

“What ship are you on?” Isaac of course chimed in, practical and curios as ever.

“The Clinton,” John answered as he and Thomas picked up their burlap sacks again and started forward.

“The Clinton?” Thomas repeated. “That is our ship as well.”

“Wonderful!” Anne exclaimed. She was relieved that she would know somebody on board. There were so many unknowns. Where would they land, what would they do when they got there, where would they sleep, how would they eat and most importantly, who could they trust? Knowing at least one family would make the trip a little more bearable, especially if she could spend time with Jonathan.

“The papers said the ship is leaving soon.”

“Tomorrow I believe.”

“Well then we had best hurry up!”

The ship did not leave tomorrow. Nor did it leave the next day or the day after that. Thomas did not know if the delays were caused by more refugees, politics or weather. All he knew was that he wanted to get going.

“It has to be tomorrow,” John Adams broke the long silence. It was the middle of the day and despite the chill in the air, the bright October sun warmed their faces. Autumn was one of John’s favorite seasons, especially as the leaves began to turn. But today, amidst the stench and the noise of the evacuation, it was difficult to even notice. He and Thomas had been standing on the dirty wooden deck, a little off to the side of the main mast by themselves for over an hour in a spot they found on the rail. From there they could watch the loading and unloading, the yelling and crying, the confusion and madness without being bothered by another passenger asking them for help or directions. They could also try to watch to get a clue about when they would finally leave. The kids had been driving them crazy with the questions.

It had to be soon. The East River was filled with British ships. Thomas could count at least five or ten in his direct line of sight and he knew there more anchored in the harbor beyond his vision. This entire enterprise was simply incredible. No matter where he looked, on board or on the docks beyond, there were people of all different classes and distinctions. Most of them were poor and many of them were women, but he could also see many Loyalist regiments that had volunteered to fight for the King. There were men from New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and beyond. There were white men and black men. There were slaves and freedmen.

It was confusing to Thomas, dealing with these black men. He of course knew several of them personally but this war had made race much more confusing than before, despite how hard that was to believe. During the war, the British promised to free any slave who ran from his rebel master to fight for the King. Many had answered that call, thousands in fact. But the King also protected the rights of Loyalists who owned slaves. After all, if you were a loyal British subject in Virginia and you owned slaves, why would you support the King if he took away your slaves?

How then was one to know if a man who escaped from slavery was running from a master who was Loyal or Patriot? Was he freed slave or fugitive? Who could answer his claims? And how was Thomas supposed to interact with them personally? To him, all men were free and the politics of the war were over now.

“I think you are right,” Thomas agreed. It would have to be soon. How nice was it, Thomas was thinking to have a man such as John Adams that he could talk to, a man who was similar in needs and lifestyle as himself. Both of them of course were Loyalists. Both had children depending on them and both had no idea what lay in their future. They had never really been friends much before, more like acquaintances, but as they spent these tense, nervous days together, they began to form a bond. It had been a long time since he had such a friend. It would be nice to know him better.

“How did your time with Governor Franklin work out?” Thomas suddenly remembered how John was the first name he had given the Governor.

“It didn’t.”

“Oh?” Thomas knew that the Governor had been quite successful in recruiting men and forming his Board of Associated Loyalists but beyond that, he knew little. He had heard of raids and plots and whispers of impropriety perhaps even barbarism but Thomas stayed as far away from it as he could. Governor Franklin was too radical for Thomas’ tastes and shortly after their first meeting, he stopped dealing with him altogether.

“I did not care for his methods.”

“They never should have hanged that man,” Thomas added, referencing the famous Lippincott affair in which Franklin’s men hanged a rebel soldier in retaliation for a Loyalist being hanged. It had taken place after the surrender at Yorktown and caused an international incident involving not only George Washington and the British Parliament but even the King and Queen of France.


“Ironic though,” Thomas continued, “that Franklin is now in England representing all of us.”

“Father represents the rebels,” John chuckled. It truly was an incredible irony, “and son the Loyalists.”

“Let’s hope he is as skilled in politics as his father if we are to ever receive any compensation from the King.”

“He left last year, right?”


“And what has he accomplished in that time?” John pointed out bitterly. No Loyalist had much hope left and the lack of progress from William Franklin did not help. Thomas’ silence in response made it clear, he felt the same.

“You think,” John changed the subject, “we will ever see this land again?”

Thomas did not answer right away. He looked out at the city in all of its chaos. He remembered when he had first seen it as a lad more than twenty years ago. It had been a beautiful shining example of the glory and prosperity of the British Empire, a beacon to the world. He remembered how excited he was when he finally got his first shop up and running and he dreamed of taking advantage of the growing trade in the colonies. He wondered now how this new country, this new government would manage. Would they trade with England? France? Spain? Would they prosper at all? Would his son be living in a land of opportunity or a land ruined by war and unable to compete with the global power it had just thrown off?

And what of Anne and Isaac? What would happen to them? Would Anne marry? Would Isaac stay with him or run off as Samuel had done? Would Canada be a land of promise or would it be a struggle to survive? Would the King honor his promise and give them land? Would the land be any good? Already many of the emigres were talking of deep dark forests and reptiles everywhere. There was only one thing Thomas could be sure of in these uncertain times. The world had changed forever and nothing would ever be the same again.

Thank you, Alan, for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your stories.

For you readers wanting to discover more about Alan and his writing, please follow these links:

All inclusive website about Alan

Young heroes site for his children’s historical novels
Alan’s History cart Facebook page
Story in Picton Gazette about his trip to Ontario
story in his local press about speaking engagements