Posts Tagged With: history

There’s a Little Real History in my Alternate History #6

The sailors have harvested as much wood as they can from the corpse of la Santa Maria, and building has begun. It’s an awkward-looking square taking shape on the beach, just above the high-water line. I’m trying to picture the men from three ships fitting into the bones of one, and I wonder. What’s the point of this, other than to mark Colón’s claim on this land, on this people?
~”So The Taino Call It”

Whaddaya know? Back in the fall of 2012, I ran a series of blog posts talking about the real history in my alternate history novella “So The Taino Call It.” Recently there’s been stuff in the news that calls for an update.

Continue reading

Categories: Books/Authors, History | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Indigenous People’s Day – Plus Free Books!

So, I’ve had a problem with the celebration of Columbus Day ever since grade school when I first figured out that Columbus never set foot anywhere in North America, let alone the part that became the U.S. My disdain for the holiday only grew when I learned that Leif Ericson was actually the first European to land on the continent. Why don’t we have a Leif Ericson Day instead, I wondered. (Actually, we sort of do–October 9. Did you know this? I didn’t until now.)


Statue of Leif Erickson which stands in Milwau...

Statue of Leif Ericson in Milwaukee, WI.  He doesn’t look as Vikingy here as he does in many other statues. Interesting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Where was I? Oh yeah. Columbus Day. Like I said, it was the initial logicfail of the holiday that threw me off the bandwagon, but it was discovering more of what Columbus’s explorations began–colonization and genocide–that really got my goat. Like The Oatmeal asks in his latest cartoon, this guy’s worth celebrating?


My only problem with the cartoon is that, while I agree that Bartolomé de las Casas was the better man and deserves recognition for what he tried to accomplish once he repented of his earlier ways, by turning Columbus Day into Bartolomé Day, we’d still just be celebrating another dead white guy.


Bartolome de las casas

Bartolome de las casas–better than Columbus, but still… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Another dead white guy who, I have to admit, I used as a source while writing my novella “So The Taino Call It.” De las Casas’ book A Short Destruction of the Indies provides a lot of information about what Columbus and the men who came after him did to the original residents they found on the islands they “discovered.” But it is those original residents I think we should really be remembering today. There’s already a name for that holiday: Indigenous People’s Day. What would their lives be like, if the Europeans had never shown up in the first place? Or showed up in peace and humility? We’ll never know, but it’s interesting to think about.


In honor of that holiday, how’d you like to win a digital copy (DRM-free) of the anthology Substitution Cipher, a Candlemark & Gleam book that contains several cool alternate history stories of espionage, one of which is my tale of what might have happened if Columbus’s first voyage didn’t go quite as planned? Substitution Cipher also includes G. Miki Hayden’s tale “In God We Trust,” which explores a different historic path the people of North America might have taken.  There are also tales of Berlin, Venice, World War II, and the Cold War. It’s a neat collection. Comment on this post here and I’ll pick a random winner by next Monday.


Happy Indigenous People’s Day!

Millie Ketcheschawno, filmmaker, organizer and activist for Native American rights; she was one of the founders of the first Indigenous People's Day (still an annual event) in the U.S. 1937-2000

Millie Ketcheschawno, filmmaker, organizer and activist for Native American rights; she was one of the founders of the first Indigenous People’s Day (still an annual event) in the U.S. 1937-2000



Categories: Books/Authors, Holiday Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Link Treats

Where have all the link treats gone? Well, they’ve been sitting in my drafts folder waiting for me to get off my ass and post them, is where. *sigh* It’s been kind of busy/nonblogmotivational around here lately. (and that is so a word) There’s been writing, just not of the blog. (New story about to be submitted if I can come up with a title! Psychic Depression-era noir-ish detective thing–any suggestions?)

Not That Girl
I’m not that girl either. Oh wait. I totally am. Some fine writing from the Belle Jar

Today’s Time Waster: Literary Figure Collective Nouns
John Scalzi with a new game. Lots of creativity in the comments.

Evolution 101
Andreas Heinakroon talks about evolution. It’s fun and smart, as his posts always are.

10 Worst Mistakes That Authors of Alternate History Make
Good stuff to take into consideration if you’re writing alternate history. I think I did all right with “So The Taino Call It.” Did you read it? What do you think?

Rules of Writing: Get to the Fucking Monkey
Some good writing advice from Justin Robinson plus a killer song.

That Girl

Okay, how could I not use this random pic?

Categories: Random Linkroll | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Linkroll

Summer has arrived in Vermont, at least for the weekend. Hot and muggy and time to clean the carpets? Yeah, don’t ask. But they’re mostly done, and I’m recuperating on the couch with a cold drink and links for you. Enjoy!

What Do We Really Know About Vampires?
From R.G. Emanuelle at Women & Words. House of cards, people.

Copyright and Using the Work of Others
A good reminder from Karen Gadient. Don’t be grabby and rude–a good philosophy to live by.

Hot pants, wobbly toning shoes, and the latest in skinny making fashion
Sam B. at Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty on the scam of exercise fashion. Yoga pants and seaweed?

The Distress of the Privileged
The Weekly Sift dissects privilege and the folks who just want their dinner.

A Safer and More Caring Society
On the anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, we also mourn the death of Dr. Henry Morgenthaler, the man who succeeded in making abortion legal in Canada. The Belle Jar shares her thoughts in a beautiful essay.

25 Vintage Photos of Librarians Being Awesome
Hannah Meiklejohn shares a great collection of library pics that she reblogged from Flavorwire. Librarians rock.

Let me tell you a thing, about an amazing man named Patrick Stewart
LemonSweetie tells us about her meeting with Patrick Stewart. It’s gonna get dusty.

Casting Lord of the Rings, the gender swap and POC version
This is amazing. Sabrina Vourvoulias at Following the Lede recasts Lord of the Rings. My only question: where’s Gina Torres? She would make an awesome Aragorn, too. Or Boromir. Ooh, wouldn’t that be interesting?

A Transcript of Joss Whedon’s 2013 Wesleyan Commencement Speech
How could I not link to this? Joss Whedon’s commencement address at Wesleyan. Pretty cool. Although I learned that in Billie Jean King‘s commencement address at Williams College today, she played tennis with the audience. Wish I’d seen that!


Categories: Weekly Linkroll | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Women Learn To Be Women – Part 2 (Runaways edition)

You know, I actually believed that this series would be no more than four posts (and that I would have it done before now, but I should have known better on that account). When I started looking more deeply into the bands that came along in the mid- to late-1970s, I realized how wrong I was. There’s a bunch of them. Thanks to punk coming on the scene in the UK and later in the US, a lot more women jumped into the mix of rock ‘n’ roll after the Quatros and Fanny, et al. Among them, the earliest, and probably most influential, is the band I’m going to talk about today. The Runaways.

Joan Jett (rhythm guitar) and Sandy West (drums) were the first girls to join the band, meeting in 1975 in L.A. thanks to controversial manager Kim Fowley. Another original band member was Micki Steele on bass. She was fired from the band before things really got started, but went on to join the Bangles (I’ll talk about them in another post). The rest of the classic lineup was set when Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, and Jackie Fox came along (lead guitar, lead vocals, and bass, respectively).

And here they are.

the runaways-classic lineup

(l to r) Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Sandy West, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox

The Runaways had mixed success. While they signed with a major US label (Mercury), they never made it big in this country, even with the “jailbait” marketing that went with their name, the band’s outfits (pretty risqué for the time–no kidding), and the ages of the band members (16-17 when the band first started up). In Japan, though, they were huge, playing to sellout crowds and appearing in their own tv special.

And, as we’ll see as these posts go along, they influenced a lot of other women to pick up guitars or drum sticks and play.

By 1978, however, internal politics and trouble with their manager led to the band calling it a day (1979, officially). They had released four studio albums, one live record, and Joan Jett and Lita Ford would go on to have very successful careers in rock music. Sandy West became a drum teacher and did session work with John Entwistle before her death from lung cancer in 2005. Jackie Fox became a lawyer, and Vicki Blue (actually Vicki Tischler-Blue) became a filmmaker, directing documentaries on the Runaways and Suzi Quatro, as well as playing Cindy in This Is Spinal Tap.

cindy spinal tap

Yeah, but who is Cindy? I don’t remember.

Tischler-Blue has also produced music videos, including one of a 2011 Suzi Quatro song! How can I not include that here?

Back to the matter at hand.

Here are two Runaways videos for you. The first is from a 1977 concert in Japan where they’re performing probably their most famous tune, “Cherry Bomb.” So many rules being broken here.

This next video was filmed on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test after Cherie Currie left the band, also in 1977.  By this point, too, Vicki Blue had replaced Fox on bass. Joan Jett took over as lead singer, and, um, contrary to what the caption says, that’s Lita Ford on lead guitar (although Currie is, indeed, an accomplished chainsaw artist). A solid band, wouldn’t you say?

And what about after they broke up? Given how influential Joan Jett and Lita Ford were in their own solo careers, it only seems fair to post some of their work, too. (I posted Suzi Quatro by herself, too, so…)

One of the many reasons the Runaways broke up was stylistic. Jett and West really wanted the band to move in a punk direction while Ford was more interested in keeping the music hard rock or even metal. And that’s the direction she went as a solo artist, releasing several successful albums before retiring to raise a family. She returned to the music scene in 2008 and released a new album last year.

Here Ford is playing “Kiss Me Deadly,” one of her big hits from 1988.

And here she’s playing a track from her most recent album.

And then there’s Joanie (oops, fangirl slipped out there). After being turned down by more than twenty labels, she, with her business partner Kenny Laguna, went on to form Blackheart Records, becoming one of the first women to create her own label. She’s released 14 albums at this point and 34 singles, 18 of which have charted around the world. She also decided to market herself a little differently than Ms. Ford.

Here she is in 1981– (I especially love this video because Jett’s attitude toward revealing her body is just awesome)

and in 2012 with a brand new song!

Now, one thing that is blatantly obvious with Joan Jett and Lita Ford (and Suzi Quatro before them) is that after leaving the Runaways, they never played in an all-woman band again. Why is this? When Jett was forming the Blackhearts, the ad she ran in the L.A. Weekly called for “three good men.” A 2010 article in the Irish Times made the assumption that this was because of her bad experiences with the Runaways. Perhaps it was the same for Ford. I don’t know. Fortunately, more all-women bands came along because of them. I hope you’ll tune in next time to read more about them.

Categories: Music, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Linkroll (Monday edition)

Yeah, links didn’t happen yesterday. But here they are today.

An Open Letter to Jane Doe, the Victim of the Steubenville Rape Case (Trigger Warning)
Lucy’s Football made me cry last week. This post is beautiful, and I’m torn between hoping that Jane Doe reads it and that she is staying the hell away from the Internet for a while.

I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person.
The Belle Jar discusses the problem with the language used when standing up for women. Even if this is used in a well-meaning way, it’s still defining women by their relationship to men, not on their own. Patronizing and not good.

New Peacock Spider Video!
Bug Girl’s Blog posts a really cool video featuring peacock spiders. Even if you’re afraid of spiders, you might dig this. So cute!

Dark woods
I love cemeteries, so this Wordland post hit the spot. So many stories lay hidden.

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History
One week left to get in on this wicked cool kickstarter that will fund a speculative fiction anthology with stories from the points of view of folks who normally don’t get to write history (wow, long sentence is long). I gave what I could and am excited to read it when it comes out. The list of writers already signed up is pretty amazing. Check it out.

Eisenstadt v. Baird: The 41st Anniversary of Legal Contraception for Single People
Can you believe that  legal access to contraception for single people has only been around in the US for 41 years?

New poll finds the majority of women voters consider themselves feminists
Feministing shares the results of a recent Ms. poll. Surprisingly good news.

Pterosaur: Dinosaur Named After Daisy Morris
Five year-old girl discovers a new dinosaur and has it named after her!

Categories: Weekly Linkroll | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Women Learn To Be Women – Part 1

This week’s Monday Morning Music post and my conversation with the local radio station’s music director got me to thinking about how a lot of people don’t know about rock bands whose members are all women or majority women. And really, the more I thought about it, the cliché is still true that the majority of women who make it big in the music business, or get into the music business at all, are singers who don’t play an instrument.

So, the original point of this post was to make a list of bands and artists that aren’t part of that cliché, because, no matter how good singers and the standard white women with acoustic guitars are, they’re still playing by the rules that say that women can only do these things. These other things? No, no, no.

And that still is the point of this post, but once I actually started looking into all the all-women bands that there are or have been, I was pleased to have it proved to me again that there are a hell of a lot of them, and if you don’t know any of these bands, you’re just not going out of your way to hear anything new or didn’t get out much back in the day.

I’m at fault, myself. My go-to original all-woman band is Fanny. I saw them on Sonny & Cher when I was a kid and think June Milllington is awesome. But I’d never heard of the Ace of Cups until yesterday ( and Goldie and the Gingerbreads today) and had forgotten that Suzi Quatro was around with The Pleasure Seekers long before her fifteen minutes of fame in the 1970s as Leather Tuscadero.

And there have been so many more. See, that’s the cool thing of looking into all this, is that there is all this history here, connections, influences, roots, and it belongs to us. You just have to look for it. So, this one post has now morphed into at least three.

Today we’ll go way back to the early 1960s and look at our foremothers and foresisters. Part two (and maybe part three) will involve bands from a little closer in (late 1970s-1990s), and the last part(s) will focus on contemporary women and their bands. I would love to read your thoughts and suggestions on any of this. And given how wordy this post got, I may have to split the series up further. We’ll see how things go. 

First up, Goldie and the Gingerbreads.


goldie decca album

This band was the first all-woman band to sign with a major record label: Decca in the UK and Atlantic in the US. The quartet (Ginger Bianco, Margo Lewis, Carol MacDonald and Goldie Zelkowitz (who changed her name to Genya Ravan)) toured extensively throughout the US and Canada, the UK, and Europe, and their single “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” reached the 25th spot in the 1965 UK single charts. Sadly, Herman’s Hermits released their version in the US two weeks before G&TG’s record came out on this side of the pond, so they didn’t get the radio support they might have otherwise.

Things kind of went downhill from there with the band breaking up in 1967-68. Ravan went on to form Ten Wheel Drive and is now a DJ with Little Steven’s Underground Garage. The remaining band members went on to form the all-woman jazz band Isis.

Here are Goldie & the Gingerbreads performing “Let Me Hear Your Heartbeat” on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s show, “Not Only… But Also…. with an intro from a ridiculously young Peter Cook.


Then there are the Quatro Sisters.



The Quatro Sisters are Suzi, Arlene, Patti, and Nancy Quatro from Detroit. As teenagers, they watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and Patti decided they could be a rock group, too. They started out as the Pleasure Seekers. Various non-family members were also in the band, including Darline Arnone, who plays drums in the video below. The Pleasure Seekers played and toured until 1969 (releasing two singles, one on Mercury) when they changed direction, taking the new name Cradle, and making heavier tracks with a more metally sound. They toured seriously for the next two years, their last stop in Vietnam.

Not a bad run for a band that only released two singles. Sister Suzi, though, she left Cradle in 1971, heading to the UK where she hit it big with more than a dozen hit singles there and in Australia. Folks in the US didn’t really notice her until she took on the role of Leather Tuscadero in the TV show Happy Days (yes, she was my favorite character).  Thanks to those appearances, her song “Stumblin’ In” got to #4 in the US charts. (Not one of my fave songs, I have to admit. You couldn’t get away from it and it’s just so sappy.)

Patti Quatro went on to play guitar in Fanny (see below) and, according to an interview she gave in 2011, now runs a travel business with her husband in Texas. Nancy owns a restaurant, also in Texas, and Arlene “retired early and raised a family,” including her daughter, the actor Sherilyn Fenn. Suzi still lives in the UK where she performs and DJs for the BBC.

So, now a slew of videos. First up we have the Pleasure Seekers performing the Four Tops’ song “Reach Out.” The film is obviously ancient (1968) and Suzi Quatro (the singer) is nearly unrecognizable (to me anyway). Yeah, it’s kind of goofy, but those were the days.

Cradle with their track “Soothsayer.”

Even though when Suzi Quatro made it big, she was always the only woman in any band in which she played, I still want you to see her. She was such an influence on so many of the rockin’ women still to come, and this is how most of us remember her, not as the longhaired hippy/Motown girl (no disrespect intended). Here she is doing “Devil Gate Drive.” Influence on Joan Jett? Pretty freakin’ obvious, isn’t it?


Another band from the ’60s is The Ace of Cups.

ace of cups

These women were a San Francisco psychedelic group (Mary Gannon (bass), Marla Hunt (organ, piano), Denise Kaufman (guitar, harmonica), Mary Ellen Simpson (lead guitar), and Diane Vitalich (drums)), debuting in 1967. They opened for Jimi Hendryx for a free Golden Gate Park show that summer. They opened for a lot of folks, including the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Muddy Waters. They didn’t land a record deal and didn’t release any music until 2003 when Ace Records put out It’s Bad for You But Buy It!, a CD of “rehearsals, demos, TV soundstages, and in-concert tapes,” but they were thought highly of by a lot of folks in the biz (at least out in SF).

Video of these folks is scarce. Here they are in the film West Pole performing “Simplicity.” It’s a shame the filmmaking was so hippyish and you can’t really see the band, but hey, it was 1968 in San Francisco. Neat song, though.


So, what about Fanny?


Well, they were the most successful of these early bands, being the first to release an album on a major label (Warner Brothers) and having two Top 40 hits (“Charity Ball” and “Butter Boy”). They ended up releasing five albums before they disbanded in 1975. Another cool thing? The band wasn’t all-white. June and Jean Millington are Philippine-Americans. They formed what became Fanny in high school with June on guitar, Jean on bass, and Alice de Buhr on drums. Nickey Barclay, who previously played keyboards with Joe Cocker, joined them later.

June Millington left the band after Fanny’s last album with Warner Brothers and Patti Quatro replaced her. The band recorded one more album with Casablanca and then dissolved.

Named “the hottest female guitar player in the music industry” by Guitar Player in its 40th anniversary book, June Millington now lives in Massachusetts and, with her longtime partner Ann Hackler, founded the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen. These are the folks that started up the rock ‘n’ roll band camp summer programs for girls and women. Jean did studio work for a while, raised a family, and is now an herbalist, besides still playing with her sister. They released Play Like a Girl in 2011.

Here’s Fanny on that 1971 Sonny & Cher show, with “Charity Ball.”

And here are the Millingtons in 2009. That’s June’s son on drums. Love the guitar and bass work on this track.

Next post, we start with the Runaways. You’ve been warned. 😉 And a little help: if you know any all-woman bands that aren’t also all-white, please let me know in the comments. Google and my crappy memory are failing me on this, and I don’t want this series to come across as all-white-girls-on-parade-except-for-two if I can help it.

Categories: Music, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Randomocity for You

So, I was thinking of writing a Words in Progress post today. There have been words and they are progressing. But then I got distracted by Karen’s shiny post about herself and decided to play along. 25 random things about me is the meme. Here’s what I came up with (although some I stole from Karen because I’m kind of lazy).

1. My first drafts are almost always handwritten.
2. I’ve lived in 15 different places (7 states).
3. I’ve lived longer in the place I live now than anywhere else in my life. (just did the math on that; wow, I thought it was just my adulthood)
4. I worked for years as a veterinary technician.
5. I like fast cars. Shiny fast cars.
6. I’ve only owned one, though. It’s still my favorite car, long ago that it was. (a black T-bird named Phaedrus)
7. My current car is a 19 year-old Jeep named Clayton. Yes, I name my vehicles.
8. I’ve considered myself a feminist since I was 15. (35 years now!)
9. I love genealogy. So many stories. (My aunt who attended Mt. Holyoke College in the 1850s. My grandfather who was an Orphan Train rider. My great-grandmother, the piano prodigy, who was forced to marry a man 20-some years her senior instead of going to music school. I have dozens.)
10. Both of my parents are the children of immigrants.
11. My cd and record collection is kind of huge.
12. I’m a Cancer. And married to a Aries. Yes, we are both stubborn and cranky in our own ways. I’m not sure astrology has anything to do with that, though.
13. I like spiders. And snakes.
14. My other grandfather was a pianist for a silent movie theater. (see? So many stories)
15. I’ve seen the Northern Lights twice and want to see them some more.
16. I used to volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center when I lived in the Bay Area.
18. I would totally go on a vacation to the moon. (or anywhere in outer space)
19. I have a fondness for Existentialism. (I’m a Whedon fan–kinda goes with the territory)
20. Someday, I want to have a successful enough garden, it produces all the veggies and fruit we need.
21. I support psychedelic research, although I’ve never actually tripped.
22. I love ancient cultures and tribal societies. (well, historic stuff, in general)
23. Yet, I’m just as fascinated with artificial intelligence and future science.
24. I watch at least 2 movies a week, more often than not.
25. I’m always on the lookout for the next perfect pop song. (which very rarely syncs up with what’s actually popular)

Pacific harbor seal in recuperation pool at th...

Pacific harbor seal in recuperation pool at the Marine Mammal Center. Photo Credit: The Marine Mammal Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

There’s a Little Real History in my Alternate History #5


…at the heart of each story is the sense of how easily–and how eerily–the world can be changed.

 Today’s the day, dear readers! Substitution Cipher is out, ready for you to grab a copy and see what I’ve been talking about for the last several weeks. So much super reading in store for you! My story is just one of six cool tales of espionage and alternate history.  And I’m not saying that just to get you to buy the book. My publisher sent me comp copies last week and I’ve been having a lot of fun reading the other contributors’ tales. A beautiful glass orrery in clockwork Venice and Eleanor Roosevelt as president of the U.S. are just a couple of the cool plot elements you might enjoy. Links where you can buy the book are at the bottom of this post.

So, this will be my last post about the real history that lies in “So The Taino Call It.” The previous four posts have been about the explorers, the men who traveled west to find the East and found something completely different. Today’s post is about what and who they found.

There’s a lot of mystery and misinformation concerning Columbus’s first voyage to the Caribbean. No one has ever confirmed, for example, which island he first landed on, other than that it was located in the Bahamas. Even Juan de la Cosa’s map (drawn by a man who was actually there) doesn’t make it clear where the island was located. The jury is still out, and I kind of like the mystery.

It is known, however, that Columbus met groups of natives who called themselves the Taino (good people). Distantly related to the Arawak, another Caribbean people, the Taino lived in densely populated villages on the islands of Hispaniola, Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. They had originally emigrated to the islands from South America.

When I first started writing “So The Taino Call It,” I was intimidated by the prospect of writing about people I really knew nothing about, but I love research, so I strengthened my nerve and leaped in. Fortunately, the internet and Smithsonian magazine, among other resources, came to my aid and I was able to discover quite a lot about the Taino people, their culture, and what transpired when they met Columbus and his crew. The October 2011 issue of Smithsonian has a fascinating article, “What Became of the Taino”, that I learned a lot from, including such cool tidbits as the Taino’s knowledge of how to extract cyanide from yucca plants and how they used pepper gas as a weapon. It also has some great photos that are definitely worth taking a peek at. These pictures were a large influence on my writing, especially the one of Mácocael, the unfortunate sentinel of the Taino’s ancestral caves.

None of the Taino characters in my story are based on actual people, although a couple of their names are, most prominently, Anacaona. In “So The Taino Call It,” Anacaona is a young woman who befriends my narrator and teaches him her language and about her people. In real history, she was a Taino cacica (chief) who lived on the island now called Hispaniola (where Haiti and the Dominican Republic share space). Also known as the Golden Flower, she was a composer of ballads and narrative poems as well as a ruler of her people, and is revered as a national hero in Haiti.

cover of Anacaona Golden Flower

Cover of the YA novel Anacaona Golden Flower by Edwidge Danticat–part of the Royal Diaries series

Anacaona actually met Columbus in 1496, according to several sources, including Bartolomé de las Casas in his book A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. She and her brother Bohechio negotiated with him over what tribute they would have to pay to the Spanish invaders. That meeting didn’t end well for either of them. According to the book Revolutionary Freedoms: A History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haiti, it’s believed that Bohechio died partly from remorse for not being able to protect his territory of Xaragua from the Europeans. Anacaona’s cause of death is more clear.

In 1494, her husband, Caonabo, also a cacique, was taken prisoner by Alonso de Ojeda, one of Columbus’s men, and died enroute to Spain. A long war ensued as many of the Taino people tried to force the Spanish off of their island. Anacaona was still on friendly terms with the Europeans, or so she thought. Around 1503, the Spanish governor of Hispaniola, Nicolás de Ovando, invited her and 84 caciques to a feast supposeedly to be held in Anacaona’s honor. Once they were there, de Ovando ordered the meeting house set on fire. Anacaona and her noblemen were charged with conspiracy and executed with Anacaona either being hung or burned.

The young woman named Anacaona in my novella has a different story-arc, but I bore the history of her namesake in mind as I wrote about her and hope she holds up as a different nation’s hero.

In honor of both of them, here’s a video of the song that Puerto Rican salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso wrote to honor the real Anacaona. (Sadly, I can’t find any of the songs she actually wrote being performed on Youtube anywhere.)

Where can you buy Substitution Cipher? Lots of places!

Candlemark & Gleam: my publisher. Buy directly from them and all your money supports indie publishing.
Barnes & Noble.
Amazon (U.S.). (Right now Amazon is saying the book is out of stock. It isn’t. That’s just Amazon being Amazon.)
Amazon (Canada).
Kobo Books.
Book Depository.

Categories: Books/Authors, History, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

There’s a Little Real History in my Alternate History #4

It was a long journey overland from Lisboa to Palos de la Frontera on the southern coast of Spain. I was exhausted when I arrived, as was my horse. She got to rest, but I immediately set out to find Captain Colón.
I visited the inn where my sources informed me he was staying, but he was out. The innkeeper thought he might have had a meeting with his investors at their quarters near the Rábida Monastery, so I headed there next.

In last week’s post about some of the real history that lies within my alternate history, “So The Taino Call It,” I mentioned that Columbus had to sell his plan to reach Asia by crossing the Ocean Sea (aka the Atlantic Ocean) to royalty and investors willing to finance his voyage. He also had to “sell” it to any sailors willing to travel with him.

Yes, the money had to come from somewhere, and Columbus didn’t have much. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella didn’t either, having just completed a little crusade to “rescue” the Iberian peninsula from Muslim control. That story about Isabella selling her jewelry to fund Columbus’s voyage? Didn’t happen.

So, where did the money and men come from?

Well, one of the things I learned in my research is that Christopher Columbus was nothing if not an entrepreneur (I’ve taken to calling him a con artist, but that could just be me). In the two years it took him to convince Ferdinand and Isabella to support his voyage, he had already lined up half the funds he would need from Italian investors. More money and gifts-in-kind did come from the Castilian court, sort of. The royals ordered their treasurer to find money somewhere (ain’t it always the way?), but they also called upon the people under their rule to pony up. Even before sanctioning Columbus’s project, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered all their cities and towns to provide food and lodging to him at no cost, just in case they decided to go for his scheme. When time came to prepare for the trip, they ordered the town of Palos de la Frontera to contribute two ships in payment for a debt they claimed the town owed them.

Those two ships? They turned out to be la Pinta (owned by Gomez Rascon and Christoval Quintero) and la Niña (owned by Juan Niño of Moguer). La Santa María, the flagship of the three, was rented  from Juan de la Cosa for the voyage, much to his regret. Interesting to me, as well as to my alpha reader, was that the owners of all three ships joined the expedition.

You’d think they didn’t trust Columbus with their boats or something.

At least two of them didn’t, if Columbus’s journal is to be believed. The owners of la Pinta were none too pleased when the royals forced them to provide a ship for Columbus and, apparently, did all they could to keep it from sailing. When the rudder of la Pinta was damaged, disabling the ship three days into the journey, Rascon and Quintero were suspected of one more last-ditch effort of sabotage.

Fortunately for Columbus, the pilot and master of la Pinta had more vested interest in the voyage’s success and did what they could to help the crippled ship limp into the Canary Islands where it was repaired. These men were Martín Alonso and Francisco Martín Pinzón. Along with their younger brother, Vicente Yáñez, they contributed to Columbus’s voyage financially as well as with their prestige as sailors. Their support of Columbus made it possible for him to recruit much of the crew he needed. They were also responsible for quelling mutiny a couple of times during the voyage and suggesting the course changes that allowed the ships to eventually land safely.

The owner of la Niña was part of another group of brothers who made the journey. The Niño brothers were from the Andalusian town of Moguer and their support of Columbus, as well as their friendship with the Pinzóns, was another aid to recruitment. Juan Niño was master of his own ship (nicknamed after him) and his brother Pedro Alonso piloted la Santa Maria. A younger brother, Francisco, may have also been a sailor on the voyage, but the evidence isn’t clear on this.

So, what do we know about that remaining ship owner, Juan de la Cosa? Like the others, he was an experienced sailor in his own right. He was also a cartographer, and his mappa mundi is the only extant map made by a member of Columbus’s first voyage.

map of Juan de la Cosa

This is it. The New World is shown in green on the left and the Old World in the middle and to the right, in white. (Click to embiggen, if you like.)

The more I researched my story, the more I’ve come to believe that any of the ships’ owners (with the possible exception of Rascon and Quintero–they’re only mentioned disparagingly in Columbus’s journal and then never heard from again; I think there’s another story in that) could have sailed across the Atlantic and back successfully. They had the skill and the courage to do so. They were explorers themselves and, in the Pinzóns’ case, better leaders.

Columbus may not have been the ideal captain for such an expedition, but he had the nerve to think big, a large lust for power and money, and the desire to be “Great Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” And he knew how to sell a deal. More often than not, it’s folks like him that tend to be the winners in this world.

But why did Juan de la Cosa regret the renting of his ship for the voyage? Find out by reading “So The Taino Call It” in Substitution Cipher next week. You could look it up on Wikipedia, too, but that wouldn’t be as much fun.


Categories: Books/Authors, History, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: