No Turning Back

Well, dear reader, you’ve been with me through the founding of  Eboracum (York) and through the struggles of the families on both sides of the war for Northern Britain. I thought our time in ancient Eboracum was finished, but apparently, it’s not.

As you know, the Eboracum trilogy is a first century saga that spans the first thirty-five years of Eboracum’s history, from its founding as a fifty-acre timber fortress, to when it was completely rebuilt in stone. It was a story that followed three generations of both a Roman and a Brigante family, people of two vastly different cultures who, for the most part, accepted, if not necessarily assimilated, over a fairly short period of time. As the trilogy’s original characters reached old age, their stories had been certainly told. It was a good time to stop and move on to other things.

So I did.

I wrote three other books with absolutely no relation to ancient times. I wrote about federal politics using fiction to highlight the need for reform. I wrote about an accountant who is caught up in an interesting state of “affairs.” I wrote a memoir. But with every story I brought to life, Eboracum was demanding I give it more time too.

The old Roman fortress was always there at the back of my mind. However, where could I go with the story? My characters had done enough in their lives and deserved a rest. I needed someone and something fresh to write about. Then, an idea came to me. I had centuries of history to pull from and I had started at the beginning – writing about Eboracum’s founding by the Romans. What about writing about the inevitable Roman abandonment?

I skipped forward three hundred years for the ‘rest of the story’, and last week released Eboracum, No Turning Back.

The background: Rome finally withdrew all troops from Britain in AD 407 because she was stretched to the limit at home by treachery and violence, both internal and external. By AD 476, the Western Empire would collapse. The abandonment of Eboracum was a big story along the way, one that was likely just as traumatic as the original invasion, though, of course, not as well documented. Just over three hundred years after arriving at Eboracum, in AD 387 the Romans began withdrawing troops. Twenty years later, they were gone.  However, they left behind a fortress and town that, by the time of the Renaissance, had grown to be England’s second city.

Roman floor mosaic illustrating the Romulus and Remus myth.

Roman floor mosaic illustrating the Romulus and Remus myth. Discovered at Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum) near Leeds, North Yorkshire (formerly West Riding), UK. Exhibited at Leeds City Museum. Photo Credit: By Linda Spashett Storye book (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

For an author, there are many threads here to pick up and start weaving into stories. In terms of time, Rome left over a relatively short period—twenty years.  I wanted to write about that. How did the locals deal with this? What about their families, both Roman and Briton. Who were they, who stayed, who left? What dangers did they face? How did they get by? And, of course, how did the ever-expanding Christian church fit in with all this? (Oddly enough, the archeology around York shows more signs of a continuing ability to function after the Romans left, than most other parts of Briton.)

The Roman withdrawal must have been an interesting time; a momentous time to create two more families.  As before, one would be that of a Roman, the other would be that of a Briton.  One would stay behind…with no turning back; and the other that of a Briton, who manage to prevail, and keep going.  Beset on all sides, a new era was starting…  Another trilogy?  Hmm…  Eboracum, No Turning Back, might just be the first volume of three. The second book has already been started…

May the fourth be with you

Roman reading a book roll.I’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on the latest installment of Eboracum (the fourth book). The writing phase is almost easier than what is to come… my editor’s comments and suggestions. However, if I was an author in ancient Roman times, I would be writing and re-writing everything by hand.

Today, we have the computer. I can move words, sentences and even pages around with a flick of my wrist. Computers are also far easier than typewriters and I’ve used a few of those in my time too. (I wonder what the next installation of the writing mod con will be?)  Romans didn’t have books either, they had book rolls: papyrus (paper made from a water plant) rolled on rods. The Romans were fastidious in how they read their book rolls and there were certain manners that had to be followed. One thing has remained the same throughout the ages; authors are always looking for readers.

Roman authors of yore did have philosophy and theorizing book roll launch parties to publicize their accomplishments. Perhaps writers even started with, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” (I’m joking of course since that line was borrowed from Mr. Shakespeare, who lived a few hundred years later.) I’ll be looking for your eyes this March 2017. This is when I plan to be done my Eboracum edits and the fourth will be with you. Until then, tell me what you’ve been reading or what kind of novel you’ve been working on recently.

Cutting grass and growing words

GrassIt’s summer and while for some people that means holidays and rest, for me it means work… and I’m retired! I’m mowing the grass today around our place. It takes two of us to get the job done. I get on my mower, my wife gets on her mower, and then we go around and around for three hours until the green grass has been tamed. (Okay, not tamed – it’s not a wild animal but it is less unkempt.) The yard is about four acres and it looks like a manicured park after we’re done.

I’m still in the midst of writing Eboracum IV.  It has reached the 120,000 word count and I now think I know where I’m going. I may  start the first rewrite by September 1. Just like the grass though, I’ll have to do some cutting at some point. 😉

The long and short of it

Sound of Silence at the Little Free Library in Calgary.

Sound of Silence at the Little Free Library in Calgary.

Sound of Silence didn’t make the Whistler Independent Book Awards’ short-list. However, I was honoured to be in esteemed “long-list” company. Independent publishing is increasingly being taken seriously by the publishing industry and I’m glad the Whistler Independent Book Awards is recognizing indie published authors. All the best to those on the short-list.

Anybody have another view on the indie book market? I’d love to hear from you.

Silence in Whistler

Whistler in the summer.

Whistler in the summer. A good time to read when the slopes are green.

Sound of Silence was ‘long-listed‘ in the Whistler Independent Book Awards non-fiction category. This is the first year for the awards and I’m happy to have made the first cut. I find out if my memoir moves on to the short list next week on Monday, July 18.

The awards recognize excellence in Canadian independent publishing. There are prizes for four categories: fiction, non-fiction, crime fiction and poetry. The inaugural Independent Book Awards will be handed out in October.

I’ll keep you posted on how my book does. Meanwhile, what are you reading this summer? Let me know.

In or at London?

IRoman_writing_tablet_01 read an interesting article last week and posted it. It was about the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) translating the oldest hand-written document by Roman Britons found in the UK. The wooden tablet and others were found during an archaeological dig in the middle of London. This is all fascinating enough but what also piques my curiosity is the spelling of London found on one of the tablets.

MOLA deciphered a tablet to read “Londinio Mogontio” – “In London, to Mogontius.” I’ve been using Londinium in my Eboracum series. It’s a matter of noun declension: Londinium
(which is neuter) means ‘to London,’ as opposed to Londinio, which would mean ‘at London.’ The modifier, like pronouns in front of verbs, was actually part of the Latin word itself. Hmmm. Something to ponder.

Tablets have been found at other places around the UK too, although these are not as old. At Vindolanda, a supply base located south of Hadrian’s Wall, stacks and stacks of documents were found also preserved in sodden conditions. Archeologists quickly learned that unless the tablets were handled correctly (freeze-dried), the things quickly fell apart. The London tablets as well have been freeze-dried after being cleaned.

Eboracum or Eboracvm?

Roman writing.

The Vindolanda tablets: discovered at the site of a Roman fort in Vindolanda, northern England. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Eboracum is the Roman name for York, U.K. The Romans spelled Eboracum with a ‘v’ as in Eboracvm and this causes some modern-day confusion over the name. Of course, it’s pronounced with a ‘u’ but to keep my Eboracum series books truer to the actual way it was, I use Eboracvm on the covers. I use both Eboracum and Eboracvm on the electronic titles.

Thank you, ladies

Graham Clews.

I’m currently in Arizona writing the fourth installment of the Eboracum series.

I was delighted to discover another review on Eboracum, The Village. This one was by Cathy W, on Goodreads, and it left me with a hearteningly warm glow. It’s such a wonderful feeling when someone really seems to like and enjoy your work. There is an irony to be found here, though.

When I began the Eboracum series, I thought it was being written as what I’d often called ‘a male read.” Any romance in the book was pragmatic, as were characters of both gender. The conflicts pulled no punches, and I did my best to research and convey the reality of the times. As such, I was completely blindsided with the enthusiastic response from my female readers: the reviews and even letters and cards were most appreciated.

Thank you, ladies.

The Sound of Silence: a memoir

The Sound of Silence memoir by Graham Clews.I wrote three books in 2015 and I’ve just published the third: a memoir. The Sound of Silence is an incredibly personal story. My father was a pedophile and I was sexually abused by him. I put my experiences and thoughts down on paper because, as I say in my dedication, it is with sincere hope that any reader who has gone through this sort of thing will find something of value in my story.

The Sound of Silence is a pragmatic (but not graphic) account of dysfunction: sexual abuse; the unusual family conditions that helped foment it; and its final resolution through the courts, both divorce and criminal. Here is an excerpt.

The Sound of Silence

Author’s Note: I had no desire to write this book while my parents were alive. Now they are gone and the book’s completed, I still wonder if it should be published. It certainly hasn’t proved to be a catharsis; maybe it was motivated by a need to get the entire sad episode of my life down on paper while I still can; or perhaps it was even a compulsion to confess to the guilt of my silence. And of course, it could be all three and more. Nonetheless, it has also occurred to me that it may be of some slight use, perhaps even comfort, to those people who have experienced the same sort of thing. They will know whether or not they want to read it. That’s why there’s only one excerpt, and it’s been taken from the prologue because I think it’s relative.

From the prologue…

When a person ignores shameful events that should never have been ignored; when one fails to do what is right, either through ignorance or convenience; when someone does not stop to ponder on what might happen to others rather than just themselves; then they must live with the consequences. Age will never ease the guilt that rises from one’s past misjudgments. Age does, in fact, exacerbate it.

My father’s phone call was such a significant event, the final act in a tragedy that should have ended three decades before. The call took place one evening in the autumn of nineteen eighty seven. It began with a minute or two of the usual preamble–how are you, and what have you been doing, all that sort of thing–and then he got down to the real reason for the call. There had to be a real reason. He rarely called otherwise. This time it was to tell me that he had been arrested. There was no need to ask why. My father was a pedophile, and I knew that. I had simply chosen to believe that he had stopped being one many years before when he assured me and everyone else, including his divorce lawyer, that he had indeed stopped, and there had been no subsequent overt evidence to contradict his word.

The real purpose of the phone call was to ask if I would advance funds in order for him to hire a defence lawyer. The line fell silent for a minute or so as I pondered the question, figuring what to say. Yet there could only be a single response. I told my father I would loan him the funds on the condition that he pled guilty. There was also no need to ask if he was.

He replied that he’d think it over, and he’d call me back. He never did. That was the last time I spoke to my father. He died just over two decades later in January of 2009, at the age of ninety one. At the time of the call, he would have been approximately the same age as I am today.


Once off the phone, my mind raced and not necessarily with the noblest of thoughts. The first was that ‘the problem’ was finally out in the open, and what did that mean to me and my family? This was selfish, of course, but after more than thirty years since first becoming a victim of father’s sexual predilections, many of the old fears still remained, such as the publicity, the gossip, and the shame. Those were instinctive, but all the other fears that had once terrified a thirteen old child had long since disappeared: the effect of father’s exposure on my mother and her situation, the embarrassing reaction of school friends, the threat to the security of our family’s everyday living, and even the breakup of the family itself. By the time of father’s phone call the latter had long since taken place, and the rest of it no longer mattered. And, as I gave it a bit more thought, neither did anything else. The imagined publicity, the gossip and the public shame, if they had ever existed at all, they were not my problem. Nor had they ever been. They were my father’s. Yet even so…

Over a quarter century has passed since the phone call and my father’s crimes proved to be far more blatant than I had ever been aware, all of which came out during prosecution of the court case. Soon, other considerations began to haunt my mind. A new sense of shame began to take hold and with it a growing sense of guilt, two feelings that have intensified as the years pass by. Age has brought with it a renewed focus on those two regrettable lists that lengthen during one’s lifetime: the things we should not have done, and the things we should have done. Each forever competes with the other in length, but in this instance the shame and the guilt could be readily found on either list.

           – I should never have kept my mouth shut about my father’s sexual abuse.

           – I should have told someone, anyone, but particularly the authorities.

Instead, I remained silent, and others were hurt because of this. In this alone can be found perhaps the only reason that any shame and guilt need ever be felt by the sexually abused victim. It will echo through that victim’s mind, slowly growing louder as he or she grows older, and it will be there until the day they die. It might well be called The Sound of Silence.

For more on the book or to get your copy, go to Amazon.