Historical Novel

My forthcoming historical adventure/thriller is Cut From The Earth.  

In the Year of Our Lord 1755, Portuguese tile maker, Piloto Manuel Pires is committed to manumitting slaves and hiring them to work in his tile factory. A promise rife with problems. He harbors a secret tile designer, whose invention, the figura de convite, an invitation figure, puts the shop’s works in demand by Lisbon’s elite and at odds with a Jesuit priest. When a commission destined for the jungles of the Amazon must be altered, and an omen is disregarded, the shop plummets into struggle. Then on November 1, All Saints Day, with the city’s populace at church, disasters strike: earthquake, tidal waves, mass fire. Piloto’s life is forever changed and challenged as is his shop, tile making, and Portugal. The colony of Brazil and a female shaman are called upon to assist those that survive — but at a cost to all.

A story of Portuguese tile and its surprising makers — The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755— and the wisdom of nature and the power of love to guide and  heal.


“A  jolt shot through Piloto’s body, ejecting the tile from his hand.  It shattered.  Barrels of chalky glazes shook, their thick soups boiling over their rims, mixing paddles churning.  The viscous substances ebbed and flowed: manganese-purples, copper-greens, cobalt-blues, iron-oxide oranges, creating an amalgam of colors on the floor.

Rolling pins fell off counters, and ricocheted end on end before congregating in a pile, next to the vats.  Dried goat balls the size of peaches used for applying glazes vaulted to the floor, paint squirting out their nozzle ends.  Buckets of paintbrushes careened, the brushes scattering like plucked feathers.  Work pedestals spun.  Small glass jars of pigments vibrated across tabletops; others wobbled off, exploding.  Water spilled from barrel containers, housing gooey slip used to join clay pieces, and formed puddles on the floor’s uneven low spots.   The tank holding white iron-oxide cracked down the front and its contents oozed out.  Stacks of clay blocks toppled, hitting the floor with loud thuds.  Pails of wires, paddles, anvils, and ribs shimmered off back shelves, while the shelves themselves threatened to tip forward.

Piloto dashed from spot to spot, arms outstretched, catching items and picking up others.  He filled his arms.

What’s going on?

The earth heaved again, a second more severe shock, a violent undulating ocean wave.

Overhead, the drying racks catapulted, sending bone dry tiles to the lattice floor.  Splinters of dried clay rained down, covering him in a fine dust.

The trembling unlatched the kiln’s fire door.  Hot embers jumped from their earthen cave.  Wisps of smoke spiraled.  He sprinted to the coals, kicking them back in, dropping all that he had gathered.  Quickly, he relatched the door.

Coughing, he rushed to the front window of the shop.


Before him Mocambo’s only two-story building broke into four large blocks and collapsed.  The ground convulsed beneath his feet, as star-shaped cracks burst across the floor like shots from a pistol  —  stars mimicking the shop’s pentagram tile designs.

The planked walls of the Fabrica Santa Anna gave and flexed with the shocks.

Piloto looked above the front door, where they kept their statue of Saint Anthony on a shelf.  In slow motion, the ceramic Saint teetered then launched off its mount, head first, breaking into two even halves, right down the middle, right where a man’s heart would be; one half held the book of purity, the other the infant Jesus.

Santa María!

He dove for the front door, hurled it open, and ran out as boxes of knives and fluting tools plunged to the floor, puncturing bags of salt, calcium, and silica.  As he fled, a long tool with a soft-ball of cotton surrounded by fabric at its end fell across the doorway, as if saying goodbye or don’t leave me; Piloto was not sure.

Screams.  Pleading.

Trapped citizens begged for help.  Their cries floated on the cascading particles invading his hair and ears.  A chill.  A surge of energy.  His heart throbbed.   Then silence.  It enveloped him.

He turned in the direction of home.

Before his eyes, images of his wife, his two girls waiting for him at Saint Anthony’s Temple.

He needed to get there.


Piles of debris blocked the streets.  He scrambled on hands and knees.

Some people ambled about, others clawed and scurried.  Shrieked.

Where was the sun? The morning’s clear blue sky?

In the haze, he slowed, and then stopped.   A sharp well-defined clarity entered his consciousness.  He was late and had forgotten his bag with his church clothes.  Paulina will be upset with me for arriving in my work clothes, but I am late; she’ll understand.

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